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31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video Series: How to Get Started Playing the Drugstore Game

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  • Elizabeth says:

    CVS!!!!!!!!! My very favorite store! Mine is super coupon friendly and I love the fact that w/ ECBs you can use them like money and I can sometimes pay $0.00 for things on sale.
    My tip: Treat your ECBs like cash and always roll them into things that will give you ECBs back. Start small with little transactions and practice, then as you gain confidence you can do more.
    I use CVS for my source of free/cheap diapers. I always buy things that give ECBs (using previous ECBs). I always do the moneymakers so I can grow my ECBs then spend them on the weeks when diapers are on sale w/ ECBs.

  • Erin says:

    My absolute favorite is Rite Aid.

  • ShawnDel says:

    I love cvs! It took me a few tries to understand rolling the care bucks but now that I know I have saved my family lots of money on things I used to pay full price for or go with out because I didn’t want to spend the money. I do the deals at the other stores as well but by far cvs is my favorite.

  • Kayla says:

    I have shopped at all 3 drugstores, and I’m finding that CVS is my favorite so far. Rite Aid is really out of the way for me so I don’t even bother with it anymore. That being said, I have gotten some awesome deals there. It is located in our mall, and even though it has an outside entrance, the mall is not close to any of the places I regularly shop at. I find that the Walgreens closest to me is increasingly difficult to use coupons at, and with all of the recent coupon craze, the more desirable products are gone by Sunday afternoon. CVS, on the other hand, has much friendlier cashiers and the ratio of coupons and ECB’s to products is easier to handle than at Walgreens (for me anyway). Plus, CVS often sends $5 off $25 or something similar in their emails, and that can make the deal even sweeter :).

    • Evie says:

      I agree with the coupon craze.. I am newer to this but have been doing this longer then Extreme couponing.. But I am scared that places are going to start changing their policies too.. I am lucky because my Walgreens is right outside of our church, so on Sunday, I try to dive in there for something I really want.

      • rebekah says:

        so you don’t agree with the coupon craze because you don’t want others to get the deals too?? You want them all for yourself?? I think that it is a great way for us to save money and it is fun!!

        • Jennifer says:

          I think there is a difference between letting everyone get a good deal and the “Extreme Couponers” that go and completely clear the shelves…getting 30+ of any one item. I mean seriously, who really needs that much at one time? What I’ve learned since couponing is that almost every deal comes around again.

          • rebekah says:

            Jeniffer, I totally agree!! I think that the extreme couponers have issues with a fear of lack! They all have similar stories of we started couponing after my husband lost his job and we couldn’t buy what we needed. I don’t know why needs 75 things of mustard!! LOL I love couponing, but not at that “extreme”.

  • My suggestions for Newbies is to follow Crystal’s advice and start slow! Choose 1 store and concentrate on that one.

    Read all you can (on great sites like MSM) and be prepared, but flexible. I suggest starting with 2 scenarios in case the product is not available. Most of all be patient with yourself. Learning a new skill takes time, but if you persist the payout is huge!

  • Jennifer says:

    CVS for sure – I miss it so much now that I’ve moved back to Australia. There are so many “extra” ways you can earn ECB as well – Green Bag Tag, Prescriptions, cash spent (though you won’t get much as you’re not spending much cash!), Red Coupon scanner, etc.

    And because you don’t have the same # of items as coupon restriction as WAGS (and you can “roll” your ECB which you can’t do at WAGS) its so much easier to maximize your savings.

    My biggest tip for people starting out is to start very, very slowly – and come up with more than one scenario in case what you’re looking for is already out of stock. As you get better and don’t have to think about things as much, you’ll be able to change your scenario on the scene, but in the beginning you want to maximize your “wins” so you don’t get frustrated because what you want isn’t there.

    Don’t hesitate to ask your store manager when they restock so you can plan your shopping trip for the morning after a restock (you don’t have to get all nuts and go at midnight or something crazy like that). And take the time to read, as Crystal said, information about the order in which you should give coupons, as it can make a difference. Take the time to plan your trip at home (or don’t take kids so you can think about it in the store).

    • COURTNEY says:

      I went for a deal on stove top the last time it was on sale and there was only one box left. Well I noticed some full totes and asked the manager if I could have some from there. He asked me how many I wanted and dug them out for me! Love ya CVS!

  • beth says:

    I’ve just started a couple of months ago. I mostly go to Walgreens, but have just begun also going to Rite Aid.

    Thanks for doing these posts and helping us learn how to save money!

  • Evie says:

    I do not have a CVS around here 🙁
    but I love walgreens.
    I am only a few months into this, so not an expert at any means. But I guess to say be prepared that the scenarios you see on blogs etc may not match what your store has or what the sale is like.

