I am working on cutting spending from my household budget. I already shop at Costco for groceries and have gotten buying in bulk down to a science. A lot of people tell me they quit shopping at warehouse clubs because it leads to overspending. I get that. There is always the temptation to pick up a Digital SLR, 15 pairs of underwear, a Net book, or a new swimsuit along with the crate of boneless chicken breasts and case of soy milk. (The 50-pound bag of M&Ms was never anything I wanted to have in the house.) But like most things, I think this job simply has a learning curve. I did fall for too many of those temptations at first but I’m over that. Now I pretty much stick to the “what-we-need” list. If there is an exceptional bargain on something, I leave it on the shelf and go home and think about it. It’s not like I’m not coming back soon. I think learning this was well-worth the effort.
The place that still undermines my household budget, though, is Target. When we need shampoo, dish soap, or ibuprofen, Target is the obvious place to go. It’s close and the prices on those goods are terrific. But so are the prices on yoga pants, kids’ clothes, storage solutions, bedding, candy, toys, and even technology. Even if I only go in the door of Target to pick up some aspirin and school supplies, the price to get out the door is always about $100.
Part of the problem is that I announce I’m going. And then, suddenly everyone is in the car. The kids have a list of things they want. Even my husband admits he likes going there. “Do they drug the air, do you think?” He asked once while running to the car because I announced I needed cleaning products. As part of my 2009 fiscal management campaign, I have taken a private oath not to set foot in Target â€“ unless I actually need yoga pants and an xBox 360 at the same time. Instead I’m buying the toothpaste and aspirin (and all manner of sundries) at Drugstore.com. My fiscal analysis on this experiment is not yet complete but preliminary studies demonstrate that this strategy is saving me a great deal of money.
Even when buying at Drugstore.com doesn’t net me the best price on individual items — and I have occasionally noticed that the item I bought here costs a few cents more than it does at Target — there is very little impulse-purchase temptation. I don’t have to walk through clothing or lingerie department to get to shampoo. I simply type in the thing I need, go straight to it and put it in my cart. Best of all, though, I don’t bring the kids with me so I don’t get worn down by the endless requests for “just one stuffed animal” or “Buy me this computer game! I’ll pay you backâ€¦!” So my overall checkout costs at Drugstore.com are â€“ this is an estimate â€“ about half what they are on a trip to Target.
And since I just drop things in my cart as I think of them, there are fewer trips to Drugstore.com than there were to Target. (I do have to plan ahead so we don’t run out of things.) Since Drugstore.com offers free shipping if the purchase total meets a minimum (right now that minimum is $25 but it is often $49), I never pay shipping for these purchases. Since Drugstore.com doesn’t have a physical presence in my state, I also don’t pay sales tax at checkout.
I wondered if shopping online versus driving to the store might even be a “greener” solution since I don’t have to start up the car and drive there. According to Treehugger, the answer to that question says depends on a lot of factors. Fuel costs are certainly higher for in-store buying but online shopping generates a lot of packaging.
I have to admit that I miss my retail therapy at Target. But I check the impulse to go there by dropping $100 in a savings account and dreaming about the tropical vacation I’ll take with those funds.