A great way to save money and to get great deals on many items you use everyday is to take advantage of your local CVS pharmacy and to enroll in their Extra Care Program. To find a CVS pharmacy in your area, click here.
CVS Extra-Care Program & ECB
If you are not familiar with CVS and the advantages of their Extra Care Program, this article will explain everything you need to know. The basic premise is that certain sale items will earn you Extra Care Bucks (ECB) when you purchase them. Think of an ECB as a gift card or credit amount that you can use for your next transaction.The weekly CVS fliers explain if you have to purchase one sale item or if you have to spend a certain dollar amount to earn your ECB. The ECB you earn can then be used to purchase most anything you want at CVS . There are exceptions, such as gift cards and stamps. Click here for the details. After your transaction is paid for and complete, your receipt is printed out along with any other CVS coupons and your ECB. If you had multiple ECB earning purchases, the ECB earned will be added up and you will be given one ECB with the total dollar amount. The ECB has expiration dates, like coupons. They need to be used before the date on the receipt, which is usually 30 days after the ECB was earned. The trick to learning how to save big money with CVS is to use the ECB you have earned to purchase another item that will generate ECBs. Then when you combine store coupons with manufacturer coupons, you can see how you can buy items like toothpaste to diapers at huge discounts. Other times, you can get these items for free.. This will all be explained in further detail.
Apply For Your CVS Card
The first step you will need to take is to apply for your CVS card. You do this online or in the store. If you apply at your store, you can use your card right away. There are no limits on the number of cards offered per household. But, there are limits to the number of times you can take advantage of a CVS deal. Sometimes, it is only once per card. If your spouse or relative have a CVS card you can use, you can take advantage of the deal multiple times. But remember, the ECB you generate are card specific. You can only use the ECB with the corresponding CVS card. Your card will be scanned prior to every purchase you make at CVS.
Make sure you enroll with CVS online even if you signed up for your card at the store. When you sign up online, CVS will email you great coupons that allow you to save $5 for every $15 spent or similar deals. These can be combined with your coupons and your ECB to generate bigger savings. You will also receive coupons periodically in your mailbox, too.
CVS keeps track of what you spend out-of-pocket (OOP) and you can earn more ECB every quarter this way.
As a beginner deal hunter, start with small steps. Do one deal at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed and confused. You can also do separate transactions per CVS deal so you can roll the ECB earned in one transaction into another ECB generating transaction.
Read Your CVS Flyer
Every Sunday review your CVS flyer and find the items advertised that produce an ECB with purchase. You will receive your ECB even if after coupons, you paid nothing OOP. The trick is pay as little as possible for the items you want to purchase. In one week you can purchase $50 worth of medicine, shampoo, chips and other household/grocery items for as little as $5 or even less. Plus, you will have ECBs in your pocket to do it again the next week.
Some deals are considered “money makers.” For example, CVS is advertising Aquafresh toothpaste for 99¢ that will generate a $1 ECB. With the $1 coupon you have, you basically paid nothing OOP and received $2 in ECB. But be warned, the money making deals are the first to sell out. So hit your store on Sundays or Mondays to take advantage of it. You can still take advantage of many CVS deals by the end of the week, but remember the stores are better stocked at the beginning of the sale.
Read the fine print on your flyers. Some deals are for one specific item (e.g. Aquafresh Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth) while other deals offer a range (e.g. all Aquafresh toothpaste). This will help you avoid the dreaded moment at the cash register when the computer catches your mistake and you have to return to the aisles and find the specific items advertised.
Weekly & Monthly Deals
CVS offers both weekly deals and monthly deals. The weekly deals can be found in their weekly fliers, found in your Sunday newspaper. The sale items are only available through the following Saturday. The CVS monthly deals can be found in the store all month long in a small ECB booklet. Sometimes the monthly deals are advertised in the weekly flyer. The monthly deals also have limits on how many times you can participate. Remember this limit is for the whole month.
By using your manufacturer coupons with your CVS store coupons and your ECB deals, you are able to lower your OOP expense even further. Using the Aquafresh toothpaste example, let’s say the limit on the purchase is 4. If you purchase 2 toothpastes for 99¢ each, include 2 $1 off coupons, you will generate $2 ECB and you only had to pay the sales tax. Roll your $2 ECB into another purchase of 2 toothpastes, add coupons and add another small item, such as toilet paper or shampoo, and you will have purchased a total of 4 toothpaste and 1 shampoo, plus $2 ECB to use at your next trip all for less than $1 OOP to pay for tax.
