How to Use Coupons: Keeping your Coupons Organized

The Best Way to Organize Coupons | The Coupon Project

Are you new to couponing, or maybe you’re wanting to develop a better system for doing it? This post is all about the best way to organize coupons, but please make sure to check out my How to Use Coupons page for more step-by-step posts on getting started with coupons.

Coupon Organization: what NOT to do

You want to get more serious about using coupons. Great! The first step is to avoid these not-so-helpful strategies. Are you guilty of any of these?

#1: The Clip ‘n Forget Method. You have good intentions, so you clip your coupons, but then don’t have a plan of where to put them, so they tend to end up in a forgotten pile that goes into a junk drawer somewhere.

#2: The Bottom of the Purse Method. You find a good coupon at a store or get one at checkout, so you put it in your purse for “safe keeping” only to discover it three months later when you’re cleaning said purse – and the coupon has long since expired.

#3: The Forgotten Folder Method. You decide the best place for your coupons is in a neat and tidy folder in your home office. Only problem is you never consult this folder before making your grocery trip.

While a bit tongue in cheek, the point I want to drive home is that coupons will not save you any money if they are not organized or easy to retrieve. On the flipside, it’s entirely possible to create an overly complicated system that stresses you out every Sunday when new coupons arrive (I know because I’ve been there, done that).

Your goal will be to create a system that both keeps your coupons organized and is easy for you to maintain.

Three Basic Coupon Organization Ideas

Over the years, I’ve identified three different organizational methods that work well for most couponers. The one that’s right for you will gel with your style, how you like to shop, how many coupons you intend to use, and how much time and effort you wish to devote.

Organizational Idea #1: The Coupon Binder

Even if you’ve never clipped a coupon in your life, chances are you’ve seen someone carry around one of these puppies at the store. You may have been inspired by them, or sworn you’d never be that crazy.

Let’s chat a little bit about how this method works and why you’d choose to go this route.

  • Supplies needed: a large binder and plastic inserts (Amazon links)
  • Clip your coupons and file away weekly
  • You can also add coupons you find in stores and get in the mail
  • Don’t forget about coupons you can print too – head to the “Print Coupons!” tab above for legitimate, free coupons
  • Keeps your coupons at-the-ready should you find deals in stores
  • Organize by category or alphabetically
  • Keeps them neat and tidy

I personally have used coupon binders for the better part of four years now and I have to say I like the feeling of finding a deal and knowing I have the coupon right then and there to use. However, I found clipping and organizing EVERY coupon from my insert was a huge time waster. These days, I ONLY clip the handful of coupons I think I’m likely to use (or may want to use if I find a deal). I spend about 20-30 minutes every Sunday this way, and my coupons stay neat and tidy. I carry mine in the store in a reusable grocery bag, so it’s discreet.

pocketsleeves

You’ll need to purchase some pocket sleeves such as these ones (Amazon link). I’ve used both the sports card and business card size and I definitely recommend the sports card – your coupons will require less folding and stay tidier.

binder

I also recommend a good quality binder, preferably one that zips up like the one pictured here (Amazon link). I also like a binder that has pockets for couponing essentials such as scissors, calculator, pens, rebates, receipts, etc.

The disadvantages of this system? It’s important you stay on top of pulling the expired coupons out! A good time to do this is at the start of the month as many coupons tend to expire on the last day of a month. If you use lots of food and products with coupons, you could easily spend more time clipping and filing into a binder than my 20-30 weekly minutes.

Organizational Idea #2: Folders/Filing

If the binder method is not for you, you could simply file your inserts away each week. On the spine of each insert in tiny print is the week date. You can use a sharpie or thick marker and write the date across the front or put the inserts into file folders. (I have some I picked up for $0.09 around back to school time a couple years ago.)

