Thursday, August 27, 2009

Walgreens Intro - You can make it work for you!

One of my favorite stores for bargain shopping is Walgreens, partly because they have some pretty good deals and partly because there is a Walgreens with very nice employees within walking distance of my house. If you’ve never played the “drugstore game” before, you might be saying, “Really? But all their prices are so inflated!” Well, in many instances, that’s true. However, they also have promotional programs that often net you free products, and when you use coupons, you can often make a profit!

Coupons at Walgreens
One thing makes for some great deals at Walgreens is their coupon policies. Of course, Walgreens accepts manufacturer coupons, but they also issue store coupons (if you’re not sure if it’s a store or manufacturer coupon, look at the barcode – manufacturer coupons have barcodes that start with either a 5 or a 9; if it’s any other number, it’s a store coupon). Store coupons are found in the store ad every week (see left), and also sometimes in special booklets found at the front of the store or in the pharmacy area. Walgreens policy allows you to combine a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon for some great deals! For example, this week’s ad contains a store coupon to get Reach floss for $.99. The coupon insert in the 8/2 newspaper insert had a coupon for $1 off Reach floss, so…free floss :)

Walgreens also sometimes issues coupons for $5 off a $25 purchase, or something similar. They actually have one available on their website right now; you can print it here. These coupons say that your total must be $25 before taxes and after all other coupons are taken off; however, the managers at my local stores instruct all their cashiers to take off the $5 coupon first. So, you may want to check at your local store to see what they do. If they are like mine and take off the $5 coupon first, these coupons also make for some great deals. If you put together an order of things that will be mostly free or very cheap after coupons (like the Reach floss this week), it’s not hard to reach a pre-coupon total of $25. Then use the $5 coupon, and you could end up paying very little.

Register Rewards
Another great thing about shopping at Walgreens is their Register Rewards (RR) program. RR’s are coupons that print out of a machine next to the cash register; these coupons are good for money off your next order, a kind of “Walgreens money.” Certain items are advertised in each week’s ad as producing RR (see the Listerine example to the left); sometimes items are “free” after RR, meaning that you get back the same amount that you pay. RR deals can be great in and of themselves, but if you have coupons, they can be even better. For example, Softsoap body wash was free after RR last week. I had printed $2 coupons from the internet, so I paid $2 and got back $4 in RR.

Now, after you get your RR, I recommend trying to “roll” them. “Rolling” means that you use your current RR to purchase something else that generates about the same amount of RR, then using that RR to purchase something else that produces RR, and so on – over and over and over again. Rolling is beneficial because it minimizes your out of pocket expenses. My basic goal for each transaction is to pay as much as possible with coupons and RR, pay very little out of pocket (usually less than a dollar), and get about the same amount of RR (or more) back. For example, last week I started with a $6 RR, and I used it to buy the Softsoap (on sale for $4, produced a $4 RR); I also added several cans of fruit so that I could use the full amount of my $6 RR. I got a $4 RR from the Softsoap. Then, one of Walgreens’ special promotions late last week was that you got a $5 RR when you bought $25 worth of merchandise. The $25 threshold was based on your pre-coupon total, so I got:

6 bottles of Tylenol (on sale for $4.49, buy 1, get 1 free)
3 tubs Huggies wipes ($3.29 each)
4 boxes Kraft macaroni & cheese ($1.49 each)

Total before coupons = $29.30
Minus 6 $2 Tylenol coupons (if something is on sale B1G1, you can still use a coupon on each one!)
Minus a $1 and 2 $.50 Huggies manufacturer coupons
Minus a $2 Huggies store coupon (takes off $2 for each tub, so -$6 total – these coupons are in special back-to-school booklets found at the front of the store by the ads)
Minus a buy 3, get 1 printable coupon for the mac and cheese (-$1.49)
Minus in-ad store coupon to get mac and cheese for $.69 (takes $.80 off all 4 boxes, so -$3.20 total).

My post-coupon total was $4.61. I paid with my $4 RR from the Softsoap and some change, and got back a $5 RR because my original total was over $25.

These transactions are part of a long chain of RR deals. I don’t even remember what my initial RR was from, but I think I got it sometime back in May, and since then, I have used RR + pocket change to get toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, cookies, cereal, pens, Glade candles, a blow dryer, deodorant, and more groceries than I can remember right now. If I weren’t “rolling,” I’d be paying a much larger percentage out of pocket for all these transactions; as it is, I’m really just paying pocket change each time, for things we’ll use.

Other Useful Walgreens Tips
  • It's best to have the cashier scan the in-ad store coupons last. This is because none of the other coupons (RR, manufacturer coupons, other Walgreens store coupons) will pay tax, so the register won't take them if they would make your pre-tax total be negative, even by a few cents.
  • If you buy more than one of an item and use a Walgreens store coupon, one coupon will take the amount off all qualifying items.
  • Only one RR per deal will print per transaction. For example, if I had bought 2 Softsoap in one transaction, it would still only print 1 RR. However, you can buy items for separate RR deals in one transaction, and it will print all RR.
  • If you use the RR you got from one deal to buy more of that same item, it will not produce another RR. So, if I used my Softsoap RR to buy more Softsoap, it would not produce another RR. However, I could use it to buy the Listerine deal pictured above and I would get the RR.
  • The Walgreens registers are set to not accept more manufacturer coupons than items per transaction. And RRs count as coupons. This means that if you buy, let's say, 4 items and you have a manufacturer coupon for each one, if you are going to use an RR, you will need to add another item item that you do not have a manufacturer coupon for, or the register will not accept all your coupons. I usually add something small (like under $.50 or so); items with in-ad coupons are often good choices. Walgreens store coupons are not counted in the "coupon count."
If something isn't clear or you have questions that aren't covered here, please feel free to ask questions, and I'll do my best to answer!


  1. I haven't done Walgreens as much as CVS. Do the RR not expire like the ECB at CVS?

  2. Yeah, they usually expire 2 weeks after they print. I've just been able to roll mine before they expire, so I always have current ones. CVS is better in some respects, but I live within walking distance of a Walgreens (and drive by it on my way to work), and CVS is about a 10-15 minute drive away, in a direction I never go for anything else. So, I do them both, but our Walgreens is much more convenient (and usually nicer). Most of my stash of free toothbrushes, floss, shampoo, Scrubbing Bubbles, OTC meds, and mac & cheese has probably come from there. They got rid of their Easy Saver rebates, so it's not quite as good as it used to be, but there are still some good deals.

  3. I have heard in other blogs that if I pay with a RR, then another RR will not print out if they are from the same company, even if they are different items. True?

  4. Jenny,

    I have heard similar things too, and it may be true for certain companies, but for the most part, I don't think the companies matter, just the individual promotions. I know that I have used Colgate RRs from one week to buy other Colgate RR items the next week, and I still got the new RR. I'm pretty sure I've also rolled Wyeth RRs into other Wyeth RRs. Really, the only time that I pay attention to the company (and not just the individual promo) is if they are P&G RRs, since those usually say that they're not valid on other P&G items. I hope this helps!