Monday, September 12, 2011

Why? Part II: The Drugstores...CVS

The drugstores can be very very confusing, but once you learn the tricks of the trade, they can be the most rewarding. The main drugstores that I know of are CVS, Walgreens, and Riteaid. Each has it's own pros and cons, so you will have to decided which one or ones work the best for your needs. All three have their own version of "store currency" that you get as a reward for buying a certain product at a certain time.


CVS is by far a favorite among most couponers. It is personally my favorite as well.  As I described above, all three of the drugstores have their own version of store currency. At CVS, it is called Extra Care Bucks or better known in the couponing world as the famous ECB's. Basically, to make it simpler for everyone, think of these ECB's as cold hard green cash. If you loose one, you can reprint it from the ExtraCare website, but for our purposes, you want to think of it as money. Once you grasp the idea of trading ECB's for more ECB's everytime you shop, you will have mastered the basic idea behind ALL of the drugstores. Here's the idea: Every week there are special deals that will say if you buy {this item} you will get back {certain dollar amount} in ECB's. The concept is for you to go into the store, with the idea of using your coupons to make the deals even sweeter to receive the ECB's. Then, you use the ECB's to pay for your next transaction (remember, ECB's are MONEY). If you are smart, you will try to use ECB's to pay for other transactions that will in turn give you more ECB's back, therefore you will NEVER pay more than tax out of pocket. Let me give you a real example from a few weeks ago:
Sample Scenario
*$3 ECB WYB Oral-B Pulsar toothbrush 1pk $6 (Limit 2)
  Use $3 off Oral-B Adult or Kids battery toothbrush, PG 6/05
*$2.50 ECB WYB Crest Pro-Health rinse 1L $4.50 (Limit 2)
  Use $2 off Crest rinse, 946 mL +, PG 6/05
*$2 ECB WYB Colgate MaxClean 6oz $2.79 (Limit 2)
  Use $1 off Colgate MaxClean toothpaste, May All You magazine
In this scenario, we are getting some great deals on oral care! Here's the idea:

Transaction #1: Buy 2 Colgate MaxClean toothpastes (5.58). Use 2 $1.00 off coupons (3.58). Pay for your items, which will be 3.58 without tax. Get back $4 in ECB.

Transaction #2: Buy 2 Crest Pro-Health rinse (9.00). Use 2 $2.00 off coupons (5.00). Use your $4 ECB (1.00). Pay for your items, which will be 1.00 without tax. Get back $5 in ECB. 

Transaction #3: Buy 2 Oral-B Pulsar toothbrushes (12.00). Use 2 $3.00 off coupons (6.00). Use your $5 ECB (1.00). Pay for items, which will be a 1.00 without tax. Get back $6 in ECB. 

*Now you have $6.00 in ECB to come back with the next deal week! If you can manage to do this every week, you will always have a VERY small amount out of pocket, and you may even have some week's that all you pay is tax!*

There are a few key things to remember when shopping at CVS:
#1: They will accept a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon, so keep your eyes peeled for store coupons. They come out of the "magic coupon machine" (red machine where you scan your card in the store), off of the CVS website as printables, out of a magazine that can be purchased at CVS called Reinventing Beauty, and sometimes hanging around the store itself.  
#2: Buy a GREEN TAG. It is a cute little leaf tag that costs a dollar to purchase. If you scan it every time you make a purchase in the store (not different transactions), it will print you a $1 ECB for every 4 store visits!

#3: You MUST have a CVS ExtraCare card to get the deals! Think of it as your Bilo BonusCard or FoodLion MVP card. If you register it online, you will have access to sign up for other deals like the Beauty Club where if you purchase $50 in beauty products you will receive $5 ECB. Also, quarterly, you will get a percentage back of what you have spent in the form of ECB's. Also, for the first time when you register your card, you will get a $4 off of $20 purchase coupon.

#4: ECB's do expire, but you generally have a few weeks to use them.

#5: Rainchecks! See my post here about these! Drugstores are notorious for running out of the "best deals"! Don't let it discourage you, they will have more stock in soon, but in the meantime, get a raincheck so you can still get the sale price AND the ECB deal. Yes, you heard right...You will still get the past ECB deal! 

#6: This is more of a general tidbit for couponers everywhere. Don't be afraid to mess up when you are first starting. Start small. Don't overwhelm yourself. Sometimes things don't always work the way you think they are going to. I always have a back up plan and I'm not afraid to question (NICELY!) the cashier. I coupon because I can't afford not to, but at the same time, I want my cashiers to like me and help me understand their store's policies. I have found that the nicer and more understanding I am with my cashiers and managers, the better response I get when I do screw up. :D
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