Thursday, May 1, 2008

CVS shopping made easy

Yes, shopping CVS does require planning. Yes, it does involve clipping coupons. And yes it will require going to the store more than once in a week.

But, it doesn't have to take over your life. It's taken me a few months, but I've finally found a system that makes sense to me and requires little effort.

I plan my trips 5 times a month. Every Monday morning I scan my favorite frugal blogs to get updated on the week's sales. I print off a copy and highlight items of interest to me. At the beginning of each month an huge list of CVS monthly sales is published. These are helpful to add to the weekly shopping lists and earn more Extra Care Bucks (ECB).

Later I spend about 10 minutes locating coupons to be clipped or printing them off the links provided on my favorite frugal blogs. I normally only need to go to CVS twice a week. Thankfully there are two within a mile of our home so it's easy to pop in quickly here and there.

Right now my goal is to spend as close to $15 as possible. Why? Because there is a $3/15 coupon that is good until the end of June that I will be using. I put this coupon in my wallet and pretend it's money.

Next, I collect my ECB. These come in different amounts, so I'm going to be looking for some combination of $12-15 of ECB to put in my wallet and pretend it's money. Now I have $15-18 in my wallet to spend.

Now, I'm going to look at my list of possible items to purchase and figure out which ones add up to roughly $15. Normally the prices are listed, if they are not I just give it my best guess.

Once I've decided on my items I take any coupons that I have for these and put them in my wallet and pretend those are money, too. Now I might have something like $21 in my wallet.

When I go to CVS I don't have to think. I have my list. I have my $21 and I shop. This is how I am able to pick up diapers, wipes, diet coke, or products that will earn more ECB for very little out of pocket. I try to earn back at least half of my ECB with each trip I make.

Aren't I buying things I won't need? Well, yes and no. It depends on how you look at it. I don't buy things simply to store them. Each item will be used, sold at the garage sale or given away.

The only tricky part comes when one of the items on my list is not in stock. This happens all the time. But, since I've already planned out my other shopping scenarios there is likely an item on my other list that is about the same price and I could substitute. I just need to exchange out coupons and recount what is in my wallet. Or there is a monthly free item that I can pick up in its place.

Confused? Here's what I did this week.

I purchase these items for $4.43, earned $10.49 in ECB and have an $8 rebate on the way.

My list of things I needed:
Dish Soap
Laundry Detergent

Deals that looked profitable:
Beauty Products
Hair Coloring

Trip #1

2 dish soaps (buy one get one free)
2 laundry soaps (buy one get one free)
Diapers $10.99 sale
2 Beauty Products (buy one get one 50% off)

In my wallet about $22
$3 off $15
$.40 dish soap coupon
$1.00 All coupon
$.50 All coupon
$17 ECB

Spent $3.63 Out of Pocket Earned $5 Extra Care Bucks from Beauty Products

Trip # 2

Wipes $4.00 Clearance
Razor $5.99
Hair Coloring $7.99

In my wallet:
$3/15 coupon
$2 Razor coupon
$2 hair coloring coupon
$10.49 ECB

Spent $.80 out of pocket Earned $10.99 in ECB

(I know the men' hair coloring kit may seem strange, but there is a $8.00 mail in rebate and I know that some old man will pick it up for $2 at a garage sale next fall. Couldn't pass it up.)

I did both of my trips in about 20 minutes at two different CVS stores on my way to exercise Monday night.

Does this sound like more than you're able to do right now? Every month CVS has items that are free after Extra Care Bucks with a limit of five. In May toothpaste, toothbrushes, Tums, allergy medication, and antiperspirant are on the list for FREE! Pick up what you need now and pay the upfront cost. There are several coupons out available which would save you. Return later in the month with your ECBs before they expires to restock or buy something else you might need. Then you'll have ECB for June to pick up different Free items.

If you were able to save $25 a month just by using Monthly ECB deals, you would be putting $300 a year back into your budget. Think about all the gas you could by with that amount. Okay, don't answer that.

That's how it works. Clear as mud, right? Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions or tips you may have.


Sniz said...

Monica, how can it realy be easy? It IS clear as mud to me! :-)
I decided to go with the brown trim (the one you liked) but they don't have enough in Avon, so I have to drive all the way down to Greenwood o get it. Anyway, I'm almost done with the big panels (there are four) and then I will start on the french door and window above the sink this weekend.

Yeah, I'll post pictures. We're not going to paint until everything is ready to install and put up all at once.

See you soon! Sniz

Monica said...

Great post! You did a great job explaining what is a bit complex at first. CVSing has helped my family budget a lot! I started very small and after a few months have learned to work in all kinds of necessities. Sharing about your budget and shopping is very encouraging, keep up the good work!

Tisha said...

You did a great job explaining it! I am so excited for the May deals! :) I also started doing Walgreens this month. We'll see how that goes. Our neighborhood is having a garage sale on the 31st, so I am planning on putting some things in there. Have a great weekend and hopefully we'll see you on Monday.

eally said...

I LOVE CVS and am constantly amazed at how much of my everyday stuff I can get from there. My husband has finally become completely converted to CVS now and won't purchase ANYTHING anywhere without first asking me to check for it at CVS or Walgreen's first! LOL I Praise GOD for this. Great job on your CVS savings!

Sarah said...

YOu do make it sound easy. Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed guide.

Tiffany Ludwig said...

This was very helpful for me. I hate to admit it, but the whole CVS ECB thing kind of intimidates me. It seems like you have to practice at it before you can become one of those professionals. But your post is encouraging, and I think maybe I am going to practice some more, so I can be a professional, too. Thanks so much. ;)

Sarah said...

Where do you get the 3/15 coupon? I've looked on line and can't seem to find anything.