    Yes, kids make it harder to shop. I have to sit and think on what is a good deal and how it all is going to work out.

    But I am getting ready to take a dive and try Rite Aid… ahhh I work full time and also work opposite shifts as my husband, so I really do not have a lot of free time…. but it really is worth it.

  • Sandra Lee says:

    I agree with you about reading as much as you can to learn, and to follow the examples of seasoned couponers. Perhaps you could offer a forum where those of us who have been playing the Drugstore game and have achieved Master’s level would be able to post our scenarios for others to learn from.

    • Sandra Lee says:

      I forgot to mention, I am a Walgreen’s gal.

      My biggest tip would be to hold on to your coupon inserts for a LONG time. It never fails when you toss them after a couple of weeks, a deal comes along and you no longer have the coupon you need. You will also want to know you can purchase coupon clipping services to ascertain more coupons for items which you utilize. There are some sites which post the upcoming sale ads for 2-3 weeks in advance. You could scan those ads to then order coupons you want.

      • Tmiller29 says:

        can you please share were to find CVS/WAGS ad’s 2-3 weeks ahead? Id love to be able to put my current coupon’s with good deals that way i can clean out my binder for the newer coupons thanks

        • Crystal says:

          Check out They typically have the full ads posted 3-4 weeks in advance for all the drugstores.

        • Sandra Lee says:

,, While these sites have the ads in advance, Crystal has better IP coupon links!

    • Crystal says:

      At this point, I’ve not been able to figure out how to pull off a forum — yet! As the logistics of it (and moderating it), would be a fairly big job since hundreds of thousands of people visit here each month. I’m working on it/considering it still, though. However, you are always more than welcome to share your scenarios in the comments on the CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid deal posts each week.

  • Amy says:

    Absolutely CVS! Extra Care Bucks make a lot of sense once you understand the concept. To make this work, I take about ten to fifteen minutes to plan a transaction, and save about $25-$35 every week on stuff that we need.

    My two biggest tips: (1) find out if your store will turn on their sales on Saturday (several near where I live do!) to take advantage of fully stocked shelves (and sale prices from the current and upcoming weekly ads)! (2) If they do not have an item in stock that is a great deal, get a rain check (and make sure that it is filled out correctly). Good luck!

  • Elaine says:

    There are several things about CVS that make it my favorite drugstore. They will give rainchecks so you can get the sale price along with the extra care bucks later if they happen to be out of the item or items you want. Their rainchecks don’t expire. The extra care bucks have a longer expiration date than Walgreens’ register rewards. I try to be careful to use them before the expiration date, but my stores have been very nice about allowing me to use some that have slipped past the date. I frequently get additional money off coupons such as $5 0ff a $25 purchase that I can stack with my manufacturer coupons, and they count toward the total before mfg. coupons. It’s nice to be able to use the extra care bucks to purchase almost anything in the store, too.

  • Pamela says:

    I love CVS. But to be honest, it’s the only drugstore I’ve tried. 🙂 I have found that I can get PLENTY for my stockpile, just by “playing” one drugstore. We are a small family — just 2 kids — so perhaps down the road I’ll need to add in another drugstore to accommodate us if our family grows, but for now, CVS is all I need/want to do.

    I live in southern CA so have multiple CVSs at my disposal. I tried several and settled on the one with the most helpful manager and friendliest cashiers.

    Ooooh…..don’t forget….scan your ExtraCare card at the kiosk multiple times, not just once, first thing when you walk in the store. Scan it until the machine says “No coupons available”.

    When checking out, I always ask at the register if they’ll please alert me if any of my coupons don’t work. I do this because it alerts them to the fact that I take this couponing thing seriously, so they’re extra careful to scan each and every one and to watch their screen to make sure each coupon goes through as it should.

    Also, prior to handing over my coupons, I count how many I have. Then, when I’m handed my receipt, I quick scan the subtractions to make sure that the number of minuses equals the number of coupons I gave. If not, I know right away that there’s a problem and can (kindly) deal with it.

  • I am very excited about this portion of your series! I haven’t gotten into the drugstore game, mainly because it just seems so intimidating and complicated. Thanks, Crystal, for putting together all this information in one place; and thanks to all your lovely readers who comment with helpful hints and tips! 🙂

    • Krysten says:

      I am with you 100%, Meredith! I’ve gotten quite good getting the best prices on everything at my local grocery stores using sales and coupons, but this drugstore game seems so complicated! I’ve often wished for someone right here to walk me through it a few times.

      Thanks for doing this topic, Crystal!

