Thrifty Hippy Mama

{November 18, 2009}   How to work the CVS deals!

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This is a post a had written a WHILE back. Glad I saved it. I am a serious CVS shopper and anyone who knows me, will tell you just how much I come home with, without spending more then a few pennies.. TOPS!

If you’re looking to get started with CVS, please read the following. This should help get you started.

For those non believers out there, here are some photos of my cvs “hauls”. I’ll be sure to list my OOP total and copy of my receipt from now on. These are just to give you an idea of how great shopping at CVS can be!

ALL FREE! baby wipes, baby shampoo, shaving cream, laundry detergent, ALL, baby lotionFREE niquil, playskool diapers and wipes, pull ups, candy, puffs tissues, colgate toothpaste, razors, water, and more FREE huggies diapers, glad spray, right guard deodorant, crest toothpaste, colgate toothpaste, vaseline lotion, arm and hammer detergent, pepsi, etc My favorite CVS haul of all time. This was from Christmas last year. Clearly I can't list everything in this photo, but oyu can see for yourself just how great shopping at CVS can be!  I spent more on this one then normal an even then it was less then $6. Yes, you read that right.. $6 !

    Step 1

is to signup for an extra care card. This is a discount card used at cvs. Without it you will NOT get the sales prices listed and you will NOT earn rewards!! You can signup in the store and instantly get your card, or you can signup online at CVS and wait about 2 weeks for your card to arrive.


OOP= Out of pocket
MIR = Mail in rebate
ECB = Extra care buck(s)
HBA = Health and beauty aids
Bogo or B1G1 = Buy 1 get 1 free
YMMV = Your mileage may vary
FAR = Free after rebate
MFR = Manufacturer

The above are commonly used abbreviations when posting about CVS.

    What is an ECB exactly?

An ECB is a reward that you earn. There are weekly ECB deals and monthly ECB deals. The weekly deals are found in your sunday paper (the CVS sales ad) and the monthly deals are found at your local CVS (usually at the front of the store). Another GREAT place to find the deals in ADVANCE is by going to I HEART CVS.

In order to earn ECB’s, you must complete the necessary requirements for the qualifying purchase(s). Let’s say one of the deals this week is for Dawn dishsoap (this is just an example). For every 2 bottles of dawn that you buy, you earn $1 in ECB’s, but there’s a limit of 5. That means you can ear $1, 5 times. So, if you want all $5 in ECB’s you would have to purchase 10 bottles of dawn.

I’m sure you’re thinking “but that would cost me way more then I would earn. What’s the point”? Well, here’s how you play the game…

It says in the cvs ad that dawn is $1 a bottle. You’d have to spend $2 to earn $1 in ECB’s. Well, you now look through your coupons (save EVERY COUPON…even ones you would NEVER think to use). Wait, you just found $1 one bottle of dawn.. even better, you have 2 coupons for $1 off!! Not only will you get both bottles of dawn for FREE, but you’ll earn $1 in ECB’s!

ECB’s print at the bottom of your receipt as SOON as you earn them. You do NOT have to buy all qualifying items at one time to earn the ECB’s. As long as you fulfill the requirements within the time frame (a week if it’s a weekly ECB deal or a month if it’s a monthly ECB deal) then you will be rewarded with ECB’s. They will print as soon as you complete the requirements.

Don’t have coupons to go along with the sale? No problem. You can do a google search for “dawn dishsoap coupon”. You may (or may not) find printable coupons. Most printable coupon websites only allow oyu to print the coupon 2x. So if you want to buy coupons in bulk I recommend EBAY!

Again the above product deal was just an example. This was a deal they ran a couple weeks ago. Each week there are different ECB deals..and each month there are additional ECB deals.

    What can I do with my ECB’s I earn?

This is the best part. You can use them on ANYTHING in the store except prescriptions, tobacco and alcohol.

    How soon can I use my ECB’s?

