Don’t get me wrong. When I was in college, a newlywed, and a new mom, Longs was actually “my drugstore.” There seemed to be a Longs on every corner in Santa Barbara, and there was one within walking distance from my home. But, a little over a year ago, my life changed when I walked into a CVS. I had no idea what I was doing. But, I knew I could get free stuff there. So, I was going to try to figure it out. Since then, I’ve been able to keep our family stocked with practically every toiletry we regularly use without spending very much money out of pocket.
If you’ve been reading any of the deals blogs, you have probably heard about CVS and you’ve heard talk about ECBs. But, it may not have seemed important at the time. But, now that Longs has been converted into CVS, well, it’s time to figure it out.
ECB is short for Extra Care Buck. Usually an ECB will print at the bottom of your receipt, so always check it, don’t chuck it.
Sales that generated ECBs were suspended for the month of May as Longs was converted over to CVS’ system. I don’t have insider information, so I’m not sure what the deals will be like in the future, but this week’s ad features several specials that will generate ECBs.
Here are a few that stand out to me:
Milk, one gallon, $2.29 – $1 ECB = $1.29, limit 2
Mennen Deodorant, $2.49 – $1 ECB = $1.49, limit 1
Alka Seltzer, $2.99 – $2 ECB = $0.99, limit 5
Now, provided that your family uses those three products, these are very good prices. You could buy your limit of all these items, pay $22.04 + tax out of pocket and receive coupons on your register tape for $2, $1, and $10 to use at a later date. This is a fine way to do it, but you will have spend a chunk of change out of your pocket and CVS will then be holding $13 of your money, hoping that you lose your ECBs.
What you can do instead is “roll” your ECBs. In other words, break up those products into several purchases, reducing your out of pocket (oop). Here’s how:
Buy 2 gallons milk = 4.68
Buy 2 Alka Seltzer = 5.98
pay $10.66 (+tax, if applicable)
receive back ECBs for $2 and $4. This means that your “cost” for the milk and the Alka Seltzer was $4.66
Buy 2 Alka Seltzer = 5.98
and find some little dodah for about a quarter. You want your “pre-tax total” to be above $6.
total due is $6.23
pay $6 in ECBs, and $0.23 in cash, get back another $4 in ECBs
Buy 1 Alka Seltzer = $2.99
Buy 1 Deodorant = $2.49
total due is $5.48
pay $4 in ECBs and $1.48 in cash, get back $1 and $2 in ECBs
At the end, you’ve spent $12.37 out of pocket and still have $3 to spend the next time you go to CVS. Technically, it all works out the same in terms of “cost.” You paid about 9 bucks for 2 gallons of milk, a deodorant, and 5 Alka Seltzers. But, you’ve lowered your risk. You only have $3 to lose, instead of $13. Plus, if you’re on a tight budget, you don’t have to fork over so much of your money. You can achieve the same goals with less capital. It just depends on how you want to work it.