If you are new to couponing and frugal shopping, I’m sure you find the process daunting. I know I did when I first started. Fortunately, CVS is not as complicated as Walgreens, and it’s a good store to start with when first beginning your foray into couponing.
Before you set foot in a CVS armed with your list and coupons, you need to go to their website and sign up for a CVS Extra Care card. It’s important that you get one because, like a grocery store card, you won’t get all the deals unless your card is scanned. Make sure once you get your card, you register the number on line with the Extra Care program. When you do, you’ll receive random emails with coupons. About once a month, they’ll send one out for $4/$20 purchase.
The first thing you need to know about working the deals at CVS is the Extra Care Bucks. I call them EBs (extra bucks), but most blogs call them ECBs. These are coupons you earn for buying particular merchandise as outlined in the weekly flier. These print out on the bottom of your receipt. Always look to see that they printed out correctly before you leave the store. In addition, do not throw the receipt away before you cut off the EB coupons. You must treat these like cash. My friend Kerry was talking to me about using her EBs. She said she knew she had earned a bunch of them and was wondering how long she had until they expired. I told her to look on the EBs because they had an expiration date printed right on them. (It’s usually a month, by the way.) She gave me a funny look and wondered what the heck I was talking about. Come to find out, she had no idea the EBs printed out on the bottom of her receipt and had been throwing them away.
When you first start CVS shopping, you may have to put a little money out of pocket at first until you get going and can roll your EBs from week to the next. When I first started, I spent $63 and received $63 in EB, making what I purchased essentially free. The following week, when I went shopping I only bought items that would earn me EBs and used my EBs from the previous week to pay for my purchases. Therefore, my out of pocket cost was almost nothing (tax). I’ve been doing this ever since. That initial $63 has earned me hundreds of dollars worth of free stuff. I am by no means suggesting you do this right from the start. You can start slowly and build as you go.
Here’s an example of how to start. First, you want to look at my list for all the freebies and cheapies available at CVS for that week. Let’s pretend the following is on my list.
Aussie Conditioner, Shampoo or Styler $2.99 Earn 2 EBs Limit 1
Use $1/1 Aussie Product (RP 2/14/10)
FREE after coupon and EBs
Aussie Conditioner, Shampoo or Styler $2.99 – Obviously, this is the product and how much it costs
Earn 2 EBs – This tells you how many extra bucks you will earn for buying this product
Limit 1 – CVS places a limit on how many of the products you can buy to get an EB. If this product had a limit of 2, you would be able to buy two of these and get 4 EBs.
Use $1/1 Aussie Product – This is the coupon you should use to make the deal even better
(RP 2/14/10) – This is where you will find this coupon. In this instance, it will be in the Red Plum insert for February 14th, 2010.
FREE after coupon and EBs – This tells you how much the item will cost after using coupons and receiving EBs. In reality, you will pay 1.99 out of pocket for this product, but you will be getting $2 in EBs, which makes it free.
The next week, this item is on my list:
Colgate Advanced Toothpaste $2.99 Earn 2 ECBs Limit 1
Use $1/1 Colgate Total Toothpaste, (1-31-10 SS)
FREE after coupon and ECBs
You go to CVS and purchase this item. The cashier scans your card and rings up your purchase, which comes to 1.99 plus tax after using the coupon. Now you can hand the cashier your $2 EB from the previous week, and pay nothing out of pocket and also receive $2 more EBs to use on a future purchase. This is how you “roll” your EBs from one week to the next.
Obviously, I usually have a lot more items on my list than one, but I wanted to break it down and show you how this whole thing worked. One more thing you should know about EBs. If your purchase comes to 1.99 and you hand the cashier an EB for $4, you will NOT get back change. They will adjust the value of the EB down to 1.99. Try to get as close as possible to the purchase price when using your EBs. I usually don’t mind shelling out a dollar or two out of pocket so I don’t lose the value of the EBs I have earned.
A few more useful tips:
You may want to consider purchasing a Green Bag Tag. These little tags hang on a reusable shopping back and are scanned by the cashier every time you shop. These only cost .99, but earn you $1 EB every fourth visit.
Scan your CVS card at the little price checker machine they have in every store. It will print out CVS coupons you can use that day.
EBs can be used to purchase nearly anything in the store except prescriptions, alcohol, Gift Cards, lottery, money orders, postage stamps, pre-paid cards and tobacco products. All this information is actually printed on the EB. In addition, they cannot be used to pay the tax on a transaction.
I hope this helps you with your shopping at CVS. Please do not hesitate to contact me with comments and questions. I’m here to help!