Monday, June 16, 2008

Money Minigames - CVS

My first "mini-game" I've been learning the rules of is the CVS game.

For those who are unfamiliar with CVS, it is a drugstore, similar to Walgreens, Rite-Aid, etc. Oftentime higher priced than just shopping at Walmart or other such big discount stores, but if you shop it right, can provide amazing deals! CVS has this charming system (if you're a member - free btw) whereby if you buy certain advertised items, you can get what they call Extra Care Bucks (ECBs for short). These ECBs are basically credit money towards future purchases from the store.

Of course the advantages for CVS is (a) if you want to use those ECBs, you have to shop there and (b) most shoppers don't buy just the few good deals from the store but wind up spending a lot more money on things that are more expensive had they shopped elsewhere.

So, what is the game?

Well, the first step is learning to shop only the deals. On my earlier post I talked about the generic rules of money games. To play a specific minigame, those rules have to be in place - or at least you need to be working on putting them in place.

That said, the idea is to find out which deals (you can actually use) are available on a given week. For example, the other week there was a deal for a mouth-wash which cost $3.49. However, in ECBS, you get $3.49 back to be spent in the store at a future time. So essentially, I got the mouthwash for free. Initial investment on my part? Yes. But when I shopped there this week for more deals, I already had that "money" credited to my account so I didn't pay for a new item that I bought and needed.

Now, add to those lovely ECBs - coupons.

If there is an item that is say, $2.50 and the ECB reward is $1.50. That means the item would cost $1.00. Now, let's say you happen to have a $1.00 off coupon. And all of the sudden the item is, essentially, free.

Now, do you get everything for free? No. However, as ECBs start rolling over from purchase time to purchase time and I am learning to be a smart shopper by buying only when I can get the best deals for my money, the money I'm actually paying from our budget becomes less and less.

Confused yet? Yeah, it took me several weeks of studying other people doing this (see Crystal's blog as a great resource). Let me show you what I have done the first two tries of playing this game. Did I succeed perfectly? Heck no! Could I have done better? Probably. But, I'm learning and it's fun.

***

Week 1: I bought $40.90 worth of items. Nothing we can't use. Nothing that at some point we wouldn't have bought. This is what I was talking about in the earlier post - you may have to invest a little bit first off to start earning some of the credit. With that $40.90 worth of product, I got back $20.47 in ECBs for a following purchase.

Now, confession time. I did make a mistake the first time around and bought something that I thought was one of the ECB deals but turned out not to be. I've already promised myself that as I'm learning some of this, if it's under a couple of dollars, I'll probably just deal with the mistake and let it go. Chalk it up to a learning experience. However, in this particular case it was more like a $16 mistake! So I did have to take a trip back to the store to return the one product and switch it out for the (much cheaper - think $12 cheaper!) product that the ECBs actually went with.

Lesson learned: READ CAREFULLY!

Week 2: This week is where the savings really are beginning to come into play.

I bought $37.32 worth of products. Again, all of them items that we need and use (maybe not need this week - but in the future they will be needed). Well, all of them except for a couple of items which will make good small presents sometime in the future and were a really good deal! Stocking up...

Subtract from my $37.32 - $2.97 worth of coupons.

Confession time: still learning to make sure I read closely enough. My total would have been $0.80 cheaper if I had read closely enough on one of my coupons. Oh well. Chalk it up to the learning curve!

Any ways, with my coupons, my total drops to $34.35.

Now, add in my ECBs from last week, and my total drops to $13.88.

Add into that a $4 off $20 worth of products coupon, and my total is down to $9.88!

And, truthfully, two of the items on that total were ones that I had to pay full price for because I couldn't find any coupons for them, they weren't on sale, didn't award ECBs, and we needed them immediately because we haven't established any kind of a stock-pile at home. That's what I was talking about in my last post about being able to control your own spending rather than the stores controlling you.

So, if we take the two items off that are a part of this whole learning process, it actually brings the total down to $3.30.

And the really cool part?

I earned $11.00 more ECBs for my next purchases!

Have I spent money that I wouldn't have otherwise? Absolutely not. And I'm definitely seeing how as our stockpile grows of supplies, meaning I only buy when items are discounted/couponed, and earning me money, the amount of money I will spend weekly shrinks astronomically.

Hee, hee. I love this game!

1 comment:

Diego said...

You are a nerd. :0)