WHAT'S HOT RIGHT NOW:

  • Check out Chief Family Officer's Thanksgiving Pinterest board for delicious recipes, fun crafts, and more!
  • Recently read and enjoyed: The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin
  • Enter for a chance to win another Starbucks gift card!


  • Search Results for: label/Drugstore Game

    The Drugstore Game: A Primer

    FacebookTwitterPinterest

    *NEW* Subscribe to Chief Family Officer via RSS or email & get access to my e-book, The Drugstore Game 101: Everything You Need To Know To Save On Your Everyday Needs. Facebook fans get access to my Top 10 Tips for Playing The Drugstore Game.

    Updated 1/3/2010

    I wrote my original introduction to The Drugstore Game six months ago, when I first started playing. I even wrote a rather controversial guest post about the game at Get Rich Slowly. But I’ve learned so much since then that I thought it was time for a new introductory post.

    As background, let me say that I shop at the three biggest drugstore chains: CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. I save about $200-300 per month over what I would have paid at Target’s best price (i.e., with sales and coupons). My personal policy now is to not pay for shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, and dishwashing soap, unless my favorite version is on steep sale or I need a very specific version. I also save on necessities like paper goods, baby items, over the counter medication, and food. If you want to do the same, here’s how you can get started:

    First, you need to understand how store coupons and manufacturer coupons work together. Coupons that come with the Sunday newspaper are most commonly manufacturer coupons that can be used at any store that takes coupons. Manufacturer coupons can usually be combined with a store coupon, which is a coupon that is put out by the store. For example, if you have a $1 off Pantene manufacturer coupon and a $1 off Pantene CVS coupon, you can use both coupons at CVS to get $2 off a bottle of shampoo.

    The next thing you need to understand is how the various store rewards and rebate programs work. Each major drugstore has its own program and each is a little different. For example, CVS has the ExtraCare program – Extra Bucks (also known as ExtraCare Bucks, or ECBs) are coupons that print at the end of your receipt after qualifying purchases. ECBs can be used like cash on future purchases, and expire a month after printing.

    Walgreens has a program that’s somewhat similar to the ExtraCare program called Register Rewards, which are coupons that print out after you make a qualifying purchase. Register Rewards (RRs) usually expire two weeks after printing, although that occasionally varies if there’s a special promotion.

    Rite Aid has the Single Check Rebate program. Each month, Rite Aid puts out a rebate booklet that lists that month’s offers. Make your qualifying purchases, enter your information online, and request your monthly check.

    The key to success and big savings in The Drugstore Game is understanding how coupons and rewards programs work together. This can be tricky, but it is absolutely worth mastering. For example, last week, CVS offered a Sunday-and-Monday only deal of free-after-ECB L’Oreal Revitalift Anti-Wrinkle Serum. If you paid $11.99, you got $11.99 back in ECBs. But wait! If you used a $2 off $10 purchase coupon that was available online last month, and a $3 off L’Oreal Revitalift Anti-Wrinkle product coupon from a previous Sunday newspaper, you’d only pay $6.99 and still get $11.99 back in ECBs. In other words, you’d “make” $5 to spend at CVS on things you’d be buying anyway, like food or diapers or toilet paper.

    In order to play The Drugstore Game at a high level, you need a game plan before you head out the door. The key to a good game plan is good sources of information. You could sit at home poring over the weekly and monthly drugstore circulars, or you could simply visit the sites that do all the math for you.

    I rely on some fabulous blogs and forums that put together lists of the weekly deals, lists of items that are free after coupon and/or sale, and scenarios to help get the most bang for your buck. These sites were especially helpful to me when I first started playing The Drugstore Game and didn’t quite understand all of the in’s and out’s of the game. The following list is hardly exclusive, but will be tremendously helpful if you’re just getting started:

    You’ll see lots of abbreviations and acronyms – check out Common Sense with Money’s FAQ for definitions of the common ones. Finally, let me offer a few suggestions to help you get started:

    Pick a week and start on Sunday. Better yet, buy an early edition of the Sunday paper and start on Saturday. (I can always find weekend editions of the Los Angeles Times with all of the circulars and coupon inserts on Saturday at supermarkets and select drugstores.)

