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Reader Q & A: How Can I Organize My Coupons?

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy. 4 comments

Reader Question:
I need help! How can I organize my coupons? Do you cut them all when you get them? How do you store them? Any tips or advice is greatly appreciated. I feel like I am drowning in coupons. Thank you!

Answer:
There is no simple answer. :)

More than anything else, it’s all about finding a method that WORKS FOR YOU. Not what works for your friend, or for me, or for anyone else you’ll encounter. You’re the one who will need to be able to locate any of the coupons you’ll need for a sale. You’re the one who will need to maintain an organized system on a regular basis.

Is it easy to choose a coupon organization method? Not really. Many coupon-users work their way through a number of methods as they go. Some ideas are discarded because they’re outgrown; others don’t make the cut because they simply aren’t a good personal fit from the start. You’ll want to consider your abilities, preferences, available time and shopping needs. Here are some of the basic methods many smart shoppers use:

COUPON ORGANIZATION OPTIONS

A Filing System

An Index Card Box, Accordion File or Envelope system all fit into this category. Begin with a box of some sort (an index card box, photo box, plastic shoe box, an empty baby wipes tub, etc.) and use index tab dividers or envelopes to sort your coupons by category (or alphabetically by brand, if you prefer). Along the same lines, an accordion file has dividers already attached and arranged (you’ll be limited in the number of categories you can create). Label them with categories, then clip and sort your coupons.

Pros: All of your coupons are clipped and organized, ready for a trip to the store. You’ll have a place for every kind of coupon, from printables to store coupons. Good for beginners, you can start small as your coupon stash grows.

Cons: If you have a large number of coupons, this method can require a lot of shuffling through coupons to find exactly the one you want. Time is required to keep up with clipping, sorting and later removing expired coupons. If your coupon box tips over, your coupons could easily scatter.

Examples:
Money Saving Mom’s Coupon Box (with envelopes)
Saving Dollars and Sense’s Coupon Box (with envelopes)

The Coupon Binder

The coupon binder idea takes coupon organization to another level – one of organizational commitment. Beginning with a 2″ or 3″ zippered 3-ring binder, you add plastic divided pages (baseball card or photo pages). Page tabs can divide your pages into categories (many binder-users like to organize their categories according to the aisles of their favorite store). Coupons are cut, folded and sorted into the corresponding plastic pockets so that you can flip through your entire coupon collection at a glance. Page protectors can hold printed store policies for reference. Add a 3-ring pocket for a calculator, shopper’s card, scissors, etc. and you’re ready to roll.

Pros: You’ll benefit most from in-store discounts because all of your coupons are with you, organized and able to find at a page’s turn. You will know which coupons you have at a quick glance. Many people who prefer structure enjoy this form of organization.

Cons: Time. Clipping, folding, sorting on a regular basis requires a routine. Don’t forget the time required to purge expired coupons from your binder. The binder can get fairly bulky, so it won’t fit in a purse (though a larger tote will work).

Example:
Utah Deal Diva’s Coupon Binder


Whole Uncut Coupon Inserts

The idea of NOT clipping coupons until you need them became far more possible with the help of technology (and especially searchable online coupon databases). Each week, as you receive your new coupon inserts, they are grouped together in an organized fashion and labeled with the date (in a filing box or cabinet, bankers box or bin, accordion file, binder clips, page protectors, etc) then stored until they are needed. When it’s time to prepare a store shopping trip, you can use prepared matchups (like those from Bargains to Bounty) or an online coupon database to search for the coupons you need. The database or matchups will provide you with the insert name by publisher (SmartSource, RedPlum, Procter & Gamble) and the date, allowing you to reach into your organized stacks and locate what you need for clipping. Some shoppers like to collate their inserts for ease in clipping (for example, stack all covers together, all page 3s, etc., then clip a number of coupons at once – carefully). Helpful hint: If you receive uncut inserts from a friend, you’ll find the date in microscopic print along the spine.

Pros: A no frills time-saver for busy couponers. Clip only what you need when you need it. No clipping and sorting coupons into categories each week, then removing expired coupons regularly. When coupon inserts become expired, remove any remaining valid coupons, then recycle.

Cons: You’ll miss out on in-store deals and unadvertised clearance items because your coupon stash won’t travel with you. Your shopping list and coupons will need to be prepared before you leave for the store. You’ll still need to find a way to organize printable coupons and other coupons you receive (in the mail, etc).

Example:
“Cents”able Momma’s Coupon Organization

A Combination Approach

Sometimes a single coupon organization method isn’t enough. Some shoppers like having their coupons for favorite items and brands with them while they shop, but don’t have time to clip them all. In addition, free or cheap matchup deals may often use brands or items you didn’t anticipate purchasing (but you’re willing to try at such a reasonable price!). Keeping the remainder of your inserts intact guarantees that you still have coupons for unpredicted purchases while keeping your coupon workload smaller.

