Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More on CVS & Thrifty Shopping

There were several questions posted in response to yesterday's post on my deals at CVS. Here are my thoughts on these things ~

Opal wrote,

"I'm a CVS/Walgreens shopper too, as are most of my friends. We're actually having a debate though about the ethics of "double dipping," which is where you open multiple accounts under different names, ostensibly in the same household, so you can take advantage of a good deal more than once.

I know one argument for it is that “all’s fair in love and frugal shopping,” and if you can come up with a way to further extend a store-offered deal, more power to you. The stores in question encourage combining coupons, sales, and rebates, so to partake is just using the system set up to gain customers. To use the system to its fullest is just the advantage of taking more time and effort on the shopping.

But the other side of the coin says that the CVS/Walgreens deals are marked as per household, (as in “one deal per household”) so to have multiple accounts under different names for the same house, even if it’s like a work address and a home address, it’s basically resorting to fraud to take advantage of a deal, and is thus unethical (one friend insists it’s no different than theft by fraud). The other argument I hear is that it’s not fair to other shoppers to open multiple accounts and take more than your allotted share of a bargain, and thus possibly denying their family the opportunity to reap some of the same good fortune from a sale… Especially a problem on items that are “needs” items for families on fixed incomes who may depend on a sale for certain items.

I’d love to hear your take on the subject, on why it’s OK or not OK to have or not have multiple accounts for the same household."

Opal, I think this is a great topic to address. I have not had a second CVS card until just a few weeks ago - and when I got it I asked the cashier/manager if I could open a second account in my husband's name. She said, "sure" and gave me the card and helped me get him signed up. I can assure you that if I thought this was fraud or was instructed in this way - I would absolutely not be doing it.

I was actually VERY hesitant about getting a second card. I mean, how many tubes of toothpaste can one family really use?! And, is it fair to jeopardize the supply of free items by going in and getting ten of something free and then there aren't any for the next person? Those were my doubts.

Here is what has happened though. I take out what our family will use and then keep a box in my closet of extras. I have had opportunities to share these items with those who really do need them or can't afford them. And, I have seen God offer me more and more opportunities of using these items as blessings in the lives of others.

I sent a message to the Customer Service e-mail at to ask about their policy on this. Here is the response I received,

"Thank you for contacting regarding our ExtraCare program.

In response to your email, it is fine that you have ExtraCare accounts in both names. However please be aware that when you receive coupons in store, you can only use the card that the coupon specifies. In other words, you can't use your card with a coupon in your husband's name."

I was already aware of this policy that the number or name on the card must match the card that you are using at the time of check out. I hope this response helps clarify for someone.

Now, I do not ever send in Walgreens or Rite Aid rebates under two addresses. I only use our home address to do these. I don't know that I'd go so far as to say it is fraud or theft to submit one under one address and one under the other - but it is something I've never really even considered and don't think I would be comfortable with as it does not seem honest.

Personally, on the topic of a store being out of something - I have observed that often there is a good supply of the sale items and even if I go later in the week they often still have plenty. Either people are not taking advantage of the reward deals or CVS is doing a good job keeping their stock filled on these items. Walgreens is notoriously out of things on sale - but I haven't had much trouble with their rebate items. Maybe it is just where we live that dictates this.

Other thoughts on this?

Lynn Marie wrote,

"I would love a lesson in how you get the great deals at CVS. I don't understand how you can hand over a coupon and get money back! I guess I'm just lost when it comes to that. "

Start out by reading this article over at Money Saving Mom ~ CVS 101 or Q&A Making CVS work for you.

Now, I will share that I used to not "get" how to use coupons either. And, I struggled with the ethics of combining coupons and rebates for extra deals. Read more on this here.

However, in my Grandma's living room, my Mom and Aunt, Grandma and I were all discussing this. These are the ladies who taught me the joys of being frugal and thrifty. They helped me understand that coupons are like cash - when you spend them, the store gets their money back plus a handling fee. They want you to combine their offers because they put a coupon and a rebate out at the same time. Manufacturer's are not dumb - they know that a coupon is out and what the sales are.

