Part Five: Walgreens

beginnersguide_400_coupons

Up to this point, our main focus has been on grocery store savings, and hopefully by now, with several weeks’ practice, you feel like you have a firm grasp on the process of making your list, gathering your coupons, and tackling the store. Your pantry stockpile is filling up nicely, and you’re not only starting to understand the process, you also understand the theory behind the process.

(If you are new to my blog or new to couponing, I strongly recommend that you start with part one of my beginner’s guide to coupons before reading any further.  It will all make a lot more sense that way!)

It is now time to take your coupon shopping to the next level and start to tackle the drugstores. Because this is the baby-steps coupon program, we are going to take it slow, and start with just one. This week our focus will be on Walgreens.

Drugstore shopping is a little more complicated than grocery shopping.

It requires a lot more planning and forethought, since not only do you have to make your list and gather your coupons, you also need to plan your multiple transactions in order to maximize your savings and minimize your OOP (out-of-pocket) costs.

In the case of Walgreens, there are also a lot more “rules” to remember. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but it is also a lot of fun, and the rewards are incredible. Whereas a really, really good trip to the grocery store will mean a savings of maybe 70%, a really, really good trip to the drugstore can mean a savings of 90% or more.

In my weekly shopping totals and in my monthly budget, I combine my grocery and drugstore expenses. I have found that by drugstore shopping, not only do I end up getting almost all of my family’s toiletries, diapers, medicine, & vitamins for next-to-nothing, I also can score great deals on food staples that otherwise can be hard to find on sale–milk*, eggs, butter, & bread–which helps keep my overall grocery savings higher.

You have now had 3 good weeks of practice at grocery shopping with coupons. Your stockpile is should be filling up nicely and your list of needed non-sale items should be starting to shrink considerably.

This week you are going to continue grocery shopping and building your stockpile, following the shopping guidelines from the previous two weeks, and then try your hand at drugstore shopping.

 

Week 5 Assignment:

1. Make your list, gather your coupons, and go grocery shopping according to the guidelines from Part 3.

Like last week, since right now you are working on your stockpile, feel free to stock up on any item that you use regularly, so long as it is on sale for at least 50% off.

As I pointed out last week, eventually you will be able to get more selective with your shopping and focus only on the very best deals, but at the beginning 50% is a great goal to shoot for.  And once again, don’t feel like you’ve somehow failed if you are saving less than 50%.  Any savings is better than none!

If you feel very motivated, you can repeat this process for multiple stores. Remember, the more stores you shop at, the faster you will build up your stockpile since different stores have different sale cycles.

2. Keep your stockpile organized.

You worked so hard last week to get your stockpile set up; reward yourself this week by taking care to maintain your system when you put your groceries away. A little effort each week can save you a lot of hassle and a big mess later on.

3.  Sign up for the Walgreens Balance Rewards Card

In September 2012 Walgreens unveiled a new rewards program where customers can earn rewards points for certain promotional purchases, as well as for making healthy choices such as getting immunizations or participating in Walk with Walgreens.  This new program works in conjunction with their existing Register Rewards program, but if you are going to shop at Walgreens you will need to sign up here for a card.

While this program is still very new, so far the program seems pretty straightforward & user-friendly.  You can check your balance online and the rewards are awarded as follows:

 

4. Go on a field trip to you closest Walgreens store.

Consider it a dry run. Go to whichever store you plan to shop at most often, and pop in for a quick visit and tour. It may sound silly, but trust me, it helps (a lot!) to know where things are.

There is a lot to keep track of on a high-savings shopping trip–your shopping list, your coupons, unplanned for in- store coupons, unadvertised specials & clearance items (not to mention your kids, if you are forced to drag them along!)–and you will save yourself a lot of aggravation and time by knowing where to find things.

Make a mental note of the food section, the baby aisle, the supplement, shaving, eye care, oral care, & hair care areas, which are all sections you will probably need to find frequently. Also check if there is a special clearance section somewhere (usually hidden near the back of the store).

