Reader Question: How Do You Organize Coupons?

Reader Mary, sent in a question yesterday, and askedHOW DO YOU RECOMMEND ORGANIZING COUPONS?

Well… let me start by saying that what’s right for one, may or may not, be right for another.  This is all about what works best for YOU.  If you are new to couponing all together, I would recommend that you experiment with a few different methods before you race down to Staples and drop all of your newly-found coupon savings on a new filing system.

I personally, started out using a plastic file box designed for index cards.  I added tabbed dividers inside to separate the major categories (produce, meats, freezer, etc.).  As I got more serious about couponing, I quickly outgrew my small box and upgraded to a shoe-box sized plastic box with a lid (picked it up at Target for around $2).  Fortunately, I was able to use the same tabbed dividers I already had and just transferred my system over.  My new box fits nicely in the cart (where your child is supposed to ride), and that became my best-ever excuse of why it was important that I did the grocery shopping ALONE (still working today, I might add!).

It wasn’t until last year, that I found my Happy Place of Coupon Organization.  Yes, I am one of ‘THOSE WOMEN’ that lug a 5-inch binder into the grocery store, each and every time I shop.  I never thought my coupon binder would attract more attention out in public than my triplets do, but let me tell you… it does!  {TLC’s Extreme Couponing television show added quite a bit of hype.  Couponing is da’ bomb right now!  (By the way… did you know that the average couponer today has a household income of over $75,000?)}

I have really excelled in my couponing over the last year, and I owe it 100% to my binder, aka my 6th child (this one is a GIRL!).  I LOVE this system.  I can find a coupon in a matter of seconds while shopping, whereas before I had to flip through a stack of coupons within a category.  Regardless of what method you choose, an absolute MUST in my mind is to keep them organized by category.  If you get stressed out trying to find a coupon, then you are most likely to throw in the towel before you reach your full savings potential.  I am saving more money now because my coupons are more accessible! 

If you are interested in starting with or converting to the Coupon-Binder method, you will need the following items:

  • 3-Ring Binder (Mine is now a 5″, but I started with a 3″)
  • Baseball Card Holders (I bought a box of 100 from Amazon for around $15, but they sell them everywhere in smaller quantities.  Mine are standard 9 pockets/page)
  • Sheet Protectors or Tabbed Dividers (to separate your categories)

The initial set up is easy, but time-consuming… especially if you are moving over from another system.  For me, the end result was worth it.

  • Determine your categories.  You can have as many or as few as you like…. and they may change over time as you get into your groove.
  •  Label your dividers with your chosen categories and put them into the binder.
  • Insert your baseball card holders behind each category divider.  I would start with (1) per category and then just add them as you need to.  Some categories will have multiple pages, others might be fine with one.
  • Add your coupons!  You will need to fold some of the coupons in order to fit them into the sleeves.  The printable coupons fit nicely if you just fold them in half.  (I like to keep a few sheet protectors on hand for the rare occasion a giant coupon print out… it happens.)  Make sure if you have multiple expiration dates for the same coupon, that you put the 1st to expire on top!
  • Maintenance.  Each week when you add new coupons, make sure to also scan for expired ones.  I find it easiest to do this while filing since I’m already flipping through the pages anyway.  Since the first to expire are on top, you shouldn’t have to look too hard.

Before you shop, get organized!   Some final tips…

  • Choose your store.  There is no need when you are first starting out, to hit every store in town.  It’s ok to miss a deal.  You will live.  Once you get the hang of things you will likely want to shop more, but for now, let’s start slow
  • Pull out the coupons that you already know you are going to use, and clip them to your list.  This applies to whatever system you decide on… binder, file box, accordion file, wadded up in your purse(!)
  • Take all of your coupons to the store with you.  If you (inevitably) opt to purchase additional items not on your list, flip to see if you have coupons for those items.  If you do, clip those to your list along with the others.  (Tip: Always take a peek at the clearance carts.  You can often pick up something for free or almost free if you pay attention.)
  • By the time you get to the check-out, you will have a nice stack of coupons ready to hand over to the cashier.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back, and maybe even the cashier a high-five, when you hear how much you saved!

As I said before, what works for ME may not be the best option for YOU.  I would love to hear how you organize your coupons… what’s working for you?  What’s NOT?

 

* This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy HERE.

Comments

  1. sara m ford says

    I want to learn so bad I dont understand how you can get so much for $3 to $10 carts full of stuff. Where do you get all the coupons all I get our the book things from the mail. And sometimes on the net. And I cant find a place that doubles them anymore

    • says

      Hi Sara, it just takes practice, but once it clicks you’re hooked! Start small and it will pay off BIG! I get multiple newspapers delivered each Sunday so that’s where I get the majority of my coupons. I also print several. I don’t have any stores that double anymore either, but several coupons are $1 or more which never would have doubled for me anyway. Still lots of savings to be had! Welcome!

  2. stacy A says

    as a mom of four boys ages 11,13,14, and 15 I have tried for yrs to use these coupons and unlocking all there secrets I see tons of moms in the store using there so called coupon portfolio and I have tried to clip and save but I am horrible now I do always and I mean always price comp. at Walmart but thats as far as I am good at I wish I could learn the secrets being that there dad my hubby of 16 yrs has Parkinsons disease and one of our boys the youngest is Autistic and the third son has ADHD we live on SSI and SSA only being that along with being a full time mom I am also a full time caregiver! So our budget is really tight and being that it takes me months to recover from this overly expensive holiday!!!!

  3. says

    My fiance does all the couponing in our home and she has 2 binders that she has most of her coupons in. She got one recently at our KMart store’s closing sale for really cheap. Both are 3″ I think and have zippers around them and carrying handles and shoulder straps. One has 2 sets of rings in it that are 2″ each I believe. She also just recently got a guillotine style paper cutter so she can cut out the coupons much faster than with the old slider type one she had.I am amazed all of the time how much money she saves and how many items she gets for free or even gets paid to get them with the overages.

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