      • Jenny Goodrich says:

        Krysten, at first I was nervous too, however after walking out with two carts of goods and having saved 90% I was hooked!! I’ve only been doing Walgreens (its the only one in our town) and although they don’t always seemed thrilled to help me with all my coupons, and they don’t always have what is advertised, it beats making a trip into Omaha (30 miles away).
        I have found the posts from Crystal and others to be the most valuable part of playing the Drugstore game, it gives me scenarios that I may not have caught on my own, I am on my way to a great stockpile and I attribute it 100% to MSM!!! Thanks for helping me provide well for my family while saving for the future!

  • Rite Aid!! I’ve shopped all three drugstores and Rite Aid has the best deals. Also, it is far easier to make literal cash than at other stores (because of their Single Check Rebate program). However, in the the past couple months there have not been nearly as many moneymakers there as there had been the previous several months. I’m hoping that will pick back up.
    My number one suggestion is to realize when planning your scenarios that the store very well may be out stock of one or several of the deal items. For that reason, I really prefer not to make exact scenarios or at least to really understand them so that I can modify on the spot. You may also find that certain stores tend have better stock than others. It’s also better to go earlier in the week.
    Also, realize that your time is very valuable. Sometimes I underestimate the time I spend on the deals and sometimes I realize that saving $20 isn’t worth 5 hours of my time. That’s okay. It’s tricky I think at first to find the best balance, and I definitely made the mistake early on of spending way too much time on it. My approach has been to coupon a whole lot for a few weeks and then to take several completely off, but many have different approach that works for them.

    • Kimberly says:

      Good point! My husband’s favorite phrase is “time is money”. But, mine would be “sanity is money”.

      I would still love to get some free/cheap household goods, though!
      Gotta find the balance! 😉

    • Jenny Goodrich says:

      LauraJane, I love your suggestion of couponing alot for a few weeks and then taking a few off!!! I haven’t been at this that long (5 months, Ithink?!) but I am finding it difficult to miss a week for fear that I may be giving up some great deals! How do you find your balance, and do you still do the extremely good deals on your “time off”?!

  • Stephanie says:

    I finally live where a CVS is minutes down the road, and I have yet taken advantage of all the deals! It just seems to me the deals have been sparse at all places lately. Maybe I am losing my bargain eye 🙂

  • Heather says:

    Rite Aid is my favorite! I had been taking advantadge of the the rebates back when I had to fill out a paper and use an envelope and a stamp!!!!! But the register rewards really help me play the “game”! With my coupons, rewards, and $3/15 survey I will pay $2 for two packs of diapers for my son today!

  • Paige says:

    Like another person stated, CVS will give you a raincheck even on the ECB’s. I don’t worry about making multiple scenarios in case they are out of stock. I decide what I want, and go shopping whenever it fits into my schedule and if they are out I simply ask for a raincheck. I double check to make sure it includes the ECB’s. Also, if you have a coupon that is valid when they issue the raincheck and it expires before you use the raincheck they will still take the expired coupon. I save the coupons with the raincheck, and recently I even ended up with a better coupon by the time I used my raincheck. Last week I spent about $7 and saved just over $65! I used coupons from the machine, newspaper, $5 off $25 coupon they e-mailed me, $3 off coupon e-mailed to me by CVS for my birthday, & ECB’s from the previous week. And after spending only $7 I have $5 ECB’s to use this week! I was trying to do RiteAid & CVS, but most weeks I only shop at CVS because it is hard to do both with young children. CVS is closer to me & that’s where we purchase our prescriptions so we are already going there anyways.

  • Chrissy says:

    Although my town is a big town and we have lots of different stores we only have 1 Walgreen’s and no Rite Aid or CVS. My Walgreen’s is always out of the sale items and items with RR sometimes as soon as Monday the day after the ad breaks and they only get a truck on Fridays. So I spend a lot of time trying to get there as early on Sunday as I can and I still end up with lots of Rain checks. Rain checks are awesome on sale items however they don’t RC the RR’s… So I end up missing out on some of the great deals.

  • Esther a homeschool momma in Mid-Michigan says:

    I’m blessed to have a Rite Aid and Walgreens right across the street from each other 🙂 So, after I visit one, I can go visit the other without going out of my way. The one tip I would give a newbie, is to treat your cashiers with respect. Be nice to them and treat them the way you would want to be treated. I go to the make-up counter to check out at Walgreens and have gotten samples, high value coupons by befriending them!

  • Vicky says:

    Meredith, don’t feel intimidated at all. I started at the drugstores in the middle of last month and have three shelves of items my family use every day. I can’t believe all the money I’ve been losing by running out and paying full price. I wish I’d done this years ago.
    I have to say I love Walgreens, they were so helpful. The cashier pointed out ways that I could save that I didn’t even know at the time.

