CVS 101

CVS Shopping = Super Savings
Do you want to learn to save money and easily keep your family stocked with necessary health and beauty items, some food and cleaning supplies for free or pennies on the dollar?
You can keep your family's H&B item needs met with very little out of pocket cash.  You will also be able to have extra items for gifts, for sharing or for donating.  Just by shopping at CVS and using their weekly sale ad, their coupons, their extra care bucks' program and manufacturer coupons.
It is a whole new way of thinking and shopping, but it is also very rewarding.  It will take a while to learn the ropes, change your thinking and get the hang of the system, but before long you will be enjoying the benefits of learning to "CVS."
Below are 10 easy lessons to get you on the road to enjoying the benefits of shopping at CVS.
Have you ever thought of CVS as a place to save money on your basic health and beauty needs and some of your food needs?  Even bring home some items for free?   I never did, but CVS Pharmacy is a great place to do just that.  I have been shopping at CVS weekly now for a couple of years and each week I bring home several to dozens of things for pennies on the dollar.
Let me help you get started saving at CVS.
Step # 1:  Get an CVS Extra Care Reward Card.
With the CVS Extra Care Card you will receive sale prices, extra bucks on certain items (these are coupons on the end of your receipt to use almost just like cash at CVS) and quarterly extra bucks on all of your CVS purchases and prescriptions, and CVS coupons for a variety of products in the store (see the CVS 101 Lesson "What's an Extra Care Buck").
There are two ways to do this:  you can either pick up an application in the store or fill one out on line.  The benefit of picking one up at CVS is that you can get it immediately and can start shopping and saving.

Join Upromise and Save for College by linking your  CVS Extra Care Card.  Select items will generate a deposit into your Upromise account.  A complete list of participating products can be found at Upromise.
Step #2:  Register Your Card Online
Go to and on the top right hand side is an "Extra Care" icon which when clicked has a place to register your card.  Be sure to put down that you want to sign up for all CVS home and email mailings--you will receive added savings in the form of periodic mailings of coupons.
Within a few weeks of registering your card you should receive an email from CVS with a $4 coupon good on a $20 purchase if you gave an email address.  Then keep your eyes open for more emails with special savings.
CVS has great customer service.  The 800 number is on the back of the card you will receive (800-SHOPCVS).  You can also contact them thru their website.  If you have any questions or concerns call CVS and they will clarify anything you might not understand or tend to any problems you encounter at your local CVS.

To read more about the Extra Care Card check out these posts.

CVS has a reward system with their store cards. They reward shoppers with Extra Care Bucks (a.k.a. ECB's) for certain shopping habits. These are "coupons" that print at the bottom of the receipt when you shop at CVS. These are good for almost ANYTHING at CVS(some exclusions apply, which are listed on the ECB: examples: stamps, prescriptions)
#1: CVS customers receive 2% back quarterly for their out of pocket (oop) spending rounded down to the nearest $.50 increment. If you have $100 out of pocket at the end of the spring quarter, within a few weeks you will receive a $2 ECB at the bottom of your receipt the next time you shop at CVS.
#2: Customers receive $1 for every two prescriptions filled at CVS. These also print out quarterly and are included in the same ECB as the quarterly out of pocket spending mentioned in #1 above.  UPDATE:  Customers receive 1 credit every time they fill or refill a prescription in store or online. Fill 10, earn $5 ExtraBucks® Rewards.  You must sign up for this at the pharmacy--and you must sign up EACH family member.
#3: CVS weekly and monthly ads will often list a sale item that the customer also receives an ECB on.  These extra bucks print immediately after purchase.
An example: If Colgate toothpaste is on sale for $2.99 with $2.00 back in ECB's, on the bottom of the customer's receipt from this purchase of $2.99 will be a $2.00 ECB to spend on their next order at CVS.
Usually there are one to three things each week that are "free after extra bucks." Which means if the Colgate above was $2.99 the customer would receive a $2.99 ECB after buying it. Beginning about the summer of 2009 these became fewer and fewer, but there is usually still one, often more.
If your CVS is out of an extra buck item ask for a raincheck. When it is back in stock buy it with the raincheck and after the purchase the cashier will print your extra buck out.
#4: Extra Bucks have an expiration date approximately 30 days after the issue date.
#5: Extra Bucks can only be used with the CVS Extra Care Card they were received on.
#6: Extra Bucks must be used for the amount printed on them or the remaining balance is lost. For example, you have a $4 extra buck and you want to buy a $2.99 item--you will not get change. They will change the extra buck to $2.99 at the register. The other option is to get a "filler." Pick up something that costs $1.01 or under and throw it in your order. Travel size items are often good for this purpose as are candy bars. You will get familiar with inexpensive items to throw in. I often get a candy bar for the cashier.

