Monday, October 13, 2008

CVS Tips: Avoiding Loss Due to Expiring ECBs

When I said I was planning to get nothing at CVS this week, I got the following question from Anonymous:

I totally agree but... what to do with the expiering ecbs? I do not need
anyitems now too, but have up to $20 or sometimes $30 ecbs expiering every week.
I am a 2 month new to CVSing. Do you structure this process somehow? Any post on
this subject if you know?

Here is my answer:

Well, first of all, Anonymous, you have been doing a very high volume of CVSing if you have THAT many ECBs not just total but expiring that week. For instance, I have earned a lot of ECBs in recent weeks, on three cards, and yet I only have 40 TOTAL ECBs in my wallet right now. And none of them are expiring this week.

ECBs are good for -- I think -- four weeks, so taking one or even two weeks off should not cause for concern with most people. These are the techniques people use to make sure ECBs stay poppin' fresh:

1) Keep them organized.
When I get a new ECB slip, I simply put it in the back of the ECB pocket in my coupon file, so that the older ones are in front. That way, when I am ready to use one, it's easy to quickly flip through and make sure I am using the oldest one of the denomination I need.

Another idea I read online is marking the dates on a calendar.

2) Keep them dogies rollin'.
Although I am taking a week off, when I do shop CVS I try to take advantage of as many deals as possible that would earn me money, get me something I need for free or cheap, or come out free. By taking advantage of all moneymakers and all freebies/cheapies that are desirable to me, I have almost always been able to "roll" all my ECBs so that they never expire.
By rolling, we mean that you are turning in an ECB with an expiration date that is coming up soon, and receiving a new ECB that expires a month from now.

3) Every once in awhile, go on a spree.
If I start to accumulate too many ECBs -- I'm close to that right now -- I can usually find something worthwhile to blow a few on. My CVS regularly puts out clearance bins full of $1 items, so I'll take a 10ECB slip and a $3/$15 coupon and go nuts. Or I'll take advantage of a deal for diapers or toilet paper.
I find that, as long as there are $x/$xx coupons available, I only need one or two ECB slips with a few dollars each to get what I need without much cash outlay.

4) Pace yourself.
Maybe the reason all your ECBs are expiring at the same time is that you bought all the "free after ECB" monthly items at the same time. In the future, if your stores stay well-stocked, stick to the weekly items if there is something you want to buy, and save those monthly free items in order to have a free way to roll your ECBs without spending anything. For example, this month, you can buy up to five Well Patch packets for $5.99 each. That means you could roll $30 worth of ECBs for nothing! Besides, those Well Patches are nice items -- if you don't use them, I'm sure any charity that helps senior citizens would be happy to have them. My granny's getting mine and she is very pleased.

5) It doesn't hurt to try using expired ones.
According to this thread, a decent number of stores either openly accept expired ones or just don't notice.
However, unlike in the past, CVS customer care will not "reset" the expiration date for you. I have asked, and they turned me down.