5. Learn the rules.

Print a copy of the Walgreens coupon policy, and be sure to keep it handy in your accordion file, Couponizer book, Qubie, or coupon binder.

Here are the Walgreens “rules” you will need to know:

  • You must have at least as many items as coupons used in a transaction.   Register Rewards (RRs) are considered coupons. Thus, if you are planning to use 5 coupons and 2 RRs in a single transaction, you must purchase 7 separate items. If you were only planning on buying the 5 items you had coupons for, you will need 2 small “filler” items in order to use your RRs. I usually find good fillers (like $0.05 pencils) in the clearance section.
  • Most Walgreens registers will not accept a coupon that has a higher value than the item being purchased. Even though this shouldn’t make a difference to the store (since they are reimbursed by the manufacturer), for now when this issue arises, the cashier or manager will have to either manually push the coupon through (unlikely) or change the price of the sale item to match the coupon value so that it is still free, but not a moneymaker.     Hopefully Walgreens corporate will find a way to resolve this issue.
  • When “stacking” a Walgreens store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon, always hand the cashier the manufacturer’s coupon first. Depending on the item, sometimes the register will not accept manufacturer’s coupon after a store coupon has been used, so it is just a good general rule of thumb to follow.
  • There are restrictions on which items you can purchase with your RRs. I already knew they could not be used to purchase alcohol or tobacco products, but I frustratingly found out recently that RRs are also not valid for purchasing milk.
  • Register Rewards cannot be used to pay sales tax, and you MUST use the full amount of the RR. If something is $0.99 before tax and you have a RR for $1, it will not work, even if your total after tax is $1.07. In this case, you would have to use a small filler (like a $0.05 pencil) to make it work, and your total OOP cost would be approximately $0.12 (the cost of the pencil + tax).
  • Most items will allow only 1 RR per transaction, and that RR cannot be used to purchase the same item. If you want to purchase multiples of an item, you will have to do them all in separate transactions that are alternated with other items.

6. Make your list.

While you are just getting started, here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Check ALL items that are free or less than free after coupons and Register Rewards.
  • Check any other items that you want or need that are a savings of 70% or more after coupons and Register Rewards.
  • Print your list.

7. Create your Transaction Scenarios.

For your first week, I wouldn’t recommend doing more than about 4 or 5 items or more than 2 or 3 transactions.

Once you have printed your list, play with the different items to come up with a way to spend the least amount of OOP money.

The goal is to earn RRs on your first transaction that can then be spent on your next transaction, and so on.

Always try to start with one or two items that are free or less than free after coupons & register rewards. Save your last transaction for sale items that don’t produce any RRs or any other needed items on your list.

Be sure when you create your scenarios that you write down how many of each item to purchase, which coupons to use, your estimated total after coupons, and how many RRs you will be getting back.

8. Go shopping.

I try to always do my drugstore shopping on Sundays, the day the sale starts. Some weeks it doesn’t matter, but when there is a really hot deal going on the stores can sell out quickly and it is frustrating to spend a lot of time creating your scenario, only to have it all fall apart because one of the items you’ve planned for is gone.

Once you’ve gathered your items, take a few minutes before checking out to organize your coupons and your items into transaction piles.

Be sure to politely tell the cashier you will need to do several transactions, and be willing to get back in line if there are a lot of people in the store.

At Walgreens, I like to check out at the cosmetics counter when I can. It is less busy and the cashiers seem friendlier, but maybe that is just my experience!

Pay close attention as you check out to make sure your totals are similar to what you had anticipated on your scenarios, as well as to make sure that your RRs print out.

RRs will print out on a separate Catalina machine located next to the register. If for some reason a RR doesn’t print, be sure to point it out right away. The cashier will probably have to get the manager. 

RRs can fail to print for a variety of reasons–the machine is offline, out of ink, turned off, or gets tricked because you paid with a RR that was the same amount as the one that is supposed to print. In all of these cases, the manager should be able to issue you a new one or give you the same amount in cash.

