Saturday, August 15, 2009

Keep your eye on the Target

A hobby is a pastime activity that a person finds enjoyment or fulfillment in. Playing a musical instrument, building models, collecting various treasures from stamps to seashells and painting are the hobbies that jump in my head first. Baking is a hobby and for some fortunate folks, exercise is a hobby. But for most, exercise falls under “requirement’, instead of playtime.

My spare time activity is an unlikely one. Listen carefully, my audience of three loyal followers, I will tell you my little secret. Target is my hobby. Yes, the store. This store chain lured me in with the attraction of being able to buy eye drops, bleach, shoes, toys, electronics, pajamas and house wares all in one visit. Target is one stop shopping. I hesitate to write this as it is not advertised in Target’s Sunday flyer. Cruising the end caps of Target on just the right day, at just the right time, I can scoop up deals that would make any garage sale blush. This exhilarating hobby has provided me an opportunity to acquire many items that I could not otherwise afford.

Excuse me now, if I sound cheap, or, um, say thrifty, shall we? Months ago, I purchased the top of the line hair dryer that sold for just over one hundred dollars, at 75% off. Of course, I’d love to own this Ferrari of hair dryers, but would never be able to afford it, if not for my hobby. Great Finds sit at many end caps and I have learned the secret formula of leaving with my shopping cart full. Different departments mark down their clearance items on different days of the week. Seasonal items move a bit differently. One who leans toward this hobby comes to know the cycle and will be at house wares on Thursday mid-morning for first pickings.

But timing is everything; I had my eye on a $300 BBQ. We needed a new BBQ; ours is 9 years old, has a broken lighter and is a horrible sight. Weekly, I cruised the right days waiting for the last two boxed grills to drop to 75%, thus affordable. I went on the right day, after waiting 5 weeks, checking them diligently, and they were gone! I summoned the red-shirt teenager to ask where my BBQ was. He knew exactly what I was referring to and said the minute the markdown took place; two employees snatched them right up, not even giving me a chance. Apparently Target employees have the edge on my hobby. I called my husband from the store; it was disappointing and frustrating.

Our patio furniture, dining table, outdoor couch, chairs and end tables were bought at 50 -75% off retail, placing them within budget limits. It is a purchase I am proud of that required some extra leg work. Different pieces were at different stores throughout the county, so to get it all to coordinate and look pretty; my husband and I pulled out the trailer and visited each store while I anxiously prayed on the drive that the needed piece would still be sitting there. It was successful and gave me a high. For my sons 8th birthday I picked up cool boy-toys over a period of four months. I set up a ‘prize table’ for each winner to chose from. Among the twelve prizes was a Hulk Football, Pokemon toys, Pirate ship and even a Star Wars light saber. It was a big 75% off success for the kiddos. They loved it! Another high. Thank you, Target.

This leads me to the dangers that come with this hobby. It can become addicting and I think some of my friends were becoming concerned. The obsession to feel that wonderful high from the bargain became a bit too important to me. I had to remember that this is a hobby; it is supposed to be a fun pastime, a pleasurable spare time pursuit. However, at times I felt like a junkie, just having to have that lamp or those exquisite sheets at the lowest possible price. For example, I just had to get to Target on Wednesdays when wine was marked down. I admit it; I love to drink wine. Does that count as a hobby? Anyway, I can’t afford twenty dollar bottles of wine and I am convinced expensive wine tends to taste better. It’s a reality that I am financially forced to buy the cheap stuff. When Target wines hit 50 -75% off, I stock up. And this hobby incorporates friendship because my wino girlfriend and I call and tip each other off when we find that end cap full of wine deals. I think hobbies and friendship are important. I also think my town is chuck full of winos because Target’s discounted wine has an extremely short shelf life.

Due to this hobby’s time requirement, I have had to back off. I still cruise the end caps when I am there to pick up something I really, truly need. I see what is currently marked down and know it will go lower. Lately, I just can’t put the enthusiasm or energy into the pursuit. It has become exhausting and less thrilling. Writing has become an active hobby and being that it is free, I think I should stick with it.

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