Doesn’t work for me: Walgreen’s

When Shannon turned Works for Me Wednesday on its head this week, asking us instead to tell about something that doesn’t work, I instantly knew my topic.


More specifically the deal-hunting at Walgreens that involves many flapping coupons, spending much good money on fancy name brands, and waiting for rebates that come many weeks later and sometimes are disallowed entirely.

I know that many frugal blogs talk about the wonderful deals that are to be had at Walgreens. But after trying this for three months in a row, I have to admit that this particular money saving strategy is doing nothing but frustrating me.

Yes, I’ve saved some money. But I’ve also been coaxed to buy name brand products that I would never waste spend my money on otherwise. I’ve spent literally hours cruising the aisles with fists full of coupons. My little girls are starting to whimper when we even drive past Walgreens. And the stuff I end up buying is so….small. Call me strange, but when I walk out of a store having just spent $50, I want to be holding more than one bag. I hate the sinking feeling that I would have been much much better off having bought my Colgate, Prell, and toothbrushes at the dollar store, coupons be hanged. And I would have gotten done much sooner.

I WANT Walgreens coupon-stacking/rebates to work for me, I really do.

But after my latest shopping fiasco, I’ve got to face the facts.

It all started last week when I realized the soccer field was only two blocks from Walgreens. I decided that my little girls would be much happier playing on the swings and watching big sister’s soccer practice than cruising endless aisles at Walgreens. So I handed my teenaged sons a cell phone and asked them to play with the little girls while I zipped over to make the most of the May rebates at Walgreens.

Around and around I went, matching coupons and reading fine print and trying to make sure I got the maximum money back. Besides about $10 worth of rebate items, I was also hoping to get a $10 ‘register reward’ for buying 4 Colgate products. I was especially pleased about this deal because I also had coupons for Colgate to jack up my savings. I only had a few more things to find when my cell rang. It was my son.

“Hey!” he said. And then he called the name of my 3 year old and I heard odd screaming fading in and out. He called her again, sounding distracted. More odd wavery screaming.

I called his name, starting to panic, trying to get him to talk to me. But he didn’t seem to be listening to me. I called his name louder. Panic was rising in my throat. Was she hurt? I knew it wasn’t irresponsible to leave my 3 and 5 year olds at the park with their 13 and 16 year old brothers, but the mom guilt kicked in…

When still he didn’t answer me, I left my cart in the corner and jetted out of the store and hopped into the van, trying to fight back the fear that the three year old was really seriously hurt. A minute later I was pulling into the parking lot. To see my little girls swinging, screaming happily as they went back and forth. The big boys were protectively in position behind them.


I called out to my son to hang up the phone. He looked at me, puzzled, utterly oblivious to the fact that he’d called me.

Relieved but still rattled, I jetted back to the store to gather up my coupons and my last couple items. At the checkout, the cash register accepted all my coupons (yeah!) but then refused to spit out my coveted $10 register reward. ?? The teenaged clerk sighed and called his boss, who arrive by turtle 20 years 6 minutes later. It was then that I learned you aren’t allowed to combine coupons and register rewards. I’d saved $3 with coupons only to lose my $10 reward. Not only that, but on closer examination, it turned out I’d bought the wrong Colgate products, so wasn’t eligible for the reward anyway.

I was now 10 minutes late to pick up the kids, so instead of arguing, I scooped my bounty one teeny $40 bag up and hurried off to get the kids, who were thankfully still happy and well.

On the way home I consoled myself with the fact that at least I still had about $10 of rebate money coming …eventually.

Except when I got home, I discovered that somewhere in all of that hassle, I’d lost my receipt.

Bye-bye rebates.

I am, however, the proud owner of a bottle of plaque-revealing mouth rinse, which I never in a million years would have bought without the promise of a rebate. Oh, and some lightbulbs–only a buck, and yes, we do use those. And more toothpaste. Toothpaste that cost 3x as much as I would have spent at the dollar store.

