Abundant Frugal Life

Finding Deals, Spending Less, Being Content


How to Shop at CVS

Posted by Lisa

Almost everything I “buy” at CVS is free or close to it. Here is how to do it.

1. Get a store card.
I have a CVS card and so does my husband (like a Kroger card). Ask for one at the register. You must have the store card in order to work the deals.

2. Keep and read your weekly CVS ad insert from the Sunday paper.
This is how you will find the deals. In the ad you will find sales that say something like “Colgate Advanced Toothpaste. Pay $2.99, get $2.99 in ECB’s. Limit 5″ It will be written on something that looks like a little yellow sticky note right next to the picture of the Colgate Advanced Toothpaste.

This ad means that the first five times you purchase a tube of Colgate Advanced Toothpaste, the store will give you $2.99 in ECB’s (Extra Care Bucks). You must use your store card in order to get the ECB’s. It’s a card holder’s privilege.

3. Clip and save those ECB’s from the bottom of your receipts.
An ECB is printed at the bottom of your register receipt. It is basically CVS cash. You can use it on your next purchase. ECB’s are attached to the card account, so if you have 2 cards, keep your ECB’s separate for each account. You can only use your ECB’s on your account and your husband can only use his ECB’s on his account.

This sweet Colgate deal is a wash and you basically pay nothing for the toothpaste. Now, if you have coupons it makes an even sweeter deal. If you have 5 75cent coupons for Colgate, CVS (actually the manufacturer) pays you $3.75 to take 5 tubes of Colgate off their shelves.

4. During your first few trips you will actually have to spend money to get and build your ECB stash.
Don’t worry. Just wait and see what all that money is going to get you!

On your first trip you’ll use only coupons and cash to pay. Always have them scan your card first. On your second trip when you check out, you’ll use coupons, then ECB’s, then cash to pay. Just keep rolling those ECB’s on the free deals and watch them grow.

You’ll be surprised to find that in time, you’ll have to “waste” ECB’s on other things you would use, but wouldn’t normally pay CVS prices for. I promise you’ll get a rush out of doing this and trimming your budget.

Here’s the record of my first month of CVS’ing:

Purchases to date:

1 Shampoo
21 Toothpastes
2 Toothbrushes
4 Bottles of mouthwash
2 Bottles of handsoap
1 Bottle of shower soap
8 Aspirin bottles children/adult
1 Tylenol bottle
1 Venus shaver
3 Eye shadow trio compacts
3 Packs of diet gum
1 Small bottle of Gatorade
3 Packs of gum
12 Pkgs of girlie unmentionables

Out of Pocket Expense to Date: $51.98

Current ECB Total: $29.90

Difference of $22.08

***Being new to this I made some costly mistakes my first couple trips. I think I could have lowered my out of pocket expense by about $10 if I had had a greater understanding before I jumped into it, but that’s what you have to do – just jump in.

5. Roll those ECB’s!
This is how CVS shopping pays off big.

Shop your first week and get some ECB’s. Go back the next week and buy something that prints out ECB’s and pay for it with your current ECB’s. We call this “rolling your ECB’s”. ECB’s are good for about a month. Watch those expiration dates.

If you pay for a $2 item with a $5 ECB, the cashier will not give you change back in the form of cash or another ECB. Your ECB is used in its entirety. Also, if you mess up a transaction, you don’t get to return your items. They don’t take returns if you pay in ECB’s (otherwise people would be using the system to trade in ECB’s for cash).

You may use your ECB’s on anything in the store except for the following items: prescriptions, alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, stamps, gift cards, money orders, prepaid debit cards, and prepaid phone cards.

You will soon have a month in which you pay nothing out of pocket, your stockpile grows and so does your ECB stash. Thank you CVS!

Weekly deals - Most CVS stores in my area switch over to the new sale week on Saturday. However, what time they switch varies from week to week and from manager to manager. It is strictly up to the store manager. I call Saturday morning to find out when the new sale week is starting and, if possible, I like to get in there asap.
Monthly deals - are different from weekly deals. Sometimes they post monthly deals in the weekly fliers. That is one of the reasons why you want to always keep your most current receipt. It tells you which deals you’ve maxed already. Monthly deals always start on the morning of the 1st of the month. It has been my experience that when the store runs out of the items, they do not restock the entire month, so don’t bother waiting for it. Go on the morning of the 1st of the month. Otherwise, stock will be cleaned out and you won’t be able to take advantage of the deals.

Oh, CVS offers rain checks, so if they’re out of product, request a rain check.  When the store gets a new shipment, pay for the product as usual and you’ll get your ECB’s.

This is just the beginning of CVS shopping. There is much more you will learn along the way.

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