  • Julie says:

    I’ve shopped at all three drug stores. It seems to me that for a while one of the three will have unbeatable deals that surpass the other two. When those deals slow down, another store will get hot.
    I’ve also learned which stores in my area are coupon-friendly and which ones assume I’m trying to do something underhanded just because I don’t spend a lot out of pocket.
    I think CVS is the easiest system to learn. If it seems like CVS doesn’t have any deals when you’re ready to start, wait a week or two until the deals start again.

  • I shop at either Walgreens or CVS for most of our Family’s Health & Beauty products. My preference is CVS over Walgreens for several reasons.

    *Their coupon policy is much more customer friendly, you can use a coupon and ECB for each item
    *Bonus ECBs through their Beauty Rewards Program
    *Bonus ECBs for their Green Bag Tag Rewards
    *Extra ECBs and Coupon Saving through their Red CVS Kiosk in each store
    *Their coupons don’t expire as quickly & sometimes they will accept them after they are expired.
    *You can do a raincheck on an item on sale and get the ECB in a future purchase
    *Customer Service experience is usually more pleasant at CVS (although I have found if you follow the store guidelines and are polite almost any store can be a great experience!)

    My advice is start small, look for those extra coupons in the stores, and sign up for the Extra Programs like the Beauty Club and Green Bag Tag Rewards if your already shopping there regularly because the extra rewards can really help you stretch your budget even more.

    Happy Savings!

  • Bonnie says:

    Thanks for this video! I wish I had seen this when I first started couponing/playing the drug store game. I started out very overwhelmed because I tried to compare 5 different stores: my local grocery store, Wags, RA, and Meijer (similar to Walmart), and Walmart. I had never paid attention to prices before, so I didn’t know if $8 was a good price for tampons or not! LOL!
    My favorite store is Walgreens because they let you “roll” the register rewards as many times as you want (unlike RA, with their limits), you don’t have to have a card to get great deals, and all the employees are SO nice. The manager there has even encouraged me to take as many of the items that turn out free after RR as I want!

  • kristi says:

    CVS is my favorite beacuse of how their ECBs work. I have gotten a lot of free stuff there! I really don’t care that much for Walgreens because of their RR program but I discovered that my Walmart takes the coupons that Wallgreens prints out! So I am starting to like Walgreens and am looking in the adds to find great deals there!

  • devin says:

    i think cvs is my personal fav. but could anyone tell me how up rewards work at right aid?i dont really understand them

  • I love CVS! One of my favorite things is their raincheck policy because they include ECBs in their rainchecks, and the rainchecks never expire. Woo-hoo!

  • Heather says:

    I havn’t had much luck with Walgreens but love RiteAide and CVS. I have gotten paid to take diapers out of Rite Aide twice!!!! My local CVS is great 🙂 My sister work there in the Pharmacy so all of the staff knows me and are extremely friendly!!! I have two small children and the carts at both Drug Stores are SO small, so on the weeks that they don’t have Extra Bucks, or RR on deals that I want, I just go to WalMart and price match because it is easier with the bigger carts with my children. And it takes longer for WalMart to run out of things 🙂

  • Ruth says:

    I’ve thought of playing the Drugstore game, but I don’t know if it would help our budget or not or be worth the time, given that we don’t use very many drugstore items.

    We use mostly cloth diapers, I use DivaCup and cloth menstrual pads, I don’t use toothpaste, and we don’t use conventional deodorant and use mostly health food store type soap and shampoo, except for a few bars of soap here and there. I also prefer making homemade laundry soap. (we’re using up a bottle of store bought at the moment, but will probably make more homemade after this one) I usually clean with homemade vinegar solutions or bleach.

    Maybe I could use it to save money on expensive razors or get free toothbrushes or furniture polish? 🙂

    Does anybody else play the Drugstore game for only a few items and find that it’s worth the time and effort?

    Can you get raw ingredients for homemade stuff? Could I get free vinegar, borax, or washing soda? How about bleach?

    • Crystal says:

      How much are you typically paying for razors and toothbrushes? I’d add up that amount and then see if it would be worth your time to invest an hour each month to get those free or almost-free instead of paying for them. You could pick one store and just go once every three weeks to roll the deals. Check the ads briefly each week to see if there’s anything you’re interested in, if not, hang onto your rewards another week (provided they don’t expire).

      Also, you can sometimes get toilet paper deals, scotch tape (free at Walgreens this week!), packing supplies, foil, baking soda, light bulbs, batteries, cotton balls, school supplies and other household items for free or almost-free, so you might check your grocery/household purchases from the last year and see if you’re paying for those, as well.

