Monday, May 10, 2010

Coupon Order Affects Out Of Pocket Cost

CVS shopping has so many variables to get the best deal.  One has to do with order your coupons are rung up.  When checking out at CVS it is best to give your extra bucks first, then your manufacturer coupons for less out of pocket--IF you have enough extra bucks and coupons to cover the whole cost.  Let's see if I can explain this simply.
All of your products have been rung up and you have your total--some of it is tax.  In MOST states now extra bucks issued for the purchase of non-CVS products--meaning any manufacturer products--will not reduce the taxable amount (didn't used to be this way--was sooo fun to always get $.00 balances).  If your sub-total is $12 before tax and you give $12 in extra bucks earned on non-CVS products you will owe the tax.  IF you have extra bucks earned on CVS products or quarterly extra bucks to use, you will owe NO tax--they reduce the taxable amount.

Manufacturer coupons also DO NOT reduce the taxable amount, BUT they can "pay for" the tax.  So if you have an order sub-totaling $20 and your tax is 10% or $2 (to  make it easy for figuring) your total bill is $22.  Let's say you are going to pay with:

2 -- manufacturer coupons totaling $1.25
5 -- extra bucks totaling $20

If you pay in this order:  Manufacturer coupons then extra bucks, the register will tell the cashier to adjust the last extra buck down to $1.25 LESS than it is worth and you will pay the $2 tax (or you can grab something for that $1.25 and throw it in--also causing more tax).

If you pay in this order:  $20 Extra bucks then the $1.25 in manufacturer coupons you will pay $.75 and your sub-total will actually show a negative balance because the coupons reduce the total owed.

I have read this for years on couponing sites but didn't really do it.  It takes a lot of close figuring--once when I tried it today on my mom's purchase it threw my balance to negative $.01.  You cannot have a negative balance (only in the subtotal).  So this is only useful if you have plenty of extra bucks and if you figure closely.  I tried it on my large order and my subtotal shows negative $1.29--I still paid $2 in tax but saved $1.29 in cash by switching the order (if I had figured it closer I could have used more extra bucks and paid less).

I hope this is as clear as possible--I'm excited about the possibilities of saving even more at CVS, though it will be a bit more challenging because of the figuring.  Oh, and always be prepared to grab a cheap item to throw on the order if you go in the negative.

Let me know if this is clear and if you try it and it works.  And I am editing this to add:  be sure to read the comments below--Cheryl shares a problem she had with this order of coupon usage and I have replied with what I have read of others' experiences and my experience.

Happy CVSing!

Disclosure: Links in this post may be Simply CVS affiliate partners or personal referral links.


deborah said...

I had a good shopping day at CVS, or think I did...had a $4 off $20 coupon. All of these things were on sale - 12 big rolls Cottonelle tissue (4.99), 6 rolls Basic paper towels (4.99), 4 2 liters of Coke Zero (.88 each), 24 bottle of water (2.22), 10 cans of tuna (.49 each, regularly 1.79) and a Sunday newspaper (which had coupons in it) all for $19 after the $4 off coupon! I never buy any of my paper products anywhere else, can't find them this cheap!

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Those were great prices and then with the $4/20 it made them even sweeter. There are so many great deals even without the extra bucks. Thanks for sharing--I love to hear what others are doing--it helps me to do even better and find more deals. Plus it is just plain fun!

Cheryl said...

Hi Cheryl - thanks so much for this post. I tried this yesterday and I still can't figure out what happened.

Here is a summary of my purchase:

Subtotal = $24.95
6% tax = $1.50
$15 in eb
$11 in coupons

After paying with eb first and coupons second, my subtotal = negative $1.05.

I was thinking the coupons would cover part of the tax, so then I would only owe the difference betwee my negative subtotal and tax = $.45 (-$1.05 + $1.50). But the cashier said I needed to add at least another $1.05 worth of merchandise to bring my subtotal out of the negative. Then that brought my tax up as well. I was thinking I could have a negative balance in the sub-total as long my total after tax was postive, but the cashier wouldn't let me. Do you have any advice on this? Thanks!

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

The joys and frustrations of CVS shopping. You did just right, that is what I have read and what I did. My subtotal was negative, but the total wasn't. I have read of people all over doing their coupons this way with no problems. But for every instance where something works it seems there is a cashier that doesn't let it--which must be the case here. As long as my "total" is not negative they have no problem with it.

