Back for more fun, are you?
Good. Because it should be fun. Seriously folks, if couponing is a drudgery for you, something's WRONG. I always get a kick when I leave the store and saved more than I spent. It gives me a little boost to my day. So if you've been approaching this the same way you'd clean out your hall closet, stop.
You are in this to see how much money you can save. And want to know something fun? I bet at the end of this, you'll see not only have you saved money, you've also ended up with more stuff and better stuff in your pantry than EVER before. Now if that doesn't sound like fun, you've just got to be the Grumpiest Mr Grumpy Pants out there.
(Photo credit Philip MacKenzie)
So today I want to spend some time answering an age-old couponing question:
"How the heck do I organize all my coupons?"
In short, I can't tell you.
See, everyone "ticks" a little differently and what works for me might leave you scratching your head for weeks. So what I will do is share with you what I'm doing to give you an idea. In the process, I'll also share different schools of thought on organizing coupons.
My Method: Coupon Binders
So I clip ALL my coupons each week. I then sort and file away the ones I think I will be likely to use (or just want to keep on hand). I sort my coupons alphabetically by manufacturer. I have two binders – one for food items, one for all else. By the way, I purchased the plastic holders at an office store. Here's a pic.
Next, I do NOT EVER NOT NEVER throw away the coupons I don't think I'll use. I simply file them away in envelopes, labeled with the date of the paper they were found in. You NEVER know – a coupon you think you won't ever use suddenly seems interesting once you realize the item would be free with the coupon. Or perhaps you have a friend you could trade the coupon with. Finally, I donate my expired coupons to an overseas military base (more on this later). Bottom line, I don't throw away my coupons.
Finally, I use this little divider at the store. I have a tab for each store. So as I find coupons I wish to use for my trip to Walgreens, I'd pull them out of my binders or envelopes and file them here. It's neat, tidy, and WAYYY less cumbersome than toting my big ol' binders everywhere. I also have a tab for "favorite" coupons. These would be coupons for free items, frequently used items, or high value coupons. That way, they're ready when I find a deal at the store. I also use one of my tabs for storing receipts.
Alternate Method: File inserts
For some of you, clipping and sorting coupons just sounds too time-consuming. So you might consider simply filing your inserts away. Instead of clipping them, just write the date directly on the insert and file it in folders by date or insert type (P&G, SmartSource, Red Plum).
You can easily retrieve your coupons by using an online coupon database, such as the extensive one over at Hot Coupon World. So when you read that there's a deal on Palmolive, you can type in Palmolive, find out if there's a coupon for it, and if so, which insert you can locate it in.
Alternate Method: Envelopes
When I started out, this is the system I used. I grabbed a bunch of envelopes and just wrote categories on them, such as "dairy," "produce," "breakfast" and so forth. This might be a great way to start out, but you'll probably find it stops working for you at some point. (Unless you've made it work for you in an interesting way like Money Saving Mom.)
For me, it stopped working when I had SOO many coupons and had difficulties categorizing. For instance, should Pace Picante Sauce be filed in "canned/dry goods," "ethnic foods," or "snacks?"
Incidentally, this is EXACTLY why I don't use categories, period. In my mind, it makes MUCH better sense to just file it under "P" for Pace. I don't have to think too deeply how to file it or where to find it. If you do decide categories work for you, give some thought into how broad or specific you need to be to be able to retrieve the coupons quickly. I also have decided to do whatever possible to avoid a catch-all miscellaneous coupon file. I just knew that for me, it would end up like a junk drawer of coupons, so to speak.
Again, remember this is how MY mind works. Yours is different (or should be!). If categories work for you, categories it is! If filing your coupons by color makes sense for you, hop to it. If you want to leave them scattered about the floor, it's your house, not mine.
More on the Binder Method
For those who are interested to learn more about the binder method, one of my favorite bloggers, Hip2Save put this informative vlog together recently. Incidentally, she has a wonderful video series running on her blog right now called "Follow Me Mondays." Each week, she tackles another store or couponing topic. For those who are visual learners, I highly recommend you check out her blog.
Oh and here is proof that different minds work differently. For her, categories make better sense. They may for you, too! This will give you an idea of how you might set up your binder if you were going to use that method.
(Posted with permission from Hip2Save)
Wondering what's next? Sometime in the next couple days I will be starting to help you understand HOW to use coupons and find those killer deals. Yup, it's time to start bringin' it together, folks!