Monday, October 6, 2008

CVS Basic Training

CVSing: verb, 1) The act of legally robbing your local drugstore. 2) Getting paid to shop for toiletries, baby items, and, occasionally, groceries. 3) Successfully executing a shopping list as an Army infantry unit would execute a battle plan.

CVS is a haven for couponers, an oasis, the calm in the storm. If you are a beginner, CVS is the best drugstore to begin with. You will quickly see the returns on your investment.

The first thing you need to do is get a CVS shopper’s membership card called an “ExtraCare Card”. This little piece of red plastic is worth far more than its weight in gold. Sign up is free and easy. Just fill out a short application and turn in at the front counter. You will receive a card immediately.
Second, pick up a weekly ad and a monthly “Value Book”, which should be sitting right next to the ads at the front of the store.

Third, go home. You need to strategize. Do not be tempted by all the savings--go home, or at least somewhere you can sit and think while examining your "textbooks".

CVS rewards certain purchases with “ExtraCare Bucks,” more commonly known in the coupon world as “ECB’s”. ECB’s print at the bottom of your receipt and work like cash at CVS. There are weekly offers in the weekly ad and monthly offers in the monthly value book. Sometimes an item will net $1 or $2 ECB’s, and sometimes you will receive an ECB for the entire price of the product.

You can actually make a profit by using coupons and then receiving an ECB for more than you paid.

Here’s an example:

X item is on sale for $5.99
You use a manufacturer’s coupon for $2 off
You get an ECB for $4.99 for purchasing X item
You paid $3.99 out of pocket
You now have $4.99 ECB’s to spend at CVS
Profit: $1

There are limits to how many ECB’s you can earn per item. Items that are considered FREE after ECB’s usually have a limit of 1.

ECB’s are specific to your ExtraCare Card. You cannot trade them, use someone else’s ECB’s, and use one you found in a buggy.

ECB’s can be used to purchase other items that qualify for ECB’s. This is referred to as “rolling your ECB’s”. Once you have a decent amount of ECB’s built up, which you can do very quickly, you can shop with very little money out of pocket. ECB’s do have expiration dates, so don’t hold onto them for too long without rolling them over.

Quick note on the monthly deals: Don't run out and buy everything with ECB's. At some point during the month, those items will possibly be on sale or a coupon may come in the newspaper the next week. When you get your weekly ad, check for advertised sales that correspond with monthly ECB items.

CVS is very generous with store coupons that print at the bottom of your receipt as well (or at the Magic Coupon Machine, which my stores finally have! :D). There are item-specific coupons, like $3 off CVS brand vitamins. And there are dollars off a minimum purchase coupons, like $5 off $25. Unless otherwise stated, these can be combined with each other and with a manufacturer’s coupon. Like ECB’s, they are specific to your ExtraCare Card.

Example #1:
Buy X item for $4.99
Use $1 manufacturer’s coupon
Use $1 CVS coupon
Pay $2.99

Example #2:

Buy X item for $12.99
Use $2 off $10 CVS Purchase
Use $2 Manufacturer coupon
Pay $8.99
Example #3:
Buy X item for $15.99
Use $3 off $15 CVS coupon
Use $2 off CVS coupon for item X
Use $3 off manufacturer's coupon for item X
Pay $7.99

This is where the strategizing comes into play. Let’s say you have a $3/$15 coupon and $5 in ECB’s. Your goal is to comes as close to the $15 mark pre-tax without going under before all coupons. When you check out, give the cashier the $3/$15 coupon FIRST! Now your total is $12. Then give them all your manufacturer’s coupons, let‘s just say $4 worth. You now owe $8. Then give them your ECB. Your total out of pocket is $3 for $15 worth of merchandise. If you use an ECB larger than your final total, you lose the difference--You will not get cash back or an ECB back for the difference.

Sometimes you may need a “Filler”. This is a free or nearly free item that will do one of two things for you:

1) It may help you reach your minimum subtotal without really affecting your out of pocket.

Example: Item X is on sale for $1, and you have a coupon for $1 off. The $1 price will count towards your minimum purchase amount for a $ off $$ coupon, but it will be FREE after you give them your coupons.
2) It may up your total enough to use a larger ECB without losing part of it.

Example: Your after coupon total is $2.59 and you only have ECB’s for $3 or more. Grab a candy bar to fill in the difference--it’s okay, you deserve a treat for all your hard work!

You have now been through CVS Basic Training! Let me know if you have any questions, I’d be happy to help you on your quest!


tweiters said...

I just went through my basic training. I think I am ready for my first visit to CVS. This was very helpful. Thanks

All Things Frugal For You And Me said...

I love it when somebody makes me laugh out loud!

CVSing: verb, 1) The act of legally robbing your local drugstore.

Seriously too funny! Can I quote you:)
OK now I have to read the rest of what you wrote! Couldn't quit laughing to concentrate...