Note:  Check the bottom of your CVS receipt as soon as you check out to be sure your Extra Buck printed. If it did not show the item and the ad to the cashier and she/he can "force" one to print for you.

CVS puts a sale ad out each Sunday.  It is available in the Sunday edition of the newspaper and also at CVS.
There are many good sales even without receiving extra bucks back.  There are often two day sales good only Sunday and Monday, or three days good Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and these are often super deals.

Pick up a CVS ad and get familiar with the layout.
Look for extra buck deals and see how they are marked so you learn to see them easily.  Often there is fine print under a sale item including more items than what is pictured and includes any limit details.  Learn to read the fine print.

This is an Extra Buck deal example.  
It tells what you pay:  $5 for two, 
and what you get back:  $2 extra buck. 
It also shows what your "net" cost is:  $3 for two.

A "free after extra bucks" example.  
It shows what you pay:  $4.99, 
and what you get back:  $4.99.  
So your net cost is "free."

You can also go to and enter your zip code to find CVS stores near you; and click on "store circular" to see it online.

There are basically two types of coupons to use at CVS:
#1 Manufacturer Coupons
#2 CVS coupons
Manufacturer coupons are found in various places.  The Sunday edition of the local newspaper usually has  inserts  of coupons. There are three companies which publish Sunday coupon inserts:  SmartSource, RedPlum and Proctor and Gamble.  You can see the upcoming Sunday Coupon Insert Preview each Wednesday here at Simply CVS.
Some coupons are sent via snail mail.  In some areas the RedPlum inserts are mailed to residents and customers who contact companies in regard to a compliment or complaint about their product will often receive complimentary coupons.
Grocery and drug stores are great places to find coupons.  The most common are:
Tear Pads--found on displays or on the shelf near the product
Peelies--a coupon stuck to the product that can be peeled off when purchased
Blinkies--little red machines with blinking lights that are on shelves near products;  A small shiny coupon "pops" out, when taken another one will pop out within a couple of seconds, then a minute or two later another one will pop out.  These are changed out every month or so and new products offer the coupon.
Coupon pulls--small boxes or larger "flat window" displays holding coupons you can pull out; These are often in the dairy section.
There are sites online where you can  print  coupons and often manufacturers' websites have coupons to print or you can sign up to receive them periodically via email. Manufacturer coupons can often be found  inside packages  of products.  Also, some manufacturers will have  mailing lists  and send out coupons from time to time.

For a more detailed look at sources for coupons check out this other post:  Grocery Coupon Resources.
CVS coupons are sometimes found in tear pads or brochures in the store, in direct mailings to your home, at the bottom of store receipts just like their Extra Bucks coupons, on packages, and in magazines. There is a magazine sold at CVS called "Reinventing Beauty" which always has a couple dozen great coupons that often go along with deals available before they expire.  The magazine sells for $.99.  At times there are stacks of the coupon inserts from these magazines available without purchasing the magazine.
Some CVS coupons say "one per customer" and apparently mean "one per transaction," because they allow you to use more than one, but the register will only allow one per transaction.  Most CVS stores now have self scanner machines which allow a customer to scan their card and receive CVS coupons printed especially for use with their card--just like the ones on the bottom of the receipt.
Here is the great thing about couponing at CVS: CVS policy states a customer may use ONE manufacturer and ONE CVS coupon per item.  So if you have a Colgate coupon put out by the manufacturer and a Colgate coupon good only at CVS you can use both on the one tube of toothpaste.  AND if there is an Extra Buck deal on the product you receive that, too.
All coupons have a UPC symbol. Manufacturer coupons will have a UPC beginning with a 9 or a 5, CVS coupons begin with a 4.  This is a good test to use to check which it is if you are confused.