    Get organized. At the beginning, you may find it easiest to clip every coupon and file them in a multi-pocket folder, shoebox or plastic container, although some people really like to use a binder and still others use hanging folders. I’m still working on my own coupon organization system, so I’m not the best person to give advice in this area. Eventually, you’ll figure out what works for you.

    Check out the sites listed above and decide what you would like to buy. Create your scenarios and write them down, including the coupons you plan to use. Create some alternative scenarios as well, in case some of the items are out of stock. This does take some time at the beginning, but trust me, it’ll take a lot less time once you get the hang of it.

    Before you leave the house, make sure you have your coupons and scenarios. I like to bring all of my coupons since I never know when I might spot an unadvertised or clearance deal that I can’t pass up. I also recommend bringing a calculator in case you have to re-work some of your deals (I use the calculator function of my cell phone all the time), and the weekly and monthly circulars. (If you forget the circulars or don’t have them yet, you should be able to pick them up at the front of the store.) The circulars are handy because stores don’t always mark the shelves properly, and sometimes the only way to tell which item qualifies for a deal is to check the printed circular.

    One final word of advice: Sometimes using a lot of coupons can create problems with the registers, which are programmed in a certain way. And sometimes cashiers and managers have attitude problems with customers using coupons. Even if there’s no excuse for the treatment you’re getting when you’re checking out, please try to always remain polite and courteous. It’s good for all Drugstore Game players if the stores think of us as their best customers!

    You can read all of my posts on The Drugstore Game here and here. For a simple example of how The Drugstore Game can work, check out this post at I heart Wags, and then read the explanation.

    More proof that playing the Drugstore Game pays off

    FacebookTwitterPinterest

    Last Monday, I calculated that I’ve saved $50 in two months by playing The Drugstore Game, but Gina from Mommy Making Money commented that the $80 I spent was still a lot of money compared to what Drugstore Game experts spend (like herself, although she’s too modest to say that!).

    She’s right, of course. The experts spend maybe $2 per week to keep their families stocked on toiletries, paper goods and even food. They do this by rolling store coupons, even if it means they don’t need what they buy.

    I finally got a taste of how to do it right on Friday, when a trip to CVS resulted in $1.81 out of pocket to go home with an eight-pack of Bounty Basic paper towels, a Venus Embrace razor, and a tube of Aquafresh toothpaste. But the important thing was that I spent $7.98 in ECBs and received $7.99 in ECBs back. It was the first time I felt like I’d really played the game well, although I’m not convinced I’ll be able to replicate the experience.

    On Saturday, I headed to Walgreens with three transactions planned out. You can read about all the details here. I had a $10 Register Rewards coupon from a previous purchase (which had cost me about $7 out of pocket for five tubes of toothpaste, two small boxes of aluminum foil, and a small bottle of Dawn). After four transactions, I had spent $9.78 and left with:

    • five tubes of toothpaste
    • three bottles of Cascade dishwashing detergent
    • a box of two Mr. Clean Magic Erasers
    • two boxes of 3-oz. paper cups
    • a Venus Embrace razor
    • a tube of Blistex
    • an Oral B Cross Action toothbrush
    • four cans of Spaghetti O’s
    • three cans of Campbells condensed soup
    • one can of tomato paste
    • and one box of cereal

    I bought all of the food with a $10 Register Rewards coupon that printed out after the third transaction and donated the food to Saturday’s Stamp Out Hunger food drive. I will also get $4.99 back for the toothbrush purchase, since it is free after rebate this month. (Actually, I’ll get $5.49 back because Walgreens adds 10% when you get your rebate on a Walgreens giftcard.)

    This week was the first time I used the Register Rewards at Walgreens, and it was particularly successful because I picked up a lot of things that I will use for a super low price. By combining coupons and store rewards, I stocked up on many things that my family will use. And I picked up some things that I can donate.

    I’m not sure that I can recreate this success every week, but I’m loving all the savings right now!

    If you’d like to learn more about how to play The Drugstore Game, read my introductory post. Then head over to CFO Reviews, where I’ve been posting about my Drugstore Game experiences and today am sharing my sources for finding the best deals.

    P.S. This was the best week for Register Rewards at Walgreens since I started playing the Drugstore Game a couple of months ago. But while my Walgreens purchases were a bit out of the norm, the fact remains that it is completely possible to pay less than $5 each week (and often more like $2) out of pocket to keep your family stocked up on necessities.