I have read couponing boards for years and 90% of the people agree what works and then there are the problems when it doesn't. And even people will find in the same store differences. A lot of times cashiers seem to make up rules as they go because it seems you just shouldn't be able to get so much for so little and they think it is wrong.

I am so sorry, and you may not run into this at another store or with another cashier, but this is the type of thing that makes CVSing so tense--you just don't know for sure what will happen. I really hate you ran into this.

On some of the coupon boards people will share what works for them and then add YMMV (your mileage may vary). But on this coupon order thing I have read of this for years as being no problem and even once in a while when I did it by accident (before I figured it out) and managers were ringing me up they had no issue unless the total was negative. Because manufacturer coupons are allowed to cover the tax.

My only advice would be to try it again with a different store or cashier and be prepared with something you would get anyways in case it doesn't work.

I would email CVS customer service, but this is a hard thing to explain correctly, maybe I will ask my manager if she knows if there is a policy.

Thanks for sharing, I am going to edit the post and have readers be sure and read your comment.

Cheryl said...

I honestly think the cashier thought there couldn't be a negative subtotal. And I didn't want to make a fuss since I wasn't sure if I miscalculated so I just went along with what she said. So I'm going to keep trying. I will be more prepared to talk with them, too, about negative subtotal being ok, as long as grand total is positive. Thanks again for your help!

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

I agree, definitely not worth arguing about. A lot of people think we must be cheating to get so much so cheaply, but I have had managers tell me they tell other customers about my shopping and try to explain how to do it. It really helps CVS not hurt them. I'm going to pull my receipt out and see if it actually reduced the tax or just paid for it--I think it just pays for it. I may try to call and ask CS, but it is a hard thing to explain. I'll let you know if I learn anything else. You are welcome, it is fun to share experiences and help others.

Unknown said...

This is a problem that must vary by the state tax law. In Texas, only the remaining balance is taxed, so if I work out my order to be close to free after coupons and extra bucks, the tax is negligible. Today, I paid $2.65 for over $80 worth of stuff,, and only .22 cents tax. But, I've tried shopping in Louisiana while visiting family, and ended up paying over $2 just in tax when my subtotal was pennies. That wouldn't happen here.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Yes, Amanda, it is. It used to work that way here and last year it changed--quite a shock! Now I am using lots more extra bucks for the same amount of stuff. I'm off to see your trip. said...

Hello! My CVS is the best. I have 2 cashiers that I have come to think of as friends. They always help me figure out the best way to use my coupons. They even play with my kids while I am shopping, it is great!!

Last night while I was there my cashier told me to always give the extra bucks first, then the coupons and if you can figure it exactly you won't have to pay anything. I have only been able to do that once so far. I actually owed $0.08. However, I don't mind paying a few dollars for a bunch of stuff!! last night I purchased over $50 worth of stuff for $5.53oop and left with &8. So they paid me to shop there!! I love it!!

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Angie, I got so used to paying nothing that paying a couple of dollars seems like a lot. :-) That's why I challenge myself to try and see how low I can get. Sounds like a great CVS--most CVS cashiers don't seem to get the concept.

J Rodney said...

I had to reread this again Cheryl. It sounds like it really depends on the cashier as well.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Yes, FrugalMom, as does a lot of CVSing. I had a cashier once watching the sub-total and handed me back the last q and I told her it was my understanding manuf. qs could pay for tax and how I had done it before and she said well, let's try it and see what happens and it was fine--as long as the total was not neg.

Missy said...

Thank you so much for this post! I didn't know any of this stuff! No wonder I always pay more. I handed my eb last.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Missy, I always did it that way for years--even after reading about it. I finally took the plunge.

Anonymous said...

Just a "dumb" question, How does a Manufacture Q pay for tax? Thanks Gracee

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Hi, Gracee, as they say, there is no dumb question. Hard to explain on paper--I am a talker--but here goes.

The items are rung up. There is then a sub-total, tax and total. When you pay with extra bucks it will take off down to the sub-total amount. So if the sub-total is $4.95 and you have $5.00 extra bucks they will only take $4.95 of it. The extra $.05 will not go towards the tax.

But, if you have a sub-total of $4.95, tax of $.35 and a total of $5.30 you can pay with $4 in extra bucks and $1.30 in manufacturer coupons if you give the extra bucks first.

For some reason, manufacturer coupons are treated as legal tender toward the tax amount. Now if there is a coupon that will not scan or needs to be adjusted down it will not work. Also, if you have too many it will throw the total into a negative amount which is not allowed and you will have to purchase something else or take one coupon back.

