Oct 5, 2011

Tip #9: Keep Your Coupons Organized {Surviving The Stores Through Couponing}


Couponing Tip - learn how to organize your coupons!  Easy explanations of all of the ways you can organize.  Just do what works best for you!  www.survivingthestores.com

We have our coupons, we know NOT to make Extreme Couponing our goal, we are getting successful at menu planning (and menu planning off the store sales flyers), starting to watch the sales cycles, and now we even are ready to start on our stockpile!

I’m sure you’ve been getting the coupon inserts from the paper (definitely a good thing!) and wondering “what in the world do I do with them now?”

Do they just end up in a pile next to your computer?

Or maybe STILL in the newspaper and piled in a dark corner of the house somewhere (yes, I admit it, this one has been me before!)

There are lots of different options for keeping your coupons organized and there are couponers who will swear by each of them.

So I encourage you to try out what you think will work best for you and what seems least overwhelming.  Don’t worry that your friend (or even another couponing blogger) does it differently.   Do what works for YOU!

My favorite system of organizing coupons alphabetically doesn’t work for many of my friends.  And their system of organizing things by category DOES NOT work for my brain.  And that’s okay.

So here are a few of the most popular ways to organize your coupons along with the pros and cons (in my opinion) of each:

The “Whole Insert Filing” Method

The Method

Instead of clipping out coupons all at once, you file the coupon inserts WHOLE, by date.

So, for example, I would take the coupons that I got this past Sunday (10/2) and put them in either a) an accordion-style folder or b) a file folder that is labeled with 10/2/2011.

I would not cut ANYTHING out, just put the insert in its spot as soon as I get it.

When I’m ready to go shopping and I have my coupon match-ups in hand, I look through those match-ups to see which newspaper insert I need coupons from.

If I’m going to be buying Kashi Cereal, for example, and I see on my coupon match-ups that there’s a $1.50 off coupon in the 10/2 SS, then I would just go to that folder, pull out the Smart Source insert and cut the Kashi coupon.  And then I would put the WHOLE insert (minus the Kashi coupon) back into its folder.

The Pros

  • Super easy.  You really can’t get much easier than just sticking the whole insert into a folder.
  • Coupons are filed in a manner that goes along with our coupon match-ups and the coupon database (which all tell you which insert the coupon was in and the date… ex: 10/2 Smart Source insert)
  • Only bring the coupons you need to the store!  If you’re worried about toting a huge binder or plastic bin around the store, then this method steers clear of that.  Those who use this method typically just put the coupons they will be using in a small envelope or small accordion-style binder (the ones that are the size of an envelope) and only take those with them to the store.

The Cons

  • You will usually miss unadvertised sales & clearance deals.  One of the downsides of not having every coupon with you, is that, well, you don’t have every coupon with you!  So you end up missing out on some great unadvertised and clearance deals that could be free or super cheap with your coupons.
  • Hard to find a specific coupon.  Thankfully, we have the STS Coupon Database to help with this!  But if you are wanting to find a coupon for a specific item and don’t have access to the internet to look it up on the coupon database, it can be a real pain to go through EVERYTHING.

The “BIG Coupon Binder” Method

The Method

This one is probably the most common method among seasoned couponers.  You get a large (3″ or greater) binder, fill it with plastic baseball card holders, and put your coupons in it.  With this method, you typically cut out every coupon that you think you might possibly use and file it in your binder.  If you use this method, I HIGHLY recommend getting a large binder with a ZIPPER closure (thousands of coupons on the floor in the middle of a grocery store is NOT fun… ask me how I know!)

Also, with this method, you bring your WHOLE binder to the store instead of just a few coupons.

Option 1:  File Alphabetically

This is the method that makes the most sense to my brain, but I’m in the minority here from what I’ve read from others.  You can read all about my coupon organization method here, but basically you would just file your coupons alphabetically by brand name.  So the “Covergirl” coupons go under “C” and the “Kashi” coupons go under “K”, etc.  It has really worked well for me, and honestly I think I would go a little loopy if I had to organize by category, so really, it’s just whatever works best for YOU!

