CHICAGO, IL - MAY 5: (FILE PHOTO) A sign hangs in front of a new CVS pharmacy May 5, 2004 in Chicago, Illinois. CVS Corp. agreed to acquire pharmacy benefits manger Caremark Rx Inc. for about $21 billion dollars. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
By now, you know that CVS is one of my favorite places to shop. Sounds a little weird that I get so excited about a drug store, right? It's easy to get excited when pretty much everything I purchase there is FREE. Yep - FREE.
CVS can be intimidating. It's a coupon game & its somewhat complicated when you're a newbie. No fear...give it a few tries and you will be a pro in no time at all!
The Terminology You Need to Know:
ECB's = Extra Care Bucks (think "CVS money")
$5 off $20/$3 off $15/$4 off $20 = These are CVS coupons that are emailed to your email account once you register for a card & include your email address.
Stacking = This is the term used for using BOTH CVS store coupons & manufacturer's coupons on the same product.
Rolling = This is the term used to describe the "art" of using ECB's earned in one transaction to pay for the next one. You do this over & over to minimize your out of pocket expenses and build your bank of ECB's
CRT's = Cash Register Tape coupons. At CVS, these come at the bottom of your receipt or can be found once you scan your CVS card at the large red "price check" machine at the front of the store near the registers.
Money Maker = This is when you spend LESS than you earn. You may pay $2 for an item that will give you $5 ECB's...that makes it a $3 ECB money maker. We love these deals!
YMMV = Your Manager/Milaeage May Vary. Simply put - this means that the rules vary by store and some stores may be more flexible than others. A good example is expired CVS coupons...most CVS's will honor expired CVS coupons while others will not. In this case, YMMV.
OOP = Out of Pocket expense. This is how much you pay for a deal...after coupons.
Ok..here's how to fall deeply in love with CVS!
First of all, you MUST have a CVS card to earn ECB's. You can easily complete a form in-store to get your card immediately or you can request one online at www.cvs.com. It's important that you register your email address so that you can receive special savings emails including $ off $ coupons!
CVS has a terrific customer loyalty program called Extra Care Bucks or ECB's. You earn these on select purchases (as advertised in their weekly sales ad). The exciting part of this is that you can use your manufacturer's coupons AND your CVS coupons to lower your OOP & make these ECB deals work for you.
An example of a recent CVS sale:
Buy $20 of Pepsi products & earn $10 ECB's
This is a great one that we had a couple of weeks ago! I bought 7 bags of Stacy's pita chips priced at $3 each. That made my total (before coupons) $21!. The way I made this one a terrific steal was to use a $5 off $20 CVS coupon (found online) AND 7- $1 Stacy's Pita Chips coupons. My total after coupons came to $9. I paid $9 ECB's and immediately earned $10 ECB's. In other words I got all 7 bags FREE and I earned $1 ECB!
**Please note: I paid $9 in ECB's...I did not pay $9 in cash. Using ECB's means I actuallly got $21 worth of Pepsi products for FREE + overage!
**Something else you will want to know is that the $20 of Pepsi products is BEFORE any coupons!
Almost every week they offer 1 or more products FREE after ECB's. Examples have included shampoo, lotions, holiday items, drinks, school supplies, etc. Here's what they look like:
Buy Dove deoderant for $3 and earn $3 in ECB's (Limit 1)
This is great...a FREE deoderant. BUT the beautiful thing about this deal is that you can use a manufacturer's coupon to lower your initial OOP expense and maximize your earnings. In this case, you could use a $2 manufacturer's coupon and pay $1. BUT then you earn $3 in ECB making this FREE deal even sweeter! So a terrific deal was easily turned into an even better deal by using your manfuacturer's coupon. If you happen to have a CVS coupon for Dove deoderant, you could use this as well as the manufacturer's coupon to score an even better deal!
The bummer about CVS is that you need starter money. In order to start earning ECB's, you will most likely have to use cash to get started. I am not a fan of paying money to earn money. To avoid paying cash, I transferred a prescription to CVS and earned a $25 gift card! I scan my CVS card every time I walk through the doors and often get some great coupons called CRT's. Occasionally, I get a coupon for $25 for any transferred prescription. Definitely scan your card & its highly likely you will get the same! Another idea is that some CVS's will honor competitor coupons. Rite Aid frequently offers these coupons online so you could try taking one to your local CVS to see if they would honor it!
Once you have your starter money you can start earning Extra Bucks without spending a penny out of pocket (OOP). But don't stop there! Keep those ECB's to "roll" with future ECB deals. That way, your bank of ECB's will grow and very soon you will have enough to start making purchases that don't include ECB's. Things you really need/want but don't want to spend money on. Examples? My husband is a big Coke-drinker. I have no interest in paying for Coke. To be quite honest, I have no interest in paying for anything but that's neither here nor there. So I used my ECB's, along with my $5 off $20 CVS coupons (or similiar) to score some great deals on Coke and never spend a penny out of pocket! I mean that literally. I have earned several CVS gift cards throughout the last year and I use those to cover the 18¢ costs (or similar). My other form of payment...ECB's! Always!
My last receipt in 2009 indicated a total savings of over $5,000! Can you imagine spending $5,000 at CVS?! No way! I saved that kind of money doing exactly as I indicated above!
To find the best CVS coupon match-ups, I head to the following blogs:
The ladies are the pros! Every week (usually Thursdays or Fridays) they post the following week's deals with all the coupon match-ups. This shows you how to spend the least amount of money out of pocket & grow your ECB stash the quickest!
I'd love to hear from you about your experiences at CVS & any questions you have as you navigate the CVS waters!