So you have been gathering and collecting coupons from all those various sources mentioned in Part 1 and now you are ready to use them, right? The problem: you cannot find that one coupon that you need! Getting your coupons organized is a key factor in being able to utilize them effectively when shopping. There are several popular methods for organizing coupons, and it is important that you find a system that works effectively for you and your shopping habits. Here are a few of the favorites:
- Envelope System– The envelope system is just that: a system of envelopes! Coupons are organized by creating categories (refrigerated, baby, cleaning supplies, etc.) and placing all appropriate coupons in its designated category’s envelope. The envelopes can all be tossed in a small bag (the “free gift” cosmetic bags from Clinique or Estee Lauder work great) and carried easily in your purse or the front of the shopping cart. * This system can also be accomplished with a simple accordion file. Rather than using envelopes, simply organize your coupons in the files. This can be tricky if you like a lot of categories, but is nice for organizing a trip ahead of time. You would pull the coupons you might use at home and organize them in the accordion file for your weekly trip.
- Small and easy to carry
- Great for beginners or those who are very specific with their brands and product choices.
- Envelopes can only hold so much. If you are compiling lots of coupons (for lots of savings) your envelopes will soon be packed and it will become difficult to sort through so many piles of loose coupons.
- Filing by Date System – With this system you simply three hole punch your inserts directly from the newspaper each week and file them in a large three-ring binder by date. *This method is also effective with a hanging file. Rather than punching holes and filing in a binder, use hanging files and label folders by date. (This requires the least amount of time of any system, but again, there are both positive and negative concerns.)
- You don’t have to cut all those coupons, just the ones you need.
- It is simple to purge the expired coupons as you can easily flip through the pages and discard them.
- It is very easy to find coupons by date. If you use a database to do your match-ups, like hotcouponworld.com, you will have noticed that they list coupons by source and date.
- This system can get bulky! There is a lot of extra paper when you aren’t clipping the coupons from the advertisements.
- It is very difficult to find specific items without a database. For example, I want to buy a certain brand of toothpaste and know I have a coupon, but have to flip through the book until I find it.
- This method is nearly impossible to use in the store. Imagine searching for coupons, having to try to clip them while standing there, etc.
- Sort by Item System– This is probably the most popular system for those who want to maximize savings. Coupons are sorted by type (shampoo, bread, frozen food, etc.) and filed into a large binder using dividers and see-through sleeves (photo sheets, baseball card protectors, etc.).
- You have all your coupons trimmed and sorted, ready to use.
- Coupons are easy to find when preparing shopping lists or even right in the store.
- You aren’t carrying around any extra paper from the inserts, just the coupons themselves.
- There is extra space for all additional coupons you have collected from places other than the newspaper inserts.
- It is easy to see when a coupon has expired.
- There system requires quite a time commitment as you have to trim and organize coupons each week to stay organized.
- The binder can get bulky.
- It is extremely difficult to find a coupon by date as they are all mixed together by category.
- A temptation can be to only sort and file the coupons you know you will use and toss the others, preventing you from purchasing and donating to others should those items go on sale.
While some couponers have a specific method that they stick to without wavering, for most, a combination of these methods works best. For example: I have a big binder that is organized using the item filing system. While I carry it with me most of the time (in case I run into an unadvertised sale), I do most of my planning at home using the local weekly circulars. I pull my coupons ahead of time, organize them into a very small binder with pockets (organized by store) and use that while shopping. As I add the item to my cart, I transfer the coupon I will be using from my stack into a separate pocket. When I arrive at the checkout counter, all I have to do is hand over the one set of coupons.
*If you are eager to try the item filing system, but don’t want the hassle of putting the binder together, Coupon Magic Organizer offers a great tutorial video as well as the finished product available for purchase on her website.