Free shampoo! Free toothpaste! Free toiletries!
We all have limited resources that we must prioritize in order to survive and to live our lives to the fullest. But spending your money on needs rather than wants is always a bummer. I know I didn’t grow up dreaming about spending my hard earned money on shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent and trash bags; rather I dreamt about traveling, taking lots of neat classes, waltzing up and down the aisles of the Container Store…you get the picture.
In fact, I refuse to pay for any of these items, because if I did, that is more money washed literally down the shower drain (or thrown away in the trash) instead of being used to fund my dreams. How can I get away with this? I assure you that you will not find my mug shot behind the counter at CVS. Instead, I play the Drugstore Game. I get all of the following for free or for pennies: cleaning supplies, toilet paper, paper towels (though we generally only use dish towels), napkins, cosmetics, feminine products, razors, shaving cream, OTC medicine, hand soap and body wash, toothpaste, rinse and floss, lotion, sponges, digital photos, the occasional office supplies, all of our Halloween candy, etc. Last year alone this saved me $760+ (your annual savings is nicely calculated for you on your CVS receipts). If only I could find the MD Complete skincare line for mere pennies. This year I have saved myself $263 so far—and that is all free products. Perhaps the most impressive number is the amount that I have actually spent out of my pocket at the drugstore on the necessary items to run a household: since I was a novice last year, I spent almost $150, but I’ve whittled that down to just $30 this year, and my husband and I are never for want of anything. In fact, I have so much product left over that I donate bags of toiletries several times a year to a women’s domestic abuse shelter here in Houston.
Here’s how to get started, as well as some humorous articles I wrote about my own personal experience when I first started playing the game in 2008.
- Get Your Hands on the Sunday Paper: You will need to get a set of coupons (at least one set, more is preferable but not necessary) every Sunday. Get creative at finding coupons in places other than the Sunday Paper: do you have neighbors who get the Sunday paper but hate couponing? My friend finds a ton of coupons in recycling bins. Many libraries have coupon exchanges, and you can set your own up at work or amongst friends. Here is a great place to get a discount on a newspaper subscription. The money you spend on a subscription will be peanuts compared to what you save.
- Organize Your Coupons: I don’t mean clip them all (heavens no—that would take too much time, though some people do this). Instead keep them filed. Purchase ten folders or so and write the date of the inserts on the outside in a sharpie marker. You’ll see why this is necessary and time-saving in a moment.
- Follow a Drugstore Game Blog: There are women who stay at home and do nothing but track deals all day. How great is that for people like you and me? Each Sunday when the new CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid flyer comes out, simply click on one of the following blogs and read through their write-up on the deals. They will list out the sale, and then also pair it with a coupon (with RP for Red Plum insert, SS for Smart Source insert, or PG for the PG insert) and a date. Go to your folders, look up the date, clip out the coupon, and viola! The blogs I turn to for this information are: Money Saving Mom, Coupon Mom (sign up for a free account and you can search her database to find a coupon by brand), and I Heart CVS.
- Go Shopping: Write down the deal (or circle it right on the flyer), and go shopping! When you come out of there having paid less than a dollar for $40 worth of merchandise, the sales clerks and probably the person behind you will be asking for your phone number.
People can get a little crazy with the drugstore game, especially in their first few months (I know I did). It can also seem a little overwhelming at first. But I guarantee you that if I figured it out, then so can you! Your savings will be almost immediate, so how is that for some instant gratification? After a few months you will be great at it and it will prove to be a wonderful money saving tool in your frugal living arsenal.
Dying to learn more? Check out my new eBook, a comprehensive guide on The CVS Drugstore Game.