I have stored the folders in one of these super cute, durable Bungalow bins before. Here’s a similar one, selling for $25 on Amazon right now. I definitely recommend something sturdy like this to support all those folders and coupons!

bungalow

Here’s how to retrieve the coupons you need, under this system:

#1: Use my coupon matchups as a guide! When I share the deals I’m finding at the stores with you here at The Coupon Project, I’m telling you which date and which insert you’ll need. For instance, if I say the $0.50 off soup coupon is from the 10/14 SmartSource, you can refer to your 10/14 file or folder, find that SmartSource insert and flip through to clip the coupon.

#2: Use a coupon database. There are several online FREE coupon databases you can use. I prefer the one at Hotcouponworld, but there are others at Deal Seeking Mom and Hip2Save as well. Suppose you’re looking to see if there is a coupon for Bic razors. You could go into one of these databases and type “Bic” or even just “razors” to see what comes up. Use the results as a guide to refer back to your inserts. IMPORTANT: coupons and their values may vary by region, so just because the database says a coupon was put out on a certain date, does not mean your local paper got it.

This method has it’s pros and cons. On the plus side, once you’ve created your folders or filing system, managing your coupon inserts is a breeze each week. It’s perfect for the couponer who has limited time and/or gets many inserts and clipping all those coupons would be very time consuming.

A couple disadvantages to consider: you’ll be doing a lot of thumbing through for coupons when you need them, which can be tedious. Also, this method is not very portable. If you find an unexpected deal in a store, you’re often out of luck.

Organizational Idea #3: Coupon Box

One method I’m seeing used more and more is the coupon box.

DSCN1557 (800x664)

I’ve personally dabbled with this and love how portable the system is! Reader Sarah also shared with me how she uses the coupon box method to keep her coupons tidy:

Here’s what she has to say:

“When I first started couponing many years ago I started with a binder and baseball card pockets. After a year, the binder got too heavy, large, and awkward. You could never fully see what the coupon was for and the expiration date. I switched to a box and have loved it ever since.  I have a box that is wide enough to store the weekly circulars (on the left side) and the coupon policies (on the right side) as well as the coupons in the smaller envelopes, #6 3/4 business envelopes (which you can find at the dollar store!). I fold the flap of the envelope in and tape an index card vertically to the outside of the back of the envelope.  This allows me to color code and categorize the coupons….

…In the front of the box I’m able to keep an empty envelope box which stores scissors, calculator, a pen, pulled coupons paper clipped by store, and any rainchecks I may have. Target has its own set of envelopes filed by category in the back of the box. The box is locking and has a handle for easy carrying. It’ll fit in the top of the shopping cart or if you have little ones, in the bottom. It is made by Snapware, which you can find at Walmart or Fred Meyer. Mine is 13.5”D x 9.5”W x 6”H.”

If you’re interested in trying this method, I found a Snapware Smart Store System on Amazon with many different sizes of boxes, including the size Sarah mentions (14 x 9 inch).

Thanks, Sarah!

How I manage my Quick Coupon Trips

I want to share one additional layer of coupon organization I do.

See this cute little “purse?” Well inside, it’s not really a purse!

It’s an accordion-style coupon organizer! I’ve used one of these for several years now and it’s great for those quick shopping trips when I don’t want to lug my entire binders around. What I do is designate a store for each section. This way I can easily manage my rebates and store coupons/rewards.

When I’m planning a shopping trip, I can also gather all the coupons I need from my binders, filed inserts, printables, etc., and place them into the appropriate folder. I even have a couple sections for high value/favorite, and freebie coupons that I want to keep tabs on.

If you are a light coupon user? You could potentially use this as a standalone method to organizing your coupons. The advantage of this organizer? It’s easy and cute and doesn’t scream, I’m a crazy couponer! 

couponorganier

Here’s one example of a super cute coupon organizer I found on Amazon. It’s neat and tidy and fits perfectly into your purse.

Organizing your E-Coupons

I’d like to end this post with a quick section on organizing ecoupons because it’s fast becoming a way that more and more people are using and redeeming coupons.