 *   *   *

And that’s this week’s assignment. Compared to last week, it probably seems like a lot, and after reading this tutorial you may be hesitant to venture into the drugstore realm.

I promise that the savings you find will make it worth the effort! Coupon shopping does take some time at first, but it does get faster and easier as time goes on.

Stay tuned for next week’s assignment and, as always, please post any questions or comments you may have below.  I do read all my comments, and I make an effort to respond and answer questions as best I can.

Click here to go to Part 6: CVS

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{ 45 comments… add one }

  • Kim March 30,

    I am new to your site and I am enjoying it reading the 101 but this part at the walgreen check out is sooo true on my last visit I had a very nice worker offer to check us out at the cosmetic counter and she was the best she said check and make sure you got all of your RR and I did and I was 1.00 short she called the manager and they gave me a gift card for 1.00. Michelle was much more patient and friendlier.

    Reply
  • Dextane' April 17,

    I agree completely Kim, cosmetic counter cashiers probably are the most friendly because they don’t get many customers.I always checkout there whenever i go to Walgreens because they are always very polite or helpful.

    Reply
  • Erica April 27,

    I am wondering if you know about this rule at Walgreens? If you are doing multiple transactions and you use a RR for an item that is the same as what you are purchasing they will not give you another RR? Not sure if that makes sense! LOL For example, if I buy toilet paper and get a RR and do another transaction for more toilet paper and use the RR from the previous transaction of toilet paper they won’t give me another RR. The cashier said it is because it was for the same item. Is that correct?

    Reply
    • Angela May 16,

      Hi Erika :) I have worked at Walgreens for almost 9 years. You can ask me any walgreens related question you’d like Haha. Yes it is true. In the begining, could have used a RR from TP to buy more TP and still get a coupon. But, so many people have abused this that they quickly caught on and changed things. They call it coupon louping. So if you want another RR, you’ll have to use your RR in a transaction that doen’t have the TP on it.

      Reply
  • Liz Hodges May 2,

    Will you recieve a RR on a product if used one to pay for it. The product had a RR with it?

    Reply
    • Jaime July 26,

      you can use an RR from a previous transaction as long as it is not an RR from a like transaction. Say you have a $5 RR from buying a Dove product. You can use that RR for your toilet paper and still get another RR, but you cannot use the toilet paper RR on another toilet paper promotion to another RR. Make sense?

      Reply
  • Dana May 21,

    Hi gals,
    I too just learned (the hard way) that you cannot use an RR for teething you got the RR for. However, I bought a bottle of jet dry a few weeks ago when they had RRs and then this week they had the promo again, plus I had a great coupon. So I went to pay and had a bunch of other items and got no RRs. When I asked the manager he patiently explained the reason but re-rang the transaction and gave me the RR!! I think only because I had purchased the first jet dry on a previous day.

    Reply
  • New Couponer May 23,

    I just tried to use a $1 coupon for a 99 cent item and they said they couldn’t give it to me because then the item would be for free. Is that true for Walgreens?

    Reply
    • David June 4,

      Yep.

      It must be the exact amount or more. Some RR require you to spend more than the amount of the RR. E.G. must spend over $5 (so spend 5.01 and up and you’re ok).

      Reply
  • michele b May 24,

    I love your site! I wanted to ask how you deal with this frustation, because it has happened to me twice. I go to Walgreens the day sale starts and shelves have been cleared. : / I go back on restock day, to find no more has been restocked. Ugh! Help, please! :)

    Reply
    • Christina June 3,

      I went the day before the sale and the next day’s sale prices were already in effect. However, the register rewards will not print until the actual day the sale starts because the computers are programmed that way.