You can find manufacturer coupons at a number of different places: Sunday newspaper, weekly flyers in the mail, internet and in your pharmacy or grocery store. Keep them organized and you will be ready to hit the store with ease.
Once you have perfected small scenarios like this one, you can move on to bigger, more complicated deals.
As mentioned earlier, if you register your CVS card online, you can start receiving CVS coupons through your email. You can also receive them after you have been using your card for a month or two automatically with your printed receipt. They also have expiration dates and can save you money on your total purchase, or are specific to a department, (i.e. cosmetics), or is brand specific (i.e. Cover Girl). And, as stated earlier, you can use these coupons with your manufacturer coupons for bigger discounts. Some examples of coupons are $3 off a total purchase of $15 or $4 off a total purchase of $20 (a.k.a. $3/$15 and $4/$20) BEFORE COUPONS. You can periodically find them in your newspaper. Again, by using your CVS coupons, your manufacturer coupons and your ECB you purchase other items that produce you more ECB, sometimes adding items such as milk and snacks that help reduce your grocery bill.
As you get into more complicated deals, organization will keep you from confusing yourself. Look over the CVS flyer BEFORE you go to the store. Collect the manufacturer coupons that you have collected and check on-line for more coupons. Make sure your ECB are matched up with the correct CVS card. And print out any CVS coupons you may have received through your email. To redeem your ECB, you must use the entire amount printed. You can not purchase a $5 with a $6 ECB, unless you want to lose out on that hard earned $1! So, by spending 15 minutes a week, plan your attack. Keep a calculator handy or type it all up on a spreadsheet. If you end up with $1 you need to spend to use your total ECB, look at candy or other small items on sale.
When it comes time to pay, make sure you first hand over your CVS coupons, (i.e. $3/$15), followed by any other CVS coupons that are product specific, then your manufacturer coupons and finally your ECBs. Keep a calculator with you to help add your deals as you shop. This way, If a product you want is not in stock, and you can quickly make some small adjustments to your shopping list.
CVS Pharmacy & Gift Cards
CVS frequently offers $25-$30 gift cards for new prescriptions or transferred prescriptions. CVS also accepts coupons from competing pharmacies. When you find these coupons, grab as many as you can! Many pharmacies and grocery store chains with pharmacies have these coupons. I know shoppers who collect hundreds of dollars worth of store gift cards by transferring prescriptions from one place to another. Before you fill your new prescription, search you newspaper and online for deals like these. This can jump-start your savings trip at CVS.
Final CVS Tips
Shop what you need first. With flu-season coming up and young children in the house, it’s time to stock up on Tylenol, Motrin, cough and cold medicines. CVS offers deals such as giving back $10 ECB when you buy $20 worth of Tylenol or Motrin. Let’s say that Children’s Tylenol is $6 and the adult formula is $8. Purchase 2 Children’s Tylenol for $12 and a regular Tylenol for $8. Add your $4/$20, 3 $1 off coupons and you have this medicine for $12. And if you have any ECBs with you, you can further reduce your OOP expense. Last Christmas CVS provided me with plenty of batteries for Christmas morning for less than $5. Prepare for what the next few months will bring you and you won’t find yourself running to the store last minute and paying full price.
Stock up! You may not be out of anything now, but you can still shop the sales and roll your ECBs into non-perishable items that earn you more ECB. Don’t let your ECBs expire as most stores will not let you use them after their expiration date. Great possibilities include: sanitary napkins, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo/conditioner, hair gel/spray, soap, deodorant, razors, lotions, batteries, soda, juice, water, etc… If you have many kids and find yourself going through medicine quickly, CVS can help you load up on all the medications you need. Just pay attention to the expiration dates as you reach for that bottle of medicine you have in storage.
Donate to Charity: As you go through your CVS flyer you will probably find deals on items your household doesn’t need. Consider purchasing some of these items, especially if your OOP is less than a dollar and if you generate more ECB. Look at possible charitable donations. Maybe your child’s school needs paper plates, candy, etc for an upcoming class party. There is always a deal on glucose monitors at CVS that generate $10-$15 ECB. Donate the monitors to a local nursing home or medical clinic.
It can take a month or two for you to get the hang of things. Even after a few years of doing this, I find myself picking up the wrong sale item. Relax, stay organized and have fun. Maybe you will get the CVS rush as you show your spouse and friends how you bought $70 worth of medicine, shampoo and make-up for $5 OOP!