If you have a CVS nearby and you are not visiting it every week or two for their free deals you are missing out on such an easy way to stock up your cabinets with free or nearly free items. As promised, I'll list the basics here for anyone that is a beginner to CVSing and encourage you to try it for a month and then tell me if you don't absolutely fall in love with the "game" of CVSing.
2. Look at the ad and scan for items that say FREE in the yellow box. These items are a great place to start your shopping. This means that the entire purchase price of the item will be reimbursed to you at the moment of purchase through a coupon on your receipt. This "coupon" can be spent like cash at any CVS on a future visit or even on another transaction the same day. These "coupons" are called Extra Care Bucks (often referred to as ECB's online and on this website).
3. Make a list of all "free" items and any other discounted items you plan to buy for the week and then compare that list to your coupon stash. If you have a coupon for a "free" item then this item actually becomes what we call a moneymaker or getting overage. This means that you will actually get more back in Extra Care Bucks than you spent on the item. For example, U by Kotex pads are $4.99 this week and are generating a $4.99 Extra Bucks Reward which makes the pads free. With the $1 coupon that I had in my coupon organizer I actually spent $3.99 on the pads after coupon but got $4.99 back in Extra Care Bucks (ECB's).
4. I would absolutely recommend that you find a website online (mountaineermoneysaver.blogspot.com; moneysavingmom.com; IheartCVS.com and many many others) that is listing CVS deals and read their website before you head out to the store. (IheartCVS.com has the ads scanned for several weeks in advance) and see their coupon matchups-this will save you the work of searching for a coupon that doesn't exist and help make sure that you don't miss an online printable coupon that was available.
5. Watch the small print at the bottom of the ECB's in the ad. This will let you know how many you are allowed to buy. Usually the "free" items are a limit of 1 so it doens't do you any good to have 4 different coupons. Always use the coupons you already have first before wasting ink to print one.
6. Buy ANYTHING that generates you more extra care bucks than you are spending. For example, I am not a diabetic and do not know any diabetics in need of additional meters. HOWEVER, Bayer Breeze 2 contour blood suger meter is $19.99 and is generating a $15.00 Extra Bucks. Last month in the paper there was a $10 off any Bayer Contour meter coupon. If I do this transaction I will pay $4.99 out of pocket for something I don't need . . . but will receive a "coupon" for next time for $15.00 so I will actually be making money toward next weeks' purchases. I keep a basket in my home of items we have no use for but that I was able to get for free. These items I have used to send in care packages to college students, send to soldiers overseas or donate to the local women's shelter/food pantry. Thus doing something for someone who isn't able to shop for themselves while making money all at the same time.
7. Cut and keep ALL coupons until you get more experienced and know what things often go on sale at CVS. As you can see in #6 you may find that items you don't normally buy will come in handy for helping you "make" money. (I still keep almost all coupons I can get my hands on and I have been doing this for two years)
8. Register your card online at CVS.com and you will often get e-mailed coupons for $ off of $$ coupons. ($3 off any $15 purchase) for example. These are GREAT coupons and can really add to the ECB's you are already getting back. This week for example, there are $13 worth of things that are completely free after ECB's. With only another small purchase of something that is also on a great deal I can use a $3 off 15 purchase to generate $3 in ECB's that I DIDN't first spend out of pocket.
9. When checking out give things in the right order to get the most out of your coupons. First-your CVS card, Second-your items, Third-$ off $$ coupons (like the $3 off $15 talked about above), Fourth-any other coupons you have, Fifth-any ECB's you are planning to use from a previous purchase.
10. WATCH expiration dates. Each Extra Care Buck has an expiration date just like a coupon. If you let them expire you will waste the entire point of having them. If you plan to shop every week or two, even if you are buying things you don't "need" (as long as they are "free") you won't have to worry about them expiring. Treat them as precious as cash but with an expiration date like a coupon.
11. Know before you check out how much you should get back at the bottom of your receipt and make sure you have the correct ECB's before you leave the store. Store managers are very good about giving you what you deserve if it doesn't print properly. Also, if you mess up and buy the wrong thing . . . just suck it up and tell them. They will allow you to return the item that didn't generate the ECB's and replace it with the correct item.
There are so many advanced people who NEVER spend money out of pocket and spend much more time making multiple transactions and "rolling" ECB's each week than I do. I am just a moderate CVSer . . . I just don't have the time to do any more than these basics above. I have found that for my family of three, the tips above keep our cabinets stocked with completely free or mostly free shampoo, conditioner, razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and soaps so I have no need to play the "game" to the advanced level. If you are one of those advanced people then my hat's off to you! My goal with CVSing is to stretch my hubby's hard earned money for my own family and have our cupboards full and overflowing so that I can share with others in need.