Saturday, May 31, 2008

CVSing: How Is It Done?

The most common question I am asked when I tell people about CVSing is simply, How does this work? It is so unlike other incentive programs in that the buyer can really get ahead and really not have to pay in much or any money once you get started.

Moneysavingmom has a very good introduction to CVSing here: Another blog explains it here. I'm going to add my own explanation of how exactly you play the CVS Extra Care program to fill many of your household needs for free:

First, you find some CVS coupons that will reduce say, a $15 transaction by $3. Moneysavingmom always announces it when these coupons become available. If you don't see anything online about a coupon, go to and add your email address to your ExtraCare account.

Then, pick up the monthly booklet available at CVS of products that pay ECBs, or Extra Bucks. There are also a few ECB deals in each weekly flyer, but the monthly is the best. You can even preview the monthly and weekly deals ahead of time on the drugstore forum at

When you pick a few things -- $15 worth is good if you have one of the abovementioned coupons -- then look for manufacturers' coupons for those items. Moneysavingmom and are good places to find out where you might find coupons for the current deals. The Sunday papers and the Internet are the main sources.

To use a $3 off coupon (or a $4 off $20, or whatever), most CVS stores require the total to hit $15 BEFORE coupons are deducted. So if you put $15 worth of stuff in your cart that is "free after ExtraBucks," use $5 worth of manufacturers coupons and a $3 CVS coupon, you end up paying $7 to get $15 Extra Bucks.

This is how you build up Extra Bucks. In just a couple transactions, you will get to the point where you no longer have to pay any real money, except for tax and maybe a dollar or less to cover the difference between a $5 Extra Buck note (you don't get change for them) and a $5.75 total. In the future, you can either buy a ton of "free after ECBs" stuff at the beginning of the month and then use ECBs instead of cash whenever you need something, or you can pair something you need with something that pays off so you end up getting back about the same amount you spend on each trip.

FOR EXAMPLE, it so happens that I did one of each kind of deal today.

I. Buy a Ton of Stuff Just to Earn ECBs for Later Use

I stopped into a CVS this afternoon while out on some errands to finish up some of the monthly deals on my husband's card. I bought all things that paid ECBs:

2 Colgate toothbrust $8.00 (paid $4ECB each)
1 Viactiv Glides 8.99 (paid $3ECB)
2 Aquafresh paste 6.00 (paid $3ECB each)
$23.00 (I spent more than $15 because the smallest ECB "note" I had was for $11.37 and so I needed the final total to be at least that)

After ringing my stuff up, the cashier deducted these coupons:
- $3/$15 CVS coupon
- 4 off Viactiv Glides (CVS coupon that expired today)
- 2 off Viactiv Glides manufacturers' coupon (notice that you can combine one CVS coupon and one manufacturer's coupon on the same item)
- 1 off Aquafresh mq (manufacturer's coupon)
- 1 off Aquafresh mq
- 1 off 2 Colgate toothbrushes

After subtracting $12 worth of coupons, my total was $11 plus tax. I used my $11.37 ECB plus about 20 cents off a gift card, and I received $17ECBs, in the form of an the following little pieces of paper at the end of my receipt: One 8ECB, one 6ECB and one 3ECB.

II. Buy something that pays ECBs along with something you need so you end up with the same amount you started with.

When I returned to Oak Park today I saw that we were out of milk, so over to our neighborhood CVS I went. I bought:

2 gallons milk $6
1 Playskool wipes 2 (the last item I needed to get 5ECB for buying Playskool)
4 CVS-brand cookies 8
- $3 off $15 purchase CVS coupon
- 3 off $10 purchase of CVS brand goods (Playskool counts)
- 1 off Playskool wipes
- 1 off CVS brand cookies
- 1 off CVS brand cookies
- 1 off CVS brand cookies
- 1 off CVS brand cookies

I paid with a 5ECB slip, paid another few pennies in tax off a gift card, and received a new 5ECB note.

I love doing these transactions because I have just as much in my wallet as when I left the house. The only difference is, now I have milk and cookies.

Also note that sometimes you earn ECBs by buying a certain dollar amount worth of a product or a certain number of them. Last weeks' Playskool promo was "Buy $20, get $5." I spread the $20 purchase out over a number of transactions, mostly to maximize the number of coupons I was able to use. At the bottom of each receipt is a tally of how much you have spent toward each promo, and how much you have left to buy before you get the payoff.


jskell911 said...

What a great explanation. I am sure it will be helpful to so many!