Couponing a way of life for two local women

BIG RAPIDS — Imagine the price of a full cart of grocery store items, and then imagine paying only half of the full cost.

That's something Kaycee Wert and Rachel Aldridge do almost every time they shop for groceries, hygiene products, pet supplies, baby items and more. The friends, from Remus and Hersey, respectively, make a lifestyle out of couponing.

"It's easier when you have another person," said Wert. "It's more fun and it gives you someone to talk with while you're shopping."

The pair spend time and effort — about five hours — in the planning stages alone. They search for area sales, scour through two to five newspapers and websites for coupons, and then write down the details of what items they need, what items they can save money on using multiple coupons, and an estimated cost of how much each item will cost after coupon and sale discounts.

After one day of planning, they take another day to shop either at stores like Meijer in Big Rapids or Target and CVS in Mount Pleasant.

"The beginning on the week is the best time to shop, so it's the luck of finding what's left if you go at the end of the week," Wert said. "Usually we hit the free stuff first, then work our way from the back of the store to the front. The goal is to save at least half of what you'd normally spend."

Bathroom items and paper items are easier to purchase with coupons than grocery items, and the hardest things to find coupons for are produce, meat, milk and any organic product, she added.

Wert began couponing in May of last year after becoming a stay-at-home mom to her infant daughter. She began with using coupons for baby items, then expanded into other products when she discovered how much money she could save. She taught herself by watching YouTube videos about the subject and finding Facebook groups of other couponers.

"What I started doing was mimicking other people's deals," Wert said. "I was slow the first time I couponed, but you get used to it. It's almost like an addiction. It's seeing that price drop that's the fun part. I've saved my family hundreds of dollars. I've gone to Wal-Mart and my total would be $138, but with coupons and sales I only spent $14, and that was without price matching.

"It's definitely worth it. I haven't paid for shower products or makeup in years. I get them for free now with coupons and overages."

Aldridge agreed.

"It's an adrenaline rush," she said. "At first my fiance wasn't too excited about it, but if I save money he gets to buy truck parts, so he's happy."

If opportunity strikes and they have coupons, free deals or receive overages they don't need, the women said they donate items to Women's Information Services, Inc.

Though couponing has its obvious positive sides, Wert said people need to be aware of the rules when it comes to couponing. For example, each store has the right not to honor any coupon and refuse to price match.

"The thing you want is balanced couponing," she added. "You don't want to argue with people and you just decide to put something back if it doesn't work out for you."

There's also a negative side to the hobby, too, she added.

"Couponing is great, but sometimes people get unpleasant," Wert said. "At times I can spend 30 minute to an hour in the checkout line and people get really impatient. We've had rude cashiers, so sometimes we scope out cashiers who won't give us trouble. At one store, I've even been called a thief for couponing. I haven't been back to that store."

However, Wert can't imagine giving up the lifestyle.

"I'm already working on getting a free Christmas with my overages, and my daughter's birthday is already done using the same method," she said. ""I think now that I've couponed, I'll do it the rest of my life."