Also, it is not like CVS opens their register and gives me several dollars cash - when I say that I earn money there - it means that I came out with more Extra Bucks than I spent that day. It is still earning me spendable dollars, but it is not in the form of cash.

Katy wrote, "I would love to find similar great just seems to good to be true. I get confused on how you use a coupon and actually earn money on something?"

I agree that sometimes it does seem too good to be true. I often say to David that I just don't know how these places can afford to give so much free stuff away. One thing this tells me is that tons of people are probably not taking advantage of the offers or never send in their rebates. Or, possibly they are buying lots of high priced non-sale itmes while they are in the store.

There is a learning curve to all these rebates. My best thought on this is to start small. If you start huge, there is a bigger chance of getting burned and have it end up costing you more money in the long run. Understanding the sales, coupons and rebates is key to making it work.

So, pick a store to start with and then do one or maybe two deals the first week. The next week take your rebate dollars in (if CVS) and roll them into one or two more deals, etc... When you feel good about this, add in a little more and a little more. Eventually you can add a second card or another store if you want to.

But, I would not suggest starting all the stores with the deals at once, it will be so overwhelming and confusing to learn everything about it all at once. I did Walgreens only for years before I'd ever even heard of CVS. And, even when I did live near a CVS I was skeptical on how it could really be beneficial. I did not yet understand their system. Now that I do - CVS is my favorite place for good deals.

Another thing to remember is that these drug stores are generally quite expensive in regular prices. So, be very careful about sticking to your list and not impulse buying when you are in there. And, even some of their sale prices may not be good deals. Just learn what is a good deal and stick to it!

Ok, now - if you are a seasoned CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid shopper - what would you share with someone just starting? And, if you are a new shopper, what do you wish you would have known?


Anonymous said...

I used to shop Walgreens until I found the CVS system. I still don't get how you save much at Walgreens, and we shop the same one. I mean, there are some rebates, but they don't have many rewards bucks offered.

Katy said...

Thanks so much for this Monica!! I really appreciate it! :)

Anonymous said...

I started doing CVS thanks to Monica. I only started last month so I am no pro but I started small. I only got what was free that week/month. I got bandaids and toothbrushes and mouth wash. I started out spending $19 dollars but I got back almost $21 CVS extra bucks. because I used a coupon on one of the free things. So it was like they paid me. You have to spend money on your first transaction. but now I have a stock of Extra Brucks so most everything I buy now is free from that first transaction back in June. Because I spend the extra bucks that I have but keep earning new ones on other things. It is really fun and I look forward to seeing all the new Sunday deals. Money Saving Mom is the only way I figure it out each week. She and all the other ladies that participate come up with such great scenarios that I would have never thought of. Now if I only had a decent local paper that had all the great coupons each week I would be really set but my local paper stinks.

Anonymous said...

Grace, try the Charleston paper on sale at newstands. My parents get all the great coupons they pass on to me from that. I would buy it myself, but I like reading the local news.

Wendi said...

Well said Monica. I think that the stores are wanting us to come in and get the free or next to free items each week. They even go as far as to put "look for extra saving in the Sunday paper" by some of their advertised items. Their hope is that once you are in the door you will do lots of impulse buying. Most of us who watch our pennies try to advoid that.

I feel that all of the savings I have received have been such a blessing. I have been to not only stretch our dollar but to stock up for a rainy day. The blessing is so great that I am able to give great things away to a local pantry. If I had to pay full price out of pocket for these things that would not be possible.

I am still learning and have changed my attitude from thinking about how tight my budget is to how fun it is to stretch my dollar! Again thanks for the inspiration!

Jan said...

I'm glad you addressed this, Monica. I did note that you mentioned using two cards. We used to have two, one for my daughter and one for me...not a problem, I didn't think, because the deals were advertised as "one per customer". A few months ago that changed to "one per household". I had already stopped using dd's card but would have stopped at that point if I hadn't.