Often my sub-total is negative, but my total is still positive because of the tax amount.

I hope that is clear. It took me years to actually grasp and try it.

Ling said...

I tried this and I'm not sure how it all works either. I have been buying the Oral B Vitality toothbrushes using rainchecks and everytime the tax appears to be different.

Scenario on one receipt:

1 Oral B Vitality 23.00 saved 9.99

1 Coupon (insert q) 10.00
1 CVS MFR Coupon 5.98
1 CVS MFR Coupon 1.00
1 CVS Coupon 1.00
1 CVS MFR Coupon 5.00

Subtotal .02
NC 7.75% tax 1.71
TOTAL 1.73

On another receipt:

1 Advil PM 4ct .99
1 Oral B Vitality 23.00

1 CVS Coupon 13.00
1 CVS Coupon .99
1 COUPON (insert q) 10.00

Subtotal .00
NC 7.75% tax .78

And again on another one with the q's reversed:

1 Oral B Vitality 23.00

1 COUPON (insert q) 10.00
1 CVS Coupon 13.00

Subtotal .00
NC 7.75% tax .78

Now judging by the looks of these scenarios, it seemed like less tax is charged when the exact whole amount of ECB is used as tender rather than giving broken ECB's like the first scenario.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Hi, Ling. Okay, one thing I have discovered is that "CVS coupons" reduce the tax. You pay tax on the ones that say "CVS MFR coupon" just like regular manufacturer coupons. And in your scenarios this looks to be true, too. Like in #2 you only are paying tax on the $10 manufacturer coupon because all the other ones are "cvs coupons." CVS coupons are treated like a sale--you don't pay tax on the full price of an item when it is on sale, only the sale price, same as with the cvs coupon, it reduces the price of the item just like a sale would, thus no tax on that part. Does this make sense? When they print the extra bucks for a raincheck they are all CVS coupons and are nice because you won't pay tax on those.

Ling said...

I understand now. Thanks so much, Cheryl. Now I really would always ask for rainchecks rather than stressing out when I don't make it to the first day of sale. Manually printed ECB's seem better to use all the time.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

You are welcome, Ling, and I, too, much rather deal with rain checks any day--that way I am in control of when I get what and the tax break is amazing. But I have my manager so used to us (four of us) getting the deals that she stocks the best ones really well. LOL I rarely get rainchecks any more.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cheryl:

A late-comer to this discussion, but it seems like the KEY to CVSing well!

I read the entire post and every comment and response, but I wanted to clarify if this is the recommended order to pay least out of pocket:

1. ECB
2. CVS coupons (email, kiosk, snail mail like a product promo coupon)
3. Manuf. coupon

I've been doing it backwards all this time, and I wonder how much MORE money I could have saved. I don't have nearly as much ECB as you and others here seem to carry regularly. I feel "rich" just to have $5-$10 in my wallet, but it's fun trying to figure out how to keep rolling it from other deals.

I also know a great cashier at my CVS. He will try any and every coupon that I have. He's so patient and kind. I've been meaning to tell the manager that he should be recognized corporately!

Thanks for all your help!


btw - do you work for CVS?

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

No, Jane, I have connection with CVS at all. Just shop there.

You have the order correct--you have to figure closely as you can go in the negative and have to buy something else.

Lately I have had only $5 to $10 in extra bucks as I never get good CVS coupons any more. So I am working on rolling them more and more.

You may want to take the time to call 800shopcvs and brag about the great employee. CVS customer service takes customer's opinions very highly and the manager and employee will hear that a customer called or wrote.

Jennie P. said...

Wow, this is helpful information, I have been doing it backwards as well, thankfully I am new to couponing or I'd be kicking myself for all the money I could have possibly saved and didn't!
I had no idea that you can still get ECB's on rainchecked items. How does that work? Do you ask them to print out the ECB's when buying a rainchecked item, or will the ECB's print out without my asking? Does any other drugstore still offer rewards on raincheck items? I don't think Rite Aid does but like I said, I'm new to all of this. Thanks for your help!

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Hi, Jennie, and welcome to couponing! As far as I know no other drugstore does offer the rewards on rain checks.

On the rain check there will be an "event code" that is in the sale paper beside the deal. After you check out they scan the receipt and enter the code in the register and an extra buck will print out. I much rather have rain checks, personally, because then I can get the deals when I want to, but my store is great about stock so I rarely get any.

