Saturday, February 20, 2010

How to shop Walgreens

My friend Maren recently asked me how to do the whole Walgreens deal shopping. This is in answer to that, and my hope is it will help others of you out there too!

Here is the jist of Walgreens: A Register Reward is a coupon that prints out of their machine (called a Catalina machine) when you purchase a certain item. Every week Walgreens has selected items that when purchased will print out a Register Reward. If you look in their ad, you will see some of them. Example from the other week: Buy Huggies diapers at $8.99/pack, earn $3 Register Reward. So essentially you buy the Huggies, spending the full amount, but then get a coupon back for $3 that can be used just like money at Walgreens.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, there are other tricks to make this work even better--essentially making money at Walgreens. Frequently they have items that earn you the same amount of RR as spent (i.e. spend $4 for the item, earn $4RR). If you can find manufacturer's coupons on the item, then you will "make money" (ex. same item for $4--you have a manufacturer's coupon for $1 off the item--you spend $3 out of pocket, and earn $4 RR). The next week you can use your $4RR to buy another item that earns you register rewards, so you are spending a minimal amount out of pocket, but keep RR on hand and current. So theoretically at first you invest a little of your own money, but if you can keep rolling over your RR every week, you get all these items, but only pay tax and maybe a few more dimes and nickels a week.

There are a few "rules" about Walgreens system that you need to know about:
  1. You can only use as many manufacturer's coupons as items you are purchasing (3 items, 3 MFC). They consider RR as MFC too, so if you want to use any RR you have from previous purchases and already have a MFC for every item in your cart, you will need a filler item (any additional item) to include in your purchase. You will find your favorite filler items if you shop a lot at Walgreens. My favorite is the small boxes of Royal chocolate or vanilla pudding--$0.39 each and something we will use.
  2. Every month Walgreens puts out a little Savings booklet, commonly found up front with their ads or by the registers. These are full of Walgreens coupons ("Wags")on items in their store. These are not the same as MFC and you can use them in combination with MFC on a given item. They do not count toward your coupon total when figuring out the # of MFC you have to items being purchased, so they are GREAT. They will also have Wags coupons in their ad each week so be sure to check those out. There may be an item in their ad with one of these that would make for a great filler item since the Wags coupon doesn't count toward your coupon count. Don't forget to have the cashier scan the Wags coupons from the ad or savings booklet, or you won't get the deal.
  3. RR can not be used to pay for tax. So you need to calculate your purchase out, subtracting your MFC and Wags. If your pre-tax after all of those is less than the RR, the register will not accept your RR, even if the total after tax is more than the RR. You will need a filler item. Simplified example: you want to buy an item priced at $7.99. With tax it is $8.49. You have an $8RR. You can't use it to get that single item since it wasn't over $8 pre-tax (even if it is only off by $0.01). You will need a filler item.
  4. The best way I have found for giving the cashier my coupons to avoid beeps is this: MFC first, then Wags coupons, then RR.
  5. You can only earn 1RR on a given item per transaction, but different items in the same transaction can all earn RR potentially. (sound confusing? let me explain...). If crest toothpaste has a $2RR you can earn on it, even if you buy 2 or 3 in one transaction, you will only earn 1 $2RR; but say if Nyquil also has a RR deal where you can earn $4RR for buying their product, and you buy 1 Crest and 1 Nyquil in the same transaction, you will get a $2RR and a $4RR.
  6. You can not roll over RR that you earned from purchasing "item A" to buy another "item A" and still get another RR printed out, but you can use it to buy "item B" which earns another RR, then use "item B's" RR to buy another "item A", and so on and so forth. Ex: you can't use that Crest RR to buy another Crest toothpaste and expect a RR to print out again. It won't. Instead alternate transactions with something else which earns RR, like Nyquil. Transaction 1-Crest; Transaction 2-Nyquil, Transaction 3-crest, etc.
  7. Sign up for their e-letter--they occassionally send out coupons and other deals.
  8. Take a calculator with you. It helps out immensly!
  9. Above all else, start out small. It takes some practice to get the hang of everything at Walgreens. I would start with one or two items per week until you get the hang of all the coupon stuff there and how their system works. You will tend to do a lot of transactions at times, but the more you do it, the better you get at calculating everything, and being able to put more things together in transactions to make the most with your RR.

Good luck, Maren! (and everyone else). Let me know if you have any questions (which you might, because my explanation above might be totally confusing!)

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