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Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Basics: CVS

I figured I'd start with the basics of CVS and Walgreens, because those 2 stores are more universal than Publix, which is limited by geographical location. So, CVS...

CVS is amazing. At first glance, you might think to yourself, "there is no way I'm shopping at CVS. Look how overpriced their products are! I'm going to Walmart for all of my household and beauty supplies." Yes, you are right. All drug stores are extremely overpriced, but there is a catch.

CVS runs a sale ad from Sunday to Saturday every week. You can view the ad on the CVS website each week here, or you can pick up a copy of the CVS circular in the front of the store. Your Sunday newspaper also has a copy of the circular. It has sale ads for every store each week.

Each week, CVS runs some "steals", where you can get items for practically free. Those sales are there to attract people into the store, in hopes that they will buy many other overpriced items. The key is to not give in and buy other items. Only buy those special deals each week!

So how do these freebie deals work at CVS? Here's an explanation:
  • CVS has an extra care card. Go in the store, and ask the cashier for an extra care card. Now you have one! You must use the same one at all times, and you must have it every time you check out in order to get the deals. So make sure to put it somewhere accessible, so that you don't get to the store and realize you've forgotten it! I have mine on my keychain.
  • After you have your card, be sure to register it on their website here. This enables you to get e-mails with printable coupons you can use in the store. Also, it puts your telephone number in their system so that if you do happen to forget your card, they can look it up at the register.
  • Look at the ad for the current week. There are some deals on items that are just priced very low, some deals on items that are buy one get one free (bogo), and some deals where you pay a certain price and get "extra care bucks" back. Sometimes, the low prices and bogo's are great. Most of the time, however, you want to look for the extrabucks deals.
  • Extra care bucks (ECBs) = CVS cash. They print out at the bottom of your receipt after your transaction at the register. They have an expiration date, the amount of ECBs, and a barcode. You can use them for your next trip. They scan in just like a regular coupon. So if it is $3.00 ECBs, you will get $3.00 off your purchase when you use it.
  • So you need to look for those deals in which you get ECBs back. Some weeks, there are great deals on ECBs, and other weeks are not so great. You want to look for the ones where you pay as little as possible, and get quite a bit back. Sometimes there are even "free after ECBs deals" where you pay an amount and get that amount back. For example, you might buy a body wash for $4.99, and receive $4.99 ECBs back. Those are awesome!
  • In the beginning, you pay out of pocket a couple of times to build up your stash of ECBs. After a while, you will simply "roll" your ECBs! For example, right now, I have right around $25 worth of ECBs. I use those ECBs on items that I will get more ECBs back for! Doing this, I never really lose any ECBs, and I just continue to use them on each transaction time after time, paying very very little out of pocket. Most of the time, I'm just paying tax (You have to pay the tax. You have to stop using ECBs when you're about to break the threshold below the tax value).
  • On top of that, you can use manufacturer's coupons (see my coupon basics post). Manufacturer's coupons are simply coupons that the manufacturer puts out. They are found online, in the coupon inserts of the newspaper, and many other places. You can use these coupons on the items you buy, get the cost down even lower, pay for the remainder with a few ECBs you already have, and then get ECBs back for it! (crazy, I know. It truly feels like theft sometimes, but it's completely legal!)
  • In addition to all of that, you get other coupons on the bottom of your receipts from time to time, for specific items. In each store, they also have these little machines that print out coupons when you scan your extra care card. It's the same machine that serves as the price scanner. Scan your card a couple of times every time you go in the store to get some coupons! You can use these as well. If a coupon is for a specific item, you can use that, along with your manufacturer's coupon! The rule of thumb for most stores in general is that you can use 1 manufacturer and 1 store coupon per item.
  • Let's put all this together in an easy-to-understand example. Let's take the example of the body wash mentioned above. It was advertised as $4.99 and you get $4.99 back in ECBs. You have a manufacturer coupon for the body wash that is $1/1 ($1 off of 1 item purchased). You also happen to have a store CVS coupon that printed out last time you were in the store and scanned your card on the machine. It is for "$1 off of any handsoap or body wash." You also happen to have $2 ECBs from your last transaction. Here's how this will look: $4.99 - $1.00 (manufacturer) - $1.00 (CVS coupon) - $2 ECBs = .99 paid out of pocket. You will pay 99 cents out of pocket, and receive back $4.99 in ECBs.
  • So that is how you "roll ECBs." Let's review: 1. Get an extra care card. 2. Register it online. 3. Look at the sale ad to find great ECB deals (I will also try to post the best deals weekly on this site). 4. Gather any coupons you have for the items you are going to buy. 5. Gather any previous ECBs you have. 6. Go shopping, pay very little out of pocket, and get ECBs paid back to you. 7. Go next week and repeat with your newly obtained ECBs!
This kind of gives light to how bargain shoppers buy the things they need only when they're on sale. In the beginning it is hard, because you are not stocked up, and you don't have many manufacturer's coupons. Over time, however, your cabinets will become very full of toothpaste, toothbrushes, cleaning supplies, shampoos, conditioners, hair stylers, brushes, makeup, feminine products, first aid products, otc medications, soaps, and much much more. I have an overwhelming supply of this stuff in my home, so much so that I have kind of backed off a little on the CVS'ing lately! Over time, you will too, and you will never have to go out and buy the items you need. You will already have a full supply at home. You will simply be catching the deals and stocking up on the sales for future use!

One recommendation: Try to catch the deals by Sunday or Monday. CVS does not keep extra items in the back. What they have on their shelves is what they have in stock, and it goes quickly! Their truck usually comes in Thursday afternoon or night, so if you miss it on Sunday or Monday, try going back on Friday or Saturday. And you can always get rainchecks, even for ECBs. In case you don't know, a raincheck means you can come back any other time when the item is no longer on sale, give them the raincheck, and get the sale price (and even ECBs back in this case).

On a side note, CVS is also a great way to collect items to give away to charity, shelters, and gifts for wedding and baby shower baskets!

I hope that made sense to all of you. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or send me an e-mail at! Happy CVS'ing!



Anonymous Angie said...

can i just tell you how helpful this is to me?? i've been trying to figure out what the big deal is (literally!) over these overpriced items.... now I finally get it! lol THANKS!! :) :) :)

November 9, 2009 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Meagan said...

HaHa. You're very welcome! Glad it helped! =]

November 9, 2009 at 6:05 PM  
Blogger Donna Shelton Smith said...

Ok that is awesome. I was almost sold on going to Wallgreens but I see now how CVS is better. I recently moved and live within walking distance to either store and I'm a 'newbie' to couponing but this is the greatest advice. Thanks for taking the time to post this and I can't wait to get 'stocked up.'

March 21, 2010 at 11:45 PM  
Anonymous Kim said...

Hi Meagan, one of my friends just recommended your blog to me and I've found it very helpful so far! I have a question for you about CVS ECBs...almost every time that I go, the coupons on the bottom of my receipt are "5.00 off a 20.00 purchase" and they expire within a week or two, so I rarely use them. Is that what ECBs are? Or am I missing something? And how do you know which products will give you ECBs and how many they will give you...does it say that in the Sunday ads?

April 14, 2010 at 9:51 PM  

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