CVS savings

This week at CVS, this all cost less than $1 before tax by stacking coupons and rolling $11 ExtraBucks, and earning $9 ExtraBucks back.

Maggie Hensler photo

A lot of people think pharmacy prices are expensive, and they can be, but it’s only more expensive if you don’t know how to take advantage of the offers they have. I do a lot of my household shopping at CVS because I know I can greatly reduce my out-of-pocket expenses. My year-to-date savings so far in a “slow year” is nearly $700, which includes savings from sales, ExtraBucks and coupons. If you pay attention to the ads and know how to do it, you can save a lot of money.

1. Shop sales and offers

At CVS, you need to sign up for an ExtraCare card in order to get the sales prices and offers. There are items that are on sale, and then there are offers, such as spend $30 on Huggies, get $10 ExtraBucks. The ExtraBucks print at the end of the receipt (EB or ECB is how you see it on blogs) can be used in the next transaction, are good on almost anything in the store (read the fine print), and are usually good for a month. Follow a blog to get ad matchups, check the ad in Sunday’s paper, and get a sneak peek of the upcoming ad on Thursdays on the CVS website. Many of the offers are limit one per card, but I can tell you that I’ve been shopping there for more than five years, and a lot of the same deals roll around again, so you can still create a small stockpile if you shop regularly.

2. Stack coupons with offers

Not only can you get EB from purchases, but if you scan your card at the “magic red coupon machine” near the entrance (there is an official name for it, but this is what couponers call it), you can get store coupons that you can stack on offers. If you sign up for emails, the best ones are randomly sent on Thursdays with coupons like $5 off a $25 purchase. Sometimes it might be a percentage off coupon, but this cannot be used on sale items. You can use it on EB offers for items not on sale, which is rare. You can stack manufacturer coupons with store coupons, and there is also CVS app-only offers you can send to your card, as well as digital coupons. Stack all of these offers for great savings.

3. Roll the ExtraBucks

Like Target giftcards, I keep $10 to $20 of ExtraBucks from previous transactions to roll on a new transaction to keep my out of pocket cost down. EBs don’t expire for a month, so I don’t have to go every week, but I do need to remember to go every couple weeks. Nothing is worse than finding out you let $10 EB expire (OK, there are definitely worse things, but it still bums me out).

4. Earn rewards

Some rewards you can earn without even really trying. If you have regular prescriptions you use, link your ExtraCare card to it and earn a $5 EB for every 10 prescriptions you get. Buy beauty products from cosmetics to hair care, get $3 EB for every $30 you spend before coupons. Every quarter, earn 2 percent back of what you spent in the previous quarter.

So, to break this down with the Huggies example above of spend $30, get $10 EB, say the bags of diapers on sale for $9.99 each. You can actually spend 98 percent of the $30 and still get the offer, so you buy three bags for a total of $29.97. You have an email coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase, bringing the cost to $24.97, and three manufacturer coupons for $2 off each. Now you are down to $18.97, and you’ll get $10 EB. If you roll $10 EB from a previous purchase, you have brought your cost down to $8.97 for three packs of diapers. I bought most of the diapers for my boys at CVS, because it was usually the lowest cost I could get.

Here’s a deal to try through today: Spend $10 on Physician’s Formula cosmetics, get $7 EB. Then starting tomorrow, roll the $7 EB on the offer for spend $20 on select Procter & Gamble products (which includes diapers, toilet paper, shampoo and more), get $5 EB, and stack the P&G coupons that are in the paper tomorrow to bring the cost down even more.

So, when you shop at CVS, don’t just throw out the crazy long receipt you get. Check out the offers and use them to save.

Maggie Hensler is a teacher living the frugal life in Davenport with her husband and two boys. Her column runs every Saturday in the Quad-City Times.

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