Many stores have rewards programs that give bonuses when you shop. If you are planning on buying anything in a store that has a rewards program, sign up for it. You will be amazed how many surprises that the store will send your way.
Let's start with one of my favorites, CVS.
It's no surprise to regular readers of this column that I like to shop at drugstores. If you are a beginner drugstore shopper, CVS is the best store to start with.
CVS has rewards that are called Extracare bucks, accumulated when you buy specific items using your shoppers card. (As with most stores, the card is available at the register.)
Your Extracare bucks will print out at the end of the register tape. Each one has an expiration date, but CVS will often accept them after that deadline.
Look in CVS's flier for items that give you Extracare bucks when you purchase them. For example, Oral-B Pulsar toothpaste is now on sale for $5.99. When you buy the toothpaste, you receive $2 in Extracare rewards, lowering the price to $3.99. To go further, you can use the 75-cent coupon in Sunday's paper to make the final price $3.24.
When you enter CVS, scan your Extracare card at the red kiosk in the front of most stores. You will get bonus store coupons that many times make items free.
Tip: Scan your card twice or until the kiosk says you have no more coupons.
Register your Extracare card online at Cvs.com. This is an additional way to get savings sent to your email.
Here are some other drugstore rewards programs.
RiteAid: RiteAid's program is called Wellness+ and makes you eligible for what the store calls +UP rewards.
Sign up with a cashier and then activate your card online to receive access to coupons that can be loaded onto your card.
Also, +UPs rewards are loaded on your card so when you make a purchase, the +UPs rewards will automatically come off your total.
Being a rewards-program member can also make you eligible for benefits like a 10 percent off shopping pass, free magazines, 20 percent off the entire store for a year plus many more. Check out Riteaid.com to see the point system.
Walgreens: Walgreens has a card called Balance Rewards. Just ask your cashier for a card and activate it online.
If you have an AARP card, you can link your memberships and use your AARP membership card to receive rewards. AARP members receive 5,000 points when they spend $25 in a single purchase. You can redeem your points when you acquire 5,000 points, which equal $5, or you can accumulate them for additional savings.
Points expire 36 months from the day you earn them, but they expire sooner if you don't have any account activity for six months.
Walgreens also offers a program called Walk with Walgreens, giving you 10 points for every mile walked when you join that program.
Through Feb. 14, whenever you spend at least $30 on participating beauty products at Walgreens stores (using your Balance Rewards card), you'll be able to score a free sample box filled with beauty products and coupons.
Read next week's column for my tips on other rewards programs.
Fru-Gal Tip: Many of your coupons will expire Jan. 31. Now is the time to go through your coupon binder and clean it out. Start the new year with a binder all ready to save.
Deborah Morris' weekly column, The Fru-Gal, can help you get through these economic hard times a little more easily. If you know of a way to save some money, feel free to share it on The Fru-Gal blog on BluegrassMoms.com and visit her Web site, Fru-gal-friends.com.