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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

CVS for Beginners

I have gotten so many emails lately from people who are wanting to know how to “do CVS.” There is really no better time than this to get started. With the state of the economy who couldn’t use a lower grocery/household bill? So, for all of you who have requested it, here’s a lesson in how to work CVS and the Extra Care Buck program.

First, you will need to get a CVS card.

It is just like any other grocery store or drugstore loyalty card. You probably have several already. The cashier scans your card and you get a discount on your groceries. The difference in the CVS card is that you don’t get a discount up front, but you get Extra Care Bucks following a purchase. How do you get a CVS card? The best way is to ask the cashier for one at the store. You’ll fill out a quick form and they’ll give you a card that day. This is the best scenario because you’ll be able to use the card right away. You can, however, get a card online HERE.

The next thing you will need is a CVS weekly flyer and a CVS monthly booklet.

The weekly ad is just like any store circular. It will have all the deals including a couple of items that earn ECBs (or Extra Care Bucks). For example, one of the items in this week’s flyer is the Excedrin 10ct. Vial for $2.49. Under this it says you’ll get $2.49 ECBs – making it “FREE” with a limit of 1. Let’s say you just decided to get this one item. You take it to the checkout. It will ring up $2.49 + tax. You will have to pay the amount. But, then you’ll get a receipt and at the end of the receipt it will say you’ve earned $2.49 ECBs. Don’t loose this receipt! This little “coupon” at the end of your receipt is just that – a coupon! You can cut it off and keep it and use it just like cash on your next transaction. It will take $2.49 off your total.

Ready for Transactions:

Okay now that you have your card and your flyers you are ready to decide what to buy and plan your transactions. You can also use this blog to help you.

Of course items that are “FREE” after ECBs are going to earn back all your money with little effort. Let’s say this week Gillette deodorant is on sale for $3.99 and you’ll earn $3.99 and the Excedrin is $2.49 and will earn you $2.49 in ECBs. You don’t have any coupons. So your transaction goes like this:

Buy Gillette deodorant $3.99
Buy Excedrin $2.49

Final Total: $6.48

You'll pay $6.48 + tax and at the end of your receipt you'll get 2 ECBs. One will say $3.99 and the other will say $2.49. So, you earned a total of $6.48 in ECBs - your products were "free."

Now, the next step - using manufacturer's coupons with transactions:

Let's take the same scenario as above but this time you've brough along a coupon for Excedrin for $2 off and a BOGO (buy one get one free coupon) on the Gillette deodorant. Your transaction will go like this:

Buy (2) Gillette deodorants $3.99 each (total:$7.98)
Buy Excedrin $2.49
Final Total: $10.47
Use $2 coupon for Excedrin
Use BOGO coupon for the two deodorants
Final total after coupons: $4.48

You’ll pay $4.48 out of pocket +tax and at the end of the receipt you will receive an ECB for $2.49 for the Excedrin and another $7.98 for the deodorant (assuming there wasn’t a limit of one). So, you earned a total of $10.47 in ECBs to spend like cash next time – even though you only spent $4.48!

Now let's make it more confusing! =)

Using CVS $/$$ Coupons:

Every now and then CVS releases $/$$ coupons. These come in the newspaper, online, and every now and then they’ll print on the end of your receipt or in your email! These coupons are in denominations of $2/$10 (meaning $2 off of a $10 purchase), $3/$15 (meaning $3 off a $15 purchase), and $4/$20 (meaning $4 off of a $20 purchase). These can be used in addition to manufacturer’s coupons. So, let’s take the same transaction as above one more time:

Buy (2) Gillette deodorants $3.99 each (total:$7.98)
Buy Excedrin $2.49
Final Total: $10.47
Use the $2 off of $10 coupon (it is important to use this coupon FIRST while your total is over $10).
Use $2 coupon for Excedrin
Use BOGO coupon for the two deodorants
Final total after coupons: $2.48

You’ll pay $2.48 out of pocket +tax and at the end of the receipt you will receive an ECB for $2.49 for the Excedrin and another $7.98 for the deodorant (assuming there wasn’t a limit of one). So, you earned a total of $10.47 in ECBs to spend like cash next time – even though you only spent $2.48!

The goal in CVS shopping is to pay very little out of pocket and take home products you can use and products that you NEED.

So, each week or so you’ll want to use your ECBs to pay for your purchases instead of using your cash.

Let’s say I did the above transaction. I only spent $2.48 my first week of CVS shopping and I brought home 2 deodorants and a bottle of Excedrin. Not very exciting, but I can use both products or donate them and I have $10.47 to spend the following week. (Note: you can use your ECBs immediately after they print but let’s just say I did one transaction a week to keep it simple). The following week I look at my flyer and determine that toothpaste is $2.99 this week and will earn me $2.99 in ECBs and a pack of Bic razors are $6.99 and will earn me $4 in ECBs. I decide those are things that will earn me the most bucks and they are items I can use. I also have a $1 off coupon for the toothpaste and a $2 coupon for the razors. As you can see I am basically making $1 off the toothpaste and paying only $1 for the razors. I also really need milk this week and would like to try to see if I can pay for it with ECBs to take that off my grocery budget. So my transaction goes like this.