      I’d say that it’s worth considering and investing a small bit of time into to try it out. If it doesn’t work for your family, than you can just move onto another money-saving idea. 🙂

      • Ruth says:

        Thanks for your input Crystal! You know, you pointed out some other items that I could use it for, that didn’t even come to mind.

        Toilet paper prices drive me crazy and I certainly do use aluminum foil and plastic wrap.

        I will have to watch your posts on doing this–it seems a little overwhelming to me, but it’s probably like anything else, it gets easier as you do it longer.

        I will have to go sign up for a card at my CVS.

        I will also have to go dig for your complete post on how to do it. Thanks for the encouragement!

      • Jennifer says:

        I am in a similar situation, I discovered couponing about 5 months ago, but then read “Healthy Child, Healthy World” and decided to limit our exposure to synthetic (and potentially toxic) materials… Honestly, one of the first things I thought was “my budget!” 🙁 . But things have a way of working out!

        I still do get good deals at CVS; not quite the earth shattering deals that some people are getting, but every little bit helps!

        And truthfully, it seems like there is a lot to learn, but it’s easy! Get the “Green Tag” that rewards you for using a cloth bag, and you’ll earn one extra buck every 4 uses, it’s a great way to start; simple and easy, and it rewards you for being green 🙂

    • You could get cheaper toilet paper. And of course donations. And gifts for teachers, college grads, so many would appreciate a basketfull of name brand items.

  • Diane says:

    I use CVS. Their coupon policy is great (can use more coupons that # of items, unlike Walgreens) and their ECBs take 1 month to expire. I also have a green bag tag I got free after ECBs so every 4th visit I get 1 dollar in bucks. I check Iheart CVS for previews of the next few week’s ads.

  • Maura says:

    My Walgreens and Rite Aid share a parking lot so I typically poke in and check out both. My suggestion would be to get to know your cashiers and managers. As couponers, we have lots of transactions and sometimes lots of demands or questions about product availability, etc. I shop my drugstores every week at the same day and time. I am genuinely friendly to the staff and I think it goes a long way. This week, my favorite Walgreen’s employee helped me remember an instore coupon that saved me almost $5.

  • Kathleen says:

    I love CVS! I have not tried Walgreens or Rite Aid. CVS is only a few minutes from my house so it’s just more convienent. With gas being so expensive these days it makes sense to shop there.
    My advice to shopping at CVS is to take it slow and try not to get carried away. When I started I was amazed at how much I could get for so little. Since the store was so close I was shopping there a few times a week. I had to set a CVS budget. I was getting crazy for the deals, it was addicting.

  • Carla Sorensen says:

    Since Walgreens is the closest to me I think I will give it a try after reading a little more. The cashiers are young high school students usually, so I hope they know all the policies. Everyone is very friendly and it is a nice store. Do I need to go in to the store fully confident of what I am doing or is it okay to ask the cashiers for help?

  • Sam says:

    CVS is my favorite by far!

    Walgreen’s is so difficult to work with most times and they often do not carry the same products that the deals are on or don’t offer the same clearance or sales prices. Plus the Register Rewards expire way too quickly.

    I would love it if we got a Rite Aid here though…there seems to be a lot of good deals there.

  • Robin Wagoner says:

    I’m a WAGS girl 🙂
    I shop there so often that it’s not uncommon for the manager to go get my items from one of their sister stores (if they are out) & hold them in his office. He will actualy call me & let me know that they are ready 4 pick up!! To me that is upmost customer service 🙂

  • I have been doing coupons for a little over a year now and I still find the drug store game very frustrating! Usually just because all I have around me are Walgreen’s which are not very coupon friendly and are always out of stock of what I want! I have recently started back into it and it does seem to be doing smoother, but I have just learned to expect them to be out of stock on at least one thing I’m going for! It is really great on things like office supplies and sometimes they have some great deals on dishwashing detergent!

  • Kim says:

    Riteaid! We have all 3 stores within about 3 miles from our house. Our local Riteaid is good about having things in stock, providing rain checks and they really work at being coupon friendly.

    I spent my last CVS extra care bucks yesterday and probably won’t go back unless it is an amazing deal that I really, really need. They tend to have very limited stock and aren’t very coupon friendly (except for one cashier).

    Walgreens for me was just too much hassle because of having to have more items than coupons when trying to use my register rewards. The RR also seemed to expire too soon. Again – I will use them occasionally if it is an exceptional deal.

  • I started playing the “drugstore game” in 2007 when my husband lost his job. I was really into it in 2008 to 2009 and then last year I found that the deals slowly dropped off. Lower limits, fewer “freebies”.

