If you’re just tuning in, I’m mentoring Hayden in The Drugstore Game. If you’ve always wanted to play but weren’t sure how to get started, follow along with Hayden as he becomes a Drugstore Game Master. You can read all of the posts in this series here, in reverse chronological order. Please read my Drugstore Game Primer and Common Sense with Money’s FAQ to get an overview of the Drugstore Game and definitions.
Hayden’s got the week off from school, meaning he can make multiple visits to the stores. He is super excited to have discovered how cheaply he can buy things he used to pay so much more for at Target or Walmart. I remember that feeling – just the other day, I made a comment about how I used to think $1 was a good price for Kleenex at Ralphs (because they’d double the 50 cents/3 coupon). And just look – last week, I got six boxes of Kleenex plus a bunch of other stuff for $5 out of pocket.
But back to Hayden. He took the scenario I’d suggested, but couldn’t find any Sobe so he bought a Green Tag instead. (Those are the leaf-shaped tags you attach to your reusable bag and have scanned each trip. After four trips, you’ll get a $1 ECB.) Here’s how it went:
1 Aussie Volume Shampoo $2.99-1.00 coupon from 2/14 RP = 1.99 (get $2 ECBs)
1 Colgate Total Advance $2.99 – 0.50 coupon from 1/31 SS = 2.49 (get $2 ECBs)
1 Crest Pro Health Enamel Rinse $3.49 – 2.00 coupon from 2/7 P&G = 1.49 (get $3.50 ECBs)
1 Green Tag 99 cents
Used ECBs: $6.00
Received ECBs: $7.50
Note: I always find the “savings” total on receipts to be incredibly deceptive, because they take the discount off regular price into account. And even before I started playing The Drugstore Game, I never would have paid a drugstore’s full price for a bottle of shampoo or anything else – so for me, at least, those “savings” aren’t really my savings. However, I must admit that I do get a kick out of seeing the number anyway, especially when it works out to 90%+ savings.
Hayden also headed to Walgreens and used his $6 Register Rewards to buy some deodorant:
Dove Men Degree Deodorant: 2.49/each x 2 with in-ad coupon
3 3 Musketeers Bars 3/$2
Used 6.00 RR
CA Tax: $.44
Paid: $1.42 cash
He should have gotten a $1 RR for buying the candy bars, but it didn’t print. I would give this store one or two more chances, but if he consistently has problems with getting RR’s, I would recommend he switch to another store.
Hayden also headed to Rite Aid and transferred a couple of prescriptions. There are $25 gift cards for transferred prescriptions in this week’s Rite Aid circular, and those gift cards will really help offset the out of pocket costs that are always higher at Rite Aid because of the delayed nature of the Single Check Rebate program.
One thing Hayden and I have discussed in our emails is the thrill of the deal and how it’s hard not to buy something right now just because it’s so much less than he’s used to spending. Here’s a bit of our exchange – the first part is from me:
One thing I’m sensing is that you’re impatient to get the deals, which I totally understand. It’s addicting and I was shopping like mad when I first started The Drugstore Game too. But I would caution you that patience really pays off and helps you get the best deals. You have to find a balance between buying what you need and stockpiling so that you can get the very best price on everything. For example, I never pay for toothpaste anymore – I only buy it if it’s free or a moneymaker. The same goes for deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, razors, body wash – unless you’re brand loyal, you should never have to pay for these items.
I would encourage you to start a price book if you don’t have one already. Mine really helps me keep my enthusiasm for sale items in check. Today, for example, I saw All detergent on clearance at Target, so it was tempting to get them but at $3+ after coupon it just wasn’t a great deal because I know my stock-up price is $2 or less per bottle.
Hayden responded that he keeps all his receipts and can easily put together a price book. I recommended that he read my most recent post about price books, and use NCN’s price book template. He also said:
I never knew how easy it could be to get everything for free so I’m still okay with paying a bit for it but I’ll try and limit costs even more. I have been brand-loyal with a few things, so right now me and my family are okay with trying new things to limit costs. Me and my dad are pretty flexible with what we use, but my sister and mother are more brand-loyal than were are.
I’m okay with paying a little bit for things right now to see what other brands I like because even paying a few dollars for something is still saving me money from me being too brand loyal and buying things not on sale.
Hayden’s perspective is really bringing me back to when I first started playing The Drugstore Game. It’s so counterintuitive that you can get so much for so little, or even free, and you figure you’re saving money anyway. Which you are, compared to what you used to spend.
As I told Hayden, he needs to do what feels right for him and his family, so if he’s not going to go for the absolute minimum out of pocket, that’s fine. But I’d bet that once he gets used to seeing free toothpaste, razors, shampoo, etc., week after week, he won’t want to pay for it either