So when you get a rain check, if you don't need the item, don't be quick to use it (they never expire) if you don't have a coupon expiring. Then on a slow week and you have extra bucks expiring use them then to roll them. Also, if you get a $5 of $30 coupon you can use them to get up to the $30 to use the coupon with less out of pocket cost.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cheryl,
I too am new to couponing and I'm wondering if you can answer a question for me about CVS.

I went last week and picked up several items that had ECB's on them and/or on sale, plus coupons. This being my first trip though, I didn't have any ECB's yet.

When I was nearly done shopping I noticed that if you buy $30 in P & G products, you earn $10 in ECB's. Since most of the items were P & G, I figured I was spending $30 and should earn it.

At the checkout I asked the cashier BEFORE any coupons were handed over, if my total for P & G was over $30 or not, so I knew if I was getting the $10 EBC's and he said he couldn't tell... I just had to finish checking out. So, long story short. I gave a few Q's and my total ended up being $49.17 oop. I got home and totalled it up and had spend $44.49 in P & G products (this is only their "card" prices, no Q's at all).

Shouldn't I have been given the ECB?? If so, do you think I can go back to the store and ask for it? It was just 6 days ago.

I've learned alot just in this one post thread about the order of coupons and payment types to give them. So thanks alot!

Hopefully this makes sense. Have a great day!


Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Hi, Melissa, welcome to CVSing!! Whenever I do these types of deals I put up ONLY the P&G items first, then I ask them what my sub-total is to be sure I met it. Then if it doesn't print (I always TRY to check right away--but often forget) I can show them the ad and they know I got the right amount because I have asked them. I also try to keep an extra inexpensive item int he deal(like the Dawn)in my cart in case I am a few cents short.

What you need to do is double check and be sure the P&G items were the ones listed with the deal--these are all on the front page of the ad around the extra buck deal advertisement--and then you can call 800-shopcvs with your receipt and discuss it with them. They SHOULD attach one to your card to print the next time you shop (it usually takes 48 hours). I hope it works out.

And anytime you have a question you are welcome to ask it and there is a "ask a question" link in the right hand sidebar for easy access.

Lor said...

Thank you so much for this post. I thought I was being disorganized because my OOP has been so much more than I calculated at home. I paid $14 yesterday instead of the $5 I figured and couldn't understand how. Earlier in the week I paid $5 instead of breaking even.

Who knew giving ECBs 1st would make such a significant difference!!
Thanks again for UNcomplicating things:)

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

You are welcome, Lor. Remember, though, it only makes a difference if your total of extra bucks and coupons together is more than your sub-total.

KY Klips said...

I am getting better a this. I used to use my coupons first and then "pay" with my ECB. I am now figuring my total closer and using my ECB first and it's saving me more money. Thanks for a great tip and a very clear explanation.
Janet @ KY Klips Blog

Shirley said...

Wow thanks for all the info. I was telling my DH about it, while doing so I thougth why the MC will cover tax and that is because the Manufacture doesnt know what the coupon went for and they dont care as long as the item was sold. While CVS does as they have to pay it out to the state from their profits. Also I have never gotten rebates but I think I will for now on even if I dont have a coupon for the item when it is on sale since I can use it later when one comes out and I can save on the sales tax too.
Thanks for all the info

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip. I didn't realize that Qs could count as legal tender.

I was wondering if there is any way to tell if you ECBs are "CVS Coupons" or "CVS Manufacturers Coupons"?

I looked at my ExtraCare account and could not tell from there.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Michael, I didn't know about this either and I kept reading about it and finally gave it a shot when a manager was checking me out. I don't have my extra bucks before me, but the ones you get from buying anything other than CVS brand will be CVS Manu. Qs: they will say something like "here are your extra bucks for purchasing product XYZ." The ones they print from rain checks or that don't automatically print when you do the deal will come out as CVS Qs.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Oh, and the CVS Q's will not have the name of another product on it, but I forget what they say, though.

Bri said...

I am so confused about this. Every other site I've read says to do the opposite of what you are saying. Seriously--EVERY site! They say to do this:

1) Pay CVS $/$$ coupon first (if you have one).
2) Use manufacturer's coupons
3) Use Extra bucks

It seems to me you could save A LOT of extra bucks by paying them last--otherwise you are stuck paying extra bucks for the value of your coupons. I'd rather have more extra bucks to use on future purchases than give them all up to pay a few cents less extra tax.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Bri, that is what I did for years until I kept reading on the couponing sites to do it the opposite. And that is the beauty of CVSing--each person can reach their own goals in the using of the extra bucks. Many people have to watch closely their out of pocket and even tax can be a killer so this helps them a lot.

