By John Z
If you have a CVS nearby, you can use the store for more than just filling prescriptions. Besides the typical healthcare related items, many stores are becoming bigger and bigger, offering more grocery-related items as well. There are several different ways to save money on all these items, and that is not just by shopping sales.
First off, get an ExtraCare card. This is their loyalty shopping card. It offers both savings and rewards. Many sale prices are only available if you have an ExtraCare card. So, that $5 box of cereal is $3.50 with your card, no coupon required. In addition to instant savings, the card rewards you with ExtraBucks. These are like cash for future purchases, just do not use them for your next prescription, as that option is banned. A recent deal involving ExtraBucks involved purchasing $30 worth of Proctor & Gamble products, like Charmin, Cascade, Tide, or Bounty, and getting $10 back in ExtraBucks. ExtraBucks also comes with quarterly cash back. For every two prescriptions you fill, CVS gives you $1 in ExtraBucks. They also add up your purchases and then give you 2% back, again in ExtraBucks.
In addition to lower prices and cash back, the ExtraCare card will generate store coupons for you. Visit the ExtraCare Coupon Center in the store and scan your card. The scanner has an attached printer for printing coupons (or any pending ExtraBucks). Be sure to scan the card multiple times as it doesn’t always print all your coupons with one scan. Don’t be afraid to scan three times, if not four. Coupons and ExtraBucks will also print out at the register at the bottom of your receipt. Be sure to check your receipt for unexpected coupons before throwing them out.
ExtraBucks are not just generated from making specific purchases. If you register your card on their web site ( http://www.cvs.com ), you can also get special coupons from there. Just signing up gets you a $4 off coupon for a $20 purchase. (The $20 amount is on the full price of the item, not the price after getting instant savings with the ExtraCare card.) Registering an email with the online account will then get even more coupons emailed to you. Lately, they have been sending out 20% or 25% off coupons, almost weekly. Unfortunately, those discount coupons only work on items not on sale. Another thing you can register for is their Beauty Club. Once you sign up, for every $50 you spend on beauty-related products, you earn a $5 ExtraBucks coupon for a later purchase. That total is cumulative, meaning the $50 can be spread across multiple purchases, as long as you present your card each time. Finally, one should also mention their ExtraCare Advantage for Diabetes program. If you suffer from diabetes, or are the caregiver of someone who does, you can get double rewards on certain products.
Yet another way of earning ExtraBucks is by going green. If you frequently bring your own bags, get a Greenbagtag for $1 and present it with your ExtraCare card with each purchase. For every four times you use the tag, $1 in ExtraBucks gets printed, for a later purchase. It is like saving an extra quarter on every purchase. That doesn’t sound like much, but it will add up over time.
ExtraBucks Rewards and store coupons from the coupon center have been mentioned, but it is important to focus on coupon usage as a whole to get the most savings at CVS. That basically means combining store coupons with manufacturer coupons. By combining all options available to you, you will save the most money. One can just say read their coupon policy ( http://www.cvs.com/bizcontent/general/help/coupon-policy.pdf ), but it is best to spell out how to save.
First off, it is important to mention that you can combine store coupons with manufacturer coupons. You can combine both with getting ExtraBucks back, if there is a weekly or monthly deal in place, too. Here’s a common deal that you can take advantage of. Imagine a $5 tube of toothpaste on sale for $3.50 where you get $2 back in ExtraBucks. Typically, there will be a limit of two times you can get the ExtraBucks back. That means what originally started as $10 for two tubes, has a sale price of $7 for two tubes, with $4 back in ExtraBucks for a future purchase, or essentially $3 for two tubes. Now comes the coupons. It is not uncommon to have $1 coupons be available for toothpaste, at least for Crest and Colgate. That brings the price down to $1 for two tubes. This might sound like a much better price than $10 for two tubes, but you can do better. Scanning your ExtraCare card at the in store coupon machine may print out a coupon for $1 off two tubes. Thus, getting the overall price down to $0 or free. Even without that last coupon, it is not uncommon to get toothpaste for free by combining just the sale price, ExtraBucks, and manufacturer’s coupons. You should set a goal of never paying for toothpaste again. It is a very realistic goal.
The next important policy to mention is buy one, get one (BOGO) free sales and coupons. If an item is on sale where you buy one and get the other item for free, there are two ways where you can get both items for free. Both of these ways are not uncommon. The simplest to explain is if you have a buy one, get one free coupon. Using this coupon with a BOGO sale means both items are free, one from the manufacturer and one from CVS. The other way to get both items free is to have a coupon that covers half the cost of each item. So if shampoo has a price of $2.00 and is buy one, get one free, you can use two $1 coupons to get both items for free. Even if you do not have coupons to cover the full cost of both items, you can still get both items for drastically reduced prices by remembering to use one manufacturer’s coupon for each item purchased.
Overage is an important topic to mention, too. This is when the value of a coupon covers more than the cost of an item. Unfortunately, you cannot use the overage on other items. Store policy is to reduce the amount of the coupon to the price of the item. Also, you will not get cash back if the total value of all the coupons exceeds the value of the transaction. Grab a candy bar and reward yourself if that ever happens. An overage can happen when using store coupons or ExtraBucks as part of the transaction, in addition to sales and manufacturer coupons.
For all purchases, it is important to mention that state law determines how much sales tax is paid. It could be on the full purchase price or the after coupon price. Try out the purchase and you’ll quickly learn how your state handles the situation.
Getting your coupons can be a chore, as is organizing them, but taking the time to do it right will save you the most money. First off, do not throw away those Sunday coupon circulars after you make a single pass through them for what you typically buy. You may not realize you can get free razors or air freshener until you notice a sale with ExtraBucks available, but the deal will only work if you had cut out the coupons. Thus, if you can, save the coupon circulars until the last coupon in each expires. Secondly, be sure to check out the Internet as a source of coupons. CVS will accept any valid at-home printed coupon that contains a bar code. Many of the great sources for Internet coupons are related to the coupon circulars ( http://www.redplum.com/ and http://smartsource.com/ ), but there are also places like http://www.coupons.com/ that probably has the most coupons available. Be sure to check manufacturer sites for coupons, too. For instance, for Betty Crocker product coupons, you can visit http://www.bettycrocker.com/coupons-promotions/coupons/default to see what they have available. You need to check at least monthly, as offerings change frequently, and the better coupons run out quickly. Typically, coupons are only allowed to be printed so many times, so if you think you may use a coupon, print it out as soon as you see it available.
Is that all there is to couponing at CVS? Certainly not. However, it is enough to get you going in the right direction. If it sounds like too much, instead of doing all the research and coupon planning yourself, find someone online who has already done it. Then, follow their lead. Typically, they will even have links to where to get the coupons, if they are available online. There are many mommy blogs that highlight the weekly CVS sales and coupon match with the sale items. Make a game of it and see how much you can get each week with $5 or $10, where you can take the ExtraBucks earned from the first purchase and then use them to buy more items that generate more ExtraBucks, and so on, and so on. Sometimes, you may even have to buy an item for free that you do not need or want, in order to get an item you do want for less.
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Let's face it, tax season really lasts all year long. Even if you don't get an extension and file your taxes on time by April 15th, the rest of the year is spent paying taxes and planning for tax season. And while filling taxes can often get you a large refund, the act itself costs money.
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