    How I’ve been faring in the Drugstore Game

    FacebookTwitterPinterest

    I haven’t wanted to clutter CFO with the details of my drugstore transactions, but I’ve been writing quite a bit about it over at CFO Reviews. Ever since I crunched the numbers and confirmed that I’m saving money by playing The Drugstore Game, I’ve been determined to save even more. I know it’s possible – I read about it all the time.

    You can read about my recent plays in the Drugstore Game at CFO Reviews by clicking on the label, DRUGSTORE GAME.

    Welcome Alpha Consumer readers!

    FacebookTwitterPinterest

    A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Kimberly of the U.S. News Alpha Consumer blog. The podcast is now available if you’re curious about what I sound like. You’ll also learn how I got started blogging and some of my best money-saving tips (although if you’re a regular reader, you already know those!).

    If you’ve found Chief Family Officer for the first time via Alpha Consumer, WELCOME! My favorite topics to discuss are family finances, cooking, and parenting. With prices on the rise lately, I’ve been working hard to keep my family’s expenses from rising along with them. I share my tips here at CFO, along with recipes, reviews, and lately, my foray into Weight Watchers.

    If you’re interested in reading more about The Drugstore Game, which Kimberly and I discussed, you may want to read some of my recent posts on the topic. You can also read about the details of some of my transactions and pick up a few tips on playing the game over at my other blog, CFO Reviews.

    And if that’s not enough to keep you busy, you can check out the Best of CFO.

    If you like what you see here, why not subscribe to new posts via RSS or email? You’ll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your inbox or favorite feed aggregator. Thanks for stopping by!

    My toilet paper/paper towel dilemma: what I ended up doing & what I learned

    FacebookTwitterPinterest

    Last month, I mentioned that we were running low on toilet paper and paper towels, and that I was torn between taking advantage of a good deal at Target and waiting for a great deal in The Drugstore Game. Mercedes of Common Sense with Money was kind enough to let me know that there was an upcoming Charmin/Bounty deal at CVS if I could wait a week or two, and Gina of Mommy Making Money was kind enough to send me coupons. So I waited.

    And you know what? It all worked out. I acquired a lot of paper towels in that deal, and enough toilet paper to last us a little while. (I acquired more toilet paper this week, so I’m totally set now, and can wait for the next unbeatable deal to come along.)

    I learned some useful things from this experience. Someone (I can’t remember who anymore, maybe Mercedes?) kindly taught me about Hot Coupon World and A Full Cup, where I now find previews on upcoming deals at drugstores. And I’ve discovered that I can buy one or two things as I need them while I wait for a good deal. I can’t always wait (the boys desperately needed new toothbrushes a couple of weeks ago, so I used the Buy One, Get One Free Oral B Stages coupon from the June 1 P&G circular at Target), but if I can, I will. It will save me money in the long run to wait for CVS and Walgreens deals because rolling store rewards significantly reduces my out of pocket expenses. In fact, if I have a gift card, I can pay zero out of pocket at CVS, so even if the price is higher than it is at Target, I’ll still come out ahead at CVS. In sum, I’ve learned to trust The Drugstore Game.

    Thanks for helping me learn, everyone!

    Note: I haven’t wanted to bog CFO down with the details of my drugstore transactions, but if you’re interested in them, head over to CFO Reviews, where I’ve written about my latest plays.

    Welcome Money Saving Mom Readers!

    FacebookTwitterPinterest

    Money Saving Mom mentioned my guest post over at Get Rich Slowly about The Drugstore Game, which is fantastic because I rely on Money Saving Mom for scenario ideas for CVS as well as info on the latest deals at drugstores and grocery stores.

    If you’ve found Chief Family Officer for the first time via Money Saving Mom, WELCOME! My favorite topics to discuss are family finances, cooking, and parenting. With prices on the rise lately, I’ve been working hard to keep my family’s expenses from rising along with them. I share my tips here at CFO, and The Drugstore Game has become an integral part of my money-saving strategy.

    If you’re interested in reading more about The Drugstore Game, you may want to read about some of my recent experiences. You can also read about the details of some of my transactions and pick up a few tips on playing the game over at my other blog, CFO Reviews.

    And if that’s not enough to keep you busy, you may want to check out the Best of CFO.

    If you like what you see here, why not subscribe to new posts via RSS or email? You’ll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your inbox or favorite feed aggregator. Thanks for stopping by!