      Reply
  • Julie May 26,

    I am loving your website! And I love Walgreens! There are 3 stores within a 10-mile radius of my home so I have no problem with getting the stock that I need. And the ladies at the cosmetic counter are so nice! I’ve noticed they normally have ‘give-aways’ on Saturdays. Last Saturday I purchased 2 bottles of Pantene, hair accessories, and shaving cream – after using my coupons and RR’s, I paid less than $1, got $4.50 in RR’s back and received travel-size Pantenes and samples of other items from the cosmetic counter for FREE! I started out doing DrugStore couponing first (before I found your site), now I’m ready to move on to Grocery Stores! Thanks so much for all of the great advice!!

    Reply
  • Melissa May 26,

    I went shopping at Walgreens and they said I could not recieve my RR because I used coupons on that transaction. Is that right?

    Reply
    • Jaime July 26,

      no that does not make any sense at all. They don’t have any control over whether or not the RR will print, it prints out automatically. If you used an RR that was from the same item though you won’t get a new RR to print.

      Reply
  • Candace May 31,

    I just went to Walgreens and they wouldn’t allow me to do multiple transactions and told me they just ‘released’ an employee for doing multiple transactions using the RR. Is this policy based on just my store and is it ok?

    Reply
  • Sherri June 11,

    Hi, I went to walgreens yesterday and when I went to use my filler item so that I could use my rr, the manager who was ringing me out, said I want allowed to use it cause the item I used as a filler was only 25 cents and my rr was 10.00. My total bill was around 11.05. Have you ever had this problem?

    Reply
  • Schakila July 3,

    Hi, I am interested in the couponing but yet very new to it. I am confused on how to go about using a few coupons that i have for walgreens.

    1. walgreens is having a B1g1 50% off old spice antiperspirant/deodarant or body spray AND head and shoulders shampoo or conditioner. i have already clipped 2 B1G1 FREE coupons for head and shoulders and i also have clipped 2 but one get one free Old spice Body spray as well as two 1.00 off coupons on any two old spice products. How do i go about gaining the full value of savings

    Reply
  • Angela July 8,

    I’ve been slowly going through the baby steps (and I mean slowly – taking more time than just a week), but have saved 67% on my first big shopping trip at a mega sale with my coupons. Loved it! Now I’m hoping to move on to the drugstores in order to save big there. I’m hesitant, because it seems overwhelming, but I think I’m ready to step foot into the waters. I have been reading though with other posts that at Walgreens you are not allowed to use a RR on an items you received an RR for …is this correct? I just want to make sure I create an accurate list of items when I do decide to hit the drugstores.

    Reply
  • Jasmine Sullivan March 23,

    Hi I am a beginner but loving this website and all the information you provide. I just had a question about “stacking coupons”. If I have a Publix in-store coupon and a mfg coupon for the same item… I have read that this is ok to use for one item. However, my question … the printable coupons from printhotcoupons.com and other printable websites … are they considered mfg. as well? Therefore, I will not be able to use a “stackable coupon”??

    Thank you once again for a great and informative website.

    Reply
  • Veronica March 29,

    Hello. I’m lost on this Walgreen thing. I never shop at Walgreens so how do you get RR’s? Like everytime you buy a sale item or just buying anything from the store? I start my Walgreen shopping next week. I’m lost already just reading what to do this time around. I mean I understand some of it but some I don’t. This sounds really stressful. lol Reading what everyone is saying how thier shopping went. Anyone has anymore good advice for me I would love to hear it before next week.

    So far couponing has been awesome for me. My husband is so into it too. We been working together on this from step one its wonderful to have someone to help me. We have been tickled pink on the stuff and savings we have been getting. I hope he can understand this Walgreen thing more then I can.

