Q&A: Making CVS work for you
Crystal, Thank you for
teaching us how to shop better. I love your ideas, but I’m having
trouble creating ones that work for me. Our original money strategy was
to buy generic because it can be several dollars cheaper.
At first glance, CVS seems expensive compared to our generics. We don’t seem to use many of the items that are on often on sale. Our
first try we only bought the NB Vitamins. B1G1 for $12.99 and another
for $9.99 (we thought it was $6, oops). We used a $2/$10, a $2/1 MC and
$3 ECBs. We still paid 17.24 and got $6 ECBs. Now we have $6 ECBs (exp
1/30) to work with, but I have no idea where to go from here. We don’t
need anything on the ECB reward list this month.
husband hates buying things we don’t need. He says it is just clutter.
Do you ever buy fillers that you don’t need to round out your purchase?
For example candy, we don’t eat it. Actually, we do need diet pop and
toilet paper but I think I will come out with less ECBs if I figured it
right. Does this make sense? Can you help me? I am hoping to get this figured out. -Jennifer
off, thanks for a great question. I’ve been wanting to write up a post
further explaining how to make CVS work for you so you have given me
the incentive! Here are some thoughts:
1) Make a game plan for your CVS shopping
- My purpose for shopping at CVS is to greatly reduce our grocery bill
by getting mostly all of our household products (medicines, paper
products, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, feminine products,
cosmetics, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.) for free and then using the
overage I’m able to come up with in ECBs to buy anything else off our
grocery list I can buy and pay for diapers, wipes, and extra fun stuff
or treats (See how Catherine used some of her CVS overage to pay for
most of her daughter’s birthday gifts here.).
order to accomplish this, I’ve found that usually every week I’ll buy
at least a few items which we might not use or need but which I can
donate to charity, give away to friends and family, or sell in our
twice-a-year garage sales. These help roll over our ECBs so that I can
always have at least $15-$20 ECBs to work the deals with.
2) Base your shopping trips primarily around what you need.
Although some of my shopping trips might seem like random purchases, I
usually have a calculated plan for buying what I do. I plan my shopping
trips based upon what we need first of all.
look over the list of deals each week and decide which items we could
use most. For instance, we’re running low on toothpaste and
toothbrushes and shampoo right now, so buying the Colgate deal and the
Fructis deal was first on my list. I also needed to buy some sandwich
bread and a pack of Pampers and was hoping to work these purchases in
with my ECB overage.
With this in mind, I sat down and briefly
looked through my coupons and ECBs and wrote up a simple game plan for
what I needed to buy and how to best work the deals based upon that. I
added in fillers, as needed, to roll over my ECBs and help accumulate a
If there are enough good deals, like this week, I
might break my shopping list up into two trips. If there are not hardly
any good deals and nothing that we need, I’ll just skip a week.
The CVS "game" is first and foremost about making it work for you and your family. Think about what your purpose for shopping at CVS is and what your needs are and then plan your shopping trips accordingly.
3) Stock up with 3-6 month’s worth of household items when you can get them free. For those who are saying, "I look at those lists of deals and don’t see anything we need,"
let me stretch your thinking a little bit: Do you use shampoo,
conditioner, or hairspray? Do you use toothbrushes? Do you use
toothpaste? Do you use deodorant? Do you use feminine products
(tampons, pads)? Do you use medicine? Do you use make-up? Soap? Body
wash? Lotion? Batteries? Hand sanitizer? Tissues? Mouthwash? Baby
wipes? Razors and shaving cream? Dish detergent? Do you eat cereal,
crackers, chips, chocolate? Drink soda, bottled water, energy drinks,
or flavored water?
You probably don’t use all of the above, but
I’m guessing there are at least a few things on the list above (and
probably more than a few) that you use regularly. If you never paid
anything out of pocket anymore for any of those things, would that help
reduce your grocery budget? If so, then shopping at CVS is definitely
for you because the above list is just a sampling of some of the things
you could have gotten free or more than free in the last 6 months.
secret is that you start stocking up on items you need or will need in
advance – while you can get them for free or more than free. That way,
when you need them, you won’t have to add them to your grocery list,
you’ll just go get another bottle or box or container out of your small
Instead of thinking that you shouldn’t buy
shampoo until you’ve used up the entire bottle and then buying the
generic brand at full price, plan ahead a little bit try to always keep
at least a few extra bottles on hand. Think about the savings to be had
by a little planning ahead. It adds up very fast, especially since some
of these free items are some of the costliest purchases in the grocery
4) Have a budget for your time and money allocated to CVS-ing and stick within these parameters.
I can’t stress this point enough. Getting bargains can be a whole lot
of fun – so much fun, sometimes, that it begins to consume too much
time and effort. If your house is falling apart because you’ve been
running to CVS three times a day, you need to step back and reevaluate
We have a $35/week grocery budget. All of our CVS
purchases are included in this. Since I rarely pay more than $1 out of
pocket for our CVS trips, it doesn’t really dent the budget much. But
knowing I only have a few dollars to work with every week really helps
me to keep my spending in check and maximize the savings.
personal rule of thumb is that I rarely go to CVS more than twice a
week. Normally, I only make one trip per week – these keeps things
simple, helps me be efficient, and saves time. If the deals are
exceptional, like this week, I might make more than one trip. However,
even though our CVS is just right down the street, I try to never go
more than three times a week. This just ensures I don’t get out of
balance in bargain shopping.
I love getting great deals and I
love saving money, but I want to have my priorities in order and not
devote too much time, thought, and energy to this.
5) Purpose to stick with CVS-shopping for at least 3 months before giving up.
When you first start out CVS shopping, it can be really overwhelming.
Believe me, I well remember. When I first stumbled upon this whole
phenomenon on a deal forum over two and a half years ago, I spent about
four hours researching and reading and studying about how the program
works. It was daunting, to say the least and it took me a number of
shopping trips to really get the hang of it. My CVS store was an Osco
Drug store just changing over and no one in there had a clue
about the ECB program and none of the deals were advertised anywhere.
To make things more difficult, I didn’t know anyone else who knew
anything about it either. So, I just read the forums and started
testing things out to see how it worked. Little did I ever know that
someday I’d be introducing thousands of people to it!
any rate, it takes time to learn and understand and time to figure out
how to best work the deals for your own family’s needs. So I recommend
you don’t just try it once and decide against it. Stick with it for
three months and then reevaluate whether it is working for your family
and saving you money.
Those were just some general thoughts
which I hope will be helpful to you, Jennifer, and anyone else
struggling to figure out the CVS "game." I’d love to hear others’ input on this and how they’ve made CVS work for them.
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