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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

27 items at CVS for $.13 (total)

It's that time of year again, when turkeys hide and people shop.  And for those willing to go to the drugstore a couple of times this week, it's time to save some big bucks on a ton of useful (and not so useful) items.
Every year around Thanksgiving, CVS puts out a ton of goodies that are free after extrabucks (EB going forward), CVS's in-house reward currency.  And every year around Thanksgiving, I go through the circulars to determine how to get the most items for the least amount of money.  Hey, everyone needs a hobby.
What makes EB special is that the rebate prints off on the bottom of your receipt, so you can use it immediately to buy something else.  And buy lots of something elses, you will.  if you don't need every item, give it to a friend or shelter.  The tax write-off will more than make up for your slim out-of-pocket costs.
Here's how it works: You find the most expensive item that is "free after EB."  The price of that item becomes the target price, and your goal will be to gather groups of items to get as close to that target price as possible.  Sound complicated?  It isn't.  I'll walk you through it.
The only wrinkle that CVS threw into the specials this year is that they split the goodies.  Several free after EB items are only on sale through tomorrow night, while the rest are only on sale between Thursday and Saturday.  No matter, we can work through it.  Here's how it works:
  • Go into the store and grab a circular, so you know what the items look like.  We're starting with the sale that ends tomorrow night.  The highest priced item is the Tricalm hydrogel, at $9.99.  That's our new target price.  You can get two per CVS card, so buy one at $9.99 and you'll get $9.99 in EB printed on your receipt.  Use those EB to buy a second Tricalm and get another $9.99.
  • Your goal now is to find a group of items that get as close as possible to $9.99 without going over.  If you don't use all your EB, you don't get anything back, but you also don't want to spend any more out of pocket.  It's the game that counts.  For your second round, buy the Green Giant vegetables (one at $.99), Kraft Mac and Cheese ($.99), Sour Patch gum ($1.57), Snickers/Twix/M&M's ($.79), Viatminwater ($1.50), Combos ($1.50), Swedish Fish/Sour Patch Kids theater box ($1.67) and Advil ($.99).  Your total will be $10.  Okay, we're a penny out of pocket, so you could always do this one first and the Tricalms second.  You now have EB totaling $10 (or $9.99).
  • Round 3: Buy the Rescue Gum ($5.79), Total Detergent ($1.79), Starbucks Double Shot ($1.50) and KitKat/Reese's/Hershey's Bar ($.79).  The total is $9.87, so we wasted $.12, but we'll survive.
  • Round 4: Buy everything else, including a second Green Giant (two per card), the Wrigley's Gum ($1.00), CVS wipes ($.99), Migralex ($.99), Training pants ($.99), pantiliners ($.99) and two Robitussins ($1.49 each, two per card).  Uh oh, only a total of $8.93, meaning that you have $1.04 in wasted EB.  Alas, you'll have to buy something else that doesn't give you back EB.  Or, you can do the following:
  • In Round 4, replace one of the $2 items (or $1.99, in our case) with the Colgate toothpaste, which is $2.99.  Assuming you can find the $.50 in your paper or online, which you should be able to, the cost is now $2.49, which you'll get back in EB.  That will save you the $1 difference and bring your Round 4 total to $9.93.  If you do this transaction as Round 3 (using a $9.99 EB coupon from Round 2) and move Round 2 down to Round 3 (using your $9.93 in EB for the $9.87 in purchases), you'll be out no money.
Thursday through Saturday
  • You now have $9.87 in EB for the end-of-the-week sale items.  There's only a few, including a toothbrush ($2.00, to go along with your free toothpaste), Viva paper towels ($1.99), Orbit gum ($1.00), another Reese's/Hershey's/KitKat ($.79) and batteries ($4.19).  Total $9.97, so you're out of pocket a dime.
  • What you started off with: $10.  What you ended with: 27 items and $9.97 in extrabucks.  Total out-of-pocket is $.13, which is the dime from the last transaction and the three cent difference between your ending extrabucks and your original $10.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for substitutions if they are out of an item.  My CVS was out of the Swedish Fish/Sour Patch Kids item, so I asked and they substituted Mike and Ikes.
  • Be flexible: Sometimes the store is out of an item, never got an item or won't substitute a new item in.  At that point, you need to play with your list a bit and move things around.  That's why we start with the highest priced item: it's a lot easier to be flexible with 10 $1.00 items than it is with one $10 item.
  • Get all your items at once, but separate them into different baskets.
  • Use the self-checkout.  You can take all the time you need.  And if you need help, call an associate in.  The employees know the drill and are happy to help, since they all find the whole thing a bit amusing.
  • Have fun!

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