Walgreens Cancels EasySaver Program, But That Doesn't Mean You Can't Still Play "The Drugstore Game"

Mitchell wrote to us complaining about Walgreen’s decision to cancel its EasySaver Rebate program, where customers could submit multiple rebate requests at once and get the money back along with a 10% bonus applied to a gift card. Although the program is no longer with us, it’s still very possible to game the reward/discount systems at Walgreens and other chain drugstores to accumulate huge savings. Sometimes you can even make money back.

Mitchell writes:

I’ve faithfully diverted all of my drugstore business over the last few years to Walgreens because of their super EasySaver Rebate Catalog. Where else could you buy stuff, collect all your receipts and send them to one place each month and get your rebates back plus a 10% kicker on a Walgreens gift card. Late last year when they went to full online submission, this was awesome. No postage, no writing out forms and circling receipts.

The first of May, my local Walgreens had a black xerox’d sign saying the program had been abruptly discontinued. I sense they want to punish those coupon kickers instead with lots of addtional hoops to jump through.

Now I have to shop at other drugstores again.

Mitchell, shopping at other drugstores again is a good thing, if you do it correctly! In fact, with a little planning you can actually make special offers pay for the other necessities that aren’t on sale.

Cathy at Chief Family Officer calls this “The Drugstore Game,” and says the best place to start looking for advice on how to do it is read the posts at Money Saving Mom. In its simplest form, your goal is to take advantage of affinity programs and weekly specials at CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens to earn discounts that are bigger than the cost of the product(s). For an example, here’s a CVS tip from last week’s Money Saving Mom blog:

When you buy 2 Neutrogena sun care of or sunless tanning products, you get $10 ECBs [ExtraCare Bucks] (Limit 1). Buy 2 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer SPF 55 1 oz. tubes at $1.99, you’ll earn $10 ECBs. So you’ll pay $3.98 plus tax out of pocket and get $10 ECBs back!

The biggest mental block to doing this sort of thing is the resistance to buying stuff you don’t need right away, or at all. For the “don’t need right away” problem, the solution is to learn to love stockpiling; you’ll need that third tube of toothpaste someday, so it’s not a wasted purchase. For the other problem, you can always give away or donate the things you don’t need. As long as it pays for itself and offsets the cost of what you really need, it’s a good deal.

MSN Money’s moneyblog says that actually, Walgreen’s new Register Rewards can net you bigger savings than the old EasySaver program if you shop carefully:

Tara [at Deal Seeking Mom] provided some [Walgreens] examples. For instance, buy Colgate Sensitive toothpaste for $4.49 and get $4.49 in Register Rewards. Combine that with a $1 printable coupon for one tube and it’s “better than free after coupon and RRs,” she said.

It takes some planning and consistent monitoring to maximize your savings, but our point to Mitchell and others who miss the old Walgreens system is that you shouldn’t shop exclusively at one drugstore chain anyway—the best way to save (or even make) money is to bounce back and forth among all of them depending on what you need and what deals they’re offering this week.

(Just make sure that your CVS cashier gives you the entire receipt when you pay.)

“A fond farewell to Walgreens’ EasySaver rebates” [MSN moneyblog]
“CVS and beyond: The superstars of ‘The Drugstore Game'” [MSN moneyblog]
(Photo: Stephen Cummings)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.