Also, say I have extra bucks equal to 22 cents OVER my total--if I give them last I will loose that 22 cents, but if I give them first and then the manufacturer coupons the manu. qs will help pay for the tax--so that 22 cents is not lost but goes to the tax and I can pay 22 cents less than I could giving them last.

I didn't have to pay tax for years when using extra bucks--only on the manu. q amount, so I love the game of paying as little out of pocket as I can. But when my extra bucks are waning, or I just am not in the mood to figure so closely, I use the extra bucks last.

So each shopper needs to decide what they want to do and play the CVSing game in the manner they find most rewarding. That is why I wrote the 5 CVSer personality series--there are so many ways to save and so many levels to do it at shopping at CVS that it can be very personalized.

Julie said...

I am not really understanding I's what I have that I'm working on to figure out how to do this. :)

My total is $13.02
Tax is $0.91

That is before coupons.
My coupons are a total of 2.50... how do I figure out how many extra bucks I should use to get this as low as possible?? Thank you for your help.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Julie, take the total, add the tax: this is the total amount you will need to pay. Subtract the coupons, this is the amount of extra bucks that you can use and no more.

Now, if any of the coupons are CVS coupons or the extra bucks do not have a name of a manufacturer coupon they may reduce that tax amount. This can get pretty tricky at times. But to start with I would say imagine your tax as only $.50 in case some is reduced and try it and see how it goes.

Kelly p said...

Hi Cheryl! I have just recieved an email for 30% off my regular price perchase. I am hoping to do a big trip and get lots of great stuff with this coupon combined with my mc's and ecb. My question is when should I hand over my 30% off? What is the best way to maximize this coupon? Will it work on the regular priced Bogo items? Ok, I guess that was several questions! Thnaks!

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Hi, Kelly, here is what I usually say about the % off coupons:

My thoughts on the % off CVS coupons is that for the couponing CVSer they are near useless. Sometimes on extra buck deals that do not have a sale price they will give a discount, other times not. In theory they are not supposed to. I think they could be handy to make your “own sale” on an item you need that never goes on sale—especially if you have some extra extra bucks you can use or if you have some that will expire soon. Or another idea is if you have high value or free coupons on a non-sale product use it on those products.
I just advise people to do their regular shopping if there is nothing else they want to use it on and hand it over anyways, not expecting anything, but sometimes there is a discount from it.

I actually have never had one myself, lol. As to the regular priced one on B1G1 no idea--it is attached to a discount so it technically shouldn't but like those who have tried them anyways on their regular order they sometimes get something off--though no one seems to be able to figure out on what they got the discount.

Crystal said...

So would you recommend:
1. $/$$ cvs coupon
2. ECB
3. CVS coupons
4. Mfr coupons

I ask about putting $/$$ first bc say all your items were $30 if you use ECB first then your total goes below $30 and you can't use your $5/$30 cvs coupon, right?

James and Barb said...

I just did the tropic deal here in florida and i know we pay taxes on the whole amount here not the after coupon amount and the lip balms were $2.99 and I bought 2 making it $5.98 and I gave her a $5.99 CVS ECB I had and it brought my total down to 0 cents and no sales tax. I was like I thought I had to pay sales tax she was like sometimes it just does that I wouldnt complain if I were you .... Now after reading this it makes sense ... So I will be sure to give her my MAn Q last now I am so used to giving them first

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Yes, Crystal. I have always had the $/$$ coupons go thru as long as the sub-total was right even if I forget to give them at first, but I always try to give them first to be sure. The cashier can then easily see I did get the $30.

Donna said...

I'm wondering if anyone has had the cashier INSIST that you have to use your Manuf coupons FIRST? If so, how do you handle this situation? We have one cashier (and a manager) who are like this...and I had them two nights this week!

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

I have read of this happening, Donna, and if I hand them all over at once one of my cashiers will resort them and put those first. I have read of many shoppers who just hand over their extra bucks and then after they are scanned they hand over the manu. qs.

I actually do this now--but my store knows me and knows I have a method to my madness so they often ask, if I hand them everything at once, if I want them done a certain way.

CVSing can be frustrating when different cashiers/managers do different things--you never know for sure how a transaction will go.