Amy Hannold, FamilyTimeandMoney.com
Time and effort is well rewarded when you invest in efficient coupon organization. Beginning and maintaining coupon organization does take time, but with time it gets easier. There are a variety of ways to organize coupons. Choose one to start, if couponing is new to you, and grow with your new money saving habit. Coupon users of some experience find that as their daily routine changes and/or their coupon use grows, there comes a time to find a new system to maximize coupon savings. Whichever coupon organization system you choose, keep in mind the idea is to have a workable, reasonable system which keeps the coupons you use most readily at hand.
Pre-Printed Envelopes for couponing and meal planning purposes:
Homemaking authors and websites sell printed coupon envelopes for consumers. Pre-printed envelopes usually include either a grocery store checklist and/or your menu for the week on one side. The other side, depending on the type of envelope, offers grocery list space or another component to planning your shopping. You can create these types of envelopes for yourself when you recycle envelopes and draw your own lists. Printing (or using pre-printed) shopping lists/meal plans on envelopes is a handy way to be ready to shop.
Envelope systems for storing and carrying your coupons:
Using envelopes, sort your coupon inventory by category (alphabetical by brand name is also an option). Label the outside of the envelopes and store them in a shoebox, filebox, or other type of box with a lid. Once you’ve made your grocery list, separate the coupons you’re going to use on your next shopping trip with an envelope for each store you plan to visit (with the list for that particular store written on the outside, perhaps) and place these inside the box.
Coupon File Systems:
Coupon files (wallet-sized accordion files) can be purchased at office supply stores, grocery stores, online/mail order and second-hand stores. Small, wallet-sized files are good starters for coupon use. They’re also convenient for carrying in your purse or diaper bag. Purchase a pre-designed file or create one from a file of the same wallet size. Fabric or plastic coupon files are best for long term use.
File coupons in a way that makes sense to you (often similar to the grouped categories grocery stores commonly use). If your coupon file has enough file slots left, consider designating the remaining slots for any of these options: “checkout counter wants”, a slot for each individual store, coupons used during that shopping trip, coupons found during the shopping trip you’ve yet to file, or restaurant/retail coupons.
Check-file sized Coupon Files:
Rectangular, accordion style files work well for organizing coupons. Some who carry wallet-sized coupon files with them will have a secondary coupon check-file sized system at home, for their inventory of coupons not currently being used. This cuts down on the bulk of what you carry with you when shopping. Organization is similar to smaller files and can include such options as “EOM” (End of the Month” expiration dates), coupons for trade, rebate forms, etc. (Just be sure to include in the file that you take with you a few coupons for products you use most often, in the event of last-minute shopping or surprise sales).
Coupon Binders and Bound-Book Coupon Binders:
Coupon Bound-Book Style Organizers:
Ready-to-use, bound-book style coupon binders (which look like spiral/expandable journals or day planners) are available for purchase. Their categories and features are usually pre-printed. They’re simple, handy organizers which could make shopping with coupons easier. Compare the features and accompanying helpful attributes of these to find the one that works best for you. Ready-to-use book style coupon organizers are not often expandable but may be a good choice for shoppers with less time and/or less couponing experience.
Coupon binders can be created out of affordable, common components. A majority of coupon binders are made out of 3-ring binders, using trading card holder pages to keep the coupons in pages, by category. There are sheets available with four pockets and other designs for holding larger sized coupons or tools. Categories are separated by labeled index divider sheets. In your binder you may choose to designate a section per store, with list and coupons at the ready in their own space. Try one or two methods of organizing within your binder and get ideas from others on what works for them.
Zippered binders are the most secure type of binder to use. With a 3-ringed pocket, you can carry a calculator, scissors, a pad of paper, etc. Using clear binder sleeves (which open at the top), create space for lists, reference pages, larger coupons, rain checks, shopping lists, your budget or party planner pages, etc. Tour a school supply aisle using your imagination and ingenuity. You’ll find new ways to save money and time for use inside your coupon binder.
Full-size coupon binders of this type are thought by some to be easiest to sort, find and use coupons because of the “turning pages” type of presentation. Ergonomically, it’s easier to stand and turn pages, viewing easily the coupons inside than to hover over a coupon file and try to read the decreasing font of coupons today (for those of us getting on in years, especially).
Coupon binders if made in full-page size (or if you’re using a larger check-file) give you the advantage of having all of your coupons with you, at hand when you encounter an unadvertised sale. There will be no need to come back later or run out to the car for the other half of your coupon inventory.