One way to make sure that you will use the coupons you spent time acquiring is by getting yourself organized.
There is nothing worse than heading to the store only to later realize you forgot a coupon for something you had on your list! Argh, I hate when that happens.
And there is an easy way to avoid it when you decide to be intentional with your coupon usage (no, you don’t have to cut and bring every single coupon with you).
You don’t have to spend a lot of time organizing your coupons, and there are a couple of ways you can do this.
My personal preference is to use the file box method below. I love it because it takes the least amount of time to keep up with!
In being honest with you, while I do dislike the coupon binder method, I will still share how to put one together for those of you who may be interested.
The reason I don’t like the binder method is because everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) gets so excited when they start couponing that they want to “play” with their coupons, and they think cutting each one out individually and filing them away in a binder will make them more efficient. It never does. It never makes you save more money. And that’s why I get so passionately frustrated with using it. There are ways to do a hybrid cutting method that we’ll discuss below, but please promise me that if you start the binder method, and feel behind, or overwhelmed, you can always jump ship and start the file box method instead. Promise me that you won’t give up on using coupons because you started using the binder method. Okay? Promise? Good, then let’s get to it!
There are several different methods for organizing your coupons, and what way works for you may be different than mine. Let’s get started!
The File Box Method
What you’ll need:
- A Plastic File Box (not necessarily with a lid, but that helps to keep dust out)
- Hanging File Folders (the more expensive “Tuff” folders last for years and years… the cheapy ones don’t last at all)
- Sharpie Marker (or Pen) for writing on the inserts
- Date Tab Stickers save you time each week to keep organized and ahead
First, put the Index Tabs that came with your folders to the top of the folder and load them in your file box. Write or label the index tabs with the Sunday date for the first coupon insert you have (or will get soon). You could use these Date Tab Stickers instead of writing them out.
I always label my file folders for one month ahead, so that I’m always ahead of the game.
I’ve created a schedule of which coupon inserts come for the whole year so you’ll know which inserts to expect on each Sunday. You can expect at least one coupon insert each week, either a SmartSource, RedPlum or P&G (sometimes even all three).
When you get your newspaper and you find the coupon inserts inside, write the Sunday Date on the outside of the insert so you can easily identify it later when you have multiple inserts on your table. Take the stack of inserts and place them into that dates file folder.
NO CUTTING REQUIRED…just yet.
That’s right. You don’t need to cut out every coupon because you won’t use every coupon!
This is what makes my method so fantastic and a super time saver! All you do is file them, and then later I’ll tell you exactly which coupon you’ll need out of that coupon insert when it makes a good deal.
Once a month, you’ll take ten minutes to purge expired coupons. No, you won’t go through each coupon to look for them… I tell you which file folders no longer have any good coupons in them, and you can simply recycle them or send them to the Military living overseas to use them for the remaining six months.
Watch this quick video to set up your coupon box:
The Coupon Binder Method
What you’ll need:
Choose a binder that is a good fit for your couponing needs. There are so many different sizes and styles, but try to pick something simple, yet durable.
You don’t want it falling apart so choose something sturdy.
Next, you will need to categorize your coupons. How you organize them should be based on your shopping style. These are just a few ways you can organize them:
- Alphabetical order by product name
- Aisle order (Health & Beauty, Snacks, Paper Goods, Soups, Refrigerated, Frozen etc)
- Sunday Date (you can print out the list of coupons from the Coupon Insert Preview so that you know what coupons are inside that week’s inserts)
Next, you’ll want to create your dividers so you can quickly find a coupon you want to use. How you organize them will determine how many dividers you’ll need. If you went in alphabetical order, you’d need 26. If you chose to categorize them by Sunday date, you’ll want 52 dividers similar to the file box. If you want to further organize them, you can categorize them once they’re in their main heading. For example, initially they are filed by Sunday date, then you break them down by Health & Beauty or Snacks.
The easiest method I have found to cut all your coupons is to take apart your inserts and assemble a stack of each page from each insert. So if you get four SmartSource inserts one week, take off the first page from all four inserts and staple them together, all four of page two and so on. Then take the stapled pages and cut each coupon out (or only the coupons you will or might use). If you don’t have a child in diapers, don’t cut the diaper coupons out.
You can save the coupons you aren’t going to use to give to someone else, donate them to the military or be a coupon fairy in the store by leaving them near the product.
Repeat this method for the rest of the pages and inserts. This is a time saver as you are only cutting out one time for each page of each insert and the staples help keep the pages together while you are cutting them out. You can also staple the stack of cut coupons so they won’t fly away from you.
Now it’s time to fill your binder! Using your baseball card sleeves or sheet protectors, put your cut coupons in each slot.
Each week repeat the process and clean out any expired coupons.
The Hybrid Method
What you’ll need:
- A Plastic File Box
- Hanging File Folders
- 3 ring binder or zippered heavy duty binder
- Baseball Card/Coupon Holders/Page Protectors
With this method, you’re going to cut out coupons that you know you’ll use, then file the rest by Sunday Date to use when you see a deal later.
You can organize the coupons you cut out in any of the ways listed above but as I mentioned, I feel the easiest way is to take apart each insert, stack them and staple each coupon.
That way you can still quickly find a coupon when you see it listed on a sale list because it is filed the Sunday Date.
This method saves you time from cutting each coupon AS the sale comes up. However, it means you have “touched” coupons that you might never use.
For example, Finish Dishwashing Detergent releases two high dollar coupons per year ($2 off each item), but they also release 5 OTHER low dollar coupons through the year ($0.55 off each item). If you sort each insert, then you are sorting and potentially cutting the $0.55 coupon that you’ll most likely never really use (because you would stock up when the $2 coupon is released).
In the store shopping list, I’ll list both coupons as they are released and as they match up with a sale, so you’ll know which one is available to use in case you need dishwasher detergent at the time when only the $0.55 coupon is available.
Helpful Tools & Tricks
While keeping your coupons organized may seem like a daunting task there are many tools and tricks to not only help you save time but to keep you organized too.
Cut Coupons With Ease
Keep Your Cut Coupons Organized
Heading to the store with a stack of coupons? Organize your cut coupons with this handy Mini Organizer! You can keep the coupons organized by aisle, type or store! This also helps your coupons from flying away from you. This is also great to store any coupons you find while you are shopping to bring back home.
Don’t Forget Your Reusable Totes
I would love to say that I have a plethora of reusable totes that I keep in my car for shopping, but they have so many uses for carrying things besides groceries that they keep disappearing on me. I’m always reordering these totes from Amazon. They cost about $1.80 each but well worth the price for how long they last!
Purge Expired Coupons & Bless Others
Since some coupons have a one-week expiration date and some don’t expire for up to six months, coupons are expiring regularly.
I keep an Expired Coupon List to help manage the filed inserts inside your box. Monthly, simply look on the list and see which file folders you can remove from your box and add a new Sunday Date sticker to be ready for future weeks.
If you are doing the binder method, as you are adding in new coupons each week you can look over and remove any expired coupons. That will keep the bulk and weight of your binder down in case you bring it with you to the store.
Did you know that members of the military serving overseas can use coupons up to six months after the expiration date? They can! So why not bless them with your expired coupons?! It seems like a no-brainer, getting rid of something you can’t use and giving it to someone who can. Find more information about where to send them and bless our military!
These are the most effective ways to organize your coupons so they don’t get lost, and help you easily find what coupons you have so you can save the most money.
Remember, these little slips of paper are paying for your bill instead of your own cash. Awesome, right?!
YOUR TURN: What coupon organization system makes sense to you? Let me know in the comments below!
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