Yes, I realize that with a little better concentration and a firm grip on my receipt, I would have saved a bit of money. But I am left with the overwhelming feeling that really, sadly, Walgreens rebate/couponing does not work for me.


  1. bloginmyeye says:

    Oh, I hear you. I’m still selectively trying some Walgreen’s deals, but in general, I think rebates are evil…WAY too much room for error. I have known many rebates I have not loved. And I’m starting to see that many rebated items (not Walgreen’s but just general free after rebate items) will later come out as free coupon items.

  2. Athena says:

    I’ve been reading the sites about CVS as well…and when I go in I never do as well as those ladies either. And then the Extra Care Bucks I’m supposed to use for next time expire. And I’ve had to decide the same thing for me. It’s not worth my time. Of course, if prices keep going up, they will be more than my time and I may be trying it yet again!

  3. Thank you. I agree completely. I really want to be one of those moms who actually MAKE money when they go to Walgreens or CVS…but I’m just not organized enough to be successful at those details!!

  4. I agree. I don’t like the Walgreens rebate method. I do well at CVS though. Not practically free like some people, but well enough for me to make that trip to CVS once a week.

  5. I’m with you. We live within a half mile of a Walgreen’s, a CVS, and a Rite Aid, so I thought it would be wrong of me to not take advantage of all of those deals. Alas, I gave it a whirl and it just doesn’t work for me, either. In an earlier phase of my life– a few children, responsibilities, and ongoing crises ago– the whole thing might have fit at least a little more favorably into the overall picture, but definitely not now.

    There’s nothing wrong with good, old- fashioned sales and double coupons, or with sticking with products that you know work for you, according to their sale schedule. You can do quite well, avoiding the time and confusion of reading fine print, the physical and mental (especially!!) clutter of products that don’t work for you or that you don’t even need. Those things count in the overall economy of life.

    And have you noticed how often and how prominently the flyers feature chocolate?! Reason enough to not let my eyes pore over them religiously! 😉

  6. I know exactly what you mean! It can be so frustrating and a waste of time. I wrote about why I don’t CVS shop anymore last week.

  7. I don’t like coupons or rebates- I always forget about them or lose them. I’m a Target shopper all the way!

  8. Oh, I’m so with you on this one! CVS is almost just as bad and the frustration factor is through the roof with Walgreens! It’s not worth it, I tell you!

    Of course, next week the sale paper will come out and I’ll try for a few deals. I think it’s a sickness.

  9. My time is worth more than all that hassle. I read about all these amazing CVSers, but I look at what they bought, and it’s usually processed food and name brand junk, as you said, that I’m not usually buying. No thanks! I’ll take my coupons for the things that I buy anyway to my grocery store or Target.

  10. I am SO glad to hear someone else say this. I do use a few coupons but overall this kind of thing is very frustrating and time-consuming to me.

  11. I don’t have the patience for that type of shopping. I wish I did, but I just can’t do it. I’m not even a very good coupon-er. It seems when I have coupons that I may save money on things I was planning to buy, but inevitably I find coupons for things that I don’t need and only buy because “hey, I have a coupon!”. So I end up spending just as much in the end. Some people are awesome with the stacking/rebates stuff, but I’m not one of them.

  12. I heart Walgreens and get so much free stuff for myself and to give away. But it is a lot of planning. And work. And waiting. It really helps that there is a Walgreens 2 blocks from my home and another one 4 blocks from my work!

  13. It’s so nice to hear someone write about those deals not really working for them/being worth it to them. I hear so many wonderful things, but it just seems down right confusing to me. I never have even bothered to really figure it out then.

  14. You know, I see a lot of those posts with weird ECB’s and CVS and rebates and coupons and OOP and I get confused.

    I’m sorta glad I live in Canada and don’t have to fuss with all of that!!

