Free Shopping at Walgreens

By Nora Dunn on 28 October 2007 (Updated 18 August 2011) 21 comments
Photo: Josette

If you could find a way to shop at Walgreens for free, and sometimes to even get paid to shop there, would you?

If you could find a way to shop at Walgreens for free, and sometimes to even get paid to shop there, would you?

Money Saving Mom tends to research and share information about great coupons and deals on a regular basis. The one that caught my eye was a shopping technique used at Walgreens whereby not only does she rarely if ever spend money out of pocket to shop there, but sometimes transactions using her strategy can even result in a negative balance! Her excellent post details the shopping process here, but below is the quick and dirty summary:

Rebates: The Walgreens monthly Easy Saver Catalog features lots of smokin' deals, including a selection of "free after rebate" items. Even the items that aren't free after rebate should be watched over the course of the month, because they may go on sale such that after rebate they'll be free or almost free.

Mailing in for rebates is enough of a pain that many of us don't bother. However with a little effort, you can receive a Walgreens gift card as your rebate, which will entitle you to an additional 10% in value over opting to receive a cheque. Future rebates are credited to your existing gift card, and these rebates are processed in half the time.

And of course, once you receive your first rebate gift card, your next trip to the store is partially if not fully funded, especially if you make good use of the entire Walgreens shopping strategy! (read on)…

Coupons: You can find coupons in their store flyers, as well as on their website here. You can combine both in-store coupons as well as manufacturer coupons to really get some bang for your buck.

f an eligible item, the cash register will produce a coupon for you to use at your next visit.

By combining register rewards, coupons (both store and manufacturer), in-store sales, and the rebates, people have actually been known to rack up a negative balance at the cash register! Unfortunately Walgreens won't actually pay you the balance - in fact you have to add items to bring your balance back up to (at least) $0, but it still seems like a pretty decent price to pay!

It strikes me that there is a lot of work involved, combing the flyers and websites for deals, stockpiling and tracking flyers for monthly deals and waiting for the right item to go on sale, then redeeming multiple coupons at the cash.

However, others have used Money Saving Mom's strategy successfully. And in the spirit of being frugal, you can't get much better than shopping for free.

Note: I haven't ever shopped at Walgreens since there isn't one anywhere near where I have lived to date, however given these awesome deals, I'd give it a try if I were in the area!

Comments and advice from experienced Walgreens shoppers is welcome.

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Myscha Theriault's picture

I used to do this in Tucson, Nora. One thing that makes the Walgreens program easier is that you can send in all the items at the end of the month on one single form and it only takes one stamp. The extra ten percent you get back for accepting the balance on a Walgreens gift card as opposed to a check can certainly be worth it. I know one person who kept racking up the balance with the extra ten percent (which more than makes up for sales tax) until the gift card money was what she used to make the monthly free with rebate purchases. I've hear Rite Aid does this too, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet.

Another strategy I've seen people use with this program is let the balance build up on the Walgreens rebate gift card for the year and then around Christmas time when they are selling gift cards for other stores (Blockbuster, Home Depot, Starbucks) and purchase the gift cards as holiday gifts. Not bad.

Guest's picture
Brian

I was still amused that for about two months that every time I went to Walgreens and paid for purchases with my Flexible Spending Account debit card, the "checkout coupon" printer would automatically print out an invitation to join AARP. I'm still eight and a half years away from being eligible to join. *chuckle*

Guest's picture
Guest

limit w/aarp, but is "big" insurance pusher

Myscha Theriault's picture

We had similar experiences, particularly once my husband was put on the retirement list with the Air Force. We're not even 40 years old yet and we get geriatric mailings all the time . . . funny.

Guest's picture

I was in line behind someone at CVS, and the cash register actually rang up a NEGATIVE amount..meaning they owed the customer money! The clerk actually did a double take! CVS has these Extra Care Bucks...use the program and coupons, and you can really go to town. You can read more about the program at their website, but apparently, it has a cult following with shoppers picking up items for basically FREE on a regular basis. Check out http://billyoceanseleven.wordpress.com/2007/04/07/free-stuff-at-cvs/ and follow the links on his site to learn more about it. I haven't put a lot into the program myself, but even I have saved quite a bit of $$ with it!

