How To Organize Coupons

Learn how to organize coupons in a way that will be efficient and cost effective. It's important to keep in mind that the amount of time you spend finding and using coupons must offset the amount of money you save and then some. With ongoing economic struggles and the increasing use of online coupons, use of them has made a dramatic return as a great way to save money. Coupons can help you save a tremendous amount of money. The key to these savings though, is in how you organize them.

Coupons use is popular both offline in the traditional sense (i.e., food and household products) but also online for an enormous number of products and services which may be available both offline and online. For this article we're talking primarily about how to organize coupons for offline use and for the "average" person - not professional couponers.







First let's paint a scenario. You pick up your snail mail and in it you find...

  • Newspaper with advertizing inserts
  • A mailorder pack
  • Local flyer with local business coupons


First thing to do is go through each and clip coupons for products you...

  • Currently use and need more of or soon will
  • Restaurants you frequent
  • Services you need or will soon (oil change)


The key here is to discipline yourself to NOT clip and save coupons that just "look interesting" or that you "might use sometime". Clipping coupons can only save you money if you actualy use them.

Among some of the most popular how to organize coupon methods is the 3-ring binder method which I highly recommend.



Binder Method

A 3-ring binder is one of the 3 most popular (and easy) ways to organize coupons.

Supplies

  • 3-ring binder - standard size with clear outside insertable cover
  • open ended or zipped - whatever your preference is
  • pre-punched clear plastic sheets with different sized inserts (baseball or any kind of trading card holder sheets) to full sheets for larger coupons and those where you can't see the expiration date at the same time as what the product is.



Dividers for Categorizing

Places to find clear plastic sheets...

  • Local craft store, in their scrap booking and photo album section
  • Office supply store
  • Scrapbooking shop

They usually come in several sizes including...

  • 8x11
  • 5x7
  • 3x5


You can also use "sheet protectors" available at office supply stores.






How To Organize Coupons - Setting Up Your Binder

You can categorize your coupon binder either alphabetically or by product/service category:

Alphabetical - organizing your binder alphabeticalaly reduces the need of having to figure out all the different categories which can sometime be confusing. For example, would a coupon for cereal go in the snack section or the cereal section)?

Category - if you tend to group your shopping trips by category (i.e., shop for cosmetics first, then household supplies, then garden supplies, etc) then it may work better for you to organize your binder by category. When getting started, a tip is to allow the categories to emerge naturally over a month or so. At the end of a month's worth of shopping you'll probably be able to settle on 10-12 categories. I recommend no more than 12 to help keep things simple. Also, you can expect your categories to change and evolve the more organized you become with coupons as well as with the changes in your seasons of life (diaper coupons evolve into pullup coupons, or baby food coupons to regular food coupons).

By Store - for some folks categorizing by store works best. For example, in the midwest, USA you might shop and use store-specific coupons at places like...

  • Walgreens
  • Jewel
  • Target

But unless you shop and use store-specific coupons frequently, alphabetical or categorical sorting will probably work best.

How To Organize Coupons - Special Tips For Efficient Set Up

Add a clear page to insert your shopping list before each trip - transfer coupons as you shop to the front insert page so they'll be ready at checkout

Have multiple coupons for the same product? - keep all in one sheet

Add a pen/pencil and some blank sheets for taking notes while you shop

Add a few paper clips

Keep coupons to be filed in separate section/envelop

Purge expired coupons regularly (i.e., monthly and as you notice them)

Make a mental note to stop clipping coupons when you consistently find the store brand product price is comparable in quality but costs less than the branded item with the coupon

Once you've clipped your coupons, open your binder and enter them in the appropriate section right away. When it's time to go shopping you'll be glad you did!

Remember to print out any coupons online that you plan to use and insert them too before you head out to the store. Alternatively, bookmark the site and scanable coupon on your smart phone and make a note on your shopping list

Finally after deciding how to organize coupons in the way that makes the most sense to you, try the approach for a few months. Tweak to make the process as efficient as possible. Track how much you are saving to keep yourself motivated to stick with couponing.

After helping numerous families get more organized in their homes and family routines I have to add that couponing is not for everyone. If you find yourself spending more time clipping and organizing than actually saving, then couponing may not be something that's effective for your particular circumstances. If this sounds like you, then you may find other less time consuming ways to save money. Always remember that whatever you spend your time on should work toward improving your quality of life. If organizing and saving coupons isn't one of them, no harm done. You just might be better off being a "random couponer". ;-)


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