Guest Post: Coupon Organization

 Guest Post: Coupon Organization

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.

Comments

  1. Kate says:

    I loved all the great ideas for organizing coupons. I personally just graduated from a small photo album to a medium size that still fits in my purse. I’ve gone to a Michael’s (local craft shop) and bought a cute trendy looking photo album which had about 20-30 back to back sleeves and organized my coupons that way. One day when I was at work I took the label maker and made labels and was able to see all my coupons and had a quick reference. In my case I take my coupon book everywhere, having a card box or binder is a little too bulky and awkward in my opinion. I suggest a small or medium size photo album and I swear you’ll get complimented everywhere you go; at least I do by the cute old ladies at the grocery store, they are shocked that a 23-year old is so coupon savvy : )

  2. Heather says:

    I use the binder method. I started out with a cute 1″ binder with baseball card sheets and diveders that I labeled for “Food”, “Household”, “Health/beauty”, and “Dogs”. I started with 50 baseball card sheets thinking I would never use that many. Well, I’m now up to a 3″ binder and 100 baseball sheets… The only thing that has became hard is carrying the darn thing around. I have to carry a separate bag for it :)

  3. Sun says:

    I love to hear how people organize their coupons. My personal opinion is that you should at least do the photo album method that Kate does, or do a variation on the binder concept. You really need to get organized to make it worth while. Else, you miss out on too many deals or it’s just too time consuming/frustrating to look through envelopes at the store.

    I just graduated to the binder system from the photo album method. I resisted the binder systems for years because I don’t like to fold my coupons to fit the baseball card slot, and I thought it would be difficult to carry around a bulky binder. However, I found out that if you cut most coupons just right, there is minimal folding. And I also bought this great binder on clearance from the back to school items. It’s a zippered binder system with a flap on top (store calculator, scissors, phone, and pens) then a 3 inch binder in the middle. The best part about this zippered folder is it has a handle and a shoulder strap on top. I picked it up at Target for 4.29, normally sells for 18.99.

  4. Bonnie says:

    I love my binder, but I have combined it with the accordion method as well. I keep my small accordion folder in my purse and it has slots for all of the different stores that I shop. It makes my individual shopping trips easier and if I plan my trips out (by gathering the coupons) in the beginning of the week, I can just put all the coupons in here by store and then when I get the chance to go to a certain store, I am all set to go. It is also nice to keep my store rewards cards, rainchecks, money (RR’s, ECB’s, gift cards/certs, $/$ coupons etc.) all in the correct slots. When going through my coupon inserts, certain coupons are used for free items at the same store so I will go ahead and put them in the store slot first. Like Kotex $1/1 coupons will always go into my Walmart slot because I know that I can always get the smaller packs for free. When I have free coupons for things, I keep those in the front of this accordian so that I don’t forget to use them. I find that if I store them in my binder, I forget about them and the expiration date passes. I also keep a separate Misc section for restaurant coupons and misc stores that I don’t always shop just in case I’m out and need them on a whim. (like Michaels 40%, Bath and Body Works etc.)

  5. Dakota says:

    I had been using envelopes. But as I’ve become more serious about the coupons. The envelope system has just begun to cost me time…and become very messy. Even though I had them divided by catagory.

    I’m in the process of moving over to a binder system. I think I’m going to like it much more.

  6. Tammy says:

    I have the binder system but in each section I have a plastic page like the baseball card holder but it was meant for scrapbooking it holds the bigger coupons they have all different sizes. They have some with four sections that work out nice. Those are my favorite.

  7. Kellee says:

    I have three methods that I use to store coupons!

    Method One: BIG Accordion File – When I get Sunday’s coupons, I file them according to Sunday date; such as 9/27 SS. I usually keep three months worth of coupons in there along with my All You Magazine coupons.

    Method Two: Binder – Now that it is October, its time for me to look through my July coupons from my accordion files. The ones that are not expired go in my binder. Along with coupons that I get in the mail or print online.

    Method Three: Small Accordion File – When I get my list together for my stores: CVS, WAGs, Harris Teeter, etc., I put my coupons in a small accordion file so, its easy carry in my purse.

