My Year (Without Target) in Review 2012
It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Time for Top Tens, Best-Ofs, Worst-Ofs, Countdowns, and of course the ubiquitous Year In Review. The Year in Sports, the Year in Politics, the Year in Homicides, the Year in Pop Music, the Year in Moments of Reality Television, and this year a new category: the Year in Not Going To Target.
When I began the Year Without Target, my challenge to myself was simple: stay out of Target for a year as a way of becoming a more conscious, if not more conscientious consumer. Even as I boldly declared my resolution back in January, I was already feeling fretful about how this decision would affect the ability of Santa to visit our house in December. Turns out this month was the easiest yet. We bypassed the traffic jams, the over-decorating, the over-spending, and the resulting bickering of Christmas Past. We gave more creatively, received more appreciatively, and celebrated more merrily than ever before. Fortunately Christmas Without Target came at the end of my Year Without Target. The prior months were necessary preparation. I was able to change my habits and my thinking enough throughout the year to make possible – easy, even – something I could barely imagine when I started the year. There were no emergencies this year involving rolls of gift wrap, Scotch tape, or toilet paper running low. Before I would have run out for more at the last minute, just in case.
I initiated the Year Without Target without any concrete metric for success. Yes, I avoided Target for the whole year but what does it mean to me? Did I save any money? Did I learn anything? Did I run out of any staple household items? Will I go back?
Saving money wasn’t necessarily a goal of my Year Without Target. Rather, I wanted to gain an awareness of where and why I was spending money and regain control over my shopping decisions. Although I am terrible with record keeping and maintained no receipts or spreadsheets for comparison, I suspect I spent the same amount of money throughout the past year that I usually do in a year. This hunch has been informally confirmed by my in-house financial expert (my husband, who actually holds an MBA… but also manages our household bills).
When I was shopping at Target I always ended up buying things compulsively no matter what necessities I had actually come there to get. Shutting down my tendency towards impulse buys by not going to the store where I usually made them has not helped me save money as much as it has made the same money available to be spent in more positive or meaningful ways. Significantly, after eliminating much of the flow of unnecessary incoming stuff from our household inventory and paring down what was already here, we were able to hire a house cleaner to help with routine cleaning of our home, which has freed up a lot of the precious little time we are not at work to enjoy our home and spend time together on things other than lamenting how far behind we are on household tasks.
Reflection on my personal history helped me understand how I had become a Target shopper, which I needed to do in order to break my habit. It was an opportunity for insight into the person I’ve always been and the person I’m always going to be, the events and relationships that have shaped me. Paying attention to where I’m shopping and why has helped me pay more attention and make better choices in other areas of my life. In a roundabout way, my Year Without Target has been a great tool for self-evaluation and affirmation – things I don’t always take time out to do but which I usually find helpful. I learned things I already knew, but I’ll be learning them all my life.
I still feel conflicted as a consumer. I didn’t give up paper towels, bottled water, or buying my kid a new Barbie dolls. I did buy stuff this year, and some stuff came from corporations I suppose I was just substituting for Target. I hope I bought fewer things I didn’t need than I would have at Target. I know I put more thought into my purchases this year than I have in a long time. I feel less guilty about shopping now. But there’s still a half-written list of Things I Need From Target floating around somewhere in the back of my mind.
I won’t be waiting in the Target parking lot to get my fix on the first business day of the new year. I’m enjoying my Target-free life as it is and I’m in no hurry to go back there. Time will tell. Whatever happens, my ability to shop on auto-pilot has been permanently disabled and I am better off for it.
Now we’re all just waiting for the ball to drop.
I’ll keep you posted.