How to Save Big at CVS

I love to shop at CVS! It’s among my top four favorite places to coupon. I go there just about every Sunday. Even if it’s a slow week overall for coupon deals, I will almost always go to CVS on Sunday morning.

You’re probably thinking, “But, CVS is so expensive, how can you possibly get a great deal there?” I used to think the same thing until I learned how to coupon there.

CVS has the best store rewards program, called Extra Care. Each week, they have promotions that get you Extra Care Bucks (“ECB’s”) that print out at the bottom of your receipt.

They are like cash in the store, so don’t throw them away! You can use them to bring down your out of pocket costs on just about anything in the store. Extra Bucks can’t be used on items like alcohol and prescriptions. Be sure to read the restrictions on your ECB’s for questions about items they cannot be used on.

To use CVS’ Extra Care program, get an Extra Care card and register it on the CVS website. You can also opt in for their promotional e-mails. They sometimes send out coupons for $4 off $20 or $5 off $25, but I haven’t seen those e-mails in a very long time. I don’t think the Phoenix region has received those e-mails much lately. You can always opt out of their promotional e-mails later if you don’t want to get them.

Also, if you follow coupon bloggers, they will usually alert you to these e-mail coupons. However, don’t try to print these off the internet or get them from someone else, because they are usually tied to your Extra Care number. Your Extra Bucks work the same way – they can only be used with your Extra Care card.

You’ll also want to sign up for the CVS Beauty Club, which gets you $5 Extra Care Bucks for every $50 you spend on beauty items, like makeup and skin care.

With coupons and ECB promotions, it’s not difficult to reach $50 on these items on a regular basis and still keep your out of pocket costs low. I probably received from $50-$100 last year in beauty club ECB’s alone.

It was probably higher than that, actually. I am probably on a CVS black list for people who don't get coupon incentives since I save so much there.

I hardly ever get coupons from the Magic Coupon Machine, either, except for the ones everyone gets, as advertised in their ads.

Be sure to scan your card when you walk into the store at the Magic Coupon Machine. That’s where your beauty ECB’s (when you reach the $50 threshold) and your coupon offers will print. Keep scanning the card until you don’t get any more coupons, or until the scanner says you’ve already printed all your offers.

CVS’ Weekly Ads come out on Thursdays for the sales that start on Sunday. CVS sales run Sunday through Saturday. You can look at the upcoming week’s ad here. Click the link for “Upcoming Weekly Ad” to see the new ad on Thursdays.

Also, CVS has a feature now on the site where you get special offers tailored to your buying habits. I don’t use that feature and just go directly to the weekly ad page. (It seems to me like a lot of sites are mimicking the Pinterest site, with the tiles, and it drives me nuts!) You should check it out and see if you like using it, though.

If this is your first introduction to CVS, I would not try to do the coupon matchups yourself. The Krazy Coupon Lady has a “CVS $5 and Under” feature every week on Sundays that demonstrates how to roll your rewards.

Simply put, rolling rewards is a term used to describe breaking up the transactions into smaller size to get the rewards and “roll” them to a subsequent transaction. Whenever you break up your transactions, usually you save more money.

I would not attempt a huge transaction on your first attempt. I did this when I was a newbie, and it was a disaster, complete with eye rolling, a cashier that complained, and a lot of nasty comments from the people behind me in line. I finally asked for my coupons back and left everything on the counter.

There are almost always oral care deals at CVS on a weekly basis, so I’d suggest you try rolling rewards on simple, low cost items to practice at first.

CVS takes manufacturer coupons AND store coupons and you can use both. The CVS coupon policy allows you to use coupons on a free item. They generally don’t allow you any overage per their coupon policy, but sometimes your store will give you overage. Just don’t expect them to give you cash back – if you think you might get overage, be sure to add some other items to your cart to absorb it.

I go to the same CVS each week because I know the people there, and they never hassle me about coupons. I would suggest that you find a CVS who doesn’t mind couponers and practice, practice, practice! Learning how to roll rewards is a Couponing Ninja Skill that you can use other places, too, like Target and Walgreens.

The most difficult part of couponing at CVS is understanding how to break up your transactions. At first, keep it simple and practice on items that are not very expensive until you get the hang of it.

My goal at CVS is to keep my out of pocket expense as low as possible. It is very easy as a coupon newbie to get super excited about an ECB promotion that nets you a large ECB back, but you are still spending money out of pocket. Don't lose sight of your strategy when it comes to ECB's.

I’ve seen some bloggers get super excited about some prepaid card promotions with 100% ECB's back, but you have to be careful of hidden costs, and if a promo requires you to spend $50 and you don’t want to spend $50, then skip that promotion.

In any coupon deal, if it doesn’t make sense for you for whatever reason, whether it’s a budgetary constraint, or you know you’ll never use the item, then skip over it. Don’t get sucked into the coupon hype and overspend just because it looks like you’re getting a great deal.

That was my friendly couponing PSA, so back to strategy!

To keep my out of pocket costs low, I usually structure the transactions like this:

First, I will buy the items with the lowest out of pocket costs (using coupons) and the largest ECB rewards in the first transaction.

In my second transaction, I will buy the more expensive items (and use coupons) that net a bigger ECB and use the ECB’s from the first transaction toward the out of pocket costs.

In the third transaction, I buy the items for which I don’t have coupons, or don’t offer ECB’s, and use the ECB’s from the second transaction. This is a great way to get your newspapers for free! (My store has been running out of papers, so I usually stop elsewhere to get them so I don’t miss them.)

When you check out, hand over your coupons first and then your ECB's. Many times, I will get the total down to tax only, which is less than an ECB. You have to decide if you want to lose any difference in the ECB. If your tax-only total is $1.25 and you have a $2 ECB, I have been able to use the ECB, but you lose the other .75 cents. In that instance, you can add a candy bar or something cheap to absorb the difference. They won't give you change for ECB's like they do for cash.

I don’t usually find it makes sense for me to do more than three transactions. If I do, I am usually spending more than I planned to spend.

I like to keep my out of pocket spending under $20 each week. I think if you have broken your transactions up to roll the rewards, you’ve squeezed out as much benefit as you can by that point.

Even if you don’t have coupons, rolling rewards is a great strategy for purchasing items at CVS.

There are almost always purchase limits on ECB items, which I like because it helps me keep my out of pocket costs low. I suppose you could get several Extra Care cards, but it’s easy to get the ECB’s mixed up and cause all sorts of hassles for you at checkout. I am just not that interested in buying more than a couple of items each week.

There are always more deals coming, and probably next week!

Do you have questions? Please let me know so I can add them to the post!