How to Get a Lot for a Little: Couponing at CVS

If you’re like me, you find yourself running out of shampoo and deodorant and toothpaste at the worst possible times. So, last year, after one unfortunate day of smelling like my husband’s deodorant all day at work (sorry, honey!) I decided the time had come to build a little stockpile. I did a little research, and decided to become an expert at couponing at CVS!  If you’d like a rundown of qualifications, according to the end-of-year mailer I got for 2014, I was in the top 1% of savers nationwide and got over $2,000 in products for free with savvy coupon use!

So, here’s how it works.

First, you will need to sign up for an ExtraCare Card. It’s free. This card opens up all kinds of savings for you — you can scan it at an in-store kiosk for printable coupons, they will e-mail you additional coupons, and you can earn ExtraCare Bucks (which are essentially CVS gift certificates) for purchasing certain products. And you can combine these all, plus manufacturer coupons, for maximum savings!

Once you have your card, you’ll want to check out the Weekly Ad online to find the best deals. I only purchase items that yield ExtraCare Bucks (ECBs), and then I use those ECBs towards my next purchase. The trick is to do several small transactions and pay for each one with ECBs earned in the preceding transaction.

This is best illustrated by example, so here’s what I bought today, using the CVS ad for the week beginning 3/29/15.

I did this purchase in five separate transactions.

Transaction 1:

Physician’s Formula Concealer Stick: $6.99

Physician’s Formula Eye Shadow Quad: $7.79

Copy of the Kansas City Star, for coupons: $2.00

Total before coupons: $16.78

For this, I used a 20% off my purchase coupon that had been e-mailed to me, plus $5 ECBs from last week.

Total after coupons and tax: $10.22

ExtraBucks earned: $10 (for buying 2 Physician’s Formula cosmetics)

Transaction 2:

See how this works?  I’m going to use the $10 ECBs I earned from transaction 1 to pay for transaction 2… and earn even more ECBs! This is sometimes called “rolling” ECBs.

3 Pantene shampoo/conditioners: $10.00

2 Secret deodorants: $13.49 (on sale, buy 1 get 1 50% off)

2 Crest toothpastes: $5.98 (on sale, buy 1 get 1 50% off)

Total before coupons: $29.47

On this transaction, I used coupons from this week’s paper for $5 off 3 Pantene products, $3 off Secret deodorant, and $1.50 off 2 Crest toothpastes.  I also used a $2 Secret coupon I printed online, plus the $10 ECBs from transaction 1.

Total after coupons and tax: $8.71

ExtraBucks earned: Another $10, for purchasing $30 of P&G products!

Transaction 3:

3 packages of Band-Aids: $10.50

1 Colgate toothbrush: $2.99

Total before coupons: $13.49

This time, I used a $3 off 3 Band-aid products from this week’s paper, plus $10 ECBs from Transaction 2.

Total after coupons and tax: $0.54

ExtraBucks earned: $6.50 ($5 for the Band-aids, $1.50 for the toothbrush)

Transaction 4: 

Arm & Hammer Spinbrush: $5.99

2 CVS toothbrushes (on clearance): $1.28

Total before coupons: $7.27

I used a $.75 off coupon from the newspaper for the Spinbrush, plus my ECBs from Transaction 3.

Total after coupons: $0.02!

ExtraBucks earned: $3.00 for the Spinbrush

Transaction 5:

M&M and Starburst Jellybean eggs: $3.00

Total before coupons: $3.00

Used my ECBs from Transaction 4.

Total after coupons: $0–totally free!

Final total for all 5 transactions: $19.49!  Retail value of everything pictured is $74.79, so I saved 74% today!

I hope that all makes sense!  A few other notes:

  • Make sure to sign up on for their Beauty Club rewards. For every $50 you spend on beauty products (BEFORE coupons are applied!), you get $5 ECBs back.
  • Decide what to be brand loyal to, and what doesn’t matter. Free deodorant isn’t worth it if you still stink, but as far as I’m concerned, all toothbrushes are created equal.
  • I always check the I Heart CVS blog before I go, in case I’ve missed anything in the ad. They post great deals there and links to printable coupons.
  • Have a surplus? Donate! I keep my stockpile contained to two cabinets under my spare bathroom sink. Once it starts looking out of control, I donate to my church’s food pantry. Toiletries and other personal hygiene products are always needed!

We’re all busy — rest assured that the first few trips may seem tricky, but before you know it this will all be second nature.

Happy couponing!

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