26 Things You Should Never Buy at Target

Hint: Back away from the store brand items.

Target sign Things you should never buy at target

We all know that when we walk into a Target to buy one thing, we're going walk out with a bag full, and maybe even a whole cart full, of items. Whatever your spending Achilles' heel is—pajamas, mugs, candles, snacks, etc.—Target has it and you will probably fall for it. So many of us suffer from what's been called "Target Syndrome," i.e. buying a ton of stuff that you absolutely don't need but will buy because it's in front of you and the price seems good.

But by getting smarter about what you're buying, you can combat this common shopping affliction—and we're here to get you started. Here are the things you should never buy at Target, especially if you're looking to save.

Target brand water filters


Target Up & Up Water Filter

While Target brand Up & Up replacements for your Brita or Pur water filter cost slightly less than their brand-name counterparts, they're not as reliable and don't last as long, Brent Shelton of FatWallet told gobankingrates.com. Shell out a bit more up front and you'll save in the long run.

Target brand baby formula

Target brand baby formula

Generic versions of formula tend to differ from the brand varieties, according to the Baby Formula Expert blog. To ensure that you're providing your child with the best quality formula, experts suggest sticking to name brands. Plus, you'll probably score a better deal by buying baby formula in bulk at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam's Club. (Also, you might want to know that one woman found a plastic string inside Target's baby formula.)

Gift cards

Gift cards Things you should never buy at target

Gift cards are always close to the register and are tempting to pick up when you need a quick gift, but you shouldn't buy them at Target. If you're looking to save money on gift cards, then you're better off buying from eBay or Raise, an online marketplace where you can buy and sell gift cards. The site can save you 5 to 20 percent of the card's value!


books Things you should never buy at target

So, you're about to head off on vacation. You make a Target run to grab some sunscreen and then on a whim, you decide to pick up a beach read. Sadly, you're definitely not getting the best price or the best selection. Target's prices on books are not competitive with other retailers, like Barnes & Noble (which frequently offers 20 percent discount coupons to its email subscribers) and Amazon (where you can always choose the cheaper used-book option). Not only that, but both Amazon and Barnes & Noble sell thousands of books that Target does not.

Target brand coffee

Target Brand Coffee Things you should never buy at target
Image via Target

Target's Market Pantry brand Classic Roast coffee scored low among Consumer Reports' taste testers, with many calling out its bitter taste and "lack of complexity." It's probably best to stick to the name-brand coffee.

Name-brand beauty products

St. Ives Facial Scrub

Some Target brand products will save you money and won't cost you quality. According to gobankingrates.com, "Target's Up & Up Apricot Blemish Scrub ($1.99, at Target) is similar to name-brand St. Ives Apricot Blemish Control Scrub ($3.59, at Target)." So if you're strolling through the beauty section of Target, avoid name brand-name products that you can get at a chain pharmacy with a discount or go with Target's Up & Up line to save a few dollars.

Name-brand medications

Target pharmacy Things you should never buy at target

After Target's pharmacy section was taken over by CVS in 2015, the chain ended its rewards program, effectively making medications more expensive and less competitively priced. So if you find yourself shopping for over-the-counter medications at Target, stick to the store-brand variety. "The generics are just as effective as the branded products, and they're typically cheaper," Cathy Rosenbaum, a pharmacist and CEO of Rx Integrative Solutions, Inc., told AOL.


woman watching tv Things you should never buy at target

Unless you're planning to shop for electronics during one of Target's holiday blowout sales, it's best to make your big tech purchases elsewhere, particularly online where you can compare prices. "For the most part, year-round [Target doesn't] have that great of deals on electronics. You can always get that stuff cheaper online," Kristen Cook, managing editor of Ben's Bargains, told CBS News.


Target Home Decor Things you should never buy at target

"Cheap furniture from Walmart and Target is just that—it works well for college students, but in the long run consumers will pay more to replace these items," Kendal Perez of CouponSherpa told gobankingrates.com. Instead, Perez suggests antique stores, thrift shops, and discount stores—like T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, and Marshalls—"for affordable, better-quality furniture options." And for more furniture deals, learn the 30 Surprising Things You Never Knew About Ikea.


Women shopping for shoes Things you should never buy at target

Just like the furniture, you're not going to get sturdy, long-lasting footwear at Target. According to Cook, other stores carry name-brand shoes for the same price, but with better quality and durability. "Fake leather sandals are $20 to $25 at Target. You can go to Macy's to get something that looks the same but that's a quality brand for the same price," she told CBS News.


toiletries Things you should never buy at target
Image via Flickr/JJBers

In a price comparison study, Apartment Therapy found that Target is not the cheapest place to buy your toiletries. According to their research, in most categories, including toothpaste and body wash, Walmart beat Target's prices by a landslide.


Batteries Things you should never buy at target
mariva2017 / Shutterstock

When you've flipped the batteries in your remote control or flashlight enough times that they're officially dead, it's understandable that you'd head to the closest big box store. But instead, consider your local dollar store. While a 10-count pack of Energizer batteries will cost you around $8.69 at Target, you could get the Sunbeam brand equivalent for $1 at your local dollar store, notes Reviewed.com.

