Yesterday, I revealed that I didn't spend any money at CVS out of pocket in June, thanks to gift cards and ECBs. Here's how I did it:
The foundation of playing The Drugstore Game at CVS is, of course, ECBs, or ExtraCare Bucks. ECBs are store coupons that print at the end of your receipt when you've purchased qualifying products. For example, in June, Listerine SmartRinse was $3.49 and free after ECBs, meaning you got a $3.49 ECB at the end of your receipt when you purchased a SmartRinse. You could use that ECB on any future purchase.
Coupons and ECBs really go hand in hand. Coupons can turn a good ECB deal into a "money maker," meaning that after you take the coupon and ECB into account, you will actually "make" money on the item. In the SmartRinse example above, there were $1 off coupons available, making the purchase price $2.49 with $3.49 in ECBs. You basically "made" $1 that you could spend on anything you wanted at CVS.
Free gift cards are a great way to avoid paying out of pocket at CVS. I've written plenty about MyPoints and how you can redeem points for CVS gift cards. You can also get gift cards with coupons when you fill prescriptions at CVS. Sometimes coupons print at the end of a receipt. Some stores accept competitor coupons, and transferred prescription coupons are generally easy to find (my Rite Aid circular always seems to have one for $30).
Pulling it together
Of course, the real trick to saving money at CVS is using all of the above in combination, along with sale prices. I rely on the sources I've mentioned before to let me know of upcoming sales and to give me scenario ideas. I've also become quite good at figuring out my own deals to buy the things that I want and need. It took me about two to three months to really get the hang of figuring out deals at CVS. I may not have saved as much money as I'm saving now, but I still saved a lot during that time. So don't expect perfection from yourself - just play The Drugstore Game and have a good time with it!