By e-coupons, I mean the coupons that you load to your store reward or loyalty cards that come off at checkout. Now, when you go to a site like Fred Meyer, you can see many coupon offers you can easily load to your card.

It can be tempting to want to load all of them – after all, why not? My problem is when I do this, I often forget what I’ve loaded. Instead, I prefer to take a look at the e-coupon sites of a store JUST PRIOR to making a shopping trip out. I add just the ones I think I want to use (or the ones I think might make a good deal!), and then either print the list of coupons I’ve loaded (most sites give you this option) or jot them down, usually on the grocery shopping list I’ve created.

I find by being more deliberate with the ecoupons I’m loading and loading them just prior to shopping, I’m more apt to actually use them!

If you liked this post, I also encourage you to check out these related posts on coupon organization:

How to Organize your Coupons | The Coupon ProjectHow to Organize your Coupons in Less than 30 Minutes a Week 

Use Clothespins to Keep Coupons TidyUse Clothespins to Keep Coupons Tidy

Finally, I encourage you to sign up for my daily emails. They are free to receive and include additional money-saving tips and coupon deals.


Comments

  1. jolene says

    I have an expanding accordion file that can fit a years worth of inserts. I clip the coupons I know I’m going to use and put them in to a wallet size accordion file I got at the dollar store (it’s not as fashionable as yours LOL). I used to have a coupon binder but after extreme couponing it got to embarrassing to carry. The most important part of organization is putting the date on the inserts. Otherwise it’s a pain to follow the match ups. I also carry a small pair of scissors in a section of my coupon wallet for cutting store coupons at the store. Just don’t forget they are in your purse going through security at the airport (learned that the hard way).

  2. Christina says

    I use a few small top-loading photo albums. They’re small enough to fit in my purse but they hold ALL of my coupons. I have one for grocery coupons and another for health and beauty, cleaning, etc. They are very handy and do a great job of keeping my coupons organized. One advantage to using these small albums is that i have my coupons in my purse at all times, so in the case of an impromptu shopping trip, i’m ready! I do love the box idea, though, because of the space for storing weekly ads…our Walmart here requires us to provide an ad in order to ad-match and I have no place to keep them!

    • says

      I LOVE this idea! I might keep a photo album ‘per store’ that I shop at to keep everything in order. I’m going to try and find a set of albums that are packaged in a storage box. Brilliant!

    • Karen says

      Yes thats what I started out with. I found the side loading was a lot easier to use. If you want to put 2 different on a page the side loading work easier than the top loading. I’m one that tends to go overboard (um 20 papers) and It got where I ended up with so many little photo books I had to put them in a shoebox and tote that into the store. But I really did like these. I guess its really whatever works best for u.

  3. Rachel says

    I am not embarrassed to carry my binder at all. I keep it with me most of the time. I was just at Target yesterday and a lady who is just starting to get into it stopped and asked me questions for about 20 minutes. I was happy to help her. I do agree organization is key. Every person is different, find what works for you and go for it.

    • arussell says

      That’s great! There are moments when I might get a few looks from my binder – but there are other times, like you, I’m able to share coupons or explain to others what I’m doing. I also get to tell them about this site, which is another plus. :)

      I agree…it’s a personal preference and comfort thing! :)

  4. Becky says

    I really need something larger than the expanding file folder…. I now have 3, count them THREE in my purse. Luckily I have one of those large purses, but I refuse to get a coupon binder…. I don’t like them. I tried it when I first started couponing and it’s too impractical for me because I ALWAYS have to have my coupons with me…. I am looking at making my own, but I am not too crafty so I’m looking around to see how I can do it and not break the bank doing so.

