CVS 102
More Advanced Strategies for Saving Big

So now you feel like you’ve gotten the basics down, let’s talk about some more advanced strategies for saving at CVS.  Please don’t continue until you fully understand CVS 101.


In addition to your current in-store purchase, CVS also tracks your quarterly spending. On the bottom of each receipt you get (okay, not really the bottom—it’s before all of those ECBs that you will be getting), you can see your quarterly spending total. Just by shopping, you get 2% back in ECBs at the end of each quarter. These will print at the bottom of your first receipt in a new quarter or you can go to CVS online and print them for yourself.  Don’t ignore this fact.  Once you have learned to use the CVS system that you will be shopping there enough to really build up some big bucks here.


Another way to get ECBs is to use your card when you get prescriptions.  You will get 1 ECB for every two prescriptions filled.  Doesn’t seem like much?  Keep in mind that you are getting your prescription filled anyway, so you might as well get some CVS Cash for your pocket while you are at it!


Keep an eye out for rebates.  There are times that you can see rebates on boxes or posted on the internet that will really help you out.  I use Coupon Mom’s Blog as my main source of information for these items (she's the real expert of this stuff!), but there are several other sites out there that provide this type of valuable information.  Recently there was a new product that was being promoted and I really could not pass it up. The product cost $12.99 at CVS and they were offering 10 in ECB back. Of course if you had a CVS $2/$10 coupon, you only paid $0.99 for this item. Here’s the kicker—there was a rebate form that allowed you to get the full price back. I paid $0.99 for this item and got 10 ECBs and $12.99 back—yes…I made $12.00 (okay $11.94 after tax) on this item! 


The last method of saving—register printed coupons from CVS.  That’s right…when you make certain purchases, you will get coupons from the register at the bottom of your receipt. These expire much more quickly than ECBs, so don’t let them get away…make sure you use them (if you want) before the expiration date. Most stores have also added card reading stations throughout the store (not usually hard to find). These stations not only scan items and give you a price check, but if you scan your ExtraCare card, coupons will print...or sometimes random $/$$ coupons. Make sure you scan yours in the store before going to the register just in case you get a good one you want to use before leaving the store that day. I recently found some make-up that I could easily use on clearance for 50% off (total after discount was $3.99).  Since I had a store-printed coupon (-$1) and a manufacturers’ coupon (-$1), I was able to get a product that normally sells for $7.99 for only $1.99.  And yes…it is something that I both have room to store and will actually use myself.


Using all of the tools available (mfr coupons, CVS coupons, rebates, ECBs), you really can use CVS to pick up items that you usually use or better yet—try out a new product.  Once you pay with ECBs (of course use these first and foremost to get things you WOULD typically spend money on!) and essentially get a product for free, you don’t feel as bad if it doesn’t work or if you don’t like it.  Using this method, I have found a few items that our family really enjoys and I would buy again.  I would have possibly never bought these products otherwise.


Now for advanced register action:


If you have read my CVS Lessons Learned, you already know how to work your coupons.  However, what if you can divide up your purchases and pay for one with the ECBs from another?  This takes a big more planning on your part, but can really be worth it.  The below is a hypothetical example, but not actually far-fetched.


You can separate a $100 purchase into two purchases to make the most of your trip.  If you only have 50 ECBs to spend (only…ha ha) and know that you can make a lot of ECBs on this purchase, do the following…put as many ECB-qualifying items (the big ones) into your first cart to total around the 50 ECBs that you have.  Say the total comes up to $60.  With coupons and your 50 ECBs, you should be able to get this down to $4 or less out of pocket.  You will then have some (let’s say in this example…30) ECBs print.  You still have $40 worth of merchandise in your second cart and now an extra 30 ECBs to pay for them.  With coupons, you may be able to get these products for less than $5 out of pocket and walk away with whatever ECBs print for the second cart of items.  How awesome!  Instead of getting $100 in products for $40 out of pocket (knocked down using $10 in coupons and 50 in ECBs by the example above), you have actually paid less than $10.00 and still gotten some ECBs back.  Sure—you don’t walk out with as many ECBs in your pocket as if you’d paid for it all in one order, but you do walk out with more cash in your pocket.  I personally will take the cash any day. 


To help you with this, I have created this excel spreadsheet. Save if on your computer for your own personal use. Click on the CVS tab and fill in the following columns:

  • Item (A)
  • Qty (B)
  • Unit Cost (C)
  • Coupons (D) - note this is total coupons for all quantities of this product
  • ECBs Earned (G)
  • Pay OOP/ECBs Earned for each transaction (this is the number of ECBs you used to pay for this transaction
  • Also if you get any rebates, you'll have to manually enter those in the summary box at the bottom to get an accurate review of your shopping experience

This chart can be used to shuffle your purchases around to any number of transaction to get the biggest bang for your buck. Here is an actual sample of a shopping trip I made. You can see that I walked in with only 4 ECBs, acquired $67.22 worth of stuff, and although I didn't walk about with any remaining ECBs, I paid less than $10 in the store and got $2.50 in rebates. Woo Hoo!  Note: If I hadn't needed contact solution (last transaction) I would have spent less than $4 for $45 worth of stuff and walked out with $12.25 ECBs in hand. Use it for stuff you need or's entirely up to you!


Wow.  So is your head hurting now?  Maybe it is spinning with elation.  That’s right…CVS is basically giving money away for us to shop there.  I really don’t know why everyone is not using them to reap all of the benefits they offer.  I am just sorry that I did not know how to use the system properly earlier! 


So now you are saving bundles.  If you want to find out how to help others with your CVS shopping, continue on to CVS 103.  I won’t force you to do it now, as you need to absorb all of the tips you’ve learned here—and possibly give them a try—before trying to add more information.  Whenever you’re ready, here it is