Target brand paper towel

Target brand paper towels
Image via Target

Target's Up & Up paper towels don't stand up to the competition. When comparing Bounty to Target's Up & Up, Jon Lal, CEO of BeFrugal, told gobankingrates.com that "the Target brand is cheaper, but the Bounty brand is more durable and requires the use of fewer sheets at a time." Rather than saving a dollar on Target brand paper towels, seek out trusted brands that provide a more durable and absorbent experience.

Target brand trash bags

Target store brand trash bags Things you should never buy at target
Image via Target

Target's trash bags also lack quality and durability, says Kyle James of Rather-Be-Shopping. "The small savings that Target's Up & Up generic brand provides is not worth it when your trash ends up on the kitchen floor," he told gobankingrates.com. Try a brand like Glad for better durability.

Gift wrap

Holiday Target Gift Card Things you should never buy at target

Target's gift wrap is hard to miss since it's typically situated up front near the bargain section. Despite the wrapping paper's location, it's not particularly cheap at Target. Instead of Target, hit up the dollar store, T.J. Maxx, or Marshalls. It's painful to spend money on something that's just going to get torn up anyway.

Phone cases

iPhone accessories Things you should never buy at target
Shutterstock/Vasin Lee

At Target, it's next to impossible to find the exact fit and design you're looking for for under $10. Instead, check out Amazon for phone cases that'll come in under $7. The online retailer has a huge variety and also offers premium OtterBox phone cases that can save you $14.

Craft and party supplies

Woman shopping for craft supplies Things you should never buy at target

According to Cook, the aspiring Joanna Gaineses and Martha Stewarts among should skip Target when in search of craft and party supplies. Instead, she suggests heading to stores like Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store or Michaels, where 40 and 50 percent off coupons are readily online.

Name-brand food

target aisle

Like with beauty products, the Target brand items are worth it when it comes to pre-packaged food. Target's Market Pantry pasta and baking supplies, for example, are far cheaper than their name-brand counterparts and still manage to deliver on quality. "Most store-branded baking goods are just repackaged from the name brand, so you're getting the same product at a considerable discount," Shelton told gobankingrates.com.

Fresh produce

Target produce section Things you should never buy at target

But pre-packaged items are where your Target food shopping should end. If you're determined to shop for groceries and home goods in one shot, try Walmart for better prices. Business Insider's Jessica Tyler said that Target didn't have "nearly as big of a selection, and it didn't seem as fresh," when compared to Walmart's. Want to save even more on food? Avoid the 15 Grocery Shopping Mistakes that are Killing Your Wallet.

Snack packs

Grocery store snackpacks Things you should never buy at target

If you're looking to stock up on snacks, head to a store like Costco or Sam's Club that specializes in bulk shopping. For example, most snack packs containing 30 individual snacks cost around $20 at Costco, while individual snacks at Target costs around $3 to $4 each, according to Refinery29. Buying name-brand snacks at Target could ultimately cost you hundreds of dollars a year.


Woman shopping for bedding Things you should never buy at target

"You can find superior quality with similar prices or even sometimes cheaper prices at department stores like Macy's—especially if you search sale items and then apply a coupon for a deeper discount," consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch told AOL. "Grab a printable coupon or online coupon from CouponSherpa.com. Even HomeGoods has a good selection of cheap sheets. The only problem is that there is a limited selection."

Kitchen appliances

Couple shopping for kitchen appliances Things you should never buy at target

In most cases, according to Reviewed.com, Target does not have the best prices when it comes to kitchen gadgets. For example, their research found that the KitchenAid stand mixer is cheaper on Amazon, as are Cuisinart cookware sets. Besides Amazon, you can try also HomeGoods, which offers extensive price cuts on the appliances that could help you in the kitchen.

Target brand salad dressing

eating salad all the time won't help you lose weight

Although Consumer Reports gave Target brand ketchup, mayonnaise, and maple syrup rave reviews, they found that the retailer's salad dressings left a lot to be desired. "The Market Pantry Caesar was dominated by black pepper and dehydrated spice flavors," reviewers wrote. "Try the well-balanced Trader Joe's Romano instead." As a bonus, the latter is lower in cholesterol and sodium, too!


Target workout clothes Things you should never buy at target

When comparing jeans, pajamas, and leggings between Walmart and Target, NerdWallet found that Walmart is always the most cost-effective option. That said, Target does have more contemporary and name-brand options. "While it was more expensive than Walmart, many of the clothes were on sale. It was certainly cheaper than a typical department store would be, and the products were better organized and displayed than at Walmart," Tyler says.


Target underwear section Things you should never buy at target
Image via Yelp

Walmart offers the best deals and selection of value packs in the underwear department when their prices were compared with those of Target and Costco. Though, again, if you're after name-brand underwear, then Target remains the best retailer to score deals.

Exercise equipment

Target workout gear Things you should never buy at target

To save money on dumbbells, yoga mats, water bottles, and other workout accessories, you're better off heading to Walmart, where the selection will be just as impressive, but less expensive than Target's. For example, while a set of 12 dumbbells costs $15.29 at Walmart, just one dumbbell from Target will cost you about $3. Plus, major exercise equipment at Walmart, like treadmills, often costs less than their counterparts at Target. For example, the ProForm 705 CST is $1,100 at Target and $800 at Walmart. And for more Walmart savings, read up on the 30 Amazing Secrets Walmart Managers Don't Want You to Know.

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Ashley Moor
Ashley hails from Dayton, Ohio, and has more than six years of experience in print and digital media. Read more
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