Guest's picture
Kay

Walgreens may not be the most glamorous store, but I stock up on the free or near-free items every week. I buy most of our body wash and toothpaste that way, and we donate free items that we can't use. Also -- our local Walgreens doesn't stock much of each item, but they will give rain checks. If I'm going back every week, I take the time to get a rain check for free items and purchase them if available before the rebate deadline.

Guest's picture

I love the make-up! It's cheap, but lots of fun, and if you don't like the color, they let you take it back, even if you've tried it out. Thanks for the tips!

Guest's picture
Chris

I do this every week. I actually opened a separate savings account and put all of my rebate checks into that for a future vacation. I only get items that I would be buying elsewhere anyway, or that I would like to try. I can't remember the last time I actually bought toothpaste, or shampoo. Rite Aid has the advantage of being able to enter your receipts online so you don't have to remember at the end of the month. And if you forget to request your check, they send it anyway.

In Colorado we even have a website that you can go to for the best sales. On it there is a link for "Free After Rebate". I check this every Sunday morning since alot of times the rebate catalog does not list them as "Free after rebate", especially not Rite Aid. But often, the rebate combined with a sale makes it free after all. If Walgreens and Rite Aid have the same advertising campaigns nation wide, I would think you could use this link for other states too.

Here's the link-
http://www.salescircular.com/co.shtml

Guest's picture
Chris

I do this every week. I actually opened a separate savings account and put all of my rebate checks into that for a future vacation. I only get items that I would be buying elsewhere anyway, or that I would like to try. I can't remember the last time I actually bought toothpaste, or shampoo. Rite Aid has the advantage of being able to enter your receipts online so you don't have to remember at the end of the month. And if you forget to request your check, they send it anyway.

In Colorado we even have a website that you can go to for the best sales. On it there is a link for "Free After Rebate". I check this every Sunday morning since alot of times the rebate catalog does not list them as "Free after rebate", especially not Rite Aid. But often, the rebate combined with a sale makes it free after all. If Walgreens and Rite Aid have the same advertising campaigns nation wide, I would think you could use this link for other states too.

Here's the link-
http://www.salescircular.com/co.shtml

Guest's picture
Chris

I do this every week. I actually opened a separate savings account and put all of my rebate checks into that for a future vacation. I only get items that I would be buying elsewhere anyway, or that I would like to try. I can't remember the last time I actually bought toothpaste, or shampoo. Rite Aid has the advantage of being able to enter your receipts online so you don't have to remember at the end of the month. And if you forget to request your check, they send it anyway.

In Colorado we even have a website that you can go to for the best sales. On it there is a link for "Free After Rebate". I check this every Sunday morning since alot of times the rebate catalog does not list them as "Free after rebate", especially not Rite Aid. But often, the rebate combined with a sale makes it free after all. If Walgreens and Rite Aid have the same advertising campaigns nation wide, I would think you could use this link for other states too.

Here's the link-
http://www.salescircular.com/co.shtml

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

Thanks for the tips and the link, Chris!
You seem to have it down to a science. Way to be frugal!

Guest's picture
sandy

i have recently found that they do TONS of clearence markdowns on beauty products, especially hair products..bring your manufactuers coupons with you on each trip and scan the hair product isle for clearence deals..you can often get a whole bottel of good name brand shampoo or what ever hair product for like a quarter! last time i did this the cashier actually got mad at me!
ha!! go ahead and get mad for me being smart? i dont mind..

Guest's picture

If you use manufacturer's coupons on free after rebate items, you will pay less out of pocket, but they still send your rebate for the full price. It's another fun way to grow your gift card...

Guest's picture
Guest

Walgreen's is the closest store to me, and is on my way home both when I drive and when I take the bus, so I've been utilizing the EasySaver catalog quite frequently.

