Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thrifty Thursday - How to CVS!

Vocabulary words:
ECB - Extra Care Bucks. They print out after your receipt after you buy certain items. They can be used like cash on your next transaction, except that you can't get change back (so you have to make your total a little larger than your ECB).
OOP - Out-of-pocket. This is money that you actually pay. Does not include ECB's that you use to pay for items.
"Rolling" ECB's - Using ECB's to purchase items that will generate just as many or even more ECB's that you paid with.
Extra Care Card - Card given by CVS free to anyone as their version of a customer loyalty program. You must have one of these to get and use ECB's. 1 per customer allowed.
Money-maker - A product that will generate more ECB's than you spend (usually after using coupons).
$/$$ coupon - X amount of dollars off X amount of dollars purchase at CVS (ex. $5/$15 means "$5 off any purchase of $15")
Card-Scanner - Scanner in front of CVS store that usually faces the cash register. When you enter the store swipe your Extra Care Card and it will print out some coupons. Also is a "price-checker" for items.
P&G - You may see this on blogs referring to the Proctor and Gamble coupon insert that comes in the Sunday newspaper. Others you may see (also referring to coupon inserts in the paper) are Valassis, Smart Source, and Red Plum.

Each week (and monthly as well) CVS comes out with a new advertisement. You usually find these in your Sunday newspaper, but they are also available online at In each ad, there are items that are generating ECB's. You will usually see the ECB-generating items with yellow. The yellow "tag" usually shows how many ECB's will come with a purchase of that product. Keep in mind, not everything in the weekly ad generates ECB's. Some items are FREE automatically after ECB's (meaning you receive as many ECB's as you paid for the item ) . For example, right now you can get Crest Pro Health Rinse (250 ml) for $3.49. It is also generating $3.49 ECB's. Therefore, we would say, that item is "free" after ECB's.
Also, there are many items that are "free" after coupons and ECB's. Recently, this has been different razors. It seems like the ads and the coupon inserts in the newspapers are in-sync. The Gillette Venus Razor has been on sale for $9.99, and has been generating $6 ECB's (for many weeks in a row). There has also been $4 off coupons in the newspaper coupon inserts as well, making this item "free" after ECB's and coupons (well, you're gaining a penny). There are usually, in my estimate, somewhere around 7-10 ECB weekly deals (and then there's a whole monthly book as well).
Money-makers are my favorite. I did one this week with the CVS brand Vitamin C. They are $2.99 a bottle, and I bought 4. So the total was $11.96. But then I had a $3/$10 (CVS brand purchase), so the total was only $8.96. However, they still generated $11.96 worth of ECB's, so I "made" $3!

Step-by-step Instructions:
1. Go to CVS and purchase a few ECB-generating products. Try to stick with ones that are "free" or close to "free" after ECB's. I recommend having between $10 -$20 in ECB's to play with. Some people like to "bank up" more, but it's just easier for me to play with less.
2. Pay out-of-pocket for these items. We CVSers call this "initial investment."
3. Your ECB's will print after your receipt.
4. Start using these ECB's to buy more products that will be free or money-makers.

Things to remember:
1. ECB's usually expire after 30 days. The expiration is plainly printed on the ECB. Don't forget (and lose money)!
2. The ECB deals have a limit of how many you can get per week or month (depending on which type of deal it is). The standard limit is 5, but some of the "better" deals may be only 1 or 2. The ad will tell you what the limit is on that particular product.
3. Try to keep each transaction to near the amount of ECB's you have, so that you are not paying a lot OOP. You can split things up into multiple transactions to do this, and use the ECB's from the first transaction to pay for the second, etc.
4. The most important thing to remember is to not just go in there thinking you will buy things you are actually "in need" of at that moment or that you will purchase a certain brand. Just go ahead and get the free things and money-makers. You may at some point need that item, but if not, it's a perfect way to give to charity. For example, I got a glucose monitor for free last month that I am donating to a crisis pregnancy center (pregnant women can get gestational diabetes).
5. There are many blogs (like mine!) on the web where people actually take the time to type out deal ideas and what they got so you don't have to do all the hard work. I actually use this blog every week to plan what I am going to buy (and I modify her ideas some).
6. If you are using "transaction based" coupons (such as $5/$15, $4/$20, etc.) make sure and give those to the cashier FIRST, before all other coupons or else your total might not be high enough to use it. I know this seems obvious, but I learned this the HARD WAY!
7. Have fun! Don't get discouraged. It usually takes a few weeks or months to really get the hang of it, and I'm still learning! We all make mistakes, but the fun part is that we know it will pay off and help your family save some money!

Let me know how your CVSing is going. If you want, tell me what you want to buy and how many ECB's you have (if any), and I will make up a transaction for you. Please let me know if you have ANY questions (I sure did when I started), and if anything in this post needs more clarification.
Happy shopping!

For futher reading, I HIGHLY recommend these posts, which probably make more sense than mine:
CVS 101 and Making CVS Work For You by MoneySavingMom
The "Cent"sible Sawyer

*Thanks to for the Extra Care Program!


Jessica said...

I shop CVS and am crazy about earning my ECB's so most of this post was not new for me. The thing that stuck out to me was the Card Scanner. I have never heard of this and have never seen one and I am in a CVS three times a week. Can you give e-mail a description of what the machine looks like and exact location by the register? Thanks.

Jenny M said...

The card scanner is about chest high and it's red. In one store that I frequent regularly it's directly when you enter the store (by the makeup section) and the other one has it directly across from the cash register (next to the toothpaste aisle). I guess you could ask the cashier where they have it. Hope this helps!

wendymom said...

What a wonderful explanation of the program! I hope your diligence to help increase awareness of what's out there will really help others, as it did Beth and I. And hey, I am so glad to hear you found the Lypsyl. Isn't it awesome? And like mother, like daughter, the first thing I did was give one to a co-worker!

crissie said...

Thanks again :)

Growing Hearts in the Fishbowl said...

Thank you for this post!! It's pretty confusing to understand how to get all the deals at CVS, but this helped me a lot. I have been putting off jumping on the CVS boat, but now maybe I will!!!


Anonymous said...

How can I get the 5/15? Do I have to print it? Thanks!

Jenny M said...

The $5/$15 was on a something you had to sign up for on a different website. They actually pulled the coupon, but my stores around here are still taking mine saying "it's ok if you are a regular customer." Sorry! Hopefully there will be some new ones out the meantime, if you are a new CVSer make sure to sign up on with your e-mail address, and they will e-mail you a $4/$20 coupon!