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CVS 101

by Nicole on May 14, 2009

As I get more readers to my now not-so-new blog, I find myself answering similar questions about CVS and Walgreens and how to shop there. I’ve decided to write a post dedicated to each store as a 101 for beginners type post. In these “101” posts, you’ll learn how to shop at CVS and Walgreens to best maximize your money and coupons. If you follow the tips, you can save 90%+ on your shopping trips!

CVS puts out a weekly ad in the Sunday newspaper. You can also have the ad emailed to you from their website if you choose. CVS ads are released several days (if not weeks) early on Slickdeals.

The first thing you’ll need to do is get an ExtraCare card. They are FREE for you and you can sign up for one at your local CVS. Make sure to register the card online at so you can get coupons emailed to you. Each time you enter your CVS store scan your ExtraCare card at the scanner machine (usually found near the front of the store or near the make-up department). It will usually print out additional coupons for you. You can also scan items to see the price on this scanner.

In my CVS posts you’ll see me refer to ECB’s. ECB’s are ExtraCare Bucks and they are the rewards that print out on the bottom of your receipt to be used as cash at CVS. For example, you may find toothpaste on sale for $2.99 and the ad says you’ll get $2.00 back in ECB’s. You buy the toothpaste and pay the $2.99 and then on the bottom of your receipt it will say “$2.99 ExtraCare Bucks”. You can use these ECB”s on your next purchase as CASH! Please note that the cash register will not allow the cashier to use the ECB’s on tax so you should always ask for your subtotal before tax to know how many ECB’s you can use. Also, you won’t get money back on the ECB’s so if your total is $1.50 and you have an ECB for $2.00 you will lose the $.50. You’ll need to weigh your options and decide if it’s worth it to buy a filler item (my CVS has caramel canides at the front for $.33) or to just pay our of pocket and use the ECB’s later.

The goal with CVS is to “roll” your ECB’s to make your out of pocket (OOP) the lowest possible. It is a game! You do this typically by separating into smaller transactions and using the ECB’s earned from one transaction to pay for the next.

Here is an example:

Colgate Max Fresh or Max White, On Sale $2.99 Get $2.00 ECB’s (limit 2)
Use $1.00 cpn
Pay $1.99 out of pocket after coupon
You’ll earn $2 in ECB’s from this deal

Then do your next transaction:

Adidas Action 3 Anti-perspirant, On Sale $3.99 Get $3.00 ECB’s (limit 3)
Use $1.00 cpn
Use your $2 ECB’s from first transaction
Pay just $.99 after coupon and ECB’s

You will often get $3 off when you spend $15 CVS coupons printed from the in-store scanner. Your total needs to add up to $15 BEFORE coupons! Hand the cashier your $3 off when you spend $15 coupon first then the rest of your coupons, then the ECB’s left to pay off your balance. This order is very important and the deals won’t work if you do it another way.

You may also get CVS coupons for items that print from the scanner or at the bottom of your receipt. You can stack these coupons, this means you can use 1 CVS coupon and 1 manufacturer’s coupon.

Make sure to hand the cashier your coupons in this order:
1. $ off when you spend X (make sure your total reaches the correct amount before coupons and tax)
2. CVS coupons & manufacturer’s coupons
3. ECB’s

Please leave a comment or send me an email if you have any questions about shopping at CVS with these guidelines!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Chris Bailey February 27, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Thanks for the info! The only thing I would add is get to know the employees(they may be able to give you a heads up on discontinued items or keep an eye out for you), and if you are going to make multiple transactions in one trip, please visit during slower business hours. 😀
Thanks Nicole!

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