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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Getting Started at Drugstores

One way to save a lot of money on household items is to play "the drugstore game". This refers to rolling ECBs and RRs at CVS and Walgreens. It can be confusing at first, but once you know the rules, I encourage you to watch the sales and give it a try! Confused by the coupon lingo? Go here for definitions and explanations. Playing the drugstore game is how I can get toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, chapstick, candles, and other items for free, and Huggies or Pampers diapers for around $6 a pack. Interested? Read on to get learn the rules and join the game!

To get started at CVS, you need to sign up for their loyalty card to get sale prices and to earn ECBs (extra care bucks), which are coupons for money off your next order that print at the bottom of the receipt. So you might buy something for $2 and get $2 in ECBs back. You had to pay $2 OOP (out of pocket) for the item, but it is LIKE you get it for free because now you save $2 off something else later. It does require you to remember to use the ECB (within one month), and the way to maximize your savings here is to keep "rolling your ECBs", which means you keep buying products that produce more ECBs, all the while paying with your old ECBs. The best way to do this and minimize your OOP is to do separate transactions. It can be confusing at first, until you get the hang of it. ECBs can be used along with manufacturer coupons, because ECBs are store (CVS) coupons. You can also use multiple ECBs to pay for one item, but not for tax.

Walgreens is similar, but a little different. You don't need a savings card. You earn RRs (register rewards) on certain purchases, and RRs are good for 2 weeks. These are a little harder to "roll" because they are manufacturer coupons, NOT store coupons, so they can't be combined with other coupons. So if I have a $2 RR and I want to buy a pack of Huggies for $8, I can only use the RR if I DON'T use a coupon on the Huggies (which I always want to do). One way to get around this is to throw another item into your order that you don't have a coupon for (like a candy bar or dozen eggs) and then you can use both the RR and the diaper coupon because you have 2 coupons and 2 items in your order. Make sense? (I know, it's as clear as mud. I was almost in tears during my first few transactions using RRs at Walgreens, trying to figure out all the rules. It gets easier, though!) Another example, if you earn a $2 RR by buying Huggies, you can't use that RR on another pack of Huggies expecting to earn another $2 RR. They don't "roll" that way. You can, however, use the $2 Huggies RR to buy Tylenol and then earn a $2 RR from the Tylenol, because they are from different companies (remember, they are manufacturer coupons, not store coupons). Again, clear as mud, right? :-)

Rite Aid is another drugstore that offers single check rebates on products, which is another way to save money. I don't have this store near me, so I'm not familiar with their policies, but it seems they offer good deals, too.

I don't shop at the drugstores every week, so I don't post their deals. However, several of the blogs on my sidebar do post some highlights and coupon matches every week, so consider subscribing to one of their blogs. Deal Seeking Mom posts all the weekly deals for these stores as well as Walmart, Target, and others, so I'd suggest subscribing to her blog if you are interested. You can subscribe on her homepage--on the right side she has little icons. There are orange curves for Google Reader RSS (my preference--updated several times a day) or an envelope for a daily digest email sent in the evening to your email address, as well as other icons for twitter and all that.

I hope this helps you as you get started playing the drugstore game! If you have more questions or would like me to explain something better, just leave a comment or email me. I'm happy to help--that's why I'm here!


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this! I started couponing a few months ago and am making progress with grocery shopping but the drugstores strategies confuse me. Your explanation make sense and will help me to start saving money there, too. God Bless!

Michelle said...

Thank you Jessica! :)

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