However, if a CVS rep specifically told you it was okay, it must be okay. I do wish they'd get together and make one policy across the board, it would make things so much less confusing.

I never felt guilty about getting so much because we used what we could and sent the majority overseas through

Tammy said...

I do believe that God says we are to obey the laws of man but if the company allows a second card then you are not breaking any laws of man or the company! God gives us blessings of legal loopholes often and we are to be good stewards of what He gives us.Unfortunately for some of us, CVS & Walgreens are too far away to take advantage of their deals.

Anonymous said...

Monica, you seem like someone who tries to be honest in all endeavors, so I really appreciate that about you. I agree with everything you have said here and appreciate the fact that you looked into it. Like Jan mentioned though, I wish CVS had a clear-to-understand policy across the board. I've often called and have received conflicting responses at times.

I have not gotten a 2nd card for my family only because I feel I get more than enough with having one. I think it's great that you use the opportunity of the 2nd card to help others. I think I would be bothered more by those who seek the additional cards just to be greedy and keep it all for themselves.

The only other issues that bother me about CVS/Walgreens, etc. are when there are those who take everything and leave nothing for others. Or when they use illegal or photocopied coupons. This opens CVS and other stores to change their policies and it affects everyone. I'm pretty sure this is why we don't see many $/$$ CVS coupons anymore.

snippity1 said...

Thanks for posting your information about CVS. Thanks to you, I was inspired to go get a few deals yesterday. I didn't come out with bunches of bucks, but I did get $60 worth of stuff for $24. This was awesome for me! I think I will be watching my sale flyers more carefully now!

Mother of Many said...

I was sent this email when I first started with CVS deals. My sister-in-law sent me this and it gave me some real perspective. Pardon it's length, but it's helpful.

I have been reminded this week about the many phases I have gone through in this wonderful "savings" journey over the past 3+ years. Below are just some reminders for each of us, but especially you newbies (there are a lot right now!), on how we might want to approach our shopping trips.

Remember these programs were designed to drive traffic into the stores and give consumers a chance to get try their products at a discount (or in many cases, free!!). We need to view them as a blessing, and not a right, and be careful not to abuse the use of them, so we can keep seeing them in the future. I try to have a rule of thumb that I don't usually do a deal more than 2 or 3 times, but less if there are not many on the shelves and I am pretty well stocked. I am especially thankful for the programs that CVS and Walgreens put out there, and I would hate to see them end. These stores have put out lots of memos lately to their employees about cases of couponing abuse. Let's not be those people!!

A great example of how we can do this is how God instructed those who harvested in the fields, to leave some for the poor. I feel part of our duty is to leave enough for others who need it too. There is nothing more frustrating for me than when I really needed something and only to find that they are totally cleaned out!

With all that being said, I was very zealous and excited when I began as well and I just urge you to trust that the Lord will provide each and every day. When I began doing this I was like the Isrealites in the desert whording the manna! I didn't want it to end and would get as much as possible and then just store it up. Over the past 3 years I have begun to see God's provision on a daily basis and I know that if I trust Him, there will be another sale exactly when I need it (note the use of the word "need" versus "want":).

If you find you ever have too much of anything on your hands, I can always find a home for it - at the Sudanese Center or as a donation. You can drop it off at my house anytime :).

I hope this is helpful and keep up the good work!

Kelly Hancock
Chocolate Paper & Company
615.791.0130 - phone

I really appreciate her perspective. Hope it's an encouragement.

Jenny's Vegcafe said...

Unfortunately I don't have any CVS's handy. I've had to make do with Wal-Greens rebates. Still I have cabinets brimming with toiletries and share them as you do. That to me makes it worth the trouble.

Julie Willis said...