  15. Right there with you. Too much effort. Too little savings. Dollar Store here I come.

  16. Jeanne A says:

    CVS often works for me because I have a half hour I need to spend there every week during my son’s guitar lesson. When it works it’s because I have that time and since I go back at the same time every week its easier to keep track of the receipts.

    When our schedule gets messed up and we miss a lesson or two for some reason then it doesn’t work.

    And when my son (17 years old) swipes my $7.50 extra bucks to buy monster soda. 🙂 (I let him under mock protest.)

  17. Me, too!

  18. There is a Walgreens one block from my house, so I walk past it often. And that is what I do, walk past.

    As a person with dyslexia, I learned long ago that coupons and fine print are not worth time and energy.

    I’ve learned their website is not so user friendly, either. My live-in computer tech refuses to allow the ‘cookies’ to invade.

    I do like being able to take in my camera chip and using the machine to choose photos to be printed.
    Then again, I usually have to ask which clerk is on duty to make sure the prints are the best.

  19. You should be able to use coupons and still get your Register Rewards. It’s been a while since I’ve done Walgreen’s, but according to recent posts you’re supposed to be able to combine them:

    I think you just didn’t get it because you didn’t buy the right ones.

    But that stinks that you lost your receipt! I always make sure to either put the receipt in my wallet, or tie the bag it’s in if I need the receipt for a rebate.

    I stopped doing Walgreens a long time ago because you had to mail in the rebate stuff, but since they started doing them online, I may try them again. You can get a ton of stuff, they just don’t make it easy. And with 10 kids, your time may just be better spent doing other things to save money!

  20. Thanks so much for this post. We have four Walgreens in our town and I’ve been reading their ad for weeks now contemplating whether I should try it out. Sounds like more work than it’s worth!

  21. And how much did you spend in gas money? ;>)

  22. I don’t like Walgreen’s nearly as much as CVS. At least with CVS I have only once let ECBs expire because they typically go out at least a month. If nothing else, I can pick up some diapers or something with them before they expire. There are times that I see ECB deals for things I don’t need but get them to swap out soon-expiring ECBs for new ones and then the extra stuff gets donated to our church pantry.

    For Walgreen’s though, I only get stuff if it is free after rebate (or free after rebate and coupon) and I have them all put on a gift card that I already have (plus you get a 10% bonus in $ for this). Now you can enter your rebates online, so no mailing receipts or waiting…especially if you get them put on the giftcard that is already in your purse.

    Now that I have a balance on the giftcard, I use the balance to buy things that will give me more rebates to put on the card. It’s a never ending cycle of just paying tax for stuff (and the tax is actually covered by the 10% bonus deposit). That is the only way I shop at Walgreen’s because the Register Rewards always expire WAY too quickly for me!

  23. I totally 100% agree with you on this one! I’ve had hidden guilt for not doing the Walgreens/CVS thing, but when I think about the hassle involved and the products that I could buy to get the great deals…and the time I would be taking away from my children, it’s just not worth it!

  24. As tempting as it is I have had the same trouble with such stores and have given up on them. It isn’t worth it.

  25. Around here it is the CVS deals that people talk about. I tried it but what a hassle. I would rather go with less belongings, be more frugal with what I have and play more with my kiddos.

  26. simplejill says:

    Walgreens makes me nutty. Ours is often out of the sale item and I’ve had my rebate items marked invalid a few times — for reasons I just can’t figure out. It also just feels wrong for me to be buying these items that I wouldn’t normally buy in hopes that I’ll get the rebate and it will be free. It’s definitely not worth the effort for me either. Probably much better to just buy the items I need and will actually use at the best price I can.

  27. i so agree! it isn’t worth the hassle!

  28. I only bother with coupons if it’s for something that I do buy, of that *exact* brand, and it’s something that I am unwilling to purchase under some other brand.

    So far, I haven’t found coupons for those few items that I have brand-specific needs for.

    I might keep some coupons around for things like cereal and so forth, on the off chance that the brand + coupon will be the cheapest option at the store. But usually a competing brand or the generic will be cheaper.