You can spend them the SECOND you earn them. ECB’s DO expire though. You have 30 days to use them from the date you earn them. There will be an expiration date printed on them for your convenience.

    How can I keep getting things without using all my ECB’s?

This is what we CVS’ers call “rolling”. In order to “roll” your ECB’s, you want to use them towards other deal’s that earn you ECB’s. here’s an example.

Let’s say that this week CVS has revlon blush for $9.99 and you earn $9.99 in ECB’s for that purchase. Now let’s say you have a $10.00 ECB. You would pay for your revlon blush with the $10 ECB. You would now have your blush AND $9.99 in ECB’s.

So to break it down, you get FREE makeup AND you ECB’s. Since your $9.99 ECB just printed, you now have another 30 days before it expires. You just “rolled” your ECB to last longer.

    What about tax?

You will be required to pay sales tax on your purchases. Each state has a different % that they tax but it’s never more then pocket change.

    CVS’s coupon policy

You are allowed to use one manufacturers (mfr) coupon per item. If you have 20 items, you can use 20 coupons. Simple!

To make it even sweeter though, you can also use your ECB’s too. So let’s say your total after coupons is $4. You have a $3 ECb and a $5 ECB. What do you do? Well that’s really up to you. You can pay with the $3 ECB and then pay the difference OOP (out of pocket), or you can give them the $5 ECB and pay nothing out of pocket.


If you decide to use the $5 ECB, it is in your best interest to ad an item to your order that is worth about a dollar. The reason for this is that you do NOT get refunded the difference. So if your total is $4 and you pay with a $5 ECB, you’re gonna lose out on $1. So your best bet is to find something in the store worth about a dollar.

    Are there any other ways to save even MORE money?

ABSOLUTELY! If you signup at CVS and link your email to your account, you will occasionally get coupons sent to you from cvs. These are WONDERFUL!

The most commonly emailed coupon is $4/$20. This means you get $4 off your total if you spend $20. As with ANY coupon, this means you have to spend $20 BEFORE coupons, NOT AFTER coupons.


You have 10 coupons for $1 off of 1 johnson and johnsons buddies bar soap. These are a dollar or less. So your total so far is about $10 BEFORE coupons. You need to add another $10 worth or stuff before you can use the coupon.

You decide You wanna get some cereal. But wait! They cereal is b1g1 AND you have coupons for $2 off per box!! That’s great since the cereal is normally $4.29 each! Even sweeter deal! Turns out the cereal earned you $2 in ECB’s if you spent $10 on it!

Now let’s calculate this. You already have $10 worth of stuff in your cart. You need to spend atleast $10 more. You would need to buy 3 boxes of that cereal (and get 3 free). Lucky for you, you have 6 of those $2 off coupons (yes, you CAN use a coupon on a free item).

So here’s your total so far..

10 bars of buddies soaps = $10
6 boxes of cereal (b1g1) = $12.87 (plus you’ll earn $2 in ECB’s)


After the cashier rings up your items, hand them your $4/$20 FIRST!!!!!!!!! Then hand them your other coupons. Here’s what will happen..

$22.97 minus $4/$20 coupon = $18.97
$18.97 minus 10 coupons for $1 off buddies = $8.97
$8.97 minus 6 coupons for $2 off cereal = -$3.03

I bet you’re thinking “but that’s a NEGATIVE balance”. yes it is. So what do you do about it??? Remember, we talked about this earlier… You add items to your cart to fill in that balance.. Yep, MORE free stuff!! Go ahead, pick up ANYTHING you want that will fill that balance. How about a 12 pack of coke? Or a tub of baby wipes? Whatever your choice is, just keep it around the $3 mark.

All you’ll be left paying is sales tax AND YOU LEAVE WITH $2 in ECB’s!! You just made a profit and got 10 bars of soap, 6 boxes of cereal, and whatever item(s) you added to your cart to fill out the negative balance!

    I have a BOGO coupon and CVS is having a BOGO sale. Can I use the coupon?

