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Friday, August 8, 2008

Beginners' Tips for Saving at CVS

My brother just asked me this week how I had gotten almost $120 worth of household and personal items for around $10. I sent him an email giving him the streamlined version of where I started. Here are my recommendations for anyone new to CVS shopping.

Buy at least two newspapers every Sunday. If you get back out to your car and find that there are excellent coupons on things that you need or buy regularly, you may even want to buy another one. I don't buy our local newspaper. I purchase one from the closest big city. They usually have double the coupons!

Clip just about all of the coupons. You never know when something will be on an excellent sale and earn you ECBs. I've pitched coupons that could've gotten me freebies before. I thought that the items would be too expensive, so the coupon wasn't worthwhile. I was wrong! I now clip all of the coupons from the Sunday paper. The only exception would be items like quit-smoking aids. We aren't smokers, so I wouldn't buy these.

Read blogs about CVS deals. My favorite blog is Money Saving Mom. Crystal offers an excellent CVS 101 section here. It explains how the Extra Care Bucks work, and it gives some sample scenarios to get your mind moving in the direction of spending next-to-nothing. I also check IHeartCVS for ad scans and coupon match-ups.

Gather as many coupons as you can. In addition to clipping from the Sunday newspaper, keep your eyes open at the grocery store. You can find the SmartSource coupon dispensers in the aisles. I also use Hot Coupon World's coupon database regularly (free registration required). After I make my weekly grocery list, I check their site. I usually find a coupon or two for an item on my list. I also compare the CVS ad to Hot Coupon World's database to see what I can get even cheaper. I've also checked manufacturers' websites. Many offer coupons if you register with them. I also purchase at least one copy of All You magazine at Wal-Mart each month. If the coupons are really good, I'll buy multiple copies.

Keep a running list of items that you're getting low on. If I know in advance that I'm getting low on shampoo, I have time to find the best deals... or maybe even find shampoo for free! If I use the last drop of shampoo and expect to find a great deal the same day, I'm wasting my time. I may not need anything but shampoo, so I'll spend more in gas money than the shampoo is worth. Planning ahead helps you find the best deals and combine shopping trips. It's also less stressful to simply walk to the cupboard and pull out a new bottle of shampoo when the time comes.

Stock up! There is a fine line between a well-stocked cupboard of the things your family uses and hoarding. We've found that keeping a few bottles of shampoo or two extra bottles of our daughter's vitamins "in stock" is quite sufficient. Stores cycle through their sales, so the great deals will come around again. I've actually seen pictures of people's stockpiles that make me wonder how much shampoo they can possibly use in a year's time! If I find a fabulous deal that gets me items free or almost free, I usually donate what we won't use in a reasonable amount of time. We have a local women's shelter and a local church that runs a "free store" for those who can't afford household and personal items.

Make a master list of the best deals that you find each week. Figure out how putting them into multiple orders might work to your advantage. If you earn $5 ECBs from one order, you can immediately turn around and use it on another order. Most cashiers are happy to split your order for you. I usually stick to splitting into two orders, no more.

Buy just what you'll use or what would make a good donation. I rarely buy items just for ECBs. I try to stick with things that we actually use regularly or items we'd like to try. You can get caught in the trap of spending way to much to earn a few ECBs.

I am so thankful to CVS for running their ECB program. I have save so much money on items that used to cause my Wal-Mart bill to be huge. Now I rarely go to Wal-Mart (yippee!) and I'm saving so much on things that we use regularly!