    I tried taking my binder to the store and it was such a hassle! Not only that, but I’m one of those people who buy on an impulse! Meaning that if I see Glade candles on clearance and I have 3 coupons then, I’ll buy it! Only to realize, once I get home, that have enough candles for my whole neigborhood if there’s a blackout!

    So, I try to stick to my list and the sales ad. It’s better for my budget!

  8. Great post Amy!

    I organize my coupons alphabetically and I LOVE it! I tried the category method and I just could never remember which category I put an item in! :)

  9. Raquel says:

    I also have three methods. I have the accordian that I carry in my purse usually I have a list by store so I am ready after work. Second I have a binder that I put in by Sunday dates. I slide them into clear protector so save on time. Third I have the coupon organizer that I put all coupons that have been clipped or internet coupons. I can take that to the grocery store when I go to cause some damage. LOL

  10. Beth says:

    I file by expiration date, that way I never miss out on a good coupon cuz it’s expired. Use the expiring soonest first, as fits with my menu plan.

  11. Kristina L. says:

    I have two methods to filling my coupons. First I use a binder that I have alphabetized and I added both baseball card sheets and photograph size sheets that I have labeled with each store that I shop at like Target, Walgreens, etc. so that I can put my coupons for each store that I plan on shopping at. I used to use the envelopes but have found that the photo size plastic sheets are the perfect size and are much easier to keep track of. I also use a filling cabinet to organize my Sunday inserts. I label the files by date so that it is easy to find my coupons. I also clip only coupons that I use alot or coupons that I think will make a great deal.

  12. Heather says:

    My husband came up with the idea to use my daughters cd organizer. I love that it zippes up so I don’t lose my coupons. I have little hands that like to carry “the case”. I have to cut my coupons right away or I feel overwhelmed when the sale paper comes. Thank you for all the great advice.

  13. Wendy says:

    I like the Baseball card sleeves, but the large size internet printable coupons don’t fit in the compartments. It happened that I bought the cheaper, non-vinyl 9-compartment baseball sleeves. I was able to rip the seams to create 3 wide compartments and a nowI I can position several types of coupons (newspaper and internet). This makes my binder thinner because the coupons are not folded into thirds–which takes up a lot more space.

  14. Ln says:

    I do two things to keep my coupons organized. First, I have a file box with empty file folders in it. When an insert comes out I put it in it’s own folder with the date and insert name (ie-9/27 SS). If I have multiple copies of an insert (which is always 3 copies for me) then I actually tear the pages apart and staple like pages together so I can clip one time and get all three like coupons at once. Then I go to southernsavers and print a list of the coupons that came out in my paper. If there’s not a list for a particular week then I just type my own list. (the lists have the value of the coupon, product name and exp. date) I take this list and put it in the folder along with the matching insert. That way when I see SS 9/27 on a coupon matchup I can go to the folder look at the master list to see if it was in my newspaper for that Sunday…if it is I flip through and clip it. If not, then I haven’t wasted my time flipping through the pages to find it. Whenever I clip the coupons out, I mark that coupon off on the master list so the next time I might want to use it I can see that I already have…again, without flipping through. One last thing to note on this is since the master list has the exp. dates, then I can just remove the whole insert once the last coupon to exp. has expired. Coupon booklets also get their own folders with the title of the coupon booklet on the folder instead of the insert date.

    Now, what do I do with all of the loose coupons I get from blinkies, internet coupons, etc.? Well, I have an accordian file about the size of a long envelope. It has 13 slots. I have all of the other coupons in these organized by manufacturer name. A-B is on the first tab, C-D is on the second tab, and so on. So all general mills products go in the G pocket, all kelloggs in the K pocket and so forth.

    I, also, do not take all of my coupons into the store. Usually, I have three young children with me and there is no sense in adding to the stress of going through my coupons in the store. Plus, I get so many great deals without doing it. I am not out to get every single deal there is. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

    Well, I hope this helps someone figure out the best way to organize coupons. As an extra note…I tried the baseball card binder first and then the envelopes for about 6 months each and neither worked out for me.

  15. Amy says:

    Thanks for sharing all of your fabulous coupon organization ideas! I love hearing all the different ways others organize their coupons!

  16. Lindsay says:

    Awesome Amy!!! Great tips!

  17. Amy says:

    Thanks Lindsay!

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