**UPDATE – this post is in the midst of being updated. Stay tuned.
One of the most common question I get asked is how to organize coupons. It seems that this is a question I receive from newbie couponers all the way to experienced couponers. Organization is a tough challenge. Especially when you are receiving new coupons every Sunday, printable coupons, coupons in mailers, etc etc! I’ve used two different organizational methods. I started out with using a coupon binder (see Method 1 below). I now file my inserts by category and date and only cut coupons when needed (see Method 2 below).
Method 1: Coupon Binder
Step 1) Buy a 3 ring binder. Preferably a binder that has zipper to keep it closed (and to keep loose coupons from escaping!) **UPDATE – An awesome source that sells coupon binders is Coupon Clutch. Go HERE to check out their binders!
Step 2) Buy Baseball Card holder sheets. (There should be 9 holders on one sheet). Use these sheets to put your coupons in. I put coupons facing the front and the back of the sheet. That way, I can hold 18 coupons per sheet.
Step 3: Cut each and every coupon on Sunday and organize your coupon sheets by category. (Put multiple copies of each coupon in just one spot – that way all copies are together) Some people organize the sheets by store aisles to make it easy to find as you are walking through your local stores. I organize my coupons by category (i.e. pasta, side dishes, produce, dairy, protein, pet products, cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc etc). That way, if I need cheese, I know to go to my dairy section of my binder and I can see all of the cheese coupons available. You can use whatever categories work best for you. The goal is to make your binder easy to use and more importantly easy to find specific coupons.
Step 4: In the inside front cover of my binder, I include important coupons that I don’t want to forget about (they are high value, maybe expiring soon, freebies, etc etc). I also keep a pair of scissors as well as envelopes for mail in rebates.
You can easily carry all of your coupons into the grocery store with you.
You won’t miss out on any great deals because you will always have your coupons on hand.
It is easy to find any coupon that you need since they are all categorized in an easy to find manner.
You have to cut each and every coupon from Sunday’s paper which takes a bit of time. (Why do you cut EVERY coupon?? Because you never know when an item will be dirt cheap, FREE or better yet a MONEYMAKER!)
Carrying your binder in grocery stores is a bit bulky.
Method 2: Filing Inserts
Step 1) Find a box or plastic container that is large enough to hold multiple inserts when they are standing upright.
Step 2) Organize your coupon inserts each Sunday. If you buy more than one newspaper, put all SS (Smart Source) coupons together, all RP (Red Plum) coupons together, P&G, etc etc.
Step 3: Combine multiple copies of the coupon sheets within each insert. (See picture below). You are doing this so that when you need a coupon in the 2/21 RP (Red Plum from Feb 21st), you will have each coupon next to each other within 2/21 RP. You will only need to flip through the insert once and all copies will be there making it easy to find and easy to cut (you can cut all copies at once – although be careful that you don’t cut off the expiration date or barcode!)
Below is an example of my RP 1/24/10 insert. I needed Good Life Cat Food coupons. All I had to do was open my RP insert and turn the pages until I reached the Good Life coupons. Then I cut all six cat food coupons at once since they were all organized together.
Step 4) File Your Inserts By Date and Insert Name. On the front cover of each insert, I put a sticky note with the insert date and name. Otherwise, I would have to look at very very small print on the front binder of the front page to see what date the insert was from. I file my inserts in a box with the most recent inserts in the front and oldest inserts are in the back. In the very back I keep my All You Magazines, store flyers, etc.
My box is definitely not pretty to look at but it does the job! Below is a picture of the inserts filed away.
Below is a picture of what it looks like when I am looking for a particular insert.
You only cut coupons when you need them. This eliminates the time spent cutting each and every coupon on Sunday nights.
Your inserts are organized in an easy to find manner and since you have all duplicate insert sheets together, it makes it very simple to cut more than one copy of a coupon.
You will become very organized with your grocery list. I have learned that because I have to cut my coupons before I go to the store, I will stick to my grocery list and will not waiver. Sticking to my grocery list helps my budget because I know exactly what I will spend before I even step foot into the store.
Carrying your filed inserts into a store is too bulky, heavy and just plain unrealistic.
You have to be organized. Before going to the grocery store, you have to cut each and every coupon that you need. If you forget to cut a certain coupon, you won’t have it at the store which means you won’t be able to buy the item at a cheap price.
You may miss out on deals. If you see an item is marked down on clearance to $1.00 and you know you have a $1.00 off coupon at home, you may miss out on getting the item free. If I see an item that an amazing deal (with a coupon), I will go home, find the necessary coupons and go back to the store for it. This logic is time consuming, but it forces me to determine if I really NEED the item. And, if my need is great enough, I’ll make an extra trip to get it.
It is difficult to find coupons. If I need parmesan cheese, it is impossible for me to remember what insert had parmesan cheese coupons. However, I use Hot Coupon World’s Coupon Database. All I do is type in the item I am looking to buy, and the database will tell me where to find the items coupons. It is MARVELOUS!
What coupon organizational methods do you use? These are just two methods that I have tried. I started out using Method 1 and now I’m loving Method 2. The goal for couponing is to be organized. Organized enough so that when you need to put together your grocery list, you don’t have to search for an hour just to find two coupons. Let me know what you think of my methods and if you have a different method, I would love to hear about it!!
**If you are new to couponing, read my Intro to Coupons post!