I’ve had several requests for an in-depth “guide” to using the CVS extra care bucks system. I am going to do my best to keep this simple, easy, and non-overwhelming! CVS is a great asset for free toiletries and beauty items, and it has also become one of the easiest ways for me to give to charitable organizations without spending much money out of my own pocket. I hope that this guide helps you to get started on getting great deals and free items!
An Extra Care Card
What is an ECB?
ECB is short for “extra care buck”- it prints off at the bottom of your receipt when you buy certain items shown in the ad. You can use it like cash in any CVS store on future purchases. Here is what an ECB looks like:
How do I know what to buy?
Every week when the ad is released, we will post a link to the ad with match-ups here on the site, and also possibly highlight some great deals that we see. This week’s ad match-up is here. The *best* deals are those that you see in the ad listed as “FREE after ECB’s!” because obviously, you are getting them for free, but if you have a manufacturer coupon that you can use, you will actually make money on them. More on that later in the “rolling ECB” section.
You can either use the website link that we post or an actual physical ad you pick up in the store to plan your trip. It is best to plan before going and have your coupons ready so that the trip runs efficiently and you know what you are looking for! These types of shopping lists are often referred to as “scenarios”; Heather and I will often post some of our own scenarios and suggestions here on the site as examples for others to use. However, you can always tailor your scenarios to particular deals that appeal to you and your family’s needs!
What is the point?
The key to using the CVS ECB system is to plan scenarios that will either keep your balance of ECB’s the same or generate a profit. Here is an example:
Week 1: Colgate toothpaste is on sale: Buy 1 at $3.49, get $3.49 in ECB’s. “Free after ECB’s!” I purchase a Colgate toothpaste, and use a $1 manufacturer coupon. I pay $2.49 + tax, and receive $3.49 in ECB’s. I have just made $1 profit, and now have $3.49 in ECB’s.
Week 2: Pantene Pro-V shampoo is on sale: Buy 1 at $4, get $4 in ECB’s. “Free after ECB’s!” I purchase the shampoo and use a $.50 manufacturer coupon. I use the ECB from last weeks purchase, and pay nothing but tax out of pocket. In return, I get a $4 ECB that I can now use on another product next week, and the cycle continues.
Here are a few of my rules:
1. Never buy anything with ECB’s that does not give you more ECB’s.
2. Always use coupons with ECB’s when possible- this often allows you to make money rather than keeping the same balance!
3. Even if I don’t need it, if I am getting it for free or getting paid to take it, I get it. Someone out there is always in need, and it is an easy, no-cost way for me to give back without stretching our very thin budget.
What on earth is “rolling” ECB’s?
“Rolling” ECB’s is a term given to describe the process listed above- using ECB’s to pay for items that give you more ECB’s, and using very little of your own money in the process!
Do I always have to only buy “free after ECB” products?
Not at all! Often times products are on sale with ECB’s that you can earn that aren’t completely free. However, coupons can make up the difference in many of them, or make them cheap enough to be a good deal. If it is something you need, and it is a great price for you, get it. You can always make up for it later when you buy products that give you a profit.
What happens at the cash register?
First, have the cashier scan your EC card. Then, if you have any $5/$25 coupons or other such things, you use them next. After that, present your manufacturer coupons, and end with your ECB coupons.
What about after I have checked out?
Always make sure to check your receipt! Sometimes ECB’s do fail to print, and the cashier or manager is usually able to manually print them for you.
What did I miss?
If you have any questions at all, please post them in the comments section. If there is something that is still unclear or unexplained, let me know! Even if it is something as simple as a scenario you need double checked or advice on a store or cashier, I would love to help out!
I hope that this small guide will give you a healthy start on your CVS shopping- there will be many more posts to come for more “advanced” use of the system, but this should at least get you all started! And don’t be discouraged- even the best of us have “oops” moments in the store, but practice will make it easier, as well as save you tons of money! Enjoy, everyone!