This week my goal was to learn how to play the drugstore game. Crystal has been doing a video series called “31 Weeks To A Better Grocery Budget” and this week’s topic was “How To Get Started Playing the Drugstore Game.” She described the delight of using rewards programs to purchase items for FREE or very cheap at stores like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid. For example, CVS will give you ECBs (Extra Care Bucks) back on certain purchases, that can then be used like cash for future purchases. I’ve heard a lot about it in the past year, and now I live in a town where CVS is located 5 minutes away. So I decided to give it a whirl.
My first attempt was, as my 16-year-old brother would say, an “epic fail.”
So here are my instructions for how NOT to play the drugstore game.
1. Don’t bring your children along. It’s hard enough to think about your coupons and savings without your infant crying and your toddler bolting across the store before you can get her in the cart or knocking toothpaste and toothbrushes to the floor as you push your cart through the narrow aisles.
2. Don’t try to do too much in your first trip. I bought a mouthwash, dental floss, and detergent. I had 2 coupons. Just buying these 3 items was too complicated for my first trip.
3. Don’t go at a busy time of day. It was late afternoon and it was hot, so not only were my kids tired and cranky, but other people were getting out of work, so a line developed behind me while I tried to figure things out at the register.
4. Don’t spend a lot to get a little. Set a spending limit for yourself. It’s not worth it to spend $11 just to get $1 ECB back.
5. Don’t go without first looking at the weekly advertisement. I never looked at the CVS weekly advertisement before I arrived at the store. I just trusted the CVS deal websites I’d been reading. The coupons I chose only matched the store deal if I bought the most expensive mouthwash and dental floss available. Rather than saving money, I spent more than I usually would have.
6. Don’t lose sleep over it. I spent all day and all night thinking about how to work multiple deals. Just pick one item to start.
After I returned home and had a chance to regroup, I decided to go back and try again. I returned my mouthwash and dental floss. Instead, I bought one Revlon nail polish ($4.99) and got $4 ECB back. I used a $1/1 coupon, and ended up paying only the tax ($0.29) for it. Now I have $4 ECB to spend on a future purchase. “Epic success!”
What else did I learn through this process?
1. Sign up for the CVS card, if you haven’t already.
2. Sign up for CVS e-mails.
3. Look at your local CVS advertisement on-line.
4. Save and date your weekly Smart Source, P&G, and Red Plum Coupon Inserts.
6. Take your time. You’re learning how to do something new that will save money for you and your family. So be patient with yourself. If you fail miserably, you can always return your items and start over again.
Do you have any other great tips for Drugstore Game newbies like me?