Option 2:  File By Category

This is definitely the most common way of organizing your coupons in a binder system.  Instead of labeling your tabs on your coupon binder with letters, you label them with categories.  You can be as general, or as specific, as you would like to be with this.  Some couponers like to have it more general like “Personal Care Items” and “Groceries”, others like to have it separated out into MANY categories like “Makeup”, “Shampoo/Conditioner”, “Hair Styling”, “Frozen Foods”, etc.  It’s just a personal preference, and also likely depends on how much of a couponer you are (LOTS of couponing = LOTS of categories needed!)

The Pros

  • You always have all of your coupons.  If there’s an unadvertised sale, you’re prepared!!
  • It’s easy to flip through your binder and see which coupons have expired and take them out.  Usually the best time to do this is at the end of the month.
  • The binder is easy to store at home, and carry around the store.  ESPECIALLY if you have a zippered one.  I would still recommend storing it up high away from the kids, though.  🙂

The Cons

  • You have to cut out and file your coupons each week when you get the paper.  And it takes a while to do it if you get several inserts.
  • It’s harder to use the coupon database to search for a specific coupon since your coupons are no longer sorted by insert date.
  • Sometimes the coupons don’t fit.  Those baseball card holders are fairly small at 9 to a page, and you have to fold some of the coupons just right for you to be able to see the expiration date, coupon amount, AND the brand name.  So not only does cutting out every coupon take up time, but you have to get them to lay just right in the binder.

The “Plastic Box With Envelopes” Method

The Method

This method is actually very similar to the “big binder” method, except instead of keeping everything in a binder with tabs, you keep it all in envelopes in a plastic box!  As with the coupon binder method, you can label your envelopes alphabetically or by category.  All you need is a plastic shoebox, some envelopes, sticky tab dividers, and your coupons.

There’s a example of this type of filing system over here.  This one (also pictured above) is for sale for $45, which, in my opinion, is an insane price.  But at least you can see what it looks like you can get what you need if you think this system is for you.

The Pros

  • You don’t have to worry about the coupons fitting in little plastic sections of a page like the binder method.  You can cut your coupon out and put it right in the envelope.
  • It’s easy to change up the categories or rearrange things.  All you have to do is move the envelopes around!
  • The box fits easily in the front of your shopping basket to make finding coupons while shopping much easier.
  • Like with the coupon binder, you have all of your coupons with you so you can easily take advantage of unadvertised sales and clearance!

The Cons

  • A big box with thousands of coupons is bound to get knocked over and dumped all over the floor at some point.  And I imagine it would be a nightmare to re-sort everything!
  • You still have to clip every single coupon you think you may want to use.
  • And again, this method is also harder for finding coupon match-ups and the coupon database to do your shopping, since all coupons are listed by insert date.
  • Harder to get rid of expired coupons.  Since they are all hidden away in envelopes, you can’t just get rid of the expired coupons at a glance like you can with the binder method.

The Verdict

Don’t be afraid to mix methods too!

I like to do a mix of the “insert filing” method and the “coupon binder” method. I cut out all of the coupons for products that I’m likely to buy and put them in my binder. But then I keep the uncut inserts and file them by date. I’ve found that every so often there will be a great money-maker at a store with one of the coupons that I didn’t cut out, so I like to keep them just in case!

So the final verdict really is in YOUR hands. Which coupon organization method has worked for you? Or if you are new to couponing, which one sounds like something that would fit YOU?

If you are a new couponer, I would recommend starting with the insert filing method while you get used to couponing and then moving on to one of the others (or a mix) as you get the hang of it!

<< Tip #8: Start On Your Stockpile Tip #10: Use Store Coupons & Manufacturer Coupons Together For BIG Savings >>
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  1. i have gone to the binder and whole insert thing. much easyer then clipping all the inserts and then trying to file them. but when i shop i like to be able to flip to a page and see all the qs i have. also if i don’t take my big binder i have a few small photo albums that are one photo to a page. i just slip a few that i know i need in there and run into the store with that.