Pros: You get the best of both organization worlds – coupons conveniently with you while shopping and the rest of your stash organized and uncut at home (at the waiting should a deal occur).

Cons: While not nearly as much work as a coupon filing system or binder on its own, the combination method still requires a moderate amount of time. Clipping, sorting and purging coupons is a necessity, but only for those coupons you choose.

Examples:
Laura’s (of Sharpen Your Scissors) Coupon Organization Strategy
Meghan’s (of Savvy Spending) Coupon Approach

What’s YOUR organizational coupon strategy?

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Comments

  1. 1

    I guess mine is a combination method – uncut inserts and acordion file for printables and certain grocery coupons that I cut ahead of time because I know I will use them for sure.
    I usually prepare my shopping lists/matchups ahead of time and have small envelopes for specific stores (Wags, Target). I just slip my shopping list and coupons in the envelope and just bring that to the store – no need to go through coupons while in the store, all are nice and neat and ready to go in that envelope.
    I do travel with the uncut inserts too. I have them all in a slim folder and depending on shopping trip, I either bring it with me or leave in the car.
    Sure, I could never remember all the coupons in all the inserts but I guess these days a smartphone can come in handy to check those online databases when necessary.

  2. 2
    Esther - a homeschool momma in Mid-Michigan says:

    Years ago, when I used coupons on a “sometime” basis I used a simple accordian style coupon thingy. Then, I didn’t use coupons for years :(
    After have two kids and working full time, I didn’t think I had the “time” to clip coupons, another :(
    After getting laid off over three years ago, I became a full-time stay-at-home, homeschooling momma :)
    It wasn’t until after a year of being home and after a grocery shopping trip to Aldi and spending $70 that didn’t even fill up my cupboards, I decided I had to do something to save my family some serious money!
    I started looking online for coupon storage methods and ended up buying a “Couponizer”. I used my Paypal balance to pay for most of it, so I only paid $5.95 for the shipping & handling chg. To top it off, I got a “free” coupon how-to book by Stephanie Nelson, the Couponmom. By reading this book, I finally unlocked the secrets to Saving Big while using coupons the proper way to maximise my savings! So, I have been using Stephanie’s Insert method to store the bulk of my coupons and have just progressed to a bigger coupon binder method for the clipped coupons and the internet printed coupons to have on hand when I go to the store. I plan my list by visiting blogs like Bargains to Bounty, Moneysaving Mom, and Budget Saving Mom to put together the best grocery and drug store lists to get the most bang out of my buck! I choose these sites, because of their profession of faith in the one true GOD! I will not support a blog that uses “unethincal” ways to save money!
    My Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ has blessed me with 2 stores in my area that double coupons up to $1.00, so, I save enough to be able to supply for my family, put together care packages for our visiting missionaries and families at church that are going thru a rough time, gift packages for family and friends and last but not least, donating my surplus to local charities and supporting our troops overseas! Since clipping coupons seriously, I have grow to a “Combination Method” for my coupon organization and methods continue to “upgrade” to meet my families needs!
    Thank you, and God Bless you and your family Joyln for all your hard work in putting together this Blog to help save my family thousands of dollars a year :)

  3. 3

    I fount some little plastic totes with handles and snap closure for about 10cents at the Salvation Army. They almost look like recipe boxes. Then, I have envelopes with an upright index card listing what coupons are in each envelope (Yogurt, cereal, cereal bars, razors, etc). I have one tote for grocery coupons and one tote for household items. It took me about two months to find something that worked (tried the binder and hated it, tried the accordian file and hated it). I do clip almost all coupons to file. Then every few weeks I go through and purge expiration dates, etc. It has worked really well for me!

  4. 4

    A friend of mine got me back in coupons after years of not using them, after showing me her coupon binder, and telling me about this site. I like organization but I don’t like it to be too rigid. In our coupon system we organize them by date received and not when they expire, or what catogory you think it should be in.
    We use the baseball card dividers and cut/stuff them into the binder seperating them into 3 sections FOOD / Health Beauty / Other. Then put them behind a divder for that week.
    We match our coupons and make our list first and only take the deals were going to use. If their is something we need that wasn’t “matched” online I can easily flip through each weeks coupons because food is first, then health/beauty, then non food for each week. As we plan our shopping trips at the beginning of the week. We usually visit Meijer one day and Kroger another, etc.
    Purging old coupons was a big issue for me before and that what got me frustrated and to quit years ago. But this way makes it easy to purge because the oldest ones are in the front, and I don’t have to sort through each seperate catogory.

    This way has been working well since we’ve gotten back in this. It doesn’t take alot of me time and we’re saving alot. Whatever way you chose, just make it work for you. Dont have it if it make you work too hard for it. The idea is to help you and your family to have more time quailty time with each other and save some cash while your at it. This way has been a great balance between the two.