Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Big Deal with Drugstores

Over a year ago I discovered the "drugstore deals" method of shopping. I knew that sometimes the Sunday ad had some pretty good coupons for Walgreens & Rite Aid, but I didn't know to get those "free" items that were sometimes advertised. What are Register Rewards? What are SCRs?

The best tutorial I've found is by Charlene at My Frugal Adventures. She explains -in detail - how to get the deals at Walgreens and Rite Aid. Check out her "Drugstore 101" tab to find those great articles. Even better, Charlene posts every week about the deals you can find at drugstores combining the store coupons with manufacturer's coupons and sometimes mail-in-rebates. Her blog is awesome if you want to chase those drugstore freebies.

Basically, here's how I get the Walgreen's deals: First I go to My Frugal Adventures to check out the deals. I do this early in the week because sometimes the drugstores don't keep much stock. I decide which deals I'll shop for and use the links to print coupons. I'll also go through my manufacturer's coupons and the store ad to find the coupons I need for this week's shopping trip. Then, I take my list and my Walgreen's circular down to the store and start shopping. When I check out I make sure all the Register Rewards coupons print. These are those advertised deals that say "free after register reward." If the Register Reward doesn't print, you don't get the item for free so make sure the RR prints! The RR coupons works like a Walgreen's gift certificate, but it's only good for 2 weeks. Again, if you don't use the RR before it expires you didn't get that original item for free. The difficulty here, obviously, is that you have to keep going back to Walgreen's to use your RR. If I don't see any deals I want to use the RR for in the two week expiration period I'll go and buy the store brand sleep diapers since those are reasonable at regular price. There are lots of rules & tricks about number of coupons allowed and if you can "roll" RR for similar transactions. Check out the tutorial at My Frugal Adventures for more details.

Basically, here's how RiteAid works: Find a list of the deals online and decide which ones you want to pursue. Again, I recommend going early in the week. Next print your coupons & make sure you have everything you'll need for your shopping trip. When you're at RiteAid you make your purchases, using all the coupons, and pay the coupon price. You will request your Single Check Rebate after you leave the store. If you want the really good deals that are advertised at the "after SCR" price, you MUST save your receipt. When you get home you log in to your RiteAid account, which is very easy to set up, and input your receipt date and a long code at the top of the receipt. The software figures out all the SCRs you qualify for and accumulates your total all month. Once a month you can request a check the pays out the total of your SCRs. Again, check out a more detailed explanation at My Frugal Adventures.

Most of my couponing friends prefer the RiteAid deals to Walgreens because you get an actual check from RiteAid that doesn't have to be spent at RiteAid. You generally wait until the SCR period ends (usually around the end of themonth) to request your check, then it arrives in 3-4 weeks. You also have to be sure you don't lose your receipt or forget to log it in on the RiteAid site to redeem the SCRs. On the other hand, Walgreens gives you the RR immediately and you don't have to wait a long time to get your 'money' back. You also don't have to remember to record your receipt online later. But you have to spend your RR at Walgreens within 2 weeks. So check out those tutorials and find out what seems like it would be better for you. Then give it a try.

A word of caution: When I first starting shopping these deals I had a great time getting free or almost free toiletries, diapers, & cleaning products at drugstores. Then I realized it was using lots and lots of my time between traveling, sorting coupons & researching the deals online so I slowed it down. Over the course of several months I accumlated a huge supply of toothpaste, deodorant, & shampoo (and I still have most of it stockpiled a year later), so now I only head for the drugstore when the deals are really ridiculously good. I save myself a lot of time & stress by picking & choosing to go only on those weeks when the deals are worth the effort.


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