One of the best tools you can master while trying to lower your budget is the drugstore game. Once you master the program you will never have to pay for household items again. Many people even take it one step further and make money at it!
The first part of this series Never Pay for Household Supplies Again just went over the things you need to “play” the drugstore game. This post is CVS for the more advanced “player”. For those of you who are just beginning, start at this CVS 101 post to learn the basics (vocab and the ins and outs of the program). Once you have the basics down then you are ready to start using it to pay for everything! One formula to remember is:
CVS Coupon Formula
Total Cost of Products – CRT Coupons – ECB’s + Tax – Manu Coupons = OOP
This seems to be the most misunderstood part of the CVS program. Do not count your ECB’s until you use them! If you fall into that trap you will eventually be counting everything twice, which makes you lose track of your actual savings and spending. There are many sites who will do this. You will read “I spent $10, but I got $12 in ECB’s so I actually made $2”. Do not fall into this trap. You spent $10, that is all you need to keep track of.
Buy What You Need!
Why is it so important to not fall into that trap? Well, once you do it is hard to separate the ECB’s from real money in your head. Once that happens you may not be able to take full advantage of the program. Say I have those $12 in ECB’s and there is only $6 in free after ECB products that I want the following week. I also need milk and cereal, but there are not any ECB deals on those products that week. I can purchase the $6 free after ECB item, milk, and cereal and pay nothing after using my $12 ECB. But, I will only get $6 ECB’s back. Does it matter? NO!!! You still spent nothing. You can roll the $6 ECB’s next time, maybe they will issue a coupon so you can “grow” it, maybe they won’t. The key is remembering that these are coupons for anything at CVS. Nobody said you had to buy products you won’t use and nobody said you couldn’t spend them unless you are rolling them.
Organizing and Making your CVS List
Label one of the sections in your accordian file or coupon organizer “CVS”. Keep all your receipts, ECB’s, and coupons in that section. At the start of the week take a look at what you have. There are a few things you are looking for:
Are there any ECB’s that are going to expire this week? CVS specific coupons?
How many ECB’s do you have?
Then look at the CVS free and cheap matchup. Mark down any freebie that you need then mark down all the ones that you do not need. Then decide if there is something that you need for your household that week (milk, soap, deodorant – anything that you need that is not free after ECB’s that week).
Now you make your list. Prioritize. First you want those things that are free after ECB’s that you need. Then mark down the stuff that you need that are not free. Finally, mark down those freebies that you do not need. Mark down enough to spend all of your ECB’s. You can always split things up into multiple transactions if you do not have many ECB’s (I like to do no more than three per store). Put this list in your organizer right next to your coupons.
While you are at CVS
When you get to the store find the items that are on your list in that order. Sometimes things will be out, so you have to have a “backup”. That is what that freebie list of things you do not need is for.
EXAMPLE: Say you have $15 in ECB’s and you are planning on spending $10 on needed free items, a $5/$20 coupon, and $10 in items you need and are not on sale. When you get to the store you find out that a $4 free item is sold out. Use your freebie list of things you did not need to fill in that hole. You still want to spend $20 so you can use your coupon and roll your ECB’s, but there isn’t anything else you need so this is the perfect time for you to pick up something you do not need. Don’t worry, you can do something with those extras (we will talk about that in post four of this series)!
Shoot to spend as close to the amount of ECB’s that you have as you can. If you end up not having enough then you can always throw a candy bar, chapstick, gum, etc in your order last minute. This guarantees that you spend less than $1 each time (my personal goal).
Getting Ready for Next Week
When you get home cut your new coupons and ECB’s out, put them in your organizer, and wait for the next week!
Continue to Part Three – Making Money at Walgreens