    Reply
    • rachel bedrock January 19,

      i feel the same way i just dont think i understand this walgreens stuff

      Reply
      • Anonymous November 25,

        I find this all so confusing :-/ I wish I could understand it

        Reply
        • WhitneyM July 10,

          Hi Ladies,
          The register reward program is really quite simple. Not every item on sale earns a register reward, and sometimes items on sale won’t earn a reward at all. If you take a look at their circular, Walgreens will specifically list a series of products they are currently offering a register reward on. This is a different way for Walgreens to provide you with a sale price. They provide you with a point based reward system. If you buy Crest Toothpaste this week at full price (2.99) you’ll earn 2000 register reward points. (=$2.00) It’s like getting the toothpaste for .99, but the discount is delayed. Instead of getting cash off your total during your current Crest transaction, the points are kept track of electronically using your Walgreens card. You have to do another transaction (either directly after or at some time in the future) to actually use that $2.00 worth of credit you have racked up. It is just a method of delayed gratification. Also, oftentimes customers who are unaware of the rewards program or unfamiliar with how to use it won’t ever cash out the rewards they have earned. This means Walgreens never has to actually make good on giving the cash back to those un-savvy, unsuspecting shoppers. They think they’re getting the toothpaste for the equivilent of .99, but then they never redeem the rewards and actually end up spending fully price.
          Thats why it’s important to know your store’s program and the method of redeeming your savings! My recommendation is to review your Walgreens circular as well as look for blue sales tags while you’re in store. The blue sales tag will let you know current price as well as if there is a Register Rewards point offer on the item. Register Reward earning items are always marked.
          A deal I made last night was stated as buy 2 packages of bic razors, receive 2,000 RR points. I bought 4 and received the reward twice. That combined with a PG coupon from 7/6 for $2.00 off each one, plus the fact that they were on sale for Buy 1 Get 1 50% off meant I got the nice BIC Soliel disposable razors, 4 pack for around $1 per package. The actual cash spent was a bit higher, but those 4000 points earned will turn into 4.00 cash savings off my next transaction. Normal retail price of these razors is around $6.50, which gives me an 85% savings.

          Reply
  • Wendy August 23,

    I bought two Arizona Teas which were on sale for 2/$1 and used a $1 RR from a previous transaction (not a RR from Arizona Tea) to pay for it. We do not have sales tax in my state but was told I had to pay the sales tax and had to spend an additional $.78 to cover the tax. I questioned the salesclerk because I told her that food was non-taxable so what tax is she talking about. She said the register wouldn’t allow her to complete the tranasaction. Help me understand this policy. By the way, our sales tax is 7% on everything besides food and clothing.

    Reply
  • Demaroge November 11,

    Walgreens sounds far too complicated for me!

    Reply
    • Ruth November 15,

      LOL it really is worth the effort, I promise! :-)

      Reply
  • Heather Lewis February 22,

    I have gotten pretty good at the grocery store deals but for the life of me I can’t understand how the walgreens and cvs deals work. It seems that every time I go in to walgreens especially I end up paying almost full price for all the transactions. Im thinking im missing something important but its so hard to use the walgreens bucks because you have to count points before you can use them. Its really frustrating. Do you have a simpler way to understand the concept behind it?

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup February 23,

      The drugstore deals can be really confusing and honestly, it just takes a lot of practice. I think the best way to learn is to start small, with just a few items and really plan out your transaction scenarios on a piece of paper before you go. Figure out exactly what you will buy, how much it will cost, and how many rewards you will get back that you can use for your next transaction. It is worth the effort but it can definitely be confusing at first!

      Reply
      • Heather Lewis February 23,

        Thank you Ruth. I will definitely try it out. I appreciate your help and this site! Has saved my family lots of money so far since I as well, live in florida and double coupons are not an option!

        Reply
  • Angela March 28,

    Honestly, Walgreens has similar rules to my local grocery store, so for me this was very straight forward and made a lot of sense. It was only when I read the comments that I realized that I live in an area that has a lot of rules. I thought it was normal this entire time….

    Reply
  • Kimberly June 7,

    If something was like $1 and you had two coupons for 75 cents off, could you get a filler and use those two coupons on one item?

    Reply
  • Elizabeth June 12,

    Also at the Walgreens cosmetics counter, you can use a special Walgreens loyalty card and they will stamp it for any purchase over 10 dollars — building toward a 15% off entire purchase. More ways to save!

