Couponing Basics: Day 4 – Organize Those Coupons!

by Jess on May 26, 2010

Missed a post in this series? Catch up here!

Once you start collecting coupons and your coupon stash starts to grow, you’re going to have to organize them so they don’t get lost and you, in turn, don’t lose your mind. After all, clipping & printing coupons in an effort to save money will do you little good if in the end you can’t find a coupon when you really need it.

Keeping your coupon stash organized is key to staying sane.
(trust me, I need to follow my own advise here…)

There are a number of different ways to organize coupons but we’ll cover the most popular methods for right now. If you try a method and it doesn’t work for you, don’t get discouraged and quit! You may just need to switch methods or tweak the one you are currently using. Be patient with it and keep it simple.


Coupon Accordion File

When you first start out couponing your coupon stash is going to be really small and you can get away with storing your coupons in something small like a coupon file. Cute coupon accordion files like these can be found for usually less than $5 at drugstores and big box stores like Target & Walmart.

How it works:
You’ll want to organize your accordion file in a way that makes most sense to you. Some people find it is easier to find their coupons alphabetically by manufacturer, while others find they can find a coupon best if it’s filed away by category (ex: Dairy, Frozen, Canned…etc.). Experiment with what works for you and saves you the most time.

Pros:

  • Great for beginners that do not have a lot of coupons.
  • Small and compact.
  • Can also be used to file coupons by store when planning a shopping trip.

Cons:

  • As you acquire more coupons it can take longer to thumb through each stack to find a coupon you need.
  • If you accidentally drop it coupons can fly everywhere.

Coupon Box

Photo Credit: Homespun Heart

How it works:
Just like the coupon accordion file, you’ll want to figure out whether organizing by category or alphabetically suits you best. You can separate your coupon categories using index divider cards or even storing them inside their own category envelopes.

    Pros:

    • Fairly simple to set up. 
    • You can store more coupons than a regular coupon accordion file which means you’re more likely to have a coupon on hand when a sale comes up.

    Cons:

    • Can be somewhat bulky and not easy to store in your purse.
    • If you don’t have a secure lid and accidentally drop the box….disaster!
    • Like the coupon accordion, if you have a lot of coupons in a single category it can take some time to thumb through the stack till you find the coupon you need.


    Check out these great resources for setting up your very own Coupon Box!


    Coupon Binder – aka Super Hardcore Method

    Photo Credit: Coupon Magic Organizer

    If you’re going to get serious about this couponing business, at some point you may notice that you have outgrown the accordion file, and maybe even the coupon box. Welcome, the coupon binder method! This is what I have been using for quite some time and I love it!

    How it works:
    By far, this is the most popular organizing method and involves using plastic baseball card holder sheets to store your coupons in. Genius, right? You can even keep all your coupon clipping supplies (scissors, calculator, pens) handy by storing them inside a pencil pouch. The side pockets of the binder work great for storing weekly flyers too!

    Pros

    • Now that all of your coupons are easily visible, it’s easy to know what you have on hand and to navigate to the corresponding page when an unadvertised sale or clearance find pops up.
    • Weeding out expired coupons is easier because you scan multiple dates per baseball card page.
    • Lets face it, for geeks like myself, binders are just plain FUN. It’s organization at it’s best.

    Cons

    • It is very time consuming to clip and fold all of the coupons into their appropriate baseball card slot.
    • Over time these get incredibly bulky and heavy to carry around.
    • They attract attention in the store, so if you like to fly under the radar this might not suit you. (I keep mine in an over-sized purse so I don’t have to take it out.)


    Check out these great resources for setting up your very own Coupon Binder!

    Whole Insert File System

    How it works:
    This is by far the easiest method, and the less time consuming. Instead of clipping all the coupons from the paper, the only thing you need to do in this method is use a sharpie marker to write the date of the insert on the front, stick it in a file folder and file it away.

    You may have noticed that when I write up deals here on the blog, the date and insert is noted by the coupon. This is for those who organize their coupons with this method. Since their coupons are filed away by date, they can easily look through their files, find the insert, locate the coupon, and clip it out. You can also use an online coupon database to locate a coupon as well. It will direct you to which insert and on what date the coupon you need can be found in.

    Pros:

    • No clipping unless you are going to use the coupon.
    • The only loose coupons you have to deal with are the ones that from tearpads, peelies, samples etc.
    • It’s easy to remove the expired coupons (usually you can just toss a whole insert if it’s 4-5 months old)
    • Coupons are not accidentally thrown away.

    Cons:

    • You will not have all of your coupons on hand when you are shopping and run across an unadvertised deal or clearance find.
    • Unless you have a great memory, it’s easy to forget what coupons you have.

    Check out these great resources for setting up a filing system method:

    Whole Insert Binder Method

    Photo Credit: Give Me Neither

    As much as I adore my coupon binder, the tediousness of clipping and stuffing the coupons into the baseball holder sheets is starting to wear me down. I recently came across this method and it’s quickly becoming my new organizational crush. If you have a cellphone that has access to the internet this method is for you!

