Updated September 26, 2009: Walgreens has been making modifications to their Register Reward program recently and I have updated the information within this post to reflect current practices.
It is possible to get fabulous deals and free items at Walgreens if you follow a few simple tips and tricks.
Make a list and stick to it. Walgreens has great loss leaders, or weekly sale items that are deeply discounted, but they also have very high everyday prices. Makes sense when you think that a store actually loses money on a loss leader, but it serves as bait to get you in the door with the hopes you’ll buy something at full price. Make a list of the loss leaders and stick to it.
Be prepared for your first few trips to take a little longer. Walgreens does not label their sale items very well. Whether they do that on purpose is debatable. That means it take effort when you start shopping at Walgreens to find all the sale items you need and want. Use the staff as a resource and ask where sale items are.
Clip the in-ad coupons. The sale items advertised on the little-coupon-looking things in the paper actually are Walgreens coupons. If you want one of those items you need to clip that coupon and give it to the cashier or your item will be full price.
Use manufacturer’s coupons AND in-ad coupons. You can use both a Walgreens in-ad or store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon for the same item. If the total amount of coupons exceed the value of the item then try to hand the cashier the manufacturer’s coupon first; coupons ring through better that way.
Buy the quantity specified. In my experience, if something is advertised as 2 for $5, then you need to buy 2 items to get that price. The first one rings at full price and the second one is discounted.
Watch the cashier ring. Pay close attention, especially when you are getting started, to the cashier as they ring your order. If the price isn’t right, then speak up. Don’t hesitate to ask to be shown the product from the sale flyer or to have the item removed from your order.
Use fillers if your coupons exceed price paid. Walgreens has such great deals that some weeks you may actually have coupons that fully exceed the value of your items – in essence they should be paying you, but they won’t. Think ahead and pick up a couple of “filler” items that can bring your total to something greater than $0. I personally use the $1 box of cranberries, because it is the lowest price per ounce I’ve seen for those.
Understand how Register Rewards work.
- A Register Reward is a manufacturer-issued coupon that is good for a specific dollar amount off your next purchase. It will print at the end of your transaction and the clerk will hand it to you with your receipt.
- Note which manufacturer sponsored the Register Reward you earned (it is printed on the Reward somewhere) because if you pay with that Reward for products from that same manufacturer that should produce a new, different Reward it won’t. See the scenario below for more details.
- You get a Register Reward when you buy specified products or combinations of products; the specified combinations of products are usually advertised in their weekly sales flyer, although some combinations are good anytime throughout a month and others aren’t advertised at all.
- A Register Reward has an expiration date – so be sure to use it. They do not accept them past their expiration dates.
- You do not need a special loyalty card to get your Register Rewards.
- You cannot have a higher number of manufacturer-issued coupons than you have actual items in your order and a Register Reward counts as a coupon. Some stores count a “$1 off 2 items” coupon as two coupons. Call your store to verify their policy.
- Follow this scenario to understand some benefits and limitations of Register Rewards:
- Let’s say you buy 1 toothpaste for $4 and get $4 in Register Rewards. Now, if you think “ah, I am so smart, I am going to buy another $4 toothpaste, but use that $4 Register Reward to pay for it so I get it without paying anything out of pocket…” Nope. Their registers are smart and won’t let you do that. But, if you want to get multiple Register Rewards from that toothpaste…
- Then you can ring another transaction that creates a new receipt and buy another toothpaste. If you pay with cash/credit (anything other than a Register Reward issued from the same manufacturer) you’ll get another Register Reward. Make sense? But…
- If you have Register Reward from a toothpaste offer one week and there is a deodorant offer the following week that generates a Register Reward, you can use this week’s Register Reward to pay for next week’s and it will work fine, as long as the manufacturer is different. This is how you can end up paying very little out of pocket because one week’s Register Rewards pay for the following weeks products.
Your turn: What have you learned about bargain shopping at Walgreens?