Buy (2) toothpastes $2.99 each ($5.98 total)
Buy razors $6.99
Buy Milk $3.99
Final Price: $16.96
Use $3/$15 CVS coupon
Use (2) $1 off toothpaste coupons
Use $2 razor coupon
Final total after coupons: $9.96 + tax
Then, I use my $7.98 ECB from last week

That means I spend $2.02 cash and I earned another $5.98 ECBs for the toothpaste and $4 ECB for the razors. That is a total of $9.98 in ECBs for next week to spend (plus the $2.48 ECB from the Excedrin the week before I haven’t used yet). So, I took home more products I can use and the milk I needed plus I have MORE money to spend next week!

That is the goal with CVS shopping – to keep “rolling” (using ECBs from last week this week) your ECBs over and “growing” (making more ECBs this week then you had the last). Some weeks are bad, you may roll your ECBs and lose a few. Other weeks are worse, you “blow” your ECBs. But, no worries, you can always do better next week. Don’t give up over one bad week!

Just remember: when you get to the check out you’ll need to follow these steps:

  1. Present your card to the cashier so she/he can scan it.
  2. The cashier will scan all your stuff.
  3. Present an $/$$ CVS coupons
  4. Present any manufacturer’s coupons
  5. Pay with ECBs*
  6. Pay the remaining balance with cash

*You will NOT get change on your ECBs. If your total is $8.23 and you have an ECB for $9 the cashier can scan it but you won’t get the $0.77 back. You could throw in a candy bar or something and make sure to use it all up. Otherwise you’ll be throwing away “money.”


Sashafras said...

I am totally sending everyone I know to read this post!!! Thank you so much!!!

Leah said...

One of the main reasons for doing multiple transactions in one week is because you have $/$$ coupons – such as the $3/$15 CVS coupon. If this is the case and you have $30 or more worth of products you want to buy (before coupons) then you will want to break it into (2) $15 transactions. This way you will get $3 off of each transaction for a total of $6 off of your total $30 spent – rather than $3 off of $30 spent. This is because you can only use 1 CVS $/$$ coupon per transaction.

Does this mean you can reuse a $/$$ coupon or was the scenario meaning you had two of them??
Thanks so much!!

simplynotesandtotes said...

Thanks Denise - I so badly want to learn this way of shopping. We don't have a CVS close by - but do have one in the town where I make deliveries for my husband - so if I could take advantage of that when I'm there and learn all these tricks to happy shopping - I would be a happy camper. Thanks for all of your great info. sherry

Dee said...

THANK YOU! I had no idea! I just emailed this post to my mom.

I DO have one question...can you use MORE than one ECB coupon on one transaction..or can you only use one? For instance..lets say that last transaction would have been $12.00.......could you have used the $9.98 ECBS AND the $2.48 ECBS from the week before?


Anonymous said...

Where can you find the $/$$ Q's? Thanks for the clear walk thru of getting the best CVS deals!

NLW said...

Dee- Yes, you can use both of your coupons, but keep in mind that you want to try and get as CLOSE to the 9.98 + 2.48 ECB's that you can so you don't 'throw' away the extra money. Also a great excuse to get that candy bar that's on sale for $.50...

Denise Sawyer said...


That is meaning you have two coupons. They keep 'em so they aren't reusable. But, most the time you can print as many as you want.


Denise Sawyer said...

Where can you get $/$$ coupons?
They crop up in online newspapers, in your local newspapers, and in your email if you have registered your card online. I usually post about them when I find out how you can get one. As of right now there are none to be had. =(
They've been kind of slim around here lately.


drdrew said...

Don't forget, even though the OOP may be very little and it's tempting to use cash, the use of a cash back card adds up. If yours is anything like mine you'll save an additional 5% at pharmacies. $10/week OOP is over $25/year!

Anonymous said...

You can use as many coupons as you want. However, lets say you have a subtotal of 8.95 and you have a 9.00 coupon you will have to buy something to go over that 8.95 or whatever the amount is. The coupons do not consider tax.

Twice Blessed China Mom said...

Thanks so much for the explanation. I've been wanting to start, and everything I read is for people who understand the system already! Your info was very clear and I'll be starting tomorrow!

veronica said...

Okay I am new to this "game" and want to know if there is anyway to get past weeks/months coupons?? For example form ss or rp?

allhisblessings6 said...

Thank you so very much for explaining this so well. I appreciate you taking the time to write it so clearly. I signed up for my CVS card and will be trying this system out.

twentyfive2 said...

thanks for this post.

i'm new to this and it helps, reading it step by step....

i have another question, about blogging actually...
I want to put store site links on my page but dont know how.
I see you have them.
How'd you do it?
Thanks in advance !!!

LOVE your site!

Anonymous said...

thank you for explaining this much clearer for me. i just went to cvs.I think i came out great.I bought a total of $38.70 worth of stuff and paid $1.19 oop (out of pocket. And still came home with $6.99 in ECBs. Thank you for all your help.

Marcela Beatty said...

Thanks for explaining this! So very helpful!!!

Amy said...

Where do you get the monthly booklet?