The Lazy Way to Work the Drug Store Deals

Because not everybody enjoys spending their weekends doing coupon origamy…

Plenty of people drool over the deals us coupon crazies (yes, I figure I’m one of them) manage to swing, but the effort involved – pouring over sales circulars, clipping & filing coupons, joining manufacturers’ email lists, etc – is rather intimidating despite the wealth of sites that help you pull it all together. Every chain has its own policy and reward system, but worse than that is how much your experience and savings vary depending on what manager and cashier you get. I’ve had such hassles with Manhattan CVSes lately that I’ve pulled way back on my shopping-for-free because the deals haven’t been good enough to brave the suspicion and arguments [Note: heard from district manager yesterday about my rejected coupons – I was completely right, for whatever that’s worth since I didn’t get the stuff]. The funny thing is, it’s a lose-lose-lose situation:  I don’t get the product, the store doesn’t get the boost to their bottom line (the money may not come out of my pocket, but it doesn’t come out of theirs either), and the manufacturer doesn’t get their promotion, well, promoted.

I have a friend who lives across the street from Walgreens and tends to do a lot of her shopping there. She’s not a coupon clipper and always forgets to use any Register Rewards earned (not familiar with these? it’s like an instant rebate at checkout, full or partial, that can only be spent in Walgreens). From that, I came up with:

No matter what you’re there to buy, if there’s something on special that gives you back the full price, you should buy that first, get the reward, and then go buy what you came for. It’s kind of like…recycling.

But what if it’s something I don’t need/want/use, you might ask. I won’t even go the “donate it” route, because that can be a lot of hassle for a few things a month. However, I would advise you to hang onto it because you’d be surprised at the opportunities to give this stuff a good home. For example, I got a lot of household cleaning products and Glade room scent thingies for free back in February – more than I’ll use in 2 years. Then in April, my brother bought his first house and moved in. They all laughed when I showed up with a big bag of Lysol Bowl, Pledge, Glade Sense & Spray, Fantastik, Dawn, Scrubbing Bubbles, etc…but then found themselves dipping into it several times a day during the organization of his swanky new pad.

I poke fun at myself around my family about all the “free crap” I snaffle up. They just shake their heads and say “but it’s not crap, it’s good stuff”. They still think I’m nuts, but I’ve bought their reluctant respect with a year’s supply of Secret, Listerine, Always, Pantene, Chapstick, Dawn, Ziploc, Windex, Dove, you name it. I guess it’s hard to make fun of someone else’s hobby when it saves you hundreds a year on stuff you actually need.

10 Responses

  1. exactly! lol, it kinda feels more like money laundering than recycling to me, but that’s because it’s so utterly frowned on sometimes. but it has to get better. i was at albertson’s yesterday and was completely amazed and how many items they had with coupons already taped on them. it was just coupon heaven with NO WORK! and i had a forum member send me a box of overage stuff she got for free. she actually spent $18 to mail me this box that probably had several hundreds of dollars worth of items in it. and it was so well packed and SO varied, i could probably live out of that box for about a year.

  2. You and me both, lol! I can’t get over people who make fun of me and other couponers, but then whine about their bills. It is just stupid!

  3. My co-worker calls me Lord of the Toothpaste when I confessed my stockpile. My defense was that when stores practically pay me to take off their shelves there is no reason not too. I also find that people laugh at you about your coupon habit until they benefit from it. Then suddenly they think it’s awesome.

  4. I have been called toothpaste names too, since at one time I had over a year’s worth of toothpaste in my second bathroom.

    I love stockpiling stuff because nothing beats getting that stuff for free or for just a few cents. Plus I never have to worry about ‘buying’ toothpaste or toilet paper or deodorant because I always have it on hand.

    Also, it makes it easy to be ready for unexpected guests OR go on an overnight trip since you always have extras!!!!!

  5. Well, I won’t dispute that it can be a good thing, but I don’t know if the people around a bargain-hunter always feel it’s such a benefit. There’s a grocery chain in my mother’s area where if you find a expired product on their shelves, they will give you a non-expired one for free. She loves it. She also loves garage sales to death.

    The down side is that as much as she loves a bargain, she looks for things not only for herself, but for everyone who lives close enough to her for her to give things to them. It drives my brothers crazy, because there comes a point at which her bargains– even the food ones– are junk coming into the house that they need to get rid of or find a place for. I’m glad that I don’t live close enough to her for her to be foisting so much stuff off on me. As it is, she’s sent me a few boxes of things that–yes, they’ll be useful eventually, but I didn’t really want them at that moment. It’s not always a bonus. Even if you’ll eventually use 10 bottles of glass cleaner, you only need one for now. The other 9 are a pain if you don’t have space for them. And sometimes, the reason a person doesn’t have an item is because he or she doesn’t really want to have it. Cost isn’t a factor– desire is.

    I’m not saying that your family isn’t grateful and I’m not saying that you (or my mother, for that matter) shouldn’t enjoy what you do. I’m just saying that as a sometimes recipient and as a sibling of more-frequent recipients, there are times when “take it, it was free!” or “here, it was a bargain!” can be a nuisance.

    • I started to reply and realized it was getting post-length because your point is very valid. I’ll put it up soon.

  6. Yeah, I’m one of those that can’t grasp the coupon games I guess. I do clip and use them for products I normally buy, but I don’t have the energy to find the graet bargains like you. I’m sure all these stories will come in handy once I’m retired and have nothing better to do than save money!

  7. […] Distribution Etiquette Posted on July 6, 2009 by moneymatekate My recent post about working the drug store games attracted a very thoughtful and relevant comment from one of my […]

  8. Dear Moneymate Kate,
    Are you located in New York? I’m in Manhattan and mostly all the deals (walgreen’s, rite aid, CVS) with rebates and sales tend not to be in Manhattan. I go in and it’s either not on sale, in the circular or rebate doesn’t print out. Is there any site you know of for us Manhattanites – where the cost of everything is prohibitive to begin with? I’d love to get in on these deals in New York!
    Thanks in advance,

    • Actually, Walgreens isn’t too bad – NYC tends to get most of the good deals.

      As for CVS and Rite Aid, their reduced circulars only apply to Manhattan. I just hop the subway to Court Street, Brooklyn, where the 2 drug stores are a block apart, and load up on Sundays.

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