This is Step 4 in a series about Basic Couponing 101:
How to Organize Coupons
Did you miss Step 1 - Stockpiling?
Do you sit for hours clipping and sorting coupons to file them neatly in their place? I used to do that too! But who has 4 hours to clip, sort and file coupons!?! I don't know about you, but I'd rather spend that time with my family. Here are the four most popular methods of coupon organization. There are other methods out there, but they are all pretty similar in the end.
1. Small canceled check file/coupon holder. These usually have 12 or 13 slots for organizing. You can name them anything you like. Mine are named: Baby, Cereal, Canned/Jarred Food, Toiletries, Free/Rainchecks, CVS/Walgreens. You can find these small holders priced from $1 at the Dollar Tree up to $5 at Target. The more expensive ones tend to last a little longer because the sides have been reinforced. I purchased this one at the Dollar Tree. I figured if it lasts me a year or so, it was worth the money.
PROS: These are very convenient to have in your purse or backpack (or diaper bag). You can easily find the coupon you are needing based on the 12/13 category/slots. As you are walking through the store, you'll be able to file your blinkies and tearpad coupons right away. You can also file the coupons you receive by mail or peelies from products you have purchased.
CONS: When you begin purchasing more than 1 newspaper, you'll notice the time you spend clipping, sorting and filing coupons increases from about an hour up to 3-4 hours. Because you are purchasing more newspapers, you'll start to fill up the slots more quickly. Your coupon holder will be bulging at the seams.
2. Shoebox organizer. These are usually plastic storage boxes the size of a shoebox because they easily fit into the top of your grocery cart where the baby usually sits. When you move from the coupon holder to "the box", you're able to create more envelopes to file away your coupons.
PROS: Everything is very neatly arranged by product and department. You have control over what you what to name each category and how you want to break each category down into to smaller sections. I had about 70 different envelopes in this box. I loved it, until it was time for me to sit down and clip, sort and file them again.
CON: The time involved to clip, sort and file can be too much. As with the coupon holder, you are limited by the size of your box. Eventually it too will be bulging a the seams. And let's not forget about having to remove all the expired coupons from the all the envelopes...I gave up on this one and moved on to...
3. 3 Ring Binder organizer. There are many different forms out there among couponers. You'll see them as you are out shopping. They range from a 3 Ring binder with baseball card or Pokemon trading card inserts to file away the coupons to large Couponizer Systems.
PROS: When you are shopping at the stores, you'll be able to flip through the pages to see if you have a coupon in the clear sheet holders. If an item is on clearance, you can quickly locate the coupon in your binder.
CONS: Again, this can be very time consuming...clipping, sorting and filing...then removing expired coupons. Some coupons will not fit into the slots if they are too large. That's when I moved onto...
4. DO NOT CLIP COUPONS. Yes, you read that correctly. Stop clipping those coupons. Keep your inserts whole. When you receive the inserts, date the front of them and then file them into an accordian file or hanging milk crate file. Most of the websites I go to for coupon match-ups list the coupon insert from which the coupon is located. For example, you might see something like this:
Progresso Soup, Assorted Varieties, 18 to 19 oz can, BOGO $2.29
-$1/4; $.50/2 Progresso Soups, any flavor – 01-03-10 GM
-$1/4; $.50/2 Progresso Soups, Any Flavor – 12-06-09 SS
This came from one of my favorite sites I Heart Publix. Michelle does the coupon match-up each week for the items on sale. In the above example, Progresso Soup is on sale Buy One Get One FREE. $2.29 for two or $1.15 each. She has listed the coupons for the Progresso: there is a coupon for $1.00 off 4 cans of soup or $.50 off 2 cans of soup in the January 3, 2010 General Mills insert. OR there is a coupon for $1.00 off 4 cans of soup or $.50 off 2 cans of soup in the December 6, 2009 SmartSource insert.
When you date the front of your inserts, you can flip through your inserts, pull it out and clip the one you need. File it back in order and move on to the next coupon deal you are hunting.
PROS: Very easy, no time involved clipping, sorting and filing.
CONS: When you come across a great clearance deal at the store, you might not be able to pick up on the deal.
As a side point, you will also need to use organization method #1 the coupon holder with method #4. You will need a place to file coupons you clipped and were not able to use for whatever reason. You will need a place to file blinkies, peelies, mailers, tearpads, printables, etc.
I currently use method #4 and #1. It's the easiest and most productive use of my time. When the sales start at the stores, I head to my favorite sites and print or write down the items I want to purchase. Then I sit down with my coupon box and begin searching and clipping what I need for the shopping trip. Once I get my coupons in order, I put them in the front of my coupon holder and head out. It takes me about an hour to get everything clipped and ready to go. Much less time than before when I had to clip, sort and file for 4 hours and then search through the myriad of envelopes or plastic sheets for my coupon. It could take me another 2 hours to get my coupons together.
With that said, whatever method of organization you use, view the time you put into the organization as time you are paying yourself to shop. For example, when I spend about an hour getting my coupons together, and I save $80 at the store. I feel like I paid myself $80 an hour to shop. That's a great job!
Next time: Best Online Resources