coupon organization

Sunday, November 04, 2012

THE key to ensuring you are on top of getting great deals is organization. By far this too is the most challenging step in couponing as it can take a lot of time depending on your method. Here a few ways you can organize:

  • Binder
  • Filing system
  • Shoe boxes or bins
Each of these is an effective method depending on your needs. I went through three different systems myself until I found what worked for me. A lot of people I have come across carry their coupons in an envelope or small purse sized accordion file which is fine for the common coupon user but to really get the most out of coupons you will need to set up a larger system that can't fit in your purse :) I am speaking from personal experience. I tried doing the small pocket file and envelope for all coupons and it was beyond non-efficient. I would spend 10 minutes down the freezer aisle sorting through coupons one by one until I came across the one I need...take 5 steps and go "Oh...I have a coupon for that I just saw it!" and then cycle around to find that coupon. I also tried just bringing the coupons for the items you are going to buy method. Mmmmmm didn't work for me at all because I would go into buy using my LIST only and then see a great deal that I KNOW I have a coupon for for it to be at home! Grrrr! I hated that. But regardless of my self hatred for missing a great deal some people stand by that type of couponing.

The Binder MethodMaterials:

  • Three ring zip around binder
  • Subject dividers at least 15
  • Full page - page protectors
  • One or a combination of the following:
    • 9-pocket baseball card pages
    • business card pages
    • photo pages
    • Three ring pencil holder that zips
    • How To:
      Once you have collected your supplies you are ready to begin. Decide on your categories for separating your coupons. Like I mentioned in a previous post this can be done by grocery aisles (most are very similar), products, or overall categories. Personally I recommend the grocery aisle approach so here is my divider breakdown:

      • Lotion & Skincare
      • Shaving and Deodorant
      • Oral Care
      • Medicine & First Aid
      • Paper Goods
      • Laundry
      • Air Freshners & Candles
      • Dish Washing & Household Cleaners
      • Makeup & Feminine
      • Hair Care
      • Soap & Body Wash
      • Baby
      • Dair Case
      • Junks & Sweets
      • Soda & Liquor
      • Frozen
      • Meats
      • Pet
      • Juice/Water & Food Storage
      • Soup & Canned Veggie
      • Ethnic & Rice
      • Pasta & Condiments
      • Potatoe & Tuna
      • Breakfast / Coffee & Canned Fruit
      • Baking & Spices
      • Produce / Deli & Bakery
      • Other
      • Store 1 Divider
      • Store 2 Divider
      • Store 3 Divider
      *don't have time or don't know how to set these them here.

      Not as broken down as it could be but so far this list has worked great for me. Once you have labeled and placed your dividers in your binders simply organize your current coupons by section using the page protectors you have chosen. Two things you want to ensure as you are preparing is #1 check and purge all coupons that have expired. #2 in order to fit into the pockets of the baseball card pages or whathaveyou you will need to trim as close to the edges of MOST coupons. Some are small enough to fit even with some extra border but some not. Some you will even need to fold....I try and fold so I can see what product, how much off and the expiration date. To maximize space I do use the front and back of the page protectors. If I have coupon that I need to fold and the expiration date is only visible from the back I attempt to not use the back of the pocket to make it easy on myself.

      You will want a divider for each of the stores you shop in. (i.e. Target, Walgreen's, Albertsons, etc) Visit each of your store's websites and print their coupon policies and keep them with you whenever you shop (I will eventually have a link to the major stores to make this even easier for you). I have had to revert to mine a couple of times and it is not worth the risk to be finally at the register with three transactions, 100 items and a hold up of a "policy" issue. Have it at the ready, hence the full page protectors.

      Once you have your dividers and your coupons organized doesn't mean the work stops there. You will need to maintain your binder weekly. I purge every Sunday morning prior to placing my new coupons in. This will ensure that you will never come across an expired coupon at the check out counter which you will kick yourself for, trust me. Been there...done that!

      The three ring pencil holder is what you will use when you are planning shopping trips or keeping rainchecks or catalinas (to be explained in a future post). Just a pocket you WILL need.

      Place a few remaining page protectors of each size in the back of your binder both for convenience and for future use.

      Additional Items To Keep in your Binder

      • Pen/Pencil
      • Scissors
      • Calculator
      • Paperclips
      • Current store ads
      And as a last quick note you can also use the binder method to file whole inserts by date and issuer. For instance; using full size page protectors and file your Red Plum inserts under Red Plum, SmartSource under SmartSource, P&G under P&G, I think you get the idea, with the date of it's circulation. Then simply clip those coupons you need as you go.
      Both pretty simple to do and requires less "pre-manual" labor than the binder method however regardless if you clip in advance or as you need it, clipped is clipped.

      Filing System


      • File cabinet or plastic tote
      • Hanging folders
      This method requires less start up materials than the binder method. The concept is to file your SmartSource, Red Plum and P&G inserts weekly. The specific method of doing this is up to you whether you want all of your SS, RP and P&G from the same week in one folder or separating them out. What takes place after this is then clipping as you need the coupons using an online coupon database. Matching up store ad sales to the coupon database and then clipping the corresponding coupons. You will notice that the manual labor is less extensive in terms of clipping all of the inserts however you will do the labor of using a database which is significantly less relevant when doing the binder method. So the question is to clip or to search?

      A concern I expressed not having or using the binder method was not having your coupons on you at all times in the chance you find a great deal. Well if you use the plastic file tote you can still bring your coupons; the drawback is that they are separated by date and issuer and not by product category so, yes, you have them with you but will you be able to find what you need efficiently? The answer to that question is up to you.

      Shoe Box/Bin Method


      • Shoe box or small plastic bin
      • Separators of some kind
      The setup here is to simply place all of your clipped coupons in this bin using a separating technique that is really up to you. You can alphabetize, sort by category, date, issuer, brand name, etc. The possibilities are endless. Do you think this method works, you ask? It is not for me - I prefer not to have to sift through coupons after coupons to find what I need. Sifting takes time and for me I rather flip a couple of pages and BAM! Coopin! But again, that is my own preference and let me remind you, I have a toddler that I do all of my shopping with so time is of the essence. I need to be able to get in and out as fast as I can before I reach her, "Get me out of this cart!" limit.

      When I tried both of these methods they didn't last long so you might run into details and questions I never came across but am here for you to problem solve so please feel free to ask and I can see what I can help you with.

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