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You’re at Target. You only need shampoo and toothpaste.
But then you feel the gravitational pull of the Dollar Spot. Look at all those adorable, unnecessary knickknacks! You grab a few goodies for the kids and keep moving.
Then you see a gorgeous green scarf up ahead. You steer forward to take a peek. Just as you suspected, it looks perfect over your light gray pea coat. Plus, accessories are 15% off right now!
In the cart it goes.
Maybe you’ll just glance at the jewelry while you’re here . . . Any of this sounding familiar?
Name Your Dollars
Target knows their customers. And they know it’s hard to pass up a bargain—especially a cute bargain.
So how do you stop your impulse shopping and actually spend less at this mega chain?
As simple as it sounds, you must make a budget. That means give every dollar a name.
Here’s how it works: At the beginning of each month, sit down with your spouse and create a spending plan for everything from gasoline to eating out. If you want some new clothes, that’s okay, just work them into your budgeting categories ahead of time.
Once you’ve spent every dollar on paper, then you can start spending the real stuff (we like to use cash). Just don’t go over what you’ve allocated!
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Related: Learn more about making a zero-based budget
Watch Out for Sales
Easier said than done, right? Target is, after all, brilliant when it comes to sales.
They offer racks upon racks of discounted clothing, reduced-price housewares at the end of every aisle, and a customizable Cartwheel app, which offers rotating deals on everything in the store you already love.
But how much is all this “saving” really costing you? Math time, people.
If you get 25% off a decorative pillow that you never intended to buy, you’re still paying 75% more than you would have! That’s called spending, not saving.
Avoid these shopping traps by making a list before you go. Then practice some self-discipline once you’re there. If an on-sale item isn’t on your list, don’t put it in your cart—Cartwheel or not.
If you’re having trouble sticking to your new budget and shopping list, use your psychic abilities. Look into the future and imagine how you’ll be using this “must-have” item a month from now.
Will your kids still be playing with that cheap paddle ball game? Will that owl statue actually fit on your fireplace? Or will those fake leather heels start rubbing blisters on your feet?
Nine times out of 10, the answer will be to put it back. But what if you still want it? Then you wait.
Work it into next month’s budget (and next month’s list) and revisit your feelings in 30 days. If you still love it, buy it without the guilt.
Related: 2 Words That Will Change the Way You Shop
Make It Work
A budget isn’t a bad thing. When done right, it actually gives you permission to buy what you want. So before you slip out to Target the next time, prepare yourself for the temptations ahead.
And if you happen to leave the store with more than you bargained for, take it back. That’s what receipts are for.
Need help making a budget? Check out Dave's latest budgeting tools and forms.