Apr 21, 2011

Coupon Organization

There are many different methods of coupon organization. A lot depends
on the time you are willing to invest and the amount of coupons you
have. I personally use a combination of methods: binder, accordion
file, and whole inserts. In this post, I'll briefly mention the
systems and then focus on how to create a coupon binder.

The envelope method is exactly what it sounds like. You separate
coupons by category and place each category into its own envelope. All
the envelopes are then stored in a container such as a plastic bin or
photo box. This may work for some but I like to take my coupons with
me. The box is somewhat awkward to transport.

Similar to the envelope method is the index file box. Coupons are
placed by categories into something like a recipe box and separated by
tabbed dividers. Again, carrying a box around the store can be a

Another option is a small accordion file or wallet. This is
convenient for carrying around as you shop (fits easily in a purse)
but can be constricting if you have a huge stash of coupons. I use
mine as an accompaniment to my binder. One section is designated for
catalina or store coupons and the others for any coupons that I might
be needing for an upcoming shop.

If cutting coupons isn't your thing, the insert method might be the
perfect fit. This saves a lot of prep time (I sometimes revert to this
method out of laziness!) but a downside is that finding a specific
coupon takes longer. If you are clipping your coupons for that day's
shopping trip before you head out the door, this works fine. But, if
you are shopping and find an unadvertised sale or clearance, digging
through 50 inserts for a matching coupon can be a drag. When I end up
with multiples of an insert, I cut one or two for my binder and keep
the extras in a large accordian file.

The most popular method of organization among avid couponers is the
binder. I'll admit to feeling like a big dork schlepping my binder
through the store. My resolution has been to keep it concealed in a
large purse or reusable shopping tote. I can still flip through it
with ease but keep a little bit of dignity too (or so I pretend).

So, what do you need for a coupon binder? First, obviously, you're
going to need a 3 ring binder. Lots of sites suggest investing in a
high quality binder but I've found that the cheaper ones hold up just
fine (I've had the most success with flexible binders). I am in the
business of saving money so spending $30 on a storage system doesn't
make sense to me! There is also a debate over zippered vs non zippered
binders. Zippers hold everything in place but make getting in and out
a little cumbersome. For this reason, I prefer the non zippered.

Next you are going to need clear plastic baseball card holders (which
can be found at Target or Walmart) or photo album sleeves (good for
oversized coupons) and a set of tabbed dividers. The coupons should be
placed into each pocket so you can see both the amount and expiration
date. If you have to fold a coupon, make sure the pertinent info is
still visible. This makes it much easier to pull expired coupons. Use
your dividers to sort categories by alphabet, expiration date, or
products. I have mine labeled according to products: free items,
snacks/cereal, refrigerated, frozen, beverages, other foods, baby,
personal care, household, pharmacy and miscellaneous. Each tab is then
divided into subcategories. For instance, under the personal tab, I
have 2 pages devoted to toothpaste. When I come across a clearance
item, I can flip to the right section of my binder and find the
corresponding coupon in a matter of seconds. I also keep weekly sales
ads clipped to the inside of my binder for reference or price matching
and have a pocketed pencil pouch for oversized coupons, notecards,
scissors, etc.

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas on organization strategies. Take
a little from here and there and find what works for you!


Anonymous said...

I'm so sad I missed your couponing class, Hollie. This will help me a lot! Thanks for sharing!
Anna Pryor

Isabella's Mom said...

I'm constantly tweaking my organization method. Right now I've got a large binder with tabbed dividers for Paper Goods, Personal Items, Dry Goods, Frozen Items, etc. Then within each section I have legal size envelopes with more a specific break down. In the Personal Items section I have: Body Wash, Bars, and Lotion; Shaving; Hair Care; Oral Care...and so on. I like the legal envelopes because I don't have to fold the coupons and I can see all parts of it when I'm trying to find a coupon. Also it doesn't take me long at all to sort and file my coupons. But - the binder is HUGE. It doesn't stay folded over properly and every now and then (not a constant problem) coupons fall out of the envelopes because the envelopes are shallow. I've resisted the baseball card sleeve idea because it sounds really time consuming. So all of this is to ask - does it take you a long time to file away all of your coupons? Also, is it hard to get them in/out of those sleeves?

hollie said...

It isn't hard to get them in the sleeves...though (don't laugh)I do have some ancient ones that I recycled from my brother's baseball card collection 20 yrs ago and those are a little harder to slide in!
I really like the holders because you can see your coupons quickly. I find that they can get stuck to each other in envelopes and I'll have to flip through a few times to find the one I need.
It doesn't take much longer to fill the holders than it does to file. Both ways, you are clipping and separating. I honestly can't say exactly how long it takes but it's not enough of a time difference to sway me.

Isabella's Mom said...

I think I may have to switch over to that method. I used my binder today for the Harris Teeter Super Doubles deal and I felt like I was wrestling with it! So annoying! I guess I just have in my head that the sleeves are tight and the coupons are printed on such thin paper, that they would just crumple when sliding them in. But I guess not if so many people use this method.