    I now only go to CVS once a month and Walgreens about every 2-3 weeks. At one time I had over $100 in ECBs that I could very, very easily roll but now I have just $3 ECBs!

    I too fight with the out of stock stores/ shelf clearing hoarders / unfriendly cashiers and it is frustrating. Most of the time things go smoothly, and the drugstore game has saved me thousands of dollars and allowed me to give generously to domestic violence shelters.

  • AMadGal says:

    I appreciate getting a good drugstore deal, but I do not like the subtitle of the video “How to get started playing the drugstore game.” I know it was intended to be catchy, but getting good value is not a game . . . it is not done for fun or even for the challenge. Getting value is a reality needed for our families. I’m sure everyone would agree w/ this. Regardless, I appreciate the video poster sharing her time and thoughts with us. Thank you.

    • Crystal says:

      As I said in the video, we hardcore couponers have long referred to this as “The Drugstore Game”. It’s not a term I made up; it’s just what we all use.

      And, for most of us, saving money is fun — once you get the hang of it! My philosophy is that you might as well have fun and enjoy yourself while doing things you need to do or while doing things that really benefit your family. It makes life much more enjoyable! 🙂

      However, I’m sorry that I offended you. Please know it was not at all my intention.

      • AMadGal says:

        Crystal, I appreciate your comment. You did not offend me. I just wanted to note that I personally don’t like calling getting good value a game. It is great however to know that many have “fun” doing it, as you suggested. I appreciate all of your posts and thoughts. Thank you.

    • I’m sorry to disagree- this is just my opinion, the other side of the coin if you will. When I reached a point that I was very comfortable shopping with coupons, it did become like a game. At first I was determined not to save money but just to make it within our meager budget. But when we already had a decent stockpile, I could then choose what to get. It was fun doing the math, coming up with scenarios, getting moneymakers. Some items I didn’t and would never use but I bought to rollover deals or to make an extra couple dollars. Then I would donate to our food bank or missions trips. And it was fun- like a game! Turning $1 into $5- just like the parable of the talents Jesus told.

      The drugstore game is the best monetary investment any ordinary mom like me can get into. The best return for your money and you see results every shopping trip.

    • Jennifer says:

      I’m a single Mom, so I understand what it means to *need* to get great deals to get my budget to stretch… Also, since I have to take my three year old son every where, it’s doesn’t always feel like a game 😉

      But I think Crystal stated that it has long been referred to as a game, so it’s not something she just made up. Also, it really does become fun! When I was shopping with my Mom this weekend, I was comparing prices and found that with stacking two coupons I could get children’s toothpaste for 89 cents… But decided to wait, since I thought I could get it cheaper. It feels like a challenge to me; buying ahead can give you the wiggle room in your budget that I didn’t have before, and it can also give you time to find the best deals… I think that is very fun 🙂

    • Kristine says:

      Many people do consider “the drugstore game” a strategic challenge and even a fun pastime. Personally, I don’t find couponing and trying to keep track of sales, rewards points, etc., fun at all. I find it very stressful. I hate shopping, and I hate going to multiple stores. I’ve learned some things from other people’s experiences, though, and I do what works for my family. I watch the ads for Walgreens (which is the only drugstore within my usual driving distance) and our local grocery store and buy the loss leaders when they’re things that I would normally buy. I also clip a few coupons when they’re for things that I would normally buy, but most of the coupons that I see are for things that I don’t buy. I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi, and to me it’s worth it to save some stress and time that I don’t spend shopping and driving, even if I don’t get as many free things as some people do. 🙂

    • We play games for fun and to do our best to win right? The idea is to beat the drugstores at their game of high prices. We win because we can walk out paying pennies on the dollar.

      And of course, CVS is my favorite because they stand by their deals (will offer a raincheck with ECBs attached), offer great additional incentives (GBT, Beauty Club, $4/$20 Qs etc) and because they have fabulous customer service.

  • Kelley says:

    I was all about RA but all of ours switched in the past 6 months to Rite Aid/Sav-A-Lot combos and they run an entirely different ad (different prices, different deals & rebates — and they’re not very good) than the regular RA stores. Too bad!

    Anyway, I’ve switched to CVS with reasonable success. It does take a while to build up a good stock of ECBs to roll if you don’t want to put out too much money any one week. But it’s definitely helped me as finances get tighter to keep having the things we need/want.

  • Rebecca says:

    Thanks so much for doing this series, Crystal! I usually go to Walgreens but only because there is no other option in my smaller town.

    One thing: I have SO much trouble with shelf clearers…there are barely any deals by the time I get there on Monday or Tuesday. Any suggestions?


