Monday, January 12, 2009

Centsible Shopping at CVS: Part 3

If you haven't yet read part 1 and part 2, you'll probably want to go ahead and do that so that part 3 will make more sense!
Now let me help you use your coupons in the most effective way.

First of all let me share some resources for coupons.

1. The Sunday paper. If you live in a small town like I do, you may want to consider buying the paper for an adjacent bigger city. The small town papers don't always carry all the coupon inserts, but the bigger cities usually do.

2. Internet coupons. I have never had a problem with CVS accepting coupons printed from the internet. Here is a list of some of the major coupon printing sites:

A lot of times I'll just do a web search for "such-and-such printable coupon". If there is a printable coupon for that product, you will usually find it on the first page of search results. If you don't see it right away, don't waste a lot of time looking for it.

3. In-store. Keep an eye out everywhere you go for coupons! Many items have coupons right on them that you can use. I have also gotten tons of coupons from brochures and pamphlets that I see in stores.

Now, keep in mind that there are manufacturer's coupons and CVS coupons. A manufacturer's coupon (MQ) is put out by the manufacturer, and it will say right on it "Manufacturer's Coupon". A CVS coupon is put out by CVS itself and it will say "CVS Coupon" somewhere on it.

CVS store coupons can also come in your email inbox if you have registered your card on their website. They can be $4 off $20, $3 off $15 type (referred to as $/$$ coupons), they could be for a specific product, or they could be for a specific item, but with a broad range of brands ($4 off any body lotion, for example).

CVS store coupons can also print on the bottom of your receipt (referred to as CRT's, "Cash Register Tape") where your ECB's print.

Now, the great thing about store coupons is that you may use one store coupon and one manufacturer's coupon per item. This is so beneficial! If you were to buy some lotion that was normally $6, and you had a store coupon for $4 off and a MQ for $2 off, the lotion would be free! And it would be even better if it gave back ECB's!

Another coupon trick that some people don't know about is that since you may use one store coupon and one MQ per item, then if something is Buy One Get One Free (BOGO), then you could use a total of four coupons (2 store, 2 MQ). Some other stores will not let you use a coupon on the "free" item, but I have never had a problem with CVS allowing it.

Now, here's the best order in which to hand your coupons to the cashier. First give any $/$$ coupons you have. If you are using a $4 off $20, and you are buying exactly $20 worth, you don't want your other coupons to get scanned first because then your total would be below $20. Make sense? I usually just hold all my coupons and hand the $/$$ first while still holding all the others in my hand. When that one is safely scanned, I hand over my MQ's and CVS store coupons. After those are all scanned, the cashier will tell me my new total, but I will ask what the subtotal is (remember ECB's cannot pay for sales tax). Then I will dig through my stash of ECB's to find the one (or two or three) that most closely match the subtotal. You may use as many different ECB's as you want. Keep in mind, though, that if you give an amount in ECB's that is more than your total, you will not get the rest back; you will forfeit it. After your ECB's are scanned, you should (hopefully) only have to pay a dollar or two (or less) in actual cash.

Something that I find helpful to do sometimes is to not buy a bunch of the same ECB item in one transaction. For instance, if there is toothpaste that is $2.99 giving back $2.99 ECB's with a limit of 5, and if I buy all 5 in one transaction, I will not get back 5 different sets of $2.99 ECB's, I will get back one ECB worth $14.95. It's not always the easiest thing to spend that much in one shot! A lot of times I use so many coupons that my total before I even use my ECB's is only a couple dollars! Not everything that gives back ECB's goes on one, but everything of the same item. So all your toothpaste will go on one ECB, all your razors on another, etc.

All right, who's ready to try and plan a shopping trip to CVS? I don't plan out every little detail of my trip ahead of time because if something I had planned to get is out of stock, then it throws me off kilter, and I have to rework my math! Instead, I get a basic idea of what I would like to get and lay it out something like this: (Please forgive all the space below. It just showed up, and I can't make it go away!)

ItemPrice Coupons I haveECB's I will receive
Toothpaste$2.99$1.00 x2$2.99

If I am trying to work my way to $15 so I can use a $3/$15, then I can just browse through the price column, and throw in stuff until I get to $15. In the example above, if I found 2 of the toothpastes, and the razor, I could do a quick calculation: Total before coupons:$15.97. Total after coupons (including $3/$15): $6.97. ECB's I'll get back: $11.98. I try not to do a deal unless I either break even or come out with more ECB's than when I started. So, this one will work! If there was something I needed, I would be able to spend $5.01 on whatever it is that I need, and still break even!

Okay, so have I answered all your questions? If so, then go out there and get started on those deals! If not, please let me know, and I will do my best to answer any questions you still have.

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