Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Saving Money at CVS

Saving money at CVS has become one of my hobbies. Daughter Jeana (daystocome) piqued my interest, and then I discovered, where you can find weekly scenarios for saving lots of money.

Wick is fascinated with CVS sales and Extra Care Bucks (aka ECBs), and how much stuff I bring home, with so little out of pocket. ECBs can be spent like cash in any CVS. In order to get them, you will need to fill out a form at the store or on line, and get a loyalty card.

Yesterday I had a list, some coupons, about $7 in ECBs, and a $3 off $15 purchase coupon, so I was ready to prowl the aisles at our local CVS.

Here's what happened when I went to CVS yesterday:

1. I had a rain check from last month, when Soft Soap Spa body wash was $4.99, with $4.99 Extra care Bucks (ECBs), for 4 bottles. CVS was out every time I went in last month, so I got two rain checks, for a total of 8 bottles. (Their rain checks are available for any product they run a sale on, and do not expire.) Instead of the ECBs, which were for last month, I got 4 bottles of body wash for free, a 19.96 value.

2. I had a coupon for Tums 3 pack, plus ECBs equal to the purchase price--meaning I actually made money on that deal.

3. Same with Rolaids.

4. Tide $5.99, with $1 coupon, plus $2 ECBs on each, and I bought 2 bottles.

5. Aquafresh toothpaste, $2 ECBs, plus a $1 coupon, so I got overage (more in return than I spent) on that.

6. I had a $3 off $15 purchase coupon from CVS (sign up to receive e-mails from them), and my total of merchandise was over $15.

7. Allergy meds CVS brand, received ECBs equal to the purchase price.

8. Excedrin, received ECBs equal to purchase price of $1.99, plus had a $2 off coupon--in effect, they paid me to take the product home.

9. I bought bandaids on sale, even though I didn't have a coupon, because I was out of them, and didn't get them when they were an ECB item.

I walked out with a total of almost $45 in products, paid $11.76 out of pocket, and received $11.78 in ECBs to use next week, so I "made" two cents for shopping at CVS this week.

If you get serious about doing this, buy the Sunday paper in the double bundle (two papers for $2), and start clipping coupons (I learned that from Jeana). Usually the best deals will be a couple of weeks after the coupon comes out, so hang on to it. I have a little coupon file with dividers to keep things organized--a tab for health and beauty, a tab for paper goods, a tab for dairy, a tab for canned/frozen, etc. Keep it in your car, so you always have access to it when you are out and about.

Kroger will double coupons on certain days, so watch the sales, match the coupons with the sales, and shop on double coupon days.

One thing I have learned is that I can not be "brand loyal" if I want the best deals. Another thing is that we now get better quality stuff (brand name shampoos, toothpastes, and so forth) for less money than the generic. And by stocking up when stuff is free, I have an abundance to share with those in need.

On the moneysaving mom blog site, she has a CVS 101 and Walgreens 101, to help people get started, and to explain how each store's system works. Look in the left hand list of previous posts.

CVS, to me, is simpler than Walgreens; many of Walgreens' best deals involve rebates, which I am bad about filing and mailing for, but some people really like getting that check in the mail periodically. Or you can now have the rebates loaded onto your Walgreens saver card, to use like cash at any Walgreens store. They also have what they call Register Rewards, similar to the ECBs at CVS.

In addition to saving money, shopping this way has become a game. If I walk out with at least as much in ECBs as I walked into the store with, I feel as if I "won" this week. I'm no expert, but I am learning to play the game, save some money, and enjoy the process.

Also, learning to shop this way is a sort of dress rehearsal for retirement, when it will be even more vital to make every penny count.