No, we are not going bowling at CVS with our Extra Bucks.  To "roll" an extra buck means to spend it at CVS on an item that will give extra bucks back.  You "roll" it into another extra buck with a later expiration date while "purchasing" a free, or nearly free, product with your current extra buck you earned from an earlier transaction at CVS.
There are two main benefits to "rolling" extra bucks at CVS:
#1:  You will pay less cash out of pocket at CVS.
#2:  Your extra buck will have a later expiration date ensuring it won't expire before you use it.
Rolling perpetually is possible.  You use the extra bucks from last week on this week extra buck items and then you use this week's extra bucks on items that give extra bucks next week.  As long as there are extra buck deals each week (or at least once a month) you will be able to "roll" them over and over again before they expire.
Sometimes you may need to roll your extra bucks by buying something you do not necessarily want or need just to be able to keep up the process of rolling--these items you will find good homes for by donating to non-profits or sharing with friends.  I sometimes ask the cashier if she would like it.  The sales at CVS dictate what you are able to purchase to roll your extra bucks.
By the use of manufacturer coupons and CVS coupons you will find that you will often actually increase your extra bucks.  You may enter the store with $15 in extra bucks, buy $30 worth of product for tax only and leave with $18 in extra bucks for next week's deals.  As they increase you can then spend them on items on sale or that you need that do not give extra bucks.
A simpler way is to just roll them each week. You can make more than one transaction (see the CVS 101 lesson on Numerous Transactions) using the extra buck earned on the first transaction on the second, those earned on the second on the third, etc.  Then before you leave the store spend any extra bucks you have on sale or necessary items.  You will have greatly reduced your out of pocket cost and increased your spending power.
CVS shopping has its own rules and way of thinking.  It seems foreign at first, but after just a few weeks a shopper easily gets the hang of it and begins to be amazed at the savings possible.
When an extra buck item is out of stock at CVS request a raincheck.Rain checks for extra buck items are a good way to roll your extra bucks before they expire.

If an advertised item is out of stock at CVS and it is an item regularly carried, they will issue a rain check to the customer.  A rain check is a slip of paper with the sale price and the quantity you wish to buy or are limited to buying.  At CVS, rainchecks never expire.

It will also have a code number on it if there is an extra buck to be received back after purchase.  In the future when CVS has the item back in stock you will take the item and the rain check to the cashier and she will price adjust it to match the former sale price.
If an extra buck is to be issued she will scan the receipt after your purchase, type in the code and an extra buck will print. If your cashier does not know how to issue an extra buck from a CVS raincheck the instructions are on the back of the new rainchecks that came out in 2008.
Rain checks are great to have.  They help you to not miss the sale price and often help you to save even more in the future by combining them with new coupons that come out or to use to help get your spending sub-total up to a certain dollar amount needed for a "dollar off dollar" CVS coupon, such as $5 off $30 purchase.
I was always anxious to use my rain checks, but have learned over the years that the more patient I am to use them the better the combined deal I often end up getting.
If you are told they can not issue a raincheck for an item regularly carried at CVS, call 1-800-shopcvs and talk with a customer service rep, they will clarify their raincheck policy and call and talk with your local CVS manager if they are in the wrong.  CVS has great customer service.

At times, while shopping at CVS, you will add up your purchases and they will be less than the CVS extra buck you have to spend.
For example, your 4 items come to $8.75 and you have a $10 CVS extra buck. At CVS, extra bucks must be used for the amount printed on them or the balance is lost.  They would change this extra buck to $8.75 at the register to equal your sub-total.
The other option is to get a "filler."  Pick up something that costs $1.25 or under and throw it in with your order to "fill" the dollar amount.  CVS has a lot of items to choose from to use as fillers. Travel size items are often good as are candy bars and clearance items.  You will get familiar with inexpensive items to throw in.  I often get a candy bar for the cashier.  The least expensive item I have found at CVS lately is a $.40 pack of Ritz peanut butter crackers in the snack section by the coolers.
So get familiar with inexpensive items at CVS that you can use so when you need a filler you are ready.
These are some of my recent fillers.  Even the container was on clearance for $.40.   The CVS q-tips are in the travel section for $.50.   The other CVS items were all $.99.