  • Jen says:

    I used to do all the drug stores: Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS. I’ve found that CVS is the best. My local CVS store takes expired ECB’s so I don’t worry about using them before the expiration date. I became frustrated a few times when my Register Rewards and UP awards at Walgreens and Rite Aid would expire. I’ll only shop those places if there’s a really great deal.

  • Ashley says:

    To me, CVS is WAY easier and you save more $$! I like Walgreens, but they have so many more rules than CVS. What you can and can’t spend your RR on…. my ECB’s at CVS are just like cash, they don’t care what you spend it on. Walgreens is always out of stock, and you can’t get a raincheck for RR items. CVS lets me get a raincheck for anything!! Also the RR expire after 2 wks, vs. 4 wks for ECB at CVS.

  • Amanda says:

    I’v been doing walgreen becuase it’s less than a mile from my house. But it seems on here 99 percent of people like CVS? Maybe I should give it a try…

  • Tiffany says:

    I originally starting couponing doing the drugstore game and my store was CVS. After 9 months of there, I experimented with Rite Aid and they are now my favorite. I did try Walgreens, but their RR policy is confusing and hard to roll (in my opinion).

    I like RA because there are higher limits (if any) and there are a larger variation of items on sale… like automotive and hardware items and coloring books. RA has a very generous coupon policy and video values, which turn out to be a greater reward in my opinion than CVS’s red machine. They also recently added surveys were you can get $3 off any $15 purchase. I get one on almost every receipt so breaking up my transactions is really saving my nearly $10 on every trip!

    Tip: start small, like one transaction per week, until you really understand it. Then do two per week, then three per week, etc. Don’t throw yourself into the store and expect to have it all figured out, because you won’t. My friends are amazed at how well I can work the system, but I’ve been doing it now for nearly 18 months. I was no where near efficient when I first started, lol!

  • Kristine says:

    We don’t have RiteAid, and CVS is too far out of my way to go there very often, so Walgreens is my only nearby drugstore option. However, I’ve found the cashiers at our local Walgreens much more coupon-friendly (and friendly in general) than those at either Wal-Mart or Target. I guess it varies by store. As much as I hate shopping, lately I’ve found shopping at Walgreens less stressful than shopping at other stores, so I buy most of my household supplies there when they go on sale.

  • Kelly says:

    I’m very fond of Rite Aid! With their Video Values Qs, Single Check Rebates, and UP Rewards, I feel that as a business, they are marketing themselves to couponers, and thus tend to me more coupon friendly and have better deals each week!

    Take advantage of all their programs and roll those UPRs! Get rain checks when an item is out of stock, so you can still get the deal (within 30 days I believe). Like Crystal said, read the corporate coupon policy and bring it with you to the store, no matter which store you shop at! I do this for Target, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Wal Mart, etc… and have often had to pull out my coupon policy to explain things to uninformed cashiers and even managers.

    Start small, and watch as you get hooked with the drugstore game! It is a fun way to save a lot of money!

  • Jodi says:

    I’ve been doing the drugstore game for a few years, since I discovered this website. I really learned how to match up the sales and coupons by checking out everyone’s links on Saturday (how they did for the week). I save almost every coupon that comes out since you never know what may become a MM with the right sale! My fave store right now is RA, because of how easy it is to use the +UPs, the video values qs and rebates, too! Not to mention the store surveys and $3/15 qs! CVS is very easy to master, but they have severely limited the amount of freebies from previous years.

    • Jen says:

      I clip the coupons I know I’ll use and then I keep the rest of the coupon insert from the paper (Smart Source) and mail (Red Plum) intact. I write the date on the outside cover of the insert. I keep all of the inserts in a reusable bag in the back seat of my car so I’m never without them and my clipped coupons in an expandable coupon file in the front console.
      I also now use cash only or gift cards for groceries, so I bought a little plastic box from Walgreens during back-to-school last fall. It has five dividers in it so I have one for my cash, one for my extra-bucks/RRs/gift cards, one for my cash receipts, one for my gift card receipts and then one for debit card receipts (for daycare expenses, gas, etc).
      All of this to say that it helps keep me organized for my drugstore/grocery store deals. 🙂

  • smileeys says:

    I shop all three drugstores but favorite is cvs. I have saved lots of money. I have seen quite a few people who do not have the extracare card (or other card at other stores) and I don’t understand it, but in some ways I am glad not everyone does this because there is no way we would be able to get such good deals.
    I also give thought to that – I want these stores to be successful so I often will buy things there that would cost me about the same somewhere else. A lot of times that may mean it is the store’s brand because prices do tend to be higher but there is quite a bit that is similar in price. And I really do not like going to Walmart so if slightly higher it is wotrth it to save a trip and support a store I want to keep in business and be able to continue offering good deals .

