For months I've seen posts here and there about CVS and ECBs and getting stuff for free. I finally did some research on different blogs to try and get some background information before I tried it because one, it seemed a little confusing, and two, it looked like it might take more work than it was worth.
Of course you do have to have the CVS Extra Care Card to start with, but it's free and you don't have to jump through any loopholes to get one. Then one of the main things I read was that you initially need to buy a few things that give you ECBs (Extra Care Bucks) back. I'll vouch for that.
Another thing that people said was that they had to split up their transactions when they were using their ECBs. (When you earn them they print at the bottom of your receipt, and each different promotion prints out separately. So if you earn 3 ECBs for buying a certain shampoo and 2 ECBs for buying deodorant, you will have two different coupons print at the bottom.) I think every other person I read about could only use one ECB coupon per transaction. I have been fortunate and every CVS I have gone to lets me use all mine in one transaction. I can't imagine trying to split up my items to use five different ECBs. That would get cumbersome. (ECBs usually have an expiration date one month out.)
When you are purchasing items at CVS, even if you earn ECBs you can still use manufacturer coupons. For example, last week I bought a tube of toothpaste that was on sale for $2.99 and I earned 2 ECBs. I also had a manufacturer's coupon for $1, so in effect I made one cent. If that was the only thing I had purchased that day and I'd had a 2 ECB coupon from a previous week or earlier in the week from a different promotion, I could have walked out paying nothing and still earned the 2 ECBs to use later.
You can never get cash back on your ECBs, so you must use them all or you forfeit them, so add in a candy bar or something (although I've not come close yet). Also, most of the promotions are limited so pay close attention to the sales flyer. It will also print on your receipt that you have reached certain offer limits, or that you have so much to go to meet the offer.
Also check your receipt closely. In four weeks I've already had a couple of mistakes that I've had to have corrected. The first week I purchased something that had the sign under showing it was part of the ECB sale, but it didn't ring up that way. I didn't realize it until I was home, and it was excluded in the sale flyer. I just returned the items for credit the next week. Then last week I had a similar thing happen, but since I caught it in the store they went ahead and gave me the sale price and my ECBs. This time it was not something that was specifically excluded.
One thing I've done is only purchased items our family will use. I've made a point not to buy something just because it has ECBs associated with it. I also make sure the items are cost effective compared to how much I would normally pay, otherwise it defeats the purpose. So how have I done? If you're still with me, here's how it's panned out so far The first week I spent $19.99 after coupons and earned 9 ECBs.
The second week I spent $10.96 after manufacturer coupons and the 9 ECBs. I earned 7 ECBs.
The third week I spent $26.95 after manufacturer coupons and the 7 ECBs. I earned 13 ECBs.
The fourth week (this week) I spent $35.98 after using manufacturer coupons and the 13 ECBs. I earned 25 ECBs.
So altogether in four weeks I've spent $93.88 and have 25 ECBs to use next week. What do I have to show for it Two bottles of my mousse three bottles of Tide 16 big roll pack of Charmin Ultra Soft Gillette Fusion Razor Vaseline Sheer Infusion Lotion Four bags of Dove Chocolate (hey, don't judge me) 8 ct. Schick disposable razors the girls use (I think there were two bonus razors in it also) three bottles of shampoo Buddy uses (two of them had 33% more in them) two gallons of milk one bottle of shampoo Hubby uses Colgate Total three packages of Extra gum (Sparky) two extra large packages of Orbit (Sparky) some candy (I'm not even telling) two deodorants (boys) Crest Aquafresh two toothbrushes
I'm pleased so far, especially considering I got some chocolate out of it!
I usually sit down on Sunday after I get the paper and go through the ad and my coupons. Obviously the things that give you the most ECBs would be the ones you would like to buy, but if it's something you don't use or you have to spend a lot of money to get them, it doesn't make it worth it. I have found that going in the store with not only the ad but also a list of what I would like to buy is very helpful. On my list I usually put the specifics of the ad and purchase requirements, and then I have the ad if I need to refer back to it. It makes the trip through the store go a lot faster.
This site has advance notice of future CVS ads and lots of CVS information. Sometimes I'll get my CVS shopping list ready ahead of time from here.
So, do you CVS? Has the thought crossed your mind? Too complicated? None near you? Not worth the trouble? I'm sticking with it for a while because I'm definitely not spending more than I would somewhere else and eventually I might build up enough ECBs to do what other people do — walk out paying nothing.