I've never really shopped at drugstores or used their respective rewards programs, but after reading through some extreme couponing sites & speaking to some friends I decided to give it a try. After a month & a half of shopping at Walgreens (the only pharmacy chain in town), getting all of the freebies & their respective register rewards, I've come to the conclusion that the drugstore game is not for me. Not for me at all. Here's why:
Time: It takes a lot of time to plan out the proper shopping trip, including maximizing register rewards, & pairing them with manufacturer coupons. I'd say it would take me at least half of one of E's naps to come up with a game plan. Time that is money. Time in which I could be cleaning up the house, so we don't have to hire a cleaning service, or time where I could be cooking from scratch so we're not tempted to order takeout. Though I was getting "deals", unneeded bottles of shampoo & tubes of toothpaste weren't valuable enough for me to spend my time getting them.
Stuff: Rather too much stuff. In order to get maximum register rewards you need to purchase the free items, the problem being that sometimes you don't want the free items. I don't need a "free" glucometer or a soy supplement to help menopause. Yes those items could be donated, or passed along, but I still have to buy them, store them, & then figure out what to do with them.
Gas: I spent extra money on gas going to Walgreens several times a week in order to get the maximum deals. I'm concerned about my carbon foot print, & to me, it's just not worth the financial & environmental costs.
Higher Prices: Walgreens does have some great sale items to get you in the door, but if you don't happen to need or want those sale items their prices a high. Much higher than the places I normally shop. For instance, one week at Walgreens a gallon of milk was $4.07, while a gallon of milk at Target the same week was $3.09. I found that despite having register rewards, my money just didn't go as far at Walgreens.
Money: Often, I get hoodwinked into thinking that by getting deals & "saving money" I'm money ahead. In reality I always have to SPEND money in order to SAVE money. The same prinicple applies to Walgreens, you have to spend money to get your free register rewards. When we tallied up our expenditures for the month of August I was shocked at the amount of extra money I spent to get my "free" items. My problem came in the amount of money I had to pony up for sales tax for each item. Here sales tax is 9.25% and it doesn't take much time for the to amount to a significant amount of money. Though I got well over $120 worth of merchandise, I still ended up spending close to $30. $30 isn't a ton, but it's enough to make a dent in our budget.
Bottom line, trying to play the drugstore game caused me to go shopping much more frequently that I normally do. It cost me extra gas, extra time, & extra money. I'm impressed at people who do enjoy playing the drugstore game & can make it a money saver, but for me & our family, it just wasn't worth it.