ABSOLUTELY! These are the best! You pay NOTHING out of pocket and get twice the amount of product. If you’re wondering how this works, it’s simple. The manufacturer pays YOUR portion of CVS’s BOGO sale. So you pay nothing but tax and get 2 items (for each BOGO coupon you have).

I think this is pretty much all for basic CVSing. If there are any questions or maybe things I forgot, just let me know!


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Amy says:

Thank you SO much for this post! It made my brain hurt- in a good way. 🙂 So what’s the best way to find coupons for not much money? I’ve bought on ebay before, but is the paper generally the best way to go if you need a variety?

Hi Amy,

LOL it’s quite a long read but well worth the time for sure!

The best way to acquire coupons is through the newpaper, online (such COUPONS.COM) and on ebay (if you need them in bulk). The newspaper will offer a wide variety of coupons, some of which are products you may not use regularly. That’s ok. DON’T THROW THEM OUT!

Sometimes when shopping these cvs deals, you’ll have to purchase items you may not want or need in order to shop for free. Confused yet? lol

I’ll give you an example:
This week one of the better deals is for glade. Spend $12 and you’ll earn $4 in extra bucks (ecb’s). Now lets say you wanted 2 of the glad sense and sprays which are $6 each…BUT, there are coupons out for $4 off 1 glade sense an spray (FOUND HERE). That $12 out of pocket just became $4 out of pocket and you’ll get your $4 right back in the form of an extra buck which you can use instantly on your next transaction if you wanted to.

Ok so now you have $4 in extrabucks but there’s nothing else at cvs that you want but you saved those random coupons and one of them happens to be $10 off a braun electric razor. Well, those are $19.99 this week and you earn $5 when you buy it. Now, if you use that $10 off coupon, plus the $4 ECB you earned, your total will be $5.99 and you’ll now have $5 in ECB’s and a xmas gift to give away.

It gets even better though. If you join the CVS mailing list, you will occasionally get cvs store coupons for $4 off of a $20 purchase. Let’s sayfor arguments sake that yu have one of those $4 off coupons. Well your total for the braun razor BEFORE coupons is $19.99 so you’ll need to add something to your cart to put you at or above $20. Iould recommend gettinga “green bag tag”. These are only $.99 and can earn you FREE ECB’s (i’ll explain that in a bit).

Ok so now your total is $20.98 for he braun razor and 1 green bag tag. Here’s what you do:

First, hand them your $4/$20 coupon
Next give them your $10 off braun coupon
Then, give the your $4 ECB that you have.

Your total will be $2.98 plus tax and you’ll now have an awesme gift for someone AND $5 dollars to use on your next purchase. After you do these deals a couple times, you won’t spend more then a few pennies (sales tax) because you will have built up your ECB’s.

Now, the green bag tag info. The green bag tag is a little tag that you attach to a reusable shopping bag. Anytime you g to cvs with your reusable bag, they will scan your green bag tag. Every 4th time they scan it, you will get a FREE ECB. You can only have them scan it once per day though. Still, a great deal for doing nothing, and you’re helping the environment by not using those icky plastic bags.

I hope this helped some. If you have anymore questions, please let me know 🙂

Ya know what? I have my days mixed up right now. That glade deal ended saturday so just use what I responded with as an example. The braun deal however, IS from this weeks ad.

Maybe if I slept more I wouldn’t be all backwards lol

Dottie says:

Saw your post on Craigslist and decided to check out your blog. Is there a CVS in Chesapeake? I used the store locater on the CVS website and the closest was in Va. Beach. Just thought I would double check.

Hi there,

There isn’t one in Chesapeake…YET! They’re opening one on Volvo VERY soon! In the meantime, I use the one in Virginia Beach off of Independence. They’re usually always stocked up, are very friendly (other then one women there) and seem educated about their policies, which is a plus.

It’s worth the drive to go to Va. Beach. You save SO much money!

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