Thursday, April 14, 2011

How To Do the Coupon Thing: Part 8-CVS

One major way to save with coupons is to shop at the drugstores (something I wouldn't have believed before I started couponing!). All three of the major drugstores end up having stuff for FREE every single week. Check out the drugstore donation list.

But, if you want to do well at the drugstores, you have to know how to play the game. So I'll teach you, starting with CVS.

CVS is, at least in my opinion, the easiest of the three major drugstores. It's easy to learn, you can make money faster, the nicest setup of the stores and I rarely have problems finding what I need.

So how does shopping at CVS work? First, you need one of their cards (Yup, a card!). You can sign up here. You can also sign up in the store.

CVS offers Extra Care Bucks, AKA ECB. ECBs are basically free money. Every week certain items will go on sale and offer ECBs. When you buy this item, you will pay the price out of pocket (minus whatever coupons you have) and get the ECB at the bottom of the receipt. If you hold onto these (and you should!) the next time you go into CVS you can use your ECB to help pay for your new purchase! Because of this, you can "roll" ECBs or continually pay for your purchase with ECBs and get more for your next trip. This means after a few weeks, you'll be paying very little (if any) out of pocket for your purchases.

You also get ECBs every quarter for the amount of money you spend in the previous quarter. CVS gives you 2% of your out of pocket expense. Last quarter I spent $100 total and got $2 in ECB. Certainly not a lot, but these ECBs are slightly different than normal. Normal ECBs cannot be used to pay tax (yeah, it sucks. Especially since California taxes household goods) but for some reason the quarterly ECBs do cover tax, meaning your total can be incredibly low or free every so often. If you don't pay taxes on many household goods, you might not even have that problem.

Now the caveats about ECBs. I mentioned in the previous paragraph that with the exception of the quarterly ECBs, they don't cover tax. So you need to only use enough ECBs to cover your SUBTOTAL! With ECBs, if you go over, you lose the extra. So if you owe a $1 and have $1.50 ECB, you can either use the $1.50 and lose the $0.50 or pay the $1 out of pocket and hold onto the ECB for your next trip. I usually hold onto them, especially if I know I'm paying tax too.

The other thing about ECBs is that they are only good for a month, so if you don't use them, you lose them. I've been told that they may let you use them a day or two after the expiration date, but I haven't tried it.

Most of the free stuff you get from CVS comes from a combination of coupons and ECBs. For example, this week (4/10 to 4/16), you can get Airwick Freshmatic Starter Kit for free (and make some money) with coupons and ECBs. They have a deal going where you buy $20 in certain products (including the starter kit) before coupons, you get $10 in ECB. There are coupons available for $4 off the starter kit and the kits cost $6 each. If you buy 4, using 4 coupons, you will buy $24 worth before coupons, but with the coupons it will take it down to $8 you actually spend. Since you hit the $20 before coupons, you get the $10 in ECB for your next trip. You end up with an extra $2 for your next trip than what you actually spent. Not bad, eh?

CVS doesn't always use ECBs and they do have some good deals without them, simply using coupons, but it's rare (for me anyway) to find a deal that is better than at the grocery stores.

Finally, CVS will periodically send out coupons and freebies via email, Facebook and Twitter. I get all sorts of coupons in my email and recently I've been able to get a free soda and free lotion because I follow them on Twitter and "Like" them on Facebook.

So what can you find for a good price at CVS? Mostly, it's household goods. Toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, feminine hygiene, medicine, toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies. They do have food and there are times when you can get a good deal (like this week with cereal) but generally, I don't end up buying food there. CVS is also good for the seasonal products, like Easter or Halloween candy.

CVS can be quite easy once you get used to it. Give it a try.

This is part of the series How To Do the Coupon Thing. Check out the whole series here.


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