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!
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.
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).
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).
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.
What’s YOUR organizational coupon strategy?