In the beginning I would buy alot using the coupons. Alot of what we don't use! I found for us that I spend a dollar or two every month and walk away with $20 to $30 in products. Some months were better than others. I will say the CVS' are on almost every corner here, but I rarely get the really good deals! Some people go in at midnight Sat or before church Sun. That just doesn't work for us. Another thing is that are stores don't stay stocked on the best deals. We spent one date night trying to get razors and other items (we hit 5 stores with no luck)! That's when I said, "how improtant is this really to our financial outlook?" The Lord seems to provide in more ways than CVS! Amen!
Now I usually only have a couple of ECB's a month and still make out well on what we use or I can give as gifts. The other way was taking too much time for me.

mama k said...

I tried CVS seriously for a couple months. I had one or two really good weeks, but the most were so so... good prices but not tons of free stuff.

My problems were that it took me a lot of time to search out the coupons and plan my list and once I got to the store with my careful plan they were out of at least half of the things on my list. phooey! I'd even hit two stores in a week if they had a particular good deal I wanted to find. Usually even that left me disappointed.

Also, I couldn't take advantage of the medical deals as we don't use a lot of OTC meds. Extra shampoo and toothpaste can all be donated to the needy though. ;)

Not sure that I have a point here, but I say if the store is cool with what you are doing than there shouldn't be any debate.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ginger but sadly (said with a great big sad sigh) I don't live in SC anymore :( we now live in NC thanks to the USMC :) but thanks for the thought.

Anonymous said...

Uggg I hit the wrong button That was me Grace up above. :o)

Mary Ann said...

As advice to others just starting out with CVS or Walgreens, I say start small and keep it in perspective. Remember that God is your Provider even if the stores are out of all the great deals! (This has helped me not to get all bent out of shape when I've went for specific items and they were cleaned out!) God is in control and knows just what we need.

Take the chance to try a new or different product if free! We have found a few things that we really love and will now buy if very inexpensive or free.

We only have 1 CVS card and I shop there maybe 2 times a month now to get mostly the month's freebies. When I go though, I usually do 2 or 3 transactions to get the most bang for my buck. I almost always get several bags for $2-$3 out of pocket, tops.

Even with my infrequent trips, I have plenty to share. We donate to the women's shelter/food pantry and I
often pass along extras to friends who stop by. Some personal care items are good for Operation Christmas Child's shoe boxes as well.

I don' t have a problem with people buying their limit on the deals. I also don't have an issue with taking the last ones on the shelves.:-) I stick to the rules so I don't feel selfish or dishonest in any way. I can see why some of you may feel greedy about it though.

Shopping CVS and doing rebates is a wonderful way to stretch my grocery dollars and has been a blessing to us. Like Wendi stated, I wouldn't be able to donate nearly as much were I having to pay full price for every thing.

Jan said...

Another comment after reading mother of many's post. Sorry that it's about personal supplies. LOL

I started CVS in October a couple of years ago, and that was when they were advertising many different free products, all in unlimited quantities. Over the month as they restocked I was able to get quite a bit without clearing the shelves. Two of those items were sanitary pads and tampons, and here I am, mom of two teen girls and in need of them myself as well. Yet those are also two of the main things requested by our female soldiers. It was tempting to keep it all to myself. But I gave it away, down to the last unopened box. And you know what, there was always another deal when I needed it. It doesn't escape my notice that now, when I haven't been keeping up with ending boxes overseas, that my deals seem to have dried up and I've been paying full price.

P.S. - by using sites like Refunding Cents (and I know there are plenty of other sites like it, including free ones), I often did just as well using coupons combined with deep clearance. And there is no reason to feel guilty about taking more than your share when it comes to clearance. Because the whole point is that the store wants to get rid of the merchandise.

Anonymous said...

I like your take on this, Monica. We have only one card, not because I think it's wrong to have two, but because I like to just keep it simple. I think the problem is people who have five. I worry that we'll see rewards programs like this disappear or tighten up if people exploit them, you know? Anyway, I just found your blog the other day, and I really enjoy it!