Saturday, August 20, 2011

Coupon Organization–Everyone has a method what is yours?

 

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I had a comment from Jennifer asking for help with organizing her coupons.  Here is her question if any of you want to chime in:

I have been using the insert method of organizing my coupons but I am finding it more and more difficult to use that method when out shopping. Do you have any special tips for someone starting off with the binder method? I have seen people write what date and what insert the coupon came from. Is there any benefit to do this and if so, what is it? Just seems like a lot of work to me.

To answer Jennifer’s question – I don’t know why people would write the date and source of a coupon the printed unless they were using their own coupons to write a blog and needed the source or so that they could match-up their coupons with those posted in a blog or coupon forum.  I agree with you – it sounds like more work. 

I have tried several different methods of coupon organization over the years and I really think that the key is having and finding the system or pieces of each system that works best for you.  I have highlighted what I feel are the pros and cons for the three most common systems. 

Insert Method:

Pros:

  • You can always check your inserts to see if you got the coupon that you read about on a blog or coupon forum.
  • You don’t have to clip, sort, and file coupons every week for products that you may or may not use.
  • You only clip the coupons you are going to use and some that you will probably use (for me that is something like diapers).

Cons:

  • It is not very convenient to take into a store.
  • You may miss a deal because you don’t have other coupons with you when you shop.
  • It can be time consuming to check for expiration dates.
  • You still need a way to organize printable coupons.
  • You still need a system to keep the coupons you are going to use together.

Binder Method:

Pros:

  • You always have all of your coupons with you so that you can get great unadvertised specials.
  • You can organize your coupons within your binder to correspond with the lay out of your favorite store or by categories like meat, dairy, frozen foods, etc.
  • You can easily flip through and check expiration dates.

Cons:

  • You have to clip, sort, and file lots of coupons.
  • You may have to fold your coupons to fit in the holders (most people like baseball card sheets).
  • Although it looks pretty – the organization can be overwhelming and time consuming.  Depending on how organized you want it you could be working on it daily.
  • The binder can get heavy and awkward to carry around.

Coupon Wallets:

Pros:

  • These are great if you want to clip and file only a few coupons (it works great with the insert method).
  • It is easy to carry around with you or leave in your purse (or man-bag).
  • You can sort your shopping lists by store and divide them in the different sections.
  • Can be great if you want a system that you can keep things like CVS Extra Bucks, Catalinas, or Walgreens Register Rewards in one place.
  • Can be a great method for keeping all of your internet printables and coupons you find in the store from blinkies, tearpads, or winetags together.

Cons:

  • Not large enough if you want to keep all of your coupons together.
  • You have to sit down and sort and purge expired coupons on a somewhat regular basis.
  • You can’t organize into subcategories like you can with the binder method.

 

I was a hard core binder person. I loved my binder, it went everywhere with me. Then I had a few weeks in a row where I didn’t have time to sit down and organize my binder. It became too overwhelming for me to clip, sort, and organize all of my coupons. I also like to have things organized and then sub-organized and then sub-sub-organized. I wasn’t happy with having a mustard coupon in just the non-perishable grocery section, it had to be in the condiment section on a separate page for just mustard. I know I am a little OCD.

I transitioned myself to the insert system and although there are deals I may miss because I haven’t clipped every coupon, it is easier for me to manage right now. I also can contain it so that I don’t have to worry about any of my little ones getting into my coupons and pulling them out.

Here are some pictures of how I organize my coupons:

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I start off with a file folder and write the date of the insert on the tab.  You can see from all of the scribbles to the left of the visible date that I recycle and reuse the folders.

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I keep all of my file folders together in a tote bag (I actually got this bag for free a few years ago from L.L. Bean.  I had redeemed my Pampers Gifts to Grow Points for a gift card to L.L. Bean and this is what I found at the outlet in Williamsburg.)  I like the tote bag versus a filing cabinet because it does make it portable.  I have taken this bag with me on lots of trips.  It is a little heavy, and I don’t usually carry it with me into a store. 

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I file all of my folders in chronological order.  I generally go through my inserts about once a month and pull the inserts that are older than three months.  I still flip through all of those before I let them go to see if there is anything that hasn’t expired that I want to clip and hold onto.

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I have a small plastic box that I put things like coupons for restaurants, coupons I receive in the mail, coupons that I cut out of product boxes, coupons for stores, and rebate forms.  These generally end up in the coupon wallet, but this is the holding area.

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I keep my internet printable coupons in a separate folder.  That folder is in the front of my tote bag.

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My coupon wallets.  I am not using the red one at the top right now.  I was using that more when I was really hitting multiple stores in one trip.  I would write out my list clip and sort the coupons that went with the list and then separate them by store in each of the accordion files inside. 

I am only using the clear envelope right now.  I like it that it is longer and most of my coupons fit in there without having to fold them.  It is just the right size for me to take the coupons I want to use into a store with me (especially if I have all three kids with me) and I can keep things like my catalinas, CVS Extra Bucks, and other things together.  I usually have any blinkies or tearpads in there because I have this with me when I find them in a store.  I will sometimes keep receipts in here as well, especially if I need to obtain a certain dollar amount for something like a rebate.

I hope I have helped Jennifer out and given any of you struggling with the same issue some ideas of how to organize all of your coupons.  I really feel that the more unorganized your coupons are the harder it is to find the great deals.  I would love to hear back from all of you about how you keep your coupons straight.  Remember what you think is obvious to you may be a new concept to someone else.

Happy Couponing!

~Ann

Edit 8/22/11 - I met Anjie (The Frugal Freelancer) about a month ago at a luncheon for frugal bloggers.  She has been couponing since I was in elementary school (maybe longer).  She has just created a new system for filing coupons.  Remember the key to having your coupons organized is finding the system that works for you.  Thanks for the tip Anjie!

5 comments:

debbielynne said...

I have one of those catch-all coupon/rebate baskets in my kitchen as well!

Lissa said...

I think you and I are long lost cousins! I, too, used to be a die- hard binder girl until it became too time-consuming, and cumbersome! You also tend to draw more attention to yourself inside the store, and after that Extreme Couponning show that is NOT always a good thing. Anyway, now I have gone to those SAME clear envelopes (from Staples) and I keep one for each store. At the beginning of the week I make my list ( I have a blank printed spreadsheet that I fill in) and then I put the envelope with the coupons and list in my purse. Then I can have it available whenever Im out~ sometimes I have extra errand time when I didn't expect it. This system works for me~ I was spending too much time clipping coupons I never used, and too much energy carrying around inserts.

Ann said...

Debbie & Lissa - I just have this to say. "Great minds think alike." :)

Lissa - I will "cut and paste" my shopping list together from my own Martin's post and from other sites for other stores to a Microsoft desktop notepad. I usualy just place the coupons inside the printed list (folded in thirds) and keep it in the one clear envelope. You are right you never know when you are going to steal a few extra minutes when you are out.

Thanks for the sharing ladies!

Freelancebyu.com said...

Hi Ann, again? I thought I left you a comment here earlier but maybe didn't go thru all of the steps I don't know, but I am doing a post on a new system/organization of coupons and am linking to this post now. I am writing it now let me know and you can check the link back to it! I also did a recap/wrap up post on the challenge that you are tagged in on two of my blogs. can't wait to see everyone on thursday.

Ann said...

Thanks Anjie -

I will gladly link back to your posts. I loved your "piles and files" post. It is true that you are never caught up if you are a true die hard couponer. I call my piles my organized messes. :)