Sunday, February 15, 2009

How I Shop at CVS

Many of my friends have asked me how I get the deals that I do while shopping. I typically shop at CVS, Walgreens and Kroger for all of my sale items. Every once in awhile I will go to Food Lion if something is super cheap. Usually they aren't the cheapest though. Chasing sales, cutting coupons and watching ads has become a big hobby for me. I guess that is a good thing since it does ultimately save money. I spend about 2-3 hours a week between cutting coupons and preparing my shopping lists based upon the ads. I usually do this while watching TV at night because I am so ADD that I can't sit and just watch TV. :-)

I figured that I would give an example of a shopping trip to CVS that I had this week to give an idea of how to play the game. I do want to make note that the reason that I get such a large quantity of everything that I buy is because I get at least 6 papers (for coupons) per week and up to 10 if that weeks coupons are really good. You can still get the same percentage of savings though if you just get a couple papers.

Most stores that you shop at now have a rewards card or program. CVS's program is called the Extra Care Card. This is the first step to shopping at CVS. You will not get the sale prices or Extra Care Bucks (described below) if you do not use this. The program is one card per household so you have to stick to that. (I don't know how they enforce that though)

Each week CVS has different items in their ad that if you buy, you will get Extra Care Bucks printed on your receipt. Extra Care Bucks are like gift certificates/coupons that can be used at the store during your next visit like cash. The rewards usually expire 30 days from your purchase so make sure that you use them before they expire or the sale wasn't really that good of a deal. I have seen Extra Care Bucks done two different ways. The first is if you buy a certain quantity of items they will give you money back. For example, if you guy 2 Colgate Toothpastes they will give you $3 Extra Care Bucks. The second way is if you purchase a certain dollar amount of items. For example, if you buy $10 of Suave Haircare products they will give you $4 back in Extra Care Bucks.

CVS also accepts manufacturers coupons that come in the paper each week. You can also get coupons other places like the internet and All You Magazine. If you want to purchase coupons there are websites that sell coupons for a very reasonable price. I have done this in the past if I know that a really good sale is coming up somewhere that I need the coupons for. As with most places that accept coupons, you can only use one manufacturers coupon per item. The nice thing though is if there is a Buy 1 Get 1 Free sale, you can use a coupon on each item even though one of them is free. This means that you are getting the item that you pay for even cheaper.

The way to get the best deals at CVS is to combine the Extra Care Bucks rewards with coupons and sale prices. So if you are able to get Extra Care Bucks (ECB's) back for an item that you also have a coupon for, you are getting the best deal. For example, if an item is on sale for $4.99 and you have $2 coupon for it and you can get $3 ECB's back then you have made a $.01 profit on that item. I love it when a store pays you to take something off of their shelves. :-)

The idea for saving money with ECB's is to roll ECB's over to the next visit and you will significantly lower your cash output for the items. You have to make the initial investment to get the ECB's, but once you have them then you roll them over from week to week and don't pay much out of pocket.

When you go to check out it is important that you have yourself organized before you get up there. Always give the cashier the CVS card first. After everything has rung up then you give the cashier any manufacturers coupons that you have. Make sure that you do not give the cashier your ECB's from the previous visit before the coupons. If you do this you risk that your total will get down too low where they won't let you use the coupons. Always save the ECB's for last because if there's money left over then you can always use it the next visit.

It's also a good thing to note that if you have a $10 ECB to use and your total is $8.50, then you need to get something that will get your total (before tax) to at least $10. You won't be able to use the ECB if not because they will not give you cash back.

Please also remember that even though something is on sale, doesn't mean that it is the cheapest that you can get it. I have seen things at CVS be free one week and then $5 the next. It is important to understand the prices in your store (and not just CVS...comparing with places like Wal-Mart) because it is pointless to pay $3 for something at CVS when you can get it at Wally World for $2.25.

I figured that I would give you the breakdown of what I did to receive the deals today in the picture above. That may help you understand how to do this.

Herbal Essence
- On sale for $2.99
- $1 ECB for each purchased
- I had a coupon for $3.00 off 2
- I bought 4 for 11.96. Used 2 - $3.00 coupons and that took it down to 5.96. The ECB's for 4 take it down to $1.96 for 4. This is $.49 per item.

Crest Pro-Health Mouthwash
- On sale for $3.99
- $1 ECB for each purchased
- I had a coupon for $.75 off 1
- So that's, $3.99 less $.75 for the coupon = 3.24. Then less the ECB that is $2.24. This item is usually 6.89 a bottle.

Gillette Men's Shampoo
- On sale for $4.99 each
- $3 ECB for each purchased
- I had a coupon for $2 off 1
- I used 5 coupons and purchased 5 bottles. This means it was $4.99 less the $2 coupon = 2.99. Then you take off the $3 ECB and you end up making a profit of $.01 per bottle.

Suave Body Wash
- On sale for $2 each
- $2 ECB when you buy $6 worth of the products
- I had a coupon for $2 off 3
- I bought 3 bottles for $6. Subtract the $2 coupon that is $4.00. Less the $2 ECB's and it is $2 for the three bottles.

Colgate Advanced Toothpaste
- On sale for $2.99
- $2.99 ECB for each purchased
- I had a coupon for $1 off 1
- I purchased 2 at $5.98. Minus the coupons and it is $3.98. After you take the ECB's off you end up making a profit of $2.

As I have told everyone, please do not hesitate to ask me any questions about this stuff. It takes awhile to get the hang of it but once you learn it then it is easy to save money.

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Man, my deals suck compared to yours! I can't believe I missed that Herbal Essences deal...

I can't wait til I have a car and the time to shop so I can get better deals!