One advantage to shopping the CVS sales weekly with extra bucks and coupons is it is easy to start stockpiling.  You will be transferring CVS stock from CVS shelves to your own shelves.  So you may want to start thinking where you can store extra supplies at home.  Couponers come up with creative ways to store their extra supplies.
Stockpiling is having a little(or large) stock of non-perishable items in your own home.  Hoarding would be an extreme of stockpiling.  When wanting to save the most money possible, a stockpile is necessary--it assures you will never have to pay full price for any basic, non-perishable item.  CVS is a great place to build your health and beauty stockpile.  I also keep some foods stockpiled from CVS.
If you are squeezing out the last bit of toothpaste in the morning before work you will need to stop where it is convenient to pick up a tube on the way home.  You will pay a high price this way.  If you have a stockpile, you will have another tube waiting, which you probably got free or for pennies at CVS.
It is important to decide how much stockpile is reasonable for you.  A month's worth?  Six months?  A year?  Maybe you have a space issue so you will fill three shelves and that's it--but you still need to decide how much of each item you will stock.
Toothpaste is a great example.  I never pay for toothpaste any more and there are so many deals on it at CVS that I have all the stock at home I need.  So I either get it and share it--with other family or friends or donate it to needy charities--or I need to pass up all the future deals until I use some up.
Remember, with the coupons, sales and extra bucks at CVS, many items are free or pennies on the dollar so you don't need a lot of money to build a stockpile.  And you will save a lot of money over the year.

A stockpile builds slowly at first as you learn how to shop at CVS, but before you know it you will have more than your family can use and you will be able to share with others.

To read more about stockpiling check out these posts.

CVS and coupon shopping have some terms you may not be used to. The longer you shop as a CVSer or couponer, the more these terms will become second nature.
CVSing - shopping at CVS and saving
ECB - Extra Care Buck - the coupon at the bottom of the CVS receipt earned for certain purchases that can be spent almost just like a gift card
Extra Buck - Extra Care Buck (see ECB above)
CRT - Cash Register Tape
Q - Coupon
Filler- an item to be thrown in a transaction to utilize the whole extra buck
Rolling Extra Bucks - using an extra buck on an item that will give an extra buck back
CS - Customer Service
Raincheck - a "coupon" written by the cashier for a sale item that is out of stock to be used whenever the customer chooses when it is back in stock
RC - Rain Check
Stockpiling - having a stock at home of non-perishable necessary items
Stockpile - a person's stock at home of non-perishable necessary items
FAECB - free after extra bucks; a sale item that you earn the same amount of extra bucks you paid
Out of Pocket - Cash that you pay above extra bucks and coupons
OOP - Out of Pocket-Cash
WYB- When You Buy
MM - Money Maker
Money Maker - an item you buy that you pay less for than you get back in extra bucks (like a free after extra buck item that you have a coupon for--you don't really "make money" but you get more extra bucks to spend later than you paid for the item)
MIR - Mail In Rebate
SS - SmartSource Coupon Insert from the Sunday Paper
RP - RedPlum Coupon Insert from the Sunday Paper
P&G - Proctor and Gamble Insert coupon from the Sunday paper

At CVS, to get the most "bang for your Extra Buck," it is necessary to make more than one transaction.  The basic reason is to use one CVS extra buck (ecb) earned on the first transaction on the next transaction that rewards another CVS extra buck.  This is referred to "rolling" extra bucks in the world of CVSing.
If you are just starting to shop at CVS, say, and the week you start these are the extra buck deals you are interested in:
Shampoo           $3.99 get $3.99 extra bucks
Toothpaste        $2.00 get $2.00 extra bucks
Pain Pills           $4.99 get $4.00 extra bucks
If you did one transaction you would pay "out of pocket" cash a total of $10.98 and you would have $9.99 in extra bucks.
But if you did three transactions:
#1  Toothpaste
  • out of pocket cash $2.00 and receive an extra buck (ecb) worth $2
#2  Shampoo
  • use the $2 ecb from #1 and out of pocket (oop) $1.99 and receive an extra buck worth $3.99
#3  Pain Pills
  • use the $3.99 extra buck from #2 and $1 oop and receive an extra buck worth $4.00
You would pay out of pocket cash a total of $4.99.**
You have the same products but you put out less cash.  Yes, you do only have $4.00 instead of $9.99 in extra bucks left for next week's deals.  This is where individual preference comes in.  What is your goal?  To put out the least bit of cash possible or to just enjoy great savings?  It is up to each CVS shopper to decide.  I prefer as least cash out of pocket as possible so most of my shopping will naturally lean that way and those whose goal is different can adjust them accordingly.
If you choose to do numerous transactions I suggest moving to the end of the line after completing one or two transactions.  I usually do one; if no one is in line I do another.  Or if my second one is ready and small I may do two even with someone in line.  This is not only considerate for those waiting, but the CVS cashiers appreciate it, too.  

**Just a side note here.  If you had a coupon for each of these items, which is often the case, you would end with an extra buck worth more than you paid out in cash.  This is what is meant by a "money maker" in the world of CVSing.

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