The following is a guest post by Amy who blogs at the Original Coupon Coach on alternatives and tips on coupon organization. Enjoy!
People regularly ask me how they should organize their coupons. This question is a difficult one because there is no one best way to organize coupons. This is a personal decision that only you can make. The answer will depend on your personality, organizational process, and shopping style.
What are the options for organizing my coupons?
I have seen many, many clever coupon organization systems over the years. The most popular include:
o Envelopes: I see a lot of people using envelopes for their coupons. This is a nice, cheap option if you have only a handful of coupons. If you like this system and have more than will fit into one envelope, you can try using a different envelope for each category of coupons.
o The Accordion File: The accordion file is a compact organizer with built in divided sections. These usually come with a snap or band closure. This is a great organizer to start with if you have a small to medium amount of coupons.
o The Index Card Box: When your accordion file is overflowing, you can graduate to the index card box. This system uses an index card box with index dividers for the categories. The coupons are kept freely between the dividers.
o The Binder System: The binder system is very popular. This system uses a 3-ring binder with clear baseball card or photo pages. Slide the coupons into each slot in the pages and viola! Use divider pages to separate each category. This option is great because you can see the coupons at a glance and they’re expandable. The zippered type of binder works well to hold everything neatly inside.
o The Briefcase: I have only ever seen this type of system once, but it’s so incredible I had to include it. This person uses the bottom of the briefcase for the coupons, using index dividers. The top of the briefcase is used for coupon supplies such as store flyers, a stapler, scissors, a calculator, pens, etc. This briefcase topped the scales at 17 lbs, so it is not for the casual couponer!
Which system you use will be driven completely by personal preference. You may try one system and decide after a while that it’s simply not working for you. Go ahead, try a different approach. It’s all about finding what works for you.
So now you have your system. What next?
How should I organize the coupons?
Like the system, choosing the organizational method will be solely based on personal preference. There are tons of variations on organizing coupons. Here are some ideas:
o By Category: This is the method I personally use. Each section of my organizer is a different category (in alphabetical order). For example, my categories include Baby, Baking, Canned/Bottled, Cereal/Breakfast, Cleaning/Laundry, Dairy, Drinks, Frozen, HBA – Body, HBA – Face, HBA – Fem. Hygiene, HBA – Haircare, HBA Medications, HBA – Oral Hygiene, Meat, Paper Products, Prepared Foods/Pasta, Produce, & Snacks. Within each category are pages labeled with more specific categories. So, within the Paper Products category are pages labeled Tissues, Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, and Plastic/Paper Dinnerware.
o By Aisle: Some people like to categorize by the aisles in their favorite stores. So one section would be Aisle 1 and within that section would be all the coupons for items in that aisle. You can even order the coupons in the order they appear on your store shelves.
o By Brand: This can be done a couple different ways. You can do this alphabetically by brand, separating each section by letter. Or you can separate by category, alphabetizing all brands within that category.
In choosing an organizational method, I always urge people to use a method that suits how they think. Some people organize best by color, while others might feel more organized dealing with numbers. And the best part is, if you try a way that doesn’t work, you can always change it. Make a mental note of what isn’t working for you and tweak it to better suit you and your shopping style.
Should I take all of my coupons to the store with me?
Absolutely! I know there are some people out there who only take those coupons they plan to use (after all, that’s why we plan, right?) But it only took me a few trips without all my coupons to realize I was missing out on unadvertised sales and clearance items. Stores can only fit so many sale items in their flyers. You won’t know about the other sale & clearance items until you get to the store. You don’t want to be without your coupons when you find out that your favorite shampoo is on clearance for $1.00 and your $1/1 coupons for that shampoo are at home!
What about my expired coupons? Do I have to constantly go through my coupons to weed out the expireds?
I may be in the minority on this, but I never spend extra time weeding out expired coupons. I simply don’t find it necessary. Instead, I take them out when I see them. What I mean by this is that when I am going through my coupons while planning my trips, I may see some that are expired. I take them out and put them aside to send to military families (they can use expired coupons). While I’m at the store looking through my cereal coupons to see what coupons I have for an unadvertised sale and I see some expireds, I take them out and store them separately. I have not found any reason to diligently go through and weed them out each week or month. It’s just not necessary!
Now you’re ready to create your personal coupon system. Remember, the most important thing about organizing your coupons is making sure it works for you.
You can find more of Amy’s offer ideas, tips, resources, and money-saving advice on her blog The Original Coach. She also offers classes, personal calls, and guest bloggers.