    How it works:
    Unlike the other binder method that requires you to clip each coupon and file it away in a baseball card holder sheet, in this method you will not clip anything! Instead, each week when you get your coupon inserts you’ll write the date in big sharpie marker on the front, slip the insert into a plastic sheet protector and keep it in your binder with divider tabs between each week.

    Here’s how this system gets awesome…unlike the whole-insert filing system that you keep in a cabinet or box, this system is in a binder and portable! If you have a cell phone that can connect to an online coupon database, you’ll never miss a hidden deal! To find a coupon you need while at the store, all you would do is get on your smart phone and search for the coupon you need in the online coupon database. It will then direct you to the insert and date that the coupon can be found. Find the insert, clip and you’re all set!

    Pros

    • No clipping! No clipping! No clipping!
    • Coupons are with you at all times so you have access to them if you come across an unadvertised sale or clearance find.

    Cons

    • You’ll still need to deal with another organizational method (like a coupon accordion or envelopes) to handle all of the loose coupons that come your way from mailers, samples, peelies etc.
    • Depending upon how many inserts you get each week, this method can get bulky.


    Check out this great resource for setting up the Whole Insert Binder Method:

    Homework Time!

    Depending upon how many coupons you have so far, I encourage you to start small and pick up an accordion file or use envelopes to organize your coupons for now. When you outgrow your coupon accordion, hang on to it!

    I re-purposed my coupon accordion by labeling all the tabs with stores that I frequent. When it comes time to go shopping I gather all the coupons needed for my trip from my coupon binder and transfer them into the slot of the store they’ll be used at. Since I frequently plan my trips around 2-3 stores at a time, this makes it easier for me to keep track of what coupon I need to use for each store.

    Ok coupon pros……..what method do you currently use for organizing your coupons? Is it one of the methods mentioned here or something different?


      { 7 comments… read them below or add one }

      Prohomemaker.Com May 26, 2010 at 11:59 pm

      I am a Whole Insert File System kinda guy.

      When I first started heavy duty couponing 4 years ago, I used to clip all — drove me nuts and took so much time. Now with the Whole Insert System and the Internet, it's so easy to just go to the flyer noted (as in today's Scrubbing Bubbles deal) and just clip and go.

      For instance, I had my Target ones all set from last night, so with news of the Scrubbing Bubbles deal, I just dropped the new ones in the envelope. I carry another envelope with me marked "used" and as the product goes in the cart, the coupon gets moved. Makes it simple at checkout.

      The other thing I do is for multiple transactions, I separate those coupons with a paper clip (gonna do 2 transactions with the Scrubbing Bubbles deal). That way I just give the cashier the clipped coupons, and finish Transaction 1 and then go to my stack for Transaction 2.

      I do need to get a file though, or at least a box, 'cause my big white envelope is bursting at its seams with all my inserts.

      I will look forward to watching the videos but I gotta get to Target today. :-) … Gonna hit Vons on Friday when my favorite cashiers work.

      :-)

      Harry

      Reply

      Courtney May 27, 2010 at 1:07 am

      Okay…you just made my day with telling me about this coupon database!! I use the binder method, and this will really help me while making my grocery list!

      Reply

      Jess @ This Frugal Life May 27, 2010 at 1:33 am

      The coupon database over at HotCouponWorld.com (I always crack up over that name…lol) that I reference in the article is by far my fav.

      There are a couple of new ones that have popped up on the scene, but I've noticed that since they are new a lot of coupons aren't yet included. I use HotCouponWorld when I make my CVS/Target/Vons match-up lists here on the site :)

      Reply

      Prohomemaker.Com May 27, 2010 at 8:18 am

      Great tip — I will use 'em too!

      BTW Target was wiped out of the Scrubbing Bubbles — thank goodness the $5 gift card is good thru mid-June

      Harry

      Reply

      mcshelll3 May 27, 2010 at 1:41 pm

      I am life long couponer and I use the box method. I know most extreme couponers use the binder, but it just seems like too much trouble to me. The box is bulky, but I like to sit it in the seat of the cart and it is then so easy to grab what I need from the box as I shop. I collect the coupons I am redeeming with a clothes pin. That way when I get to the check out, I just grab my clip full of coupons.
      To save time when clipping, I staple like pages together before I cut them. Put a staple in each coupon. Then you have all of your likes together in your file. Keeps them organized and cuts time clipping.

      Reply

      Cheryl July 7, 2010 at 1:50 am

      I am also a life long couponer. A few years ago was introduced to the binder method.
      Have a 1" zippered binder. Instead of using baseball card pages, use clear, full sheet protectors. Put a color sheet of paper inside to "split" into front/back. Wrote on the color sheet of paper what coupons go in that page (cereal/rice & pasta/bread/dairy) They are sorted enough for me, but not so few that the binder is way overflowing.
      Yes the book is conspicuous in the store – I lay it open on the top basket – but I don't mind. And if anyone looks at me funny or curiously, I am willing to talk to them about it!
      I have a Pampered Chef coupon razor which is a life saver when it comes to clipping coupons.

      Reply

      Jeanette June 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      I’ve been using the whole insert method for two years and love it. Just found a site http://www.couponcleanout.com that helps with when to purge the inserts. I’m all about simplicity!

      Reply

      Leave a Comment

      Previous post:

      Next post:

      Real Time Web Analytics