    Brand loyalty is a budget killer.

  29. Though it can sometimes be frustrating, and involve a lot of planning ahead, it is so worth it to me! I never, ever spend more out of pocket than is in the budget. I don’t buy products our family won’t use. I don’t buy the Free-After-Rebate items (they are normally things I already have for free anyways). My goal is always to spend less out of pocket, rather than wait to get it back. This week, I’ve spent less than $8 and have purchased 12 Cover Girl items, a Gillette razor, 2 Mother’s Day cards, shaving gel, Zantac, Chapstick, a lullaby CD/book for the kids, and a Push-Pop my daughter begged for (the one thing I gave in on!). Currently I have $26 in Register Rewards to use! And yes, I did my shopping with my 5 year old and 19 month old. It can be done! 😉

  30. I’m with you, Mary. Over the years I’ve tried rebate programs in several different stores. Because my time and my normally low blood pressure are worth something to me, I just don’t do them anymore.
    I concentrate on using coupons in the store where I normally shop for products that I normally buy.
    Besides, I’m a “less is more” kind of gal, and I HATE having extra junk around the house that I feel like I must use up! Never mind tracking with all those receipts~
    So you’re not alone – it doesn’t work for me either!

  31. I have done much better with CVS than with Walgreens. I don’t like rebates, but I have come out ahead on the ECBs. It does take a little planning. I keep my coupons in used envelopes after I open the mail. On the outside of the envelope I write the deals for the week, mark which I have coupons for, and how much in ECBs I expect to get, as well as how many I have to spend. I would rather have name-brand products for free, than off-brands from Dollar Tree, and the excess products I can donate as needed, instead of spending money to donate. Sorry it isn’t working for you.

  32. OH, Amen! In fact, after many years of trying to dutifully do the coupon thing, I’ve discovered that there really are better ways to be chea… um, thrifty. The occasional really good coupon shows up in my wallet, but usu it’s just a matter of shopping in the right place, at the right time, and buying bulk wisely. (From another mom of 10, ages 2-20! Greetings and waving to ya from over here!)

  33. Well it sucks that you would have to spend $50 or more to just get a measly $10.

  34. expectingamiracle says:

    I’m not a Walgreens fan. I do hit CVS every couple of weeks when I see a particularly good deal.

  35. I am part of a coupon site and people on there rave about Walgreen’s and CVS deals, I haven’t bothered. It all seems like a big hassle to me, and I do pretty good just with my coupons and the sales at the grocery stores. Last time I went in to Walgreen’s to shop was because I had a $5 off $20 purchase, but I ended up just buying stuff that I normally wouldn’t just to save $5!

    I do know that you are allowed to use coupons and get the RR’s back. That is the reason why people save so much there. You did mention that you didn’t get the right Colgate, so that may be the reason.

  36. I am SO stinkin’ glad to see someone else who feels the way I do about Walgreens. I just don’t see the benefit of “saving money” buying things and brands you would never buy in the first place if you a) didn’t have a coupon, or b) if it wasn’t on sale.

    Thank you. That is all.

  37. TIME. IS. MONEY.

    It really is.

  38. I hate the waiting for the Walgreens rebate (online submission is now available though!!) but Walgreens is much closer than CVS. But I totally agree about the wandering around trying to find everything (the “right” product, oops I got 4.2 oz instead of 6.0 oz toothpaste or whatever), it always takes me forever – though CVS was MUCH worse. My husband has banned me from CVS. 🙂

  39. I’m a HUGE couponer, but I have a few choice words about Walgreens that I’ll keep to myself!!! They never (not an exaggeration) have their advertised items. I’m done with them. Rite Aid has been smokin’ lately though!!

  40. Amen! I have found it is not worth losing my religion over. 😉

  41. I don’t use their rebates or coupons either…except when I find something I really like…I clip it, and then use it at my local grocery store (that I shop at every week)because they take competitor coupons. So worth my clipping then!