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Monday, April 14, 2008

CVS ECBs - How Many to Rollover Each Week?

Reader and kind commenter Rhonda (I'd link to her blog but she's not blogging...yet!) asked this very good question via comment:

Do you ever use your ECB's for things that don't generate ECB's? I got the monitor deal and I have several ECB's from last week. I could use a couple of other things with those from the monitor deal. How many ECB's do you keep from week to week?

Thanks for the question and the comment, Rhonda; it's a good discussion-starter.

How many ECBs I keep week-to-week varies; if I can, I try to keep a minimum of $10.00. But there have been some weeks, especially at the end of last year when there were so many CVS coupons available (the handy $2/10 that expired Jan 08 and many other great deal-building dollar-off coupons), where I've used all my ECBs.

One, I needed to use them, particularly around Christmas when they helped to buy stocking stuffers for the kids and all sorts of odds and ends for the Christmas season. Two, with the amazing dollar-off coupons that CVS offered at the end of 2008, I knew that even if I had zero ECBs, I could start from scratch with a small deal that would rollover into bigger and better ECB-earning deals and pay only $1.00 or $2.00 oop overall.

Now that CVS has tightened up on their coupons - and the dollars off coupons in particular - I'm a bit more conservative. As I said, I try to keep $10.00 minimum to use the next week.

But here again is a point to consider: I usually only make one trip to CVS per week and do a maximum of two transactions. I don't try to max out every possible ECB deal, nor do I do deals for things I either don't need to stockpile for myself or don't know someone who could benefit by my giving it to them for free.

Why? Mostly because I have very little time in the course of my busy days to swing through our CVS and because I usually have two or three children with me. My children, to be specific, and while they are wonderful and amazing and always happy and thankful to get a roll of blue Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum Tape, they are still only children. They have their shopping limits, and so do I.

Because I do shop with my children, I pre-plan my scenarios and my back-up scenarios very carefully by calculating the numbers, organizing the coupons, and finding possible fillers. This too takes time and while I adore a great deal, there is a point where being frugal with your time and being frugal with your money intersects and then starts to tip downhill. If I spend too much time "wheeling and dealing," I'm trading that time I could be better focused elsewhere away for good. And unlike money, once time is gone, it's gone. You can't earn more.

That being said, there are weeks like this week where a stellar deal such as the Contour Meter presents itself; getting $15.00 ECBs for FREE doesn't come along very often at all.

This is just the kind of week where I'll make it a point to plan and execute that one extra trip to CVS where I can stock up on some household items or get milk for free by just "spending" some ECBs without worrying about "earning" more on the transaction.

How many ECBs to keep from week to week is really a personal decision, as is just how many trips you're willing to make to CVS each week and how many items you're willing to buy for the sake of earning ECBs. And this is what makes CVS such a great help to budget-conscious frugal folk; after you've used CVS for a month or two, you'll start to find your own personal comfort zone where the deals you're willing to make match up to the time you're willing to put into the endeavor.

I'd love to hear from other CVSers - how many ECBs do you try to rollover each week, and how frequently do you visit CVS? And, equally importantly, do you ever feel like you might be spending too much time planning, seeking, and finding deals at CVS and/or elsewhere? What's your personal balancing point? Comment and join the discussion.