The Drugstore Game: Should You “Buy In” & Roll the Same Rewards Week to Week?

photo © 2009 Jim Bowen | more info (via: Wylio)


A question I get asked quite often, and that I asked myself when I first started out, is whether you should deplete your rewards each week or carry a “balance”.**

Honestly, the answer is…it’s up to you.

Whether it’s Register Rewards, Extra Care Bucks or + Up Rewards the choice is pretty much yours to make.

Here are some pros and cons of each method:

Carrying a Balance of Rewards to Roll Each Week


  • You never have to worry about being short on cash when there are great deals to be had!
  • You can “buy in” 1 time and never pay a penny out of pocket again.
  • If you have a tough week financially you can always use your rewards for essentials.
  • You probably won’t have to separate your transactions as much. One big transaction, hand over your rewards for payment and get your new rewards for next time.


  • Rewards expire and if there are several bad weeks in a row, you might find yourself buying stuff you don’t need so you can continue to roll
  • Likewise, life might get in the way and you could lose all of those rewards if they expire
  • It’s a big cash commitment up front. If you are going to roll a steady stream of rewards, I personally recommend making an initial purchase to receive no less then $40 worth of rewards in return. This could be costly and not feasible for you.

Depleting Your Rewards Each Week


  • No costly buy in. You can wait for a money maker week and be out of very little start up cash to get started.
  • No worries about rewards expiring before you can get to them.
  • No pressure to shop when you don’t like what’s on sale
  • Very impressive and elaborate scenarios can be fun!


  • Very impressive and elaborate scenarios can be exhausting 😉
  • Most of the time you will need to complete several transactions (perhaps at separate stores) to make sure your out of pocket is low.
  • If you are strapped for cash, you might have to pass up great deals.

There are pros and cons to each approach. Personally I’ve been depleting my rewards each week lately, but with back to school coming up…I’m about to do a big “buy in” here soon.

What do you do? Do you deplete your rewards each week or just roll the same ones?

**Is this all Greek to you? Read my post here about The Drugstore Game and learn how to save up to 90% off your household and personal care necessities by playing The Drugstore Game!


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Heather is the creator and owner of Family Friendly Frugality. She calls Texas home and is married to her best friend. With 2 children 22 months apart, she has her hands full. So full that she decided to start blogging as a hobby. That hobby blew up into a full time job. Now she's got the husband, the kids and the blog. We're not exactly sure what she was thinking, but she's too busy for us to ask. Find Me On Google +

11 thoughts on “The Drugstore Game: Should You “Buy In” & Roll the Same Rewards Week to Week?”

  1. i do one big purchase each time so i guess i fit your rolling category but if there is nothing i need that’s a deal i deplete on stuff i do use up regularly that doesn’t come up in deals often enough to keep me stocked up (like my contact solution)

  2. When I did CVS all the time, I rolled my ECBs so I didn’t have to pay real cash out of pocket. To me, that’s the whole benefit of the drugstore game – getting stuff for free! It is more tedious trying to come up with scenarios when it’s a slow week or you don’t have the right coupons though.

  3. I roll them each week.

    About your comment of a big upfront commitment- I don’t really think you have to do that- I say you can do 5-6 dollars, I recently started CVS again (I most do Rite Aid) and I only bought 1 item- I think the cost was $5.99 with a $5.99 ECB back. The next week I turned it into $10 and we will go from there.

    I started rite aid with nothing.. I saw that they had a BOGO deal that paired with a BOGO coupon (when they were doing that) that gave UPs- the deal was completely free (not even tax since it was food) and I walked out of there with UPs. Now I generally have about $20-$40 worth at any one time because I have worked it up to that.

    Another tip I have (if you have a decent amount of self control) is to take advantage of the single cash rebates and when you get that money put it with your Ups- this way this cash pays for any tax or out of pock cost and Rite Aid always pays for the whole order. I can be tempting to spend the $$ sometimes but know you are truly paying nothing feels really good.


    1. Yeah, that’s actually how I “bought in” the first time. It was a 2 money maker week and I got my start that way!

      I don’t have Rite Aid here, so we don’t have those single cash rebates. 🙁

  4. I fall in between your two categories. Typically I keep about $8 in RRs and $10-$12 in ECBs at a time. This isn’t a huge amount to carry from week to week and is easy to spend if I see that a few slow weeks are coming. No huge investment to start back up again either. I am mindful to get rainchecks on “free after ECB” items when they are out of stock so that I can use these to roll my ECBs when I have nothing else I want to buy. I also get rainchecks for the good filler items at Wags- mandarin oranges, jello, popcorn etc, or other really great sale prices. So I very rarely am stuck wondering what to burn my rewards on. Like you said-it’s a decision for each person and this works for me 🙂

  5. I should add that I typically won’t have more than 2 transactions in a week to get the items I want. If I do have more it’s because they were out of stock or a fabulous deal got discovered and not because I didn’t have enough RRs to roll.

    1. Cricket is the queen of awesome scenarios 😉

      Yeah, I don’t think I’ve personally done over 3 transactions (and 3 is rare) in a LONG time.

      I do know when I was starting out, I did quite a bit more to keep my OOP per transaction lower. It was kind of a game for me.

  6. I get so confused on the up rewards and ecb’s.. i am into couponing big time, just haven’t been doing the drugstore game. and i have a feeling I’m missing out.. i have just been going to walmart and using mine. i was going to the dollar general, but had a problem with a hateful cashier and she embarrassed me in front of a roomful of people, so i never go back there anymore.. thinking that maybe i should try family dollar? the good thing about where i live is i have all the drugstores rite beside of where i live.. so i know i SHOULD be doing the drug store game, i just don’t know how to get started.. i don’t know why i cannot grasp it.. ugggghhhh.. guess i will just have to get out there and keep trying.. thanks for the great info on your site. 🙂

    1. You are welcome! It’s actually something that can take a little while to get a hang of, but until you get in the store and start it won’t fully “click”. At least it didn’t for me. Let me know if you have any specific questions! Did you subscribe to my newsletter? You get a free ebook where I go into a lot of detail on drugstore shopping. Just go to this link to subscribe:

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