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Couponing 101: Part 4 - Unlocking CVS

The secrets behind CVS.

When I first started couponing 4 years ago, I began with one store. CVS. I was looking for a way to save money on essentials and on a family finances forum people were talking about getting toothpaste and deodorant for free - I was like, "WHAT?!" How is this even possible? And I decided to find out.

Here is what I learned:

Get a card. It's free, and it's the only way you can get the deals at this store. All of your Extra Care Bucks are tied to your card only. (more on this later) You can pick one up in the store (I recommend this one, it's faster), or sign up online HERE. The cashier will need to scan your card at the beginning of every transaction.

Start earning Extra Care Bucks. (ECB's) Look in the ad or check out a blog (like mine!) Until you find a Buy X and get X ECB's! ECB's are like cash, so don't throw them away!!

In this case, you would buy the shaving cream for $3.29, and you will earn $2.30 in ECB's. It's in-store money that prints at the end of your receipt like this:

THEN, you will take your $2.30 in ECB's and go "buy" something ELSE that earns ECB's. That is called "rolling" your ECB's.  Example:

You would buy this lightbulb for $2.99. Use the $2.30 in ECB's to pay, and your total is now down to .69. Pay the .69 out of change in your purse and earn another $2 ECB. You just bought that lightbulb for .69, and you still have $2 of "store money" left.
~you cannot get change back when you spend your ECB's. They CAN be entered for less than the face value, however. You are buying $5 of something and you have a $10 ECB. The cashier can enter it in for $5 and you will lose the rest of it. That's why we always try to spend as close to the face value as we can!

~ECB's can be used to buy ANYTHING in the store except prescriptions, alcohol, tobacco, gift cards, and stamps.

~ These expire 4 weeks from the date of receiving it. The expiration date is displayed on the ECB.

~The amount you have to spend to get your ECB's is calculated before coupons.

~If there is a promotion that is "Spend $20 on X and get $10 in ECB" you do not have to purchase all the items in one transaction or even in one store. A tally will be keeping track at the bottom of your receipt.

Use coupons to build your ECB's. CVS accepts all manufacturer coupons and they even accept their own store "coupons" (different from ECB's). These coupons will print at the coupon machine where you can scan your card,

or at the bottom of your receipt where the ECB's will be. They are called "cash register tape" (CRT) ECB's and CRT's are both connected to your card and can not be used by anyone else. 
CVS allows one manufacturer coupon and 1 CRT coupon per item. ECB's are not counted as a coupon in that sense so you can use as many as you like at one time. You are buying one $40 item and use 15 different ECB's? It works perfectly!

Now, since your goal is to build your ECB's so you can "roll" then from deal to deal, when you first start doing it you will be looking for "moneymakers".  Example:

The above eye drops are FREE after ECB's. Now there happens to be a $1 coupon from the 4/3 newspaper. You will use a $1 coupon, pay $6.99, and get $7.99 ECB back. You just MADE $1! 

This type of transaction is called a moneymaker and you will use these to earn yourself up to 20-30 ECB. If you have around $20 in ECB, you can always "roll" the free deals. Use your ECB's to pay the cashier and earn more ECB's to use next time. 

And THAT's how you get stuff for free at CVS.


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