How to Start the Drug Store Game

by Kevin on March 13, 2009

Starting the Drug Store Game

Once you’ve made the decision to start, this is how I recommend you get started.

1. Pick one store to invest most of your time with.

This may seem odd, but when you first start out this can kind of be overwhelming. Stick to one store and identify the items that are going on sale this month, this week, and over the next several weeks. Fair warning: you may miss out on some better deals at the other stores. This is really up to you, but while you are trying to get a hang of how this works I would stick to one store. But that’s just me.

2. Find the ads and saving programs for each store you want to work with.

For CVS you are looking to sign up for the Extra Care Card. Applications should be by the register. You can fill out an application and use the application on your first purchase. From there they will mail you a wallet card (size of a credit card) and two key chain cards.The Extra Care Card is how you earn Extra Care Bucks (ECBs) which are essentially rebates that work just like cash at CVS — but they expire one month after you receive them. The ECBs will print off on the register tape at the bottom of your receipt.

CVS has two different ways to save. There is a monthly Extra Care booklet — the items inside of it will either be on sale or earn you Extra Care Bucks throughout the entire month. Then there are weekly ads that come in the Sunday newspaper (or you can get them at the store / online). The weekly ads are usually the items that are on sale rather than ones that you get ECBs on. Either way you are looking to combine a sale item or ECB item with a coupon to get your cost down as low as possible.

For Walgreens there is the EasySaver Rebate Club. This doesn’t require a card, but you must keep your receipts until the end of the month. Why? You enter in your receipts into the EasySaver website. You can save them as you go so I suppose you don’t need to keep them all month. But you have to remember to go back and “confirm/close out the month” with your receipts. It doesn’t check them as you go, it waits until you say you are done shopping the rebates for that month.

From there you will be given the option of getting a check back in the mail, or having a Walgreen’s gift card sent to you. You always want to select the gift card. Walgreen’s will give you an extra 10% of your rebates if you choose this option. For example last month I only had $3 in rebates off of one item. I claimed my receipt, closed out the month, and asked them to recharge my current gift card. They end up putting $3.30 on it that I can then go back and spend this month at Walgreens.

Walgreen’s also has something similar to ECBs called Register Rewards. I’m not familiar with the program so I won’t go into details here.

3. Start collecting Sunday newspapers and coupons

Now that you have your stores picked out you need to start grabbing as many coupons as possible. The easiest place to get coupons is the Sunday paper. Make sure you are aware of the coupon insert schedule lest you buy a paper without any coupons in it (we did this on the Sunday after Valentine’s Day — d’oh!). The insert schedule also shows that April 5th there will be two SmartSource inserts and one Proctor & Gamble insert. Normally there is just one of each.

Once you buy a paper open it up the coupon sections and grab some scissors. Cut out everything of any remote relevance to you. I actually cut out items that I’m not sure we would even use specifically because one of the stores may run a deal where by using the coupon you’ll get the item for free. This may seem pointless — why get an item you won’t use for free? Well, you may have another coupon that states your total subtotal on your receipt has to reach a certain amount to get a discount. That item might get you over the top and save you a ton of money. (A recent example was given in Our Recent CVS Successes – we had a $10 off of $30 purchase coupon.)

Some people also buy multiple papers to get multiple sets of coupons. For now we are sticking with just one paper per week.

4. Organize your coupons

Let me start by saying we aren’t the best at this right now, so do as I say not as I do!

We split our coupons up into food items (for our grocery trips) and non-food items for drug store trips. From there we group the coupons together with paper clips for each month. So we’ve got a March non-food item group and a March food-item group.

We plan to get an accordian file of some sort to help separate things even better. You’ll be surprised how much you can remember just based on cutting out the coupons. You’ll be going through the ads to find the best upcoming deals and think “Wait a second, I think I’ve got a coupon for that…”

So come up with some sort of organization system to maximize your savings. And to keep you sane.

5. Again, don’t expect huge returns immediately

As I said last time this won’t result in hundreds of dollars worth of savings in the first week. You may not see significant savings until the third or fourth or fifth week when everything finally clicks for you — suddenly you’re getting a buy one get one free (a.k.a. BOGO) deal and using a coupon that makes both items free.

Take your time, don’t forget to buy a paper, and keep your eyes open for deals. Good luck!

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Nate @ Debt-free Scholar March 13, 2009 at 8:05 am

Stumbled it!

Great post!


Colleen March 13, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Good post. You might want to note for newbies that Walgreens is discontinuing their Easysaver program after April.

Scott @ The Passive Dad March 14, 2009 at 10:28 pm

I really like this idea and have been trying to find someone else who is doing this with rite aid or cvs. I’m looking forward to following your progress.

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