STEP 2 – Organizing Coupons
Using coupons effectively is simply a matter of finding the system and coupon organizer that works best for you!
TO CLIP OR NOT TO CLIP: The first thing to do is decide how much time you are willing to spend clipping and organizing your coupons every week. Obviously, the more time you spend the more you will save, but there are great options for those who have just an hour or two per week to spend on couponing. You can still save a bundle with very little time!
Here are three different methods I recommend for organizing your Sunday newspaper coupon inserts (from the most time consuming to the least):
- Clip or cut out all of your coupons and organize them alphabetically or by categories.
- Clip only the coupons you know you will definitely be using, organize those coupons alphabetically or by categories, and file the rest of the coupon insert by date.
- Simply write the date of the Sunday coupon insert on the front cover and file the whole insert by date. Only clip when you are ready to buy. This saves a TON of time, but you will obviously then not have all of your coupons with you at the store to take advantage of unadvertised or clearance sales.
I use the second method. I like to clip and organize my favorite coupons in a coupon binder (see below) by categories and file what is left of my coupon inserts in a file box according to date. I leave my file box in the car or at home and take my coupon binder into the store with me.
Before you start clipping coupons:
- My advice – don’t clip the coupon if you do not believe you will ever use the product, but DO save the coupon anyway. Why? Sometimes you can actually make money buying an item with a coupon! You can then use the money made to purchase items you need and donate the items you don’t want. For this reason, I suggest saving ALL of your coupons until they expire, but only cutting out the ones you are certain you will use.
- Decide how you want to arrange your coupons. You can arrange your coupons alphabetically, by category, or even to match the aisles in your favorite grocery store. Do what works for you!
- Learn to read a coupon. Coupons have varying terms that tell you what specific items qualify for the discount, what size(s) you need to purchase, how many you need to purchase and the date the coupon expires. If a coupon says “manufacturer coupon” on top you can use it anywhere (unless there is also a store logo on it too - then some stores will not accept it). If it ONLY has a store name on it such as “Target” you can usually only use it at the store named (in this case Target). I like to separate my store coupons from my manufacturer coupons to make shopping easier.
FINDING THE RIGHT COUPON ORGANIZER: Whatever method of clipping you use, the fact is the more organized you are the more money you will save. Here are a few options for organizing your coupons. If you start with one method and it’s not working for you – switch to another method and find what is right for you!
Shoebox or Similar-Sized Plastic Box: If you want to start saving some serious money at the store, I recommend something at least this size. Dividers can be used to categorize the coupons any way that is works well for you. Some people like to use this method to organize all of their coupons at home and then transfer only the coupons they will use at the store that week into a smaller coupon organizer or just a plain envelope to take with them.
Coupon Binder Organizer: Many super couponers use a coupon binder. It’s basically a 3-ring binder with baseball card or currency type vinyl pages inside. Many find that this is the best method for saving because you can see all of your coupons and carry them with you into the store fairly easily. This system may cost a little bit to set up, but in my opinion it is well worth it. Here is a good option if you want to buy an already made coupon organizer: Mrs. A’s Coupon Organizer. I recommend either the Complete Organizer or the Large Organizer system on her site, not the smaller version (too small).
Make Your Own Binder: If you’re not interested in buying a coupon organizer, you may want to consider using a 3-ring binder and making your own (that’s what I did). This option gives you a lot of flexibility in how you set up your binder. You can use either photo sleeves, currency pages or baseball card pages to hold your coupons. I use double-sided baseball card pages in my binder and find that about 20-25 of the 9-pocket double sided pages is the right number for me. I bought my pages here because they are more durable than the ones I found in the store, plus they were double sided.
I also have sections in the back of my binder for different stores. I have added a baseball card page to each different “store” section to keep store coupons organized and separated from the rest of my manufacturer coupons.
I use a Mead Flex large binder that comes with pocket dividers – perfect for keeping store sections separated and for storing coupons not yet clipped. I throw my binder in a zippered vinyl tote along with a pair of scissors, a calculator and my shopping list and I’m good to go!
File Box: If you have decided to file whole or partial (minus the coupons you clipped out) Sunday coupon inserts by date, then you may want to purchase a nice sturdy file box to hold your coupon inserts.
COUPON CATEGORIES: Here is a list of some coupon categories you may want to use. Many people like to arrange their coupon organizing system to match their favorite grocery store’s aisles. That makes finding what you need in the store extremely easy. Use as many categories to separate your coupons as you want.
Here’s just an idea to get you started:
So start clipping, start organizing and start saving!
Next up: Getting in the Game!