    CVS, in particular, has shown a loyalty to me and yea it may be a big business but I think it is only fair to show loyalty to them in return. I do that with this site also. I want Crystal to be successful so I make sure to use her links to do my part in helping.

  • Melanie says:

    I love Rite Aid. I wish I had a CVS near by, especially for all the Rite Aids that are near by. There are 4 within 5 miles of my house! That does make it helpful if one store is out of something I can stop by one of the others when I’m in that area.

    My suggestion WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. I made the mistake early on of just writing down the product and the coupon, not the price for the product. I would get to the store and I didn’t remember what the price was or what it should be after coupons and Rewards. I made some mistakes that cost me money.

    Also if you can help it when you first start out don’t shop with children. I have made many mistakes because I was distracted by my kiddos. After I got better I would take just one with me because I think it’s good for our children to see how important it is to see the process of saving money, and how I use some of the things I buy to give to others.

  • Angela B says:

    CVS is by far my favorite!

  • catherine says:

    My favorite drug store to shop is CVS. I did want to pass on a Wags store coupon policy that I just found out about. If the Wags store coupon says a certain amount off when you buy a certain quantity of items (if over 1), you can actually buy less than the quantity listed on the coupon and still get a % off. For example, if you have a Wags store coupon that is $2 off $2 items, you can only buy 1 item and get $1 off that item or 50% off.

  • Lindsay says:

    Here, I only have a Rite Aid– the only drugstore within 25 miles. They do have great deals and are coupon friendly. HOWEVER, they run out of stock almost immediately. This has been even more evident lately as more people seem to be couponing. For example, I arrived at the store opening on the first day of the sale to buy 2 bags of pistachios– and they only had 2 in stock. Terrible! Lately I have gone there on the evenings when they restock. However, they often did not get the on sale product delivered on the truck. This happens at my store A LOT. That is wasted time for me. To me, this is poor planning and poor customer service. It really leads you on. If they happen to have what you want, you do walk away with good deals. Lately, though, I am really lucky if they have what I want, even when I go first thing at the beginning of the sale.

    Even so, would have to say that my Rite Aid is USUALLY really nice about giving rain checks that include discount for the Up Rewards. Always ask for a rain check.

  • smileeys says:

    I tried to post this earlier but not showing up so if similar comment shows up later, that is what happened. This is condensed version 🙂 Basically, I said I like cvs the best overall also. I try to shop for other items not just the best sales/ecb’s b/c I want them to be successful. One reason but not only is so they will keep offering good deals. If something I need anyway is similar in price or possibly slight higher (depends), then I will buy there.

  • Rosie says:

    Rite Aid is my favorite. Reasonable limits (its rare to have a +UP deal limited to only 1… 2-4 is much more common) so that you can get a small stock of things going, a very clear and coupon-friendly corporate coupon policy, money off purchase coupons to use (you now get them for doing customer satifcation surveys), and +UP rewards roll onto themselves. Its all very easy and straight forward… Love it.

  • Christy says:

    I definitely like CVS the best. While they have posted limits on their sale items with ECBs, I don’t have to use filler items. I also like that they send out extra coupons. And overall, their cashiers have been the nicest about coupons. Can’t say the same about Walgreens…

  • Rae says:

    My favorite…. CVS (though I don’t live near a Rite Aid and haven’t since they added those UP rewards so can’t compare it to that).

    My tip to newbies…. Walgreens stinks so avoid unless it’s your only option!

  • Renee says:

    My favorite is Rite Aid because I like to get free products with Up rewards and use those Up rewards to get more free products and this cycle continues. 🙂

  • Ashley says:

    I do well at Walgreens!!

  • Jamie says:

    Rite Aid is my favorite by far and lately seems to have the best deals

  • fairy dust says:

    There are no Walgreens anywhere nearby, so I stick to CVS and Rite Aid. Of those two, I really want to shop more at CVS – it’s closer to my grocery store and in general the cashiers are friendlier. However, a lot of the time RA ends up offering better deals because not only do they have their +Ups (similar to ECBs), but also the video value stackable coupons, and the $3/$15 survey coupons, and the Single Check Rebates. So I always check both stores and hope to find a good CVS deal, but often I end up at RA.

  • Amanda says:

    We live near multiple locations of all three drugstores, but my favorite is definitely CVS. IMO, Walgreens has a ridiculous coupon policy of one item to one coupon and Rite Aid is usually out of every good sale item by 10am on Sunday morning. The stores are not restocked around here during the week for some reason. I also find that when compared with CVS, deals at Rite Aid are much more complicated (scr or upr? Video values? MQ? Survey?). I have never needed to get a raincheck at CVS and I shop there weekly.

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