Couponing 101 – Organizing Your Coupons
Whenever I talk about couponing to my non-couponing friends I hear that they just don’t have the time to coupon. The key to couponing is organization. If you’re organized, you can cut your prep time down considerably. I’m sure by now you’re following the How to Shop for Free Facebook Groups and the website forums. That will help you put your list together in no time at all. Now that your list is ready, it’s time to gather your coupons. Hopefully, you don’t have a giant stack of clipped or unclipped coupons sitting on a desk or in a cabinet somewhere. If you do, that’s ok. Hopefully, we can figure out a method of organization or a combination of methods that will work for you.
There are probably as many ways to organize your coupons as there are coupons. I’m going to go over the most widely used methods. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to organize your coupons. Some people leave their inserts whole while others prefer to clip all their coupons. As a matter of fact, most people use a combination of a couple different methods.
Binder – This method requires you to clip your coupons and then organize them by category in plastic sleeves similar to a baseball card holder. You can find plastic sleeves with various size openings so that they can accommodate several size coupons. This method requires more up front time to clip and organize the coupons but will save time when putting together your shopping list. Once your list is made you can easily find your already clipped and sorted coupons. This method is also nice for those that like to keep their coupons handy for any unplanned shopping or clearance finds. The binder is easy to bring with you in the store or keep in your car. I like this method but I think it’s because I can slide my 2″ binder into a velcro’d sleeve that makes my binder a tote. This way it’s not awkward to carry around. If you use this method, I would suggest a section where you can keep all your coupon policies.
Envelope/Ziplock Bags – This method is typically used along with the whole insert method. Once you’ve made your list you clip the coupons that you need and then sort them with your list by transaction. Each transaction goes in an envelope and then you place all your envelopes into ziploc bags by store. This method is convenient and inexpensive since your probably already have ziploc bags and envelopes in your stockpile.
Coupon Clutch – This method requires you to clip your coupons and then organize them by category. Small dividers are placed in the clutch and the coupons for that category are placed behind the divider. This is a wallet sized clutch that would fit easily into a purse or tote. This method requires more up front time to clip and organize the coupons but will save time when putting together your shopping list. Once your list is made you can easily find your already clipped and sorted coupons.
The clutch can also be used in combination with other methods. Maybe you prefer to keep your inserts whole but you use the clutch to sort your coupons by store or week once you’ve made your list and clipped the coupons you will be using. I like to use a clutch for my lists and the coupons that I’m using that trip.
Whole Insert – This method allows you to keep your inserts whole and clip what you need as you need it. Typically, you would file your inserts whole in a file cabinet or file box (depending on how many inserts you have) by date and source (SmartSource, Red Plum, P&G). On the cover of the insert write the date of the coupon with the longest expiration date within that insert so you know when to throw them out. This method requires very little up front time but more time after you make your list to find and clip the coupons. If you are using the How to Shop for Free Coupon Database, you will know exactly which inserts to find your coupons in. This method does not lend itself to keeping coupons handy for unplanned shopping/clearance finds but it is great if you typically have a lot of inserts on hand.
This covers the basics of coupon organization but as I stated earlier, most people use a combination of the methods outlined above. Before I started working on this post I took an informal survey among the How to Shop for Free Team Members. I would say we’re all pretty organized when it comes to Couponing but each one of us organizes our coupons differently. One of our Mods prints her coupons according to the coupons .com categories. She leaves them uncut and in a file box by category until she needs them. The coupons that she orders or clips go in a coupon clutch. Another Mod likes to use accordion files to organize her coupons. A couple like the whole insert method and then use ziploc bags or coupon clutches to organize their trips. Again, there is no right or wrong way to organize your coupons. The best way is the way that works for you.
Here are examples of some of the different methods
HERE are some couponing tools that I’ve found helpful over the years