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  • Meet Chief Family Officer’s New Drugstore Game Padawan: Hayden from California

    Thank you to everyone who applied to be the next Drugstore Game padawan. It was even tougher to make a selection this time around, but I had to. And I hope that everyone who wasn’t selected will still find this series helpful.

    I’m happy to introduce our new Drugstore Game Padawan, Hayden. I asked him to tell us a little about himself, and here’s what he said:

    My name is Hayden and I’m 18, male, and a high school senior. I plan to attend college this fall and will likely move out of my house this year or the next. I have taken on the responsibility of purchasing various household products for my family because my parents feel that finding ways to save money in the future is not only practicable but necessary.

    I simply couldn’t pass up the chance to help someone so young develop smart shopping habits!

    Like me, Hayden lives in Southern California and has good access to all three major drugstores. He doesn’t have a big coupon stash, but has ready access to printable coupons. We’ll be back soon with his first transactions!

    Drugstore Game Padawan Update: Last words from Nicole

    If you’re just tuning in, I’m mentoring Nicole in The Drugstore Game. If you’ve always wanted to play but weren’t sure how to get started, follow along with Nicole as she 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.

    I had an absolute blast working with Nicole, and I’m so impressed at how she caught on to The Drugstore Game so quickly. She’s graduated to Drugstore Game Master status, and I’ll be introducing our new Padawan very soon. But before we say good-bye to Nicole, I asked her to share a few tips she picked up. Here’s what she had to say:

    1. Shop early in the week. It’s no fun to have an AWESOME transaction planned, only to have that transaction AND an alternate foiled by the other TDGers out there.

    2. Be brand flexible. I know that there are some things out there that we won’t budge on–for us, it’s our contact solution. For others, it’s toilet paper, or toothpaste. The key to really succeeding at TDG is allowing yourself to try new products. After all, if you’re not paying for them, what’s the harm in it.

    3. Check out the deals that are available ahead of time. There are great resources out there–blogs that publish coupon lists ahead of time, I Heart Wags and I Heart CVS. [CFO note: And I Heart Rite Aid.]

    To anyone that is just getting started, start small. My first transactions were bitty–Moneymakers that gave me 2 RR’s, but from those 2 RR’s, you can grow an entire week of deals, if you plan things right.

    Other than that, have fun with what you’re doing! Even if you have to change a transaction in the store, seeing the difference in what your OOP [out of pocket] cost should have been, and what it actually was is amazing.

    Thanks again, Nicole – and continued Happy Shopping!

    The Quest for a new Drugstore Game Padawan is on

    As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Nicole has done amazingly well as Chief Family Officer’s first Drugstore Game Padawan.* She’s done so well that we both agree she’s just about a master already.

    So, I’m looking for a new Padawan. Since we focused on Walgreens and CVS with Nicole, I’d like our next Padawan to have access to Rite Aid, as well as one of the other two drugstores.

    To qualify for consideration as my Padawan, you must:

    • Have weekly access to Rite Aid, as well as either CVS or Walgreens.
    • Commit to acquiring at least one copy of the coupon inserts from Sunday’s newspaper every week, whether it’s by purchasing a paper or getting them from a friend or some other means.
    • Be able to print coupons from major sites like, SmartSource, and RedPlum.
    • Have read The Drugstore Game Primer, as well as Common Sense with Money’s FAQ.
    • Be willing to have our email exchanges published here at CFO, to help other readers. (Your name will remain private, if you wish.)

    Naturally, I make no promises regarding what you’ll learn, what you’ll be able to buy, what you’ll spend, or what you’ll save. But if my own experience is any indication, you’ll have fun saving money on things you and your family need. And my hope is that by following along with someone as they start out in the Drugstore Game, other readers will benefit too.

    So . . . if you meet all of the requirements above and are interested in mastering The Drugstore Game, fill out this form by 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 6.

    *Padawan = Jedi Apprentice (my boys are obsessed with Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

    Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate and/or referral links, and may refer to items that were sent to me for review. However, all opinions are my own. You can read Chief Family Officer’s full disclaimer and disclosure policy here.

    Drugstore Game Padawan Update: The Important of a Price Book

    If you’re just tuning in, I’m mentoring Nicole in The Drugstore Game. If you’ve always wanted to play but weren’t sure how to get started, follow along with Nicole as she 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.

    A price book is simply a list of the price per unit of items you use regularly. For instance, my price book has an entry for trash bags, and shows that last May, I bought a box of 45 bags at Pavilions for $5.99, using a $1 off coupon during a “get a $10 catalina coupon for a future purchase when you buy $30 of qualifying products” promotion. So after the $10 catalina, which was basically a 33% off discount, the box of trash bags was $4.01. After the $1 coupon, I paid $3.01 for 45 bags, or 6.7 cents per bag.

    That price is now my target price for trash bags, and since I bought approximately twelve boxes last May, I’ve only bought trash bags since then if they cost less than 6.7 cents per bag. (Which has only happened twice.)

    I’ve previously written a more detailed explanation about price books, and reiterated their importance. But I’m not sure that I can emphasize the value of a price book enough.

