Happy Wednesday, friends! This feels like one of the more randomly specific posts I’ve written in awhile, but it’s something I weirdly love wanted to share since many of you probably end up overpaying at major drugstores. Most of my friends/coworkers are probably laughing at this because my love for extreme couponing at CVS has been discussed many times, but it’s one of those things that takes a little work but makes a huge difference!
If you live in a big city and don’t have a car, chances are you rely on major drugstores for everyday essentials/toiletries. I definitely do–aside from trying to stock up on a few things from Walmart when I’m back home in Dallas and have extra space in my luggage, 90% of my “essentials” come from CVS (the rest are probably from the occasional trip to Target, which let’s be honest, doesn’t actually end up saving you any money.) In the 4+ years I’ve lived in DC, I’ve developed a knack for saving a lot of money at CVS and picked up some tricks along the way. They’re easy enough and anyone can do them!
Sign up for ExtraCare and use your card: ExtraCare is CVS’ rewards program and it actually is worth registering for because they email out coupons multiple times a week. A lot of them are a few dollars off a larger purchase (like $30, or $20 of a specific item like vitamins–I typically don’t use these because my single transactions aren’t that long due to the utilization of the 20-30% off coupons mentioned below) but many are a percentage off your total purchase (the ones mentioned below.) Just scan your card or enter your phone number upon checkout just like you would with any grocery store frequent shopper program and they’ll track your purchases to rack up rewards based on your spending.
Sign up for the Beauty Club. Once you have ExtraCare, sign up for their Beauty Club–you’ll get $5 in ExtraBucks with any $50 spent on beauty products. There’s also a pharmacy rewards program but to be honest, this has been my biggest frustration with ExtraCare: my pharmacy rewards never stick and I don’t get the $5 for every 10 prescriptions filled.
View the Weekly Ad. My coworkers know this all too well–if I’m going to be taking a trip to CVS, I almost always look at the Weekly Ad first. It has everything that’s on sale (minus what’s in the coupon center mentioned below) and if you register your ExtraCare card online, you can see what coupons you have on your card + compare them to the sale that week.
Look for the 20-30% coupons. These are the best coupons and I try to use them every time I have to buy something at CVS. The coupons usually get emailed out on Thursdays and are valid through the upcoming Sunday. It’s only a 3-4 day window, but there are practically locations on every corner so I always make it a point to stop by if I need something. The only downside is the discount only works on full-priced items, so you actually don’t want whatever you need to be on sale (which I check in the Weekly Ad) or it won’t qualify. And yes, I’ll actively wait until Thursday to see if a coupon comes through before buying something (if it isn’t an emergency)–I’ve found that the more you use these coupons, the more that will come through.
Don’t just buy something because it’s on sale. Unpopular opinion: so many of CVS’ sales aren’t actually that good of a deal, especially since many are BOGO of some sort but mostly buy one get one 50% off, which isn’t that great unless you really need two of something. Instead, I look for items that are simply discounted, or both on sale and give ExtraBucks…the latter aren’t quite as common, but they’re around! Example in a second.
Go to the coupon center. Have you ever noticed that big red coupon machine towards the front of a CVS store? It’s worth checking out–you just scan your ExtraCare card and it instantly produces a string of coupons. These coupons are separate from the CVS Weekly Ad in that you have to get them in store. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve scanned my card and had coupons come out for exactly what I was already planning to purchase.
Example: I was picking up something last weekend and checked the toothpaste aisle because we’re almost out. One of my favorite kinds (as an aside, everyone has a favorite toothpaste…right?) was marked down from $3.49 to $3 and had a $2 coupon available at the coupon center…meaning the full-sized toothpaste was just one dollar. Seriously! Like I said: worth the extra work :)
Hang on to your ExtraBucks! If you shop at CVS a lot, you’ve likely seen the coupons that seemingly randomly appear on your incredibly long receipts. They’re literally just dollars off, so pay attention to the expiration date and use them! There have been times I knew I was getting some and split my purchase into two (so purchased whatever was going to yield the ExtraBucks, and then doing a separate transaction immediately after and using said ExtraBucks) but if you can keep track of them, stick them in your wallet and be sure to use them before they expire–they’re literally free money.
Your ExtraBucks can be used on anything (including sale items) so keep that in mind if you’re trying to plan purchases!
Actually look at your receipts. Like I said, CVS’ receipts are notoriously annoyingly long (this did happen, after all), but take a second to look through them and save any coupons you see yourself using, especially any ExtraBucks that come through. Pro tip: the non-ExtraBucks coupons on there have almost always already been sent to your card (so you don’t need the physical coupon) but make sure you keep the physical copy of any ExtraBucks.
Make a list of your upcoming purchases. I like to jot down items as I notice them running out so I can buy them when they send out one of the aforementioned coupons. Nothing pains me more than having to pay full price for something at CVS because the coupons are released so frequently. If you see a great deal on something like toothpaste, tampons, body wash, hand soap, etc. and have space to keep an extra set, do so! I’ll typically try and pick one of these things up with a 30% off coupon so I don’t have to pay full price when I need it.
Log into your ExtraCare account. You can sign into your account online, which is helpful so you can see what discounts you have and what discounts are available. It’s helpful to “send some to card”–I don’t know why they aren’t already on your card, but think that sometimes you have to make another purchase for them to come through. Regardless, I like to be proactive about it in and check in every week or two!
An example of how I’ll snag a great deal:
Here’s one example of how I’ll utilize everything mentioned above. Let’s use vitamins as an example…I’ll buy them when they’re BOGO, and when I have both ExtraBucks and a coupon on my ExtraCare card for $x off $x in vitamins. Usually it’s like $4 off $12 of vitamins. These coupons combine with the BOGO sale price, so I’m essentially going to buy four bottles of vitamins, use the $4 off coupon, and use my ExtraBucks. The % off coupons won’t work here since the vitamins were on sale, but you still come out way ahead.
So that’s how I save at CVS–it’s not so bad, right? This is kind of a simplified version because I really don’t think many of you would care to hear more specific examples of how I actually shop but if you do, let me know and I’m happy to share! J and my coworkers have had to hear me gush about the “latest deal” I snagged–something like $40 of vitamins for $11 or $15 worth of stuff for $4…it’s kind of addicting and saves me literally hundreds of dollars a year. And no, this post isn’t sponsored and CVS did not ask me to write it…just sharing my experience! Feel free to leave any questions below!
Image via Death to Stock with text + edits by me