    Reply
  • Juliana July 24,

    Hi Ruth! I just have to say…YOU ARE BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!! And thank you SOOOOO much for sharing all of this wonderful info!!! I’m so excited to get started!! I read through the first 5 weeks of info for getting started and just spent the last 2 hours watching some of your videos on Youtube! I admit, i’m far from ready of course to tackle even the first shopping trip, but I’m excited to get going!! Walgreens may have to wait a while….it really does sound scary to me. Knowing my luck, i’d stack my coupons wrong, get flustered, start to cry when the ending total is all wrong, ask to refund all of it and try to start over all the while they are getting security to ban me from the store! Lol!!!

    I want to admit that I’ve thought about couponing before, but it always seemed so terrifying to me! From the organizing to the actual shopping trips. I just didn’t get it. But since you simplified it, i GET IT!!!! YAY!!!!

    My fiance’ and i have been living with his parents for the last year, and are about to move into a one bedroom apartment, yet with me still in college (again) and him on few hours at work, our budget will be TIGHT. We’ve been joking about needing to learn how people do this, and somehow on Pinterest i found your blog (which i love and can’t stop reading!!) and now i won’t shut up to him about this whole concept! And this was all in the last 6 hours! Truth be told i was packing and took a break…haha!!

    I don’t mean to ramble, but all of this is just mind blowing to me! I’m really in awe!! Thank you again!!! Tomorrow, i work on my organizational system and my booklet thingie majiggy…and am super excited!!!! You’ve given me such inspiration from my budget to my kitchen! Thank you again!!! :)

    Reply
  • Yun Nibbe August 2,

    I totally dig this idea, but . . . who writes the first letters you guys or us? (above says, you guys, although the email I got just said we write them.) What is the subject matter? Can we write about anything? I can imagine this is actually a lot cheaper than therapy or medication for some people today. Can we include pictures of our cats? How about recipes for vegan cupcakes? There is often a chance I may possibly have interesting things to write about. What is the statistical probability that the reader will treatment? Fantastic idea! You are all wonderful. Please advise.

    Reply
  • Marlene August 6,

    I am finding it hard to get started. Im shopping at shoprite and can’t find too many items that come to 60% savings or more. Its also difficult to navigate some of thr websites. But i am goingto keep trying. It is difficult. I am going to hook up a wireless printer to hopefully get more coupons from multiple email accounts. Wish me luck. And thanks for all the great tips.

    Reply
  • Marlene August 6,

    This may seem like a dumb question but here it goes. Once you print an online coupon cant you use your copying machine to copy as many coupons as you need?

    Reply
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  • Jessie December 16,

    I am loving your easy step by step process. I have saved so much and now I am going into the drug stores. I tried last week to save at the Rite Aid but I walked out with nothing. So I am referring once again to your blog for the info I need. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Sierra January 29,

    I am brand new to your site, and I must say so far I’m loving it! I have quickly been going through the 8 weeks guide to beginning couponing for a brief overview (I plan to go back and complete each step weekly as insturcted), but I have a question. Why do we need to keep our drugstore purchases separate from our grocery purchases? Here in CA most “drugstore” items can also be found in the grocery store… say at Safeway for example, also caries toiletries, feminine products, aspirin, etc. So if we can get a hold of coupons for drugstore items at the grocery store, is this do-able? Thanks.

    Reply
  • Nestor February 14,

    I’m really enjoying this blog! I live with my parents, who pay for my food. I don’t need to purchase so many things, so I keep my extreme coupon shopping cart limited. This allows me to help my family out. I already bought cereal, juice, and butter all for ~75% OFF! That’s $45 worth of groceries for ~$12.00! Now moving on to toiletries!

    Reply
  • Laurie March 26,

    Question, and I know this may sound stupid, but I’m new to this, and I want to know how to use multiple coupons, same item, when the coupon says limit, one coupon per purchase…

    Reply
  • Farron July 7,

    Can you recieve more than one register reward in the same transaction? If I buy laundry soap and toilet paper and they both offer register rewards, can I buy them in the same transaction and get both register rewards?

    Reply

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