  2. I sort of do both too. I LOVE my binder. I get my normal 6-10 papers every weekend. I cut those and sort them alpha (Love it couldn’t imagine by category). People give me whole inserts later that week or even a few weeks later so those I store whole and get grab when I need them. Best of both worlds without cutting and sorting every night I get an insert!

  3. I just switched from the box to the binder and I LOVE THE BINDER!

  4. I am going from a binder to a box and filing them by letter. I made a spreadsheet too. I forget what coupons I have and miss things. I only cut one insert from each paper and file the rest by date. So far its working better.

  5. I mean *one of each insert from each paper.

  6. Funny you should pick this topic. Started today redoing mine. I have them in a milk crate file system which I like but now I am going to do them all by brand just to make life easy. When going to the store I put my milk crate in the car but pre pull what I plan on using and put it in a money bag with my list. This way if I see something that I forgot and want all I have to do is run to the car. 🙂

  7. I use the combination of Binder and whole binde filing systmes

  8. Tried little coupon organizers first started with binders (and got not far at all) then ran across the whole insert idea – freedom! I simply cannot keep up cipping and filing the coupons. So now I combine WIF with little coupon organizers specific to each store. I file the coupons in the particular store as i go. I have running lists on my Palm Pilot which is near me everytime I go on the Internet. Now I want to add lists of what coupons are in what inserts (Possibly could get them from MY Sunday Inserts?)

  9. I am a binder girl, and I definitely need to save my pennies and upgrade from my D-ring to a zippered one. I just need to find a good sale or deal to get one.

    I use tabbed dividers and categories. I have all the food in one section, and the rest in another section. I divided the foods up into categories (breakfast, frozen, baking, etc.), which is how most isles are set up in my store. I divived the health and beauty into categories like teeth, contacts, hair products, paper, cleaning, etc., and use those.

    I use the baseball card holders and money holders, which are 3 to a page and hold printables much easier and faster than the baseball card ones. I also date any that I have to fold, so I can quickly see which ones expire when.

    I usually pull all the ones I plan to use, but bring the whole binder with me. I find good clearance items, especially at Target, and like having them all with me. The nearest Target is 45 minutes from me, so I can’t just run home and get coupons. Even though the grocery store is closer, running home is counter-productive.

    My friends joke with me that I am nuts, but they all give me coupons!

  10. Dianne O. says:

    I use the mycouponkeeper.net system. It is a plastic box with dividers and extra small boxes for supplies. I currently have it by category but seriously thinking about switching it to alphabetical. But it is a nice system. Check it out!!

  11. have enjoyed all of your comments…I am a kind of use all the above methods…but with the binder I take the inserts and cut out 4 and date example rp 10/2 or ss 9/2 each coupon in insert and then put in binder in category then file remaining inserts in date order in file box to be used when sale comes along. much easier than clipping all 40 copies but have several on hand just in case I come along a bogo or special price!

  12. if you print a coupon can you scan that coupon and use it multiple times or are they all coded ?

  13. i’m a newbie to couponing and i have tried all of the above and none have worked out for me. But I did finally find a method that is a combo of method number one and having a binder.  I separate the insert and file in my binder in full page sleeves. and just date the insert for example RP 06/03/12. When I’m ready to shop I pre-cut all the coupons I’m going to use but i still take my binder with me to the store. I have a little pouch in my binder with scissors and if i find an unadvertised deal i just go through my binder and clip the coupon. The only down fall is that I have to flip through the entire binder to find the coupon I need. So it’s a little time consuming. but flipping through it so much makes me remember what’s in it. So it helps me in  the end….at least that’s what i like to tell myself….lol For now this has helped me out a great deal. And each full size sleeve can hold up to 25 pages without it feeling cluttered. BTW thank you so much for all this great info. i love learning new ways to do things in my couponing adventures.

  14. If you have coupons you´re not going to use or that have expired, the military will take them. They can use coupons that are 6 mos past the expiration date.

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  1. […] do you organize your coupons? Do you have a system? Check out the 3 most popular ways to organize your coupons! Um, YUM! […]