Prepare Yourself for the Drug Store Game

by Kevin on March 12, 2009

So you’re interested in starting the drug store game, eh? You’ve heard great things about people buying $50 worth of items for $4.57 out of pocket. Of people buying shampoo and toothpaste for absolutely free. That’s right… they walk into the store, find the item, check out, and walk out without losing any dollars from their wallet. Amazing.

I heard of these stories as well. I was skeptical, but just enough intrigued to dig in and try to find out if these claims were really true.

I figured if it went well I could tell you about it on this blog. If it went poorly, well, I’d be out some money and I could tell you about it anyways.

We’ve been running the drug store game for about two months. We started sometime in January. Here’s what I’ve learned in my limited experience thus far.

Before You Get Started with the Drug Store Game

These are things you need to know before you even think about starting the drug store game.

Identify Drug Stores

You need to know how many drug stores are in your area. Are they far from your home? Are you surrounded by them? It sounds silly, but the best deals may be far away from you.

Or if there is only one store in the area that you plan to get a great deal at you might want to be there the first day the deal comes out. The store may run out of the items you want to buy — a major disappointment after all of your planning and hard work.

Ask for Rainchecks

To go with the above point, if your store is out of an item that is on sale simply ask for a rain check. Your store may not provide them or you may run into a bad manager, but I’ve found it to be relatively easy to get.

Have the Right Perspective

Don’t expect to save hundreds of dollars on your first trip. Good things take a while — the same is true in this case.

Along the same lines you need to know that you can’t get started for free. You’re going to have to invest some money up front to get started. To generate the in-store cash at the various stores, you have to buy items. To get coupons you have to buy a Sunday newspaper.

It’s a small amount of money, but it does add up as you go. The idea is that once you get established the coupons pay for the paper and the items pay for themselves.

Time is also a consideration. It takes time to clip coupons and search for the best deals. Some people may say you are wasting your time depending on the amount of money you save due to the cost of time. In theory you could earn X dollars per hour instead of cutting coupons. But I think that is stretching the truth a bit. You can’t work one hour for hourly pay in many organizations. I cut coupons on Sunday afternoon as sort of a relaxing quiet time. I wouldn’t work during that time normally.

Find Great Resources

You need to be able to plan out how to use your coupons. The drug stores put their weekly ads in every Sunday paper (and online), but that is just scratching the surface.

Each store has a monthly ad book where items are on sale all month. They also have weekly ads where different items are discounted throughout the week. Did you know that you can find leaked copies of the upcoming weekly ads several weeks in advance?

For example on the CVS forum at Hot Coupon World there is a sneak peek at the April 5 – April 11 weekly ad. You will need to find these ads in advance so you can get the most use out of your coupons.

Why is this important? Finding them early will let you decide whether or not to use that toothpaste coupon this week. Let’s say you’ve got a coupon for 50 cents off of Colgate toothpaste. The store has the toothpaste on sale for $1 this week. That’s a good deal — you’re getting toothpaste for only 50 cents ($1 – .50 = .50).

But if you could find a sneak peek ad and discover that in three weeks there will be a buy one get one free sale at the same price, you could get two tubes for 50 cents. A small difference, sure, but this is the type of thing you need to be aware of to maximize your savings.

I hope this blog will be a resource for you frugal drug store game players as well. Stick around. I’ll continue to share my experiences and how much money we save as we go along.

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Jenna March 12, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Hi Kevin!
I’m glad to see you are having sucess with the Drug Store game. I’ve posted how I plan for weekend shopping through the week. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to make planning for your trip part of the routine.

Jenna

[email protected] March 12, 2009 at 7:30 pm

I always have a hard time deciding if its worth the trouble. I don’t mind investing money to save more money but I have a hard time investing lots of time for a little return. judging from some of the things I have seen scored for cheap at this makes me think it may be worthb it. I plan to follow your savings so keep it up.

Kevin March 13, 2009 at 10:00 pm

@Jenna: Thanks for the kind words!

@Jesse: Hope to see you back again. I do plan to update as we go along.

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