Now that you’ve taken the time to gather your coupons, it’s time to get them organized so you can begin saving big time at the stores.
When you’re trying to figure out the best way to use coupons, it’s best to organize them so you’ll know which ones you have, and you can use them before they expire.
Before you begin organizing your coupons, ask yourself a few questions:
Will I use this coupon? You should only cut coupons for items you currently use.
Would I use the coupon if I could get the item for free? This situation applies when you see a coupon for something you have never tried before but think you might like to try it.
Can I donate this item? There are many coupons out there that will allow you to get items for free. They may not be items that you use, but can be donated. This includes items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, trial sized lotions or deodorants, soaps, etc.
Here are a few ways to organize your coupons:
- Use an envelope system and keep all of your coupons in an envelope to take with you to the store. This works well if you don’t plan to clip many coupons.
- Use a recipe/index card box with dividers to separate the coupons by categories. We’ll talk about categories a little later. These boxes are small enough for you to take with you to the store.
- Use a 3 ring binder. As you can see from the picture above, this is my preferred method. I started out using the envelope system, then the index card box and eventually graduated up to the binder method.
Whichever method you decide on is fine as long as you are consistent in clipping and organizing your coupons. I only clip and organize once a week. If I run across additional coupons during the week, I place them in an envelope until I can sort them all together. I clip one day and organize another day so couponing doesn’t consume too much of my day.
When selecting your categories for your index card box or binder, you have a few options. You could categorize by the aisles in your store or your can categorize by the type of product. If you decide to categorize by aisle, ask the info desk for a store directory. This will help you decide which items belong in which category. This method makes it a little difficult if you shop at multiple stores (ie. Target, Wal-Mart, CVS), because the items in the aisles will not be the same.
You can also sort your categories by the type of product. This is how I sort my coupons and I find it very effective because no matter which store I am in, I can easily find the coupon I need.
Here are the categories I use: (feel free to add, subtract or rename any of them…using whatever works for you will help you remain consistent)
- Free: I keep a free section in my binder because I get lots of these kinds of coupons. They usually come in the mail with rebates or if you contact a company and request them. (Didn’t know you could do that, huh? 🙂
- Canned Goods
- Paper Products
- Personal Care
Now you need to create your coupon system. If you are using the binder method, start with a sturdy 1″ binder. You can move up to a wider one when your stash gets larger. Some people prefer the zippered binders, but I find it cumbersome and in the way when I am in the store searching for a coupon. I use a regular binder and have never had a problem with the coupons falling out. I purchased some baseball card inserts to hold the coupons. They are usually found in Target and Wal-Mart on an aisle next to the registers. They are very inexpensive and last a long time. I also purchased some plastic 3 ring dividers for the categories and put reinforcements on the holes because my binders get a lot of use and the dividers can rip easily.
When placing your coupons in the inserts, most coupons will slide right in but some may be too long. Just fold them in half and place them in with the picture facing front. If you have multiple coupons for the same item, place the one with the longer expiration date behind the others. Now you can use the one that is close to expiring first.
It also helps if you can see the expiration date in your organizer-this comes in handy when it’s time to remove expired coupons. I purge expired coupons on the first of each month. If you are interested in sending your expired coupons overseas to military families, you can find more information here.
You are now ready to get those coupons organized into the system of your choice.
Which system will you choose? Do you use one of these systems already? If so, what do you love about it?