    This week’s Drugstore Game Padawan planning is a good example. Nicole has expressed interest in the Fiber One and Revlon deals. The Fiber One deal is for a double pack of bars: buy a bonus pack for $6.99 and get $3 ECBs. The Revlon deal is buy $15 worth of cosmetics and get $7 ECBs.
    Both deals will cost money, because there’s no $/$$ coupon, like the $5 off $20 purchase coupon that was available for a short time last week. So then the question becomes, are the items worth the money?

    The only way to know for sure if something is a great deal is by keeping a price book.

    I know, based on past experience, that it’s possible to get Fiber One bars for $1 or less per box of 5 at the grocery store, by combining sales and coupons. The picture of the bars in the ad is fuzzy, but it looks like two boxes of 5 bars for a total “cost” of $3.99. There was a 40 cents/1 coupon in the 1/3 GM, which would bring the cost down to $3.59, or $1.80 per box.

    If Nicole wants those bars right away, and there isn’t a better sale going on right now, then she may want to spend $1.80 per box. But, knowing that a better deal may be right around the corner, she may decide to wait.

    Unfortunately, I can’t help her with the Revlon deal because I don’t know much about makeup. I have no idea if the deal is a good one or not, or if there are often better sales.

    And that’s something everyone has to deal with when they first start playing The Drugstore Game or pursuing any kind of deal regularly. It’s impossible to know if a price is low without comparing it to another price. And the only way to know more than one price is to look around.

    I created my first price book in 2001, and after I had my target prices memorized, I abandoned it. Two years ago, when prices on many items were rising, I went back to basics and started a new price book (click through to see how I minimized the work).

    It may take some time to create a price book, but you’ll save a lot of money by having one.

    Note: An anonymous commenter kindly pointed out that the Target web site has a manufacturer’s coupon for $1/1 Almay, to go with the scenario I posted yesterday. And Adrienne, who works at CVS, kindly reported that the Bonus ECB UPC code only has to be scanned once during the promo period – but get it scanned as soon as possible, because the bonus will not be applied retroactively.

    Drugstore Game Update: More free SoyJoy and Oust for me

    Before I get into the details of my deal, I wanted to say that I’ve been blown away by the popularity of The Drugstore Game Padawan series. I’m gratified that so many of you are finding it helpful to follow along, which is how I’d hoped it would be. At the same time, I know quite a few people are coming in after the series has already started (thanks, Consumerist!), and that even though we’re only a couple of weeks in, it can already be confusing.

    So I’ve decided that once Nicole’s got a good grasp on the game (I don’t think that will take more than a month as she’s already doing so well), I’ll find a new Padawan and we’ll start over. That way, anyone who’s feeling overwhelmed at the thought of jumping in now just has to wait a few weeks.

    In the meantime, I’d recommend continuing to follow CFO and other deal blogs because even if you don’t grasp all the details, just being familiar with the cadence of things can make it easier when you’re ready to start doing deals yourself. And before anyone asks, previously submitted padawan applications will be considered again, and new applications will be accepted in a couple of weeks – I’ll post details when I have a better idea of the timing of things. I do know that I’ll be giving priority to applicants with access to Rite Aid, since we’re not doing Rite Aid this time around. Stay tuned!

    And now, back to the current Drugstore Game deals . . .

    Nicole’s snowed iced in, so she stayed home today, postponing her CVS trip until tomorrow. We’ve been getting an awful lot of rain here in LA, but I’ll take a thunderstorm and tornados on the coast over an ice storm any day. Although, on my way to work this morning, I looked in the rear view mirror and watched a black Mercedes spin all the way from the right lane over to the left, passing in front of a big rig and other cars. I waited for it to slam into the center divider, but the car actually stopped right next to the wall, facing the right direction. The driver’s got to be a stunt person in Hollywood. The whole sequence could have been right out of a movie!

    Because of the weather, I decided to postpone my own CVS trip until tomorrow also. I plan to get more SoyJoy and Oust, and I have $12 in ECBs from my last transaction to spend. The B1G1 Oust coupon means that I will need to buy an additional $2.01 worth of items to be able to use all of my ECBs – basically, the coupon and ECBs give me “free money” to spend on something I can really use. So this is my plan:

    1 SoyJoy 6-pack $6
    2 Oust $3.99 each
    2 Chicken of the Sea tuna pouches $1 each
    1 Dawn Hand Renewal dish soap 96 cents

    – $3.99 B1G1 Oust
    – 50 cents/1 Dawn from 12/27 or 1/17 P&G
    – $6 + $6 ECBs

    Pay: 45 cents + tax
    Receive: $6 ECB for SoyJoy and $6 ECB for Oust ($3 each)

    It’s worth noting that before I do this transaction, I will pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, using a Target coupon for a $10 gift card with a new or transferred prescription. The pharmacy at CVS accepts competitor pharmacy coupons, and I can make $10 stretch a lot further at CVS than at Target, so I try to fill as many prescriptions at CVS as possible. I’ve even gotten them to accept a competitor’s transferred prescription coupon for not transferring my prescription away.

    So I’ll pay for this transaction with my gift card, meaning it will all be truly free, plus I can repeat the transaction two more times as long as the Oust is tabulated under the Glade deal this week! (Thanks to an anonymous reader, who reported that the limit on the SoyJoy, Oust and Glade is 6 each.)