Coupon Organization: A Peek in my Binder
As I promised yesterday, I am posting details about my coupon file system for the world to see. As I was deciding what method would work the best for me, it really helped to see how other people did it. For even more ideas, check out my friend's recent post on Centsational Saver where she details various different organizational ideas. Please don't be overwhelmed with my system. It has taken about 9 months to get in place with baby steps. I take about an hour a week clipping/filing coupons and inserts and such. It actually takes less time than I thought plus I am more organized and save more money. I can easily find my coupons. I can easily find what I need for rebates. It maximizes my time. When I first started using coupons, I put them in just a plain envelope and stuck that envelope in my purse. Within a few weeks, I found that method to be a bit cumbersome - too many coupons to sort through. I was missing deals and not using coupons because I couldn't find them in the pile. I "graduated" to a small coupon organizer with tabs to sort by category.
I used one similar to this on on amazon. The small organizer worked for a few months. It helped me work through what categories worked for me. I started with the categories I heard other people use. Quickly I learned that I just needed to find categories that worked for me. If you mostly shop at one store, organizing by store layout can be useful. If you shop multiple stores, organizing by type of product could be more helpful. I, however, never found the alphabetical method helpful for me at all. Find what works for you. At the end of summer, I realized I needed to streamline even more. I was getting a lot of coupons from the internet and from free samples. My small organizer was overflowing. I decided to try the "binder with baseball card holder" method.
Here is my bag. It's big enough to hold my 1" 3-ring binder, 2 reusable shopping bags (for store discounts), and current store circulars. Here's the inside of the bag:
When I get my coupons, I clip the ones I will use. The rest I leave in the insert (unless I am planning a coupon trade then I clip all coupons). I file the insert - with the day's date at the top - in my portable file box:
I keep rebate info, store receipts, and special coupons in the file box. I can easily move the file box from my car to the house. When it is in the car, I know I can run out and clip a coupon if I find a fantastic deal I hadn't heard about. The coupons I WILL use get filed in my binder. I sort them according to my categories (which are, again, a work in progress - the ones I had been using aren't working very well so I'm adapting).
If I am in a huge rush, I don't sort - I simply put the clipped coupons in the front of my binder. In the front pouch, I keep scissors, calculator (I need a new one since Buggy ate half the keys), random printed coupons that haven't been clipped, and plain envelopes. I'll talk about the envelopes later. On the right, I have one large page protector. This is where I put unfiled coupons or coupons I plan to use on a specific shopping trip. If I have a little time, I sort the coupons and file by each category tab. If I am not rushed, I file in baseball card holders. Blank envelopes - I have plain envelopes that I label with each store. As I plan a shopping trip that doesn't involve a large grocery order, I place the coupons I will use for that trip in