    Now with my inserts, I use something that sort of looks like a briefcase, but it’s the expanding file folder with 26 pockets so I can categorize each insert by week and by RP, SS, PG, etc… this is amazing! I get a million inserts per week (well, not a million, but 8 average…) and then at work on Monday & Tuesday we have our weekly Coupon Party (yes, seriously lol) and this made it tons easier… I used to use a shoe box size box and I couldn’t keep anything organized at all between everyone touching it and passing it around :/ The only issue I’ve had is that it got “a bit” heavy when I put all my inserts in it and the clasp broke on it (what do you expect, I spent $10 on it, lol)… but my boyfriend being the fixer he is, just put a heavy duty screw into it and now there’s no way that baby’s coming off =) I didn’t want to buy something for $5.00 because I knew it wouldn’t be big enough, but this fits just perfect. I go thru my inserts every few weeks and get rid of all the old expired ones I never used, and when I get the inserts if I see those pages near the back that just have ads on both sides, I get rid of those too – no use keeping something I’ll never use =) Seems to work well for me though, so far.

  5. Jen says

    I must say I’ve tried every method but I LOVE the binder method. I buy 4 newspapers every week so the accordion wasn’t “neat” enough for me. Too many coupons in one category. The clipless method of just writing the dates on the insert took more time than clipping. I constantly had to flip pages back and forth to locate the coupon I needed from the database. I also missed a lot of deals bc I didn’t have the coupon ready and clipped. I had a large binder but didn’t have a strong enough backbone to deal with all the stairs and comments (I wish I did). Now I am currently using the binder method but instead of one huge binder, I condensed it to 2 small 5×8 binders. One food and one non food. I carry them in a cute thirty one tote. It was the perfect size to carry my binders. Now I just discreetly flip through the pages in the store without the looks. It takes me about an hour to cut 4 newspapers every day and file them but its such a time and money saver for me when I have it ready at my fingertips.

      • Jen says

        Hi Jamie,

        Wow, I just read my original post and saw all the grammar errors. I’m blaming that one on the iphone auto correct. I use the brand, Thirty One, all in one organizer tote. You can find it on ebay for less than $20 or possibly on the actual site thirtyone.com but it may be a bit more expensive. I still use my 5×8 binders (best is Staples D-ring binder) and still LOVE it. Good luck organizing your coupons!

  6. Teresa says

    I bought a small accordion book like the picture above for the coupons I take with me and a small decorative box that Is also an accordion for the rest of my coupons and inserts. I got them both at Target and at Staples.

  7. says

    I file my inserts in hanging folders and clip as-needed. Fabulessly Frugal does this and lists which inserts you can toss when all the coupons in it are expired. They are specific to the greater northwest. I LOVE this method because I have 5 children 6 and under and I homeschool…I’m too busy to clip all the coupons I might use. And I follow blogs that tell me when stuff I need goes on sale. And I’ve got such a great stockpile, I’m not upset if I don’t have an opportunity to use that $3/2 precious string cheese coupon before it expires. Since we try to eat a lot of real food, I mostly use the personal care stuff.

  8. says

    I’m with Sarah, after awhile the binder got heavy, and it’s harder to file and purge from the binder. I loved the ease to look through the clear sheets, but it was time-consuming. Also, I used to be able to take the binder into the store and not a soul would notice.

    I switched to the box method (clipped, filed by category – and I have a LOT of categories). It’s so easy to clip, file, purge. And in the store (if I bring the box), it’s easy enough to pull out the “soup” section if I’m looking at soups, and leaf through them. I file newest coupons in the back of each section in the box.

    I use a shoe box (had a plastic one, needed more room but haven’t found one that is big enough but not too deep) that I put a divider down the middle, and made two rows. This way I can use it in the shopping cart without having to turn sideways to dig for coupons.

    I still get my coupons ready before I shop most of the time (I do take it to winco, and sometimes to walmart if I dare to venture in there) and just paperclip them to my list (I make my lists on index cards – one for each store).

