Friday, April 10, 2009

CVS- The Basics

Since I’ve started this blog, there have been a lot of readers who have emailed with questions on how CVS works. What are Extra Care Bucks and do you really get these items for FREE!!! CVS was one of the last stores that I added to my weekly shopping when I first started couponing becuase it was incredibly overwhelming and confusing to me. I didn't understand why people were doing 2 or 3 transactions and I didn't have a clue what Extra Care Bucks were. I spent a good few hours researching asking friends how to “do” CVS when I first began so for those of you that have been too intemadated to step foot into a CVS....I will be walking right beside you for the next 3 weeks. Follow some simple advice and these transaction list and you will be good to go!

First off, you need to know where your local CVS store is located. Check HERE for the closest store.
Now, you will need to apply for a CVS card. You can do this online or in-store. If you do it in-store, you can begin using your card right away, so this is the best option. Always have the cashier scan your card before they start ringing up your transaction. You won’t be able to get any of the deals without your card.

Once you have signed up and received your CVS card, you are ready to do your first CVS transaction. I recommend you start off with only one or two items. Keep it very simple so that you can learn the ropes and gradually branch out into doing more complicated deals.

Starting on Sunday, I will have a list of good easy deals that you can try out. Note that this first week, you will have to put out some start up money but you will get Extra Care Bucks (EBC's) when you checkout that you can use when you check out from here on out.

Almost every week, there are one or two items which are advertised as completely free after ECBs. What this means is that you will buy the item....paying out of pocket for it and then you will receive a printout at the end of your receipt which will be for the amount of the item purchased. This coupon is called an “Extra Care Buck”. You can use this coupon on your next purchase just like a gift card.

The items that I state are "FREE", they are not entirely free in that you paid for it out of pocket, however, once you have paid for the item out of pocket and earned an ECB, you can then use that ECB you earned to pay for the next transaction. You want to keep rolling your ECBs over and over and over, so your goal should always be to use the ECBs you earned from your last transaction, to buy something in the next transaction which will earn you the same amount or more ECBs than you spent. Make sense??

My stockpile is very well stocked so when I plan my weekly trip, I try to spend as little money out of pocket as possible...usually just pennies... and then I roll over my ECBs to be the same amount or more as the ECBs I spent.

The way that you can accually MAKE MONEY at CVS is when the item you are buying is actually less expensive than the ECB or you have a coupon for an item that would have been free already after EBC's.

For example- Let's say that this was on my list for the week....

M&M Chocolates- $1.00 each
use .50 cpn from the 3/29 SS
get $1 EBC
Final- .50 proft!

So your chocolate would ring up for $1.00 (before tax), after the .50 off coupon you would pay out of pocket (or with your ECB's) .50. Then you would get a $1 printout EBC with your reciept for your next transaction!! Thus...this was a "moneymaker".

Most of the time, there is a limit on how many of an item you can buy per card which will generate ECBs. Usually it is somewhere between 1-5 and will be stated in small lettering underneath the deal in your ad or on the list that I create on the blog.

There are weekly deals and monthly deals. The weekly deals are advertised in the weekly fliers and the monthly deals (which are good for the entire month) are advertised in the monthly ECB booklet, which should be available at all stores all month long.

The next step into more complicated transactions is to start stacking CVS coupons and manufacturer’s coupons along with the ECB deals.

When you are checking out and doing a more complicated transaction, you will want to make sure and have your coupons in good order so that your transaction goes smoothly. The best way I have found to do this, is to give your manufacturer’s coupons first, and then give your ECBs. If you have an ECB that is for more than what your total is, they can either manually reduce it down and just take off the amount for your total (and thus you lose the rest of your ECB), or you can add on another small item to make up the difference.

Make sure that you go with a good detailed list so you know what you are looking for when you get there.

For the next 3 weeks.... I will be making a weekly CVS trip list for you if you would like to try it out. We will start out small and then add the more complicated transactions. Make sure that you are getting the Sunday paper and that you have a printer that you can print online coupons on. And as always...please let me know how you do or if you have any other questions.