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CVS is a chain of pharmacy drug stores that have sprung up all over the U.S. More locations are coming as they have taken over several Longs Drugs outlets. A brief visit into one of their stores may scare you as the prices seem slightly higher than their competitors. Especially, Target, K-Mart or Wal-Mart.


Fortunately, they have several rewards programs that even out the difference and can become good deals. You just have to learn how to shop there. For free.


1. Make a List From the Weekly Ad


If their weekly ad doesn’t arrive in your mailbox on Fridays, check out the website, iheartcvs.com. There you will find lists of good deals and promotions currently running at CVS. These may not be for everybody. If they are not products you use, move on…


…To the posted weekly ads. With iheartcvs.com, you won’t have to wait for the next ad to be distributed. They have the ads posted on the site for the next several weeks. Go through the ads to find products that you’ll use and make note of them. Pay special attention to the advertised specials that have Extra Cash Back, also known as ECBs, attached. Highlight them on your list.


If you can’t find products you’ll definitely use with ECBs, consider ones that you’d like to have with ECBs offered and add them to your list. Make sure to include the cost of each item on your list.


2. Clip Coupons


CVS sales generally run from Sunday to Saturday. If you’re not already into couponing, the Sunday you have your CVS outing planned is a great time to start. Find your city’s paper at a discount if possible and buy it. Once you get good at this, it might be worth buying multiple copies. Many people advise against buying the paper at all if you don’t already get it as an unnecessary extra expense when you’re trying to save money, but I disagree.


Chances are more than good that you’ll find a coupon for a product you use regularly at an amount off that will cover the cost of the paper. Additionally, the coupons you don’t use can be traded with other coupon divas guaranteeing you’ll recoup your investment in the paper with interest.


Take the list you made from the CVS weekly ad and match up your coupons. If you don’t have any matches, go online and search for printable coupons matching the products you want. It’s more likely than not that you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for. You can also buy coupons off Ebay.


3. Get a Reward Card


If you don’t have one already, sign up for CVS’ Extra Care Rewards card. Do it as soon as you get into the store instead of waiting for when you make your purchases. Armed with your list, coupons and rewards card, go find the red scanner.


Every store should have one, but there have been reports that some locations don’t have them. Scan your card. Don’t be disappointed if nothing happens on your first try. Get into this habit anyway. The scanner will print store coupons for specific products or coupons for a certain dollar amount off if you buy so many dollars’ worth of products like $3 off of a $15 purchase. Scan your card up to three times per visit for these coupons. They will look like register receipts.


4. Go On a Treasure Hunt


CVS has many hidden ECBs on products around the store that are not advertised. Take a moment to check around. If your list was relatively small, you may just find some items to stock up on to make your purchase amount reach the threshold to give the dollars off.


5. Get Ready to Save


Take your finds to the register. If you have multiple receipts for the dollars of a certain amount, be sure to separate your purchases into multiple transactions so you can take advantage of all the receipts. After the cashier scans your items, give him the receipt to take the dollars off. When that’s done, give him your coupons to lower your out of pocket amount even further.


If you have items that have ECBs attached, make sure they are in this first transaction. After you pay, the cashier will give you the receipt with the ECBs noted on the bottom along with a barcode. Do your next transaction in the same order. Only this time, you can use the ECBs you just earned to pay for the items in the second transaction causing you to pay even less out of pocket or even get the products for free.


You can leave CVS knowing that you got a good deal.


Here’s an example of a recent shopping trip:

“Buy $20 in L’Oreal Products, Get $5 ECBs.”

Purchase 2 True Match Foundation at $7 each; regular price $10.99.

Purchase 1 Voluminous Lash at $5; regular price $7.49.

Purchase 1 Color Riche Lip Color at $5; regular price $8.99.

The total is $24 and triggers the $5 ECBs.

Use a $3 off $15 receipt bringing the total down to $21.

Use 1 $3 off L’Oreal True Match.

Use 1 $2 off L’Oreal Voluminous Lash

Use 1 $2 off Color Riche bringing the total down to $14.

Pay with $5 ECBs from a previous purchase leaving you with a total of $9 plus $1.32 tax to pay out of pocket.


Not bad considering that one True Match Foundation is regularly priced higher than what came out of pocket. This means that the second foundation, mascara and lip stick are all free! And you still have $5 in ECBs to use on another purchase.


It’ll take some practice and some patience, but eventually, you’ll be walking away with more free items than you’d ever imagined.


Happy shopping!!

Estelle Getty: Thank You for Being a Friend