    While it’s not as “pretty” as the binder, I save so much time using the box! and it holds a lot more coupons than the binder did. With the binder, I had to keep adding sheets, and then ended up getting a massive binder, and that just got crazy. So I went back to the small binder, and finally took the dive and got the box. :)

  9. veronica says

    I love the binder but u admit on my first trip it was 2 hours long cause my coupons weren’t in organization….Haha but it was worth it saved $78.00 at safeway with just for u and coupons.

  10. Nancy says

    I use the binder method. For a while I used envelopes but it became too hectic as I had so many envelopes. So I switched from putting coupons into envelopes and putting them into scrapbook pages. These pages are the ones that have a sticky back side to them for photos. What’s I particulary love about this method is that I can see all my coupons (and I do have them categorized), and I can see the expiration dates as well as the terms and conditions. The only major downside to all this is that the pages are a bit expensive – but I think it’s worth it.

  11. says

    I have to agree with Jen. I tried the inserts in a crate method and when i browsed the web and saw a good deal I wanted to go out the door as quickly as possible to get the deal. However, I had to spend time clipping the coupons before I went. I’m back to the binder method even though I went to a workshop that taught me the crate method. I also found out that many of my coupons were going to waste and when I saw something on clearance and found that I had a coupon it was a bummer. Your also right about fitting the binder in the cart. I take my binder in the store but rarely do I need to get any coupons. I do like to “Pay it forward” especially when I see big families who are standing 10 minutes to decide what body wash their going to buy. I just give them a coupon and it makes me more happier than them knowing I helped someone save some money.

  12. Ashley says

    I choose to do the binder method. For me, it is the most organized (I never thought I would say I could do ANYTHING “organized!!”) and I am able to carry my coupons everywhere. There have been numerous occasions where people have stopped me in the middle of the store and asked, “how do you do that!?” I love getting to share what I know, and potentially save other people money! So for me, it isn’t embarrassing at all; I use it as an opportunity :)

  13. Kyra says

    I’m relatively new to the word of extreme savings, and while i do admit that it takes a lot of dedication and upkeep to use a binder (or several!), i prefer the binder over the other kinds of organizing because it keeps my coupons very specifically where i can find them. I really appreciate this website though, and i think you may have convinced me to start trying another method too :) Thanks for your help!

  14. Jess says

    I use the binder and Accordian file. I clip all of my coupons on Sundays. I file them into my own database on Mondays (I use Microsoft word) and organized them in my database by expration date. After that file them into my binder. I then start researching sales in online weekly ads at my favorite stores on tuesdays and wensdays while I consult my database to see what deals I can get with coupon. I put together a shopping list wensday night. Thursday morning I pull all th coupons on my shopping list out of the binder and organize them nto the smaller accordian files by product (each accordian file has it’s own store by color i.e. blue is kroger). By Friday I am ready to shop. It seems complicated but I fnd this works great for me. I spend maybe 10-12 hours a week on my coupons.

  15. Trisha says

    You have no idea how much this helped me today!

    Thank you thank you thank you!

    I started out with the binder & baseball card plastic inserts – but I felt so confused, kept losing my coupons, and could never find anything or stay organized in any way .

    I spent this afternoon putting my coupons in simple envelopes in a shoe box!

    So simple – yet so much more efficient.

    I had a whole stack of coupons that I had printed out & cut – and in very little time, I had them all filed away.

    Took my shoebox to the store – and easily found any additional coupons that I didn’t already put aside to make deals.

    Thanks again for this simple but great tip! :-}

  16. Maggie says

    1. Accordian
    2. Binder
    3. Megabinder
    Saved 1000 a month on our household budget.
    4. Burned out on purging and weight

    FF two years. Start again with #1.
    Made stack of envelopes with labels out to side A-Z. Works well for small numbers of coupons, but not great for toiletries. Need those visibly sorted to take advantage those.

    Looking for a way to make a list of what I have..app or voice record? Especially ones I want to be sure to try to use. Great ppst and comments.

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