Saving Smart Spending

Buy This, Not That at a Big Box Store

Beth Trach
Written by Beth Trach

Buy This, Not That at a Big Box Store

Ah, the big box store. They’re not exactly pretty the way they rise up from giant parking lots in the middle of nowhere, but once you step inside, it’s easy to be wooed by the simple ability to buy anything you need for daily life. Come for a loaf of bread and you’ll walk away with a new purse — or maybe even a sweet seasonal set of plates for your dining room.

Sure, discount department stores like Walmart, Target and Kohl’s are convenient, but they’re also perfectly designed to separate you from your hard-earned money. If you’re not careful, you could blow your budget on all sorts of things that were just too cute — or too on sale — to pass up.

There are so many things in a big box store that it’s hard to know what’s a good deal and what’s just a decoy. What should you buy on your next trip to Target? Here’s what to embrace and what to avoid.

Buy Kids’ Toys, Not Books

Discount retailers like Walmart usually have great prices on the most popular kids’ toys — especially Lego, which has the potential to send you debtor’s prison if you have a kid in love with the clicking bricks. When shopping for a last-minute gift for a kids’ birthday party, it’s easy to slip in and out of your nearest store to get a good deal — and you won’t have to worry about shipping charges or planning ahead to order online.

On the other hand, books aren’t usually as good a deal. There’s not as big a selection, and they go on sale less often. If you’re going to pay the cover price, you might as well do it in a bookstore with more choice so you can find a unique picture book that matches your child’s interests. If you’re looking for rock-bottom pricing, Amazon is your best bet.

Buy Notebook Paper, Not Wrapping Paper

Big box stores are often a good pick for seasonal items, and school supplies could be their crowning achievement. When you can get composition notebooks for only 50 cents apiece, it’s smart to stock up in August when these retailers want to lure you in. During the rest of the year, you won’t find these amazing deals, but basic pens, pencils and paper are still less expensive here than at an office supply store like Staples, which caters to businesses that will most likely write off the high prices in a way that kindergartners cannot.

Not all paper products are good deals, though. Gift wrap can be enormously expensive when you factor in the part where you’re just going to tear it up and throw it away, so there’s no reason to buy it at an expensive card shop or at the drugstore — or even at Target, where those designer prints can get pricey. Instead, head to the dollar store and get a solid color that will work for a variety of birthdays and other holidays.

About the author

Beth Trach

Beth Trach

Elizabeth Trach is a writer and editor living in Newburyport, MA. She also sings in a band, grows almost all her own food, and occasionally even cooks it. You can catch up on all her adventures in frugal living and extreme gardening at Port Potager.

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