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
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.
- 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.
- 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
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!)
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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!
- 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.
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!
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