My tips:
- If the item is not free after rebate, compare the cost after rebate to big box stores- when not on sale, Walgreen's products are usually more expensive.

-Don't buy every rebated product right away. Get the weekly circular every week, and look for all the rebate products that went on sale. For example, for December 2007, I didn't think I would get the 3-pack Scotch tape $1 rebate, figuring generic tape was still probably cheaper, but when looking at the circular one week, I saw that it was on sale for $1.

-Use manufacturer's coupons. Let's say they will give up to a $3 rebate for a bottle of shampoo. The shampoo costs $2.89, but you have a $1 off coupon. You still get $2.89 back.

-Selecting the gift card option gives you a 10% bonus that pays for the tax and the stamp, but another cost to consider is photocopying your submission. If there is a dispute, you will need the copies. For me, it's not an issue because my apartment complex offers free photocopies for all of its residents. However, photocopies can cost up to 10 cents a page in my area. I find a typical month's submission takes up 2-3 pages. My point is that if you are only getting a small rebate, it may not be worth the time and money to make the copies. I've never had a problem with getting a fair rebate.

-If one of the free or heavily discounted products is a brand you don't care for yourself, buy it and donate it to a shelter. I bought seven bottles of shampoo and two tubes of toothpaste for a battered women's shelter for $1.50 over one two-month period.

I hope this helps! I am a huge fan of this program- in the last year, I've paid almost nothing for shampoo, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, lined paper and tape.

Guest's picture
Cheryl

And for the one who worries about photocopies, why make photocopies? I scan all of my documents onto a jump drive or my external hard drive. That way I'm only killing trees if I have to back up my claim! I have a scanner at home and at work.

Guest's picture
Guest

I use to work at walgreens for several years and it was great. Between the sales, coupons, rebate and my discount I never paid for anything. I still shop there every week for the free items that I can get and stock up on them. Free is my favorite word. I don't think I have paid for drug store items in years, well except perscriptions :)

Guest's picture
Guest

so real people actually have time for this? i'm lucky to get grocery shopping done and remember to pick up shoes for kids when they've outgrown them. for me it just seems like a giant hassle to sit there and pick thru the ads and then do the rebate thing. not that i'm saying it doesn't work. i had a roomate who made a living doing this--seriously. but how much time do people spend doing this?

Guest's picture

I take digital pictures instead of making photocopies. No trees killed, and it's easier to store. :-)

Guest's picture
Guest

hello. i'm an assistant manager for walgreens and i just wanted to clarify a couple of points.

-the register reward coupon are themselves manufacturer coupons (they are sponsored by the manufacturer). if you look at the top it will say "manufacturer coupon". so you cannot combine a register reward with another manufacturer coupon for a single item. but you can still combine it with coupons from the walgreens weekly sales ad.

-also there was a comment about using your rebate gift card to purchase gift cards to retailers. i may be mistaken, but i believe you cannot buy retailer gift cards with walgreens gift cards. retailer gift cards must be paid in cash, check, credit, or debit.

just thought i would give you all some insider info!

happy shopping!

Guest's picture
Guest

Was that the case years ago? Now that's not true, as long as you have equal coupon-item ratio it will work because it doesn't attach to anything. Don't try to discourage people from shopping at your store because you don't know the rules!

Guest's picture
Guest

This last person to reply to the comment must've read it wrong, because yes, while you can keep the coupon-item ratio even, what the person above was saying is that if you purchase 1(one) item, that you can't use a register reward AND a manufacturers coupon on the SAME item... you can use a register reward and a weekly ad coupon, and you can use a manufacturers and a weekly ad coupon, just not the register rewards and manufacturer coupon together...

 

That being said, I see a lot of people who use (and abuse) the register reward program, and its a great tool to get what you need cheap! it can really pay off. I've seen people with $100 of merch walk out paying less than $10 and having an additional $30 in register rewards for the next week to do it all over again with the new sales.. just gotta clip and keep those manufacturers coupons!