27 Things You Should Never Buy at Target
According to retail experts, you may be better off at the Dollar Store or Walmart.
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. There's even a name for this phenomenon—the "Target Effect"—which says all the attractive displays and overwhelming options at the store affect our decision-making. But no matter how enticing, there are certain things you should never buy at Target, according to retail experts. Keep reading to learn what they advise steering clear of at the big-box store.
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27 Things You Should Never Buy at Target
1. Greeting cards
As Andrea Woroch, a money-saving expert, points out, greeting cards at Target can cost anywhere from $4 to $7—which is why she says you're better off buying them at the Dollar Store.
"You're looking at getting cards for as little as $.50 each," she shares. "My tip—plan for 6 to 12 months in advance. Think ahead about all the events, holidays, and celebrations you have coming up, and pick up the necessary greeting cards for each. Generic birthday cards work great for any person, too."
2. Gift wrap
If you spend $7 on a birthday card and another $5.50 on wrapping paper, you might be spending nearly as much to wrap a gift as the item cost itself.
"Walmart will be cheaper than Target, but the best deals on gift bags and tissue paper are at the dollar store," says Woroch. "If you're looking for higher quality and thicker wrapping paper, head to a discount store like T.J.Maxx or Ross, where you can get nicer quality for less."
3. Party supplies and balloons
This is yet another item that Woroch says you can get for much cheaper at the dollar store, especially since you'll only use most party supplies and balloons once.
She adds that the dollar store has a lot of cute character balloons and decorations for kids.
4. Craft supplies
If you're looking for craft supplies, Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews, previously told Best Life that you're better off heading to a dedicated craft store like Michael's or Jo-Ann for better deals via their plentiful coupons.
And the selection will be better, too. "If you're looking for specific supplies like paint brushes, acrylic paints, stitching supplies, and other craft goods, you're better off heading to a devoted store."
5. Pet supplies
Pet supplies—such as toys, food, and items like leashes and litterboxes—is another department where you're going to have a much more limited selection at Target, especially if you're in the market for higher-end products.
""You will get a much better deal when you buy bulk packages of pet food from a warehouse store like Costco or Sam's Club, and you can even qualify for a discount when you set up auto shipments of your favorite pet foods from online pet retailers like Chewy," Woroch previously explained to Best Life.
Several experts advised against buying books at Target. Of course, you can always visit your local library, but if you want to own a book, they say it's best to shop elsewhere.
"You're better off buying these gently used from ThriftBooks.com, where you can get gently used options for a fraction of the price," suggests Woroch.
And aside from the prices, Amazon and Barnes & Noble sell thousands of titles that Target does not.
7. Target brand diapers
Target's Up & Up diapers are less expensive than brand names like Huggies and Pampers, but GearLab Baby found that they're not worth it.
After testing the diapers, they said, "This product did not perform well in our tests for absorption or leaks, two critical performance metrics for diapering. It also is not eco-friendly nor free of common skin irritants."
8. Name-brand medications
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.
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), "FDA-approved generic medicines work in the same way and provide the same clinical benefit and risks as their brand-name counterparts."
9. Name-brand beauty products
"Target carries a limited selection of high-end cosmetics, but you can often find better deals and a wider variety of products at stores like Sephora, Ulta, or department stores that specialize in beauty products," says Jeanel Alvarado, the founder and CEO of the popular retail news and analysis site Retail Boss.
"These stores typically have a wider range of brands to choose from, and their staff are often knowledgeable and can assist you with finding the right products for your skin type and tone," she adds.
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.
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.
"You can often find better deals and a wider selection at specialized electronics retailers or online stores like Amazon and Best Buy," says Alvarado. "Additionally, these specialized retailers may offer better customer service and more knowledgeable staff when it comes to electronics."
12. Kitchenaid stand mixers
If you've always dreamed of owning a Kitchenaid stand mixer, you'll probably want to purchase it elsewhere.
"At Target, the mega-popular [5-quart] KitchenAid Professional Stand Mixer is priced at $449.00 and comes with three standard attachments—a paddle, whisk, and dough hook," shared She Finds in an April 2023 article. "Meanwhile, at Costco, you can get the 6-quart version for just $399.99, along with the standard dough hook, whisk, and paddle—and you'll also score a flex edge beater and pouring shield for preventing ingredient spills."
13. Nespresso machines
Another kitchen brand that She Finds found to be pricier at Target is Nespresso.
