If you read many stay-at-home mom blogs, you’ve heard about the CVS Extra Care Bucks craze. It works like this: CVS was over-priced, so they started offering Extra Care Bucks on various products. When you buy that product, you earn back these bucks, which you can use to pay for other products. In addition, you can scan your Extra Care card at the store to print out CVS coupons. Finally, you earn a few for prescriptions and quarterly spending totals. For complete instructions, read CVS 101. Here’s how the program worked for me, and where I went wrong.
The CVS Extra Care Card
I did have a card, but it wasn’t linked to the website. I added my email address and then waited for the coupons to be emailed to me. They were not. I finally emailed CVS and was told it takes about four weeks to start receiving email coupons. Once you receive them, you print them out and take them to the store with you. You’ll need to use your CVS card on every purchases in order to really work the system. In addition to earning you Extra Care Bucks, you also need it to qualify for the advertised discounts and print out coupons from the card reader in the store.
This was my first trip, so I received one useless coupon for diapers or something, and $3 off $10 in CVS products. I trolled the store until I finally found what I thought was $10 worth of products – including a fantastic deal on 200 count tissue boxes (99 cents each!). It turns out I actually overbought – I spent over $12 on their products.
Extra Care Bucks Items
I went on a Sunday morning after reviewing the CVS newspaper ad and seeing several $5 in Extra Care Bucks when you spend $15 on brands we use like Garnier, Maybelline, and Dove. I looked through my manufacturer coupons and made a stack, then took them down to CVS with me. I bought four Garnier shampoos and conditioners, 2 Mennen deodorants, 3 Maybelline products, and 3 6-bar packages of Dove soap. Together they qualified for $18 in Extra Care Bucks. The Mennen and Dove were also on sale.
Combining Coupons and ECBs
I used a total of $9 in coupons on the Garnier, Dove, and Mennen products, plus the $3 CVS coupon. Had I planned more carefully, I could have printed a $4 off $20 store coupon, too. I also now realize that I shouldn’t have bought all those products in one purchase, but instead made four purchases. My total was $60.76 (plus tax). Had I done it correctly, I would have spent $21 less.
Here’s what I should have done:
4 bottles of Garnier – $17.16
2 Mennen sticks – $5.00
Less $5 in Garnier coupons
Less $4/20 coupon
Total out of pocket: $13.16 (plus tax)
Earn $8 in ECBs
3 packs of Dove soap: $17.97
Less $3 in coupons
Less $8 in ECBs
Total out of pocket: $6.97 (plus tax)
Earn $5 in ECBs
2 Maybelline products: $17.97
Less $5 in ECBs
Total out of pocket: $12.97 (plus tax)
Earn $5 in ECBs
CVS products: $13.92
Less .25 coupon
Less $3/10 coupon
Less $5 in ECBs
Total out of pocket: $6.66 (plus tax)
Grand total: $39.76
Would I Do It Again?
As it stands now, I have $18 in ECBs to spend, and a $4 off $20 coupon left to use. I have some gift events coming up, so I’ll spend the ECBs on cards.
I’ve seen some women report that they’ve “rolled” their ECBs over so many times that they spend $25 for hundreds of dollars worth of products. However, really working the system means spending a lot of time planning, and it may also require numerous trips to CVS, weekly at least. At some point, I have to question whether it’s really worth my time. We’re just a family of 2, so the products we bought will last us at least six months, probably longer. It might be something I do occasionally when we need to stock up, but it won’t be a regular thing for us. When I do the math, it may not be cheaper than Costco, especially once you factor in the cost of gas driving to and from the store and to and from the recycling center.