"For instance, the Nespresso VertuoPlus Deluxe Coffee and Espresso Maker [with 16 coffee capsules] is priced at $199.99 at Target, while at Costco, you can snag the same java machine at the same price, but with an additional Aeroccino three-milk frother, 32 coffee capsules, two recycling bags, and a $40 voucher to Nespresso.com," they share.
14. Decorative pillows
Target typically has an entire aisle dedicated to decorative pillows, and their fun colors and whimsical patterns make them a tempting purchase.
However, Woroch points out that most of the throw pillows she's seen at Target do not have a zipper, meaning you can't put the case in the wash.
"They also have cheap fillers that are not really as comfortable as a down or down alternative pillow insert," she adds. "Without a zipper, you don't even have the option to swap out the insert."
"The best deal on decorative pillows to get high-quality is HomeGoods or Marshalls or head to an outlet store for Pottery Barn if there is one nearby," she suggests.
15. Cute storage bins
If you're hoping to pick up some cute storage bins, you'll likely find a similar selection at lower prices at Marshalls and T.J.Maxx, says The Minimal Mom in a YouTube video.
16. Women's clothing
The Minimal Mom also advises against buying women's clothing at Target. "Nothing has stood the test of time. Nothing has proven itself to be something that I really like," she says, adding that it's also quite pricey.
In the comments section, several other shoppers agree, citing that their clothes from Target did not last.
17. Kids' clothing
Though The Minimal Mom does admit the children's clothing at Target is super cute, she says it's not worth the price when kids grow out of clothes so quickly. She notes that Walmart has much more affordable options.
And, in the past couple of years, savvy TikTokers have started posting videos about how Walmart's kids' clothes might even be getting cuter than those at Target.
Chances are, you're not going to get sturdy, long-lasting footwear at Target. In an interview with CBS News, Kristin Cook, managing editor of Ben's Bargains, said 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 noted.
"Aside from backpack offers, we haven't listed any Target luggage deals in the past two years," says Katie Roberts, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. "That's not to say Target doesn't discount suitcases, but you may find more consistent luggage sales elsewhere. Amazon, eBay, and Kohl's are a few retailers where we tend to see standout luggage deals."
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 four-count pack of Energizer AA batteries will cost you around $5.00 at Target, you could get the Alkaline brand equivalent for $1.25 at Dollar Tree.
Woroch also recommends a warehouse club store like Costco, where she says you'll get the best deal on batteries on a price-per-unit basis.
21. Impulse buys from the Dollar Spot
That section near the entrance of Target that has all kinds of fun, seasonal items—many of which are geared to kids—is called the Dollar Spot, but the name is deceiving.
"Many of the items are $1, but some of the items are as high as $5. I have found most things to be pretty low quality, so if an item is $1, go for it. If it's $5, move on," Trae Bodge, smart shopping expert at TrueTrae, previously told Best Life.
22. Name-brand groceries
"Target's grocery section offers a mix of name-brand and store-brand products," says Alvarado. "However, you can usually find better prices on name-brand groceries at other supermarkets or warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam's Club."
If you do want to shop for groceries at Target, consider Market Pantry, their store brand. Market Pantry pasta and baking supplies, for example, are far cheaper than their name-brand counterparts and still manage to deliver the same quality.
23. Target brand salad dressing
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!
24. Target brand macaroni and cheese
According to Eat This, Not That!, the Market Pantry boxed Macaroni & Cheese Dinner has a whopping 1,250 milligrams of sodium and 130 grams of carbs per box. The Market Pantry Deluxe Shells version has even more sodium–2,580 milligrams!
25. Fresh berries
There are many accounts out there of Target's produce being sub-par, and Roberts says she's experienced this herself with fresh berries "that have gone bad or are close to doing so."
In a ranking of the meat selections at chain grocery stores, Tasting Table put Target in last place, mainly for its small selection and the fact that it doesn't have an on-site butcher.
They say Target's meat comes from "Thomas Foods, the same meat provider as Walmart and Safeway," so you're better off shopping there for more options that are packaged fresh.
27. Gift cards
Gift cards are always close to the register and are tempting to pick up when you need a quick present, but you shouldn't buy them at Target.
If you're looking to save money on gift cards, you're better off buying from an online marketplace like Raise or Card Cash where you can buy and sell gift cards. The site can save you 5 to 20 percent of the card's value!
Plus, in March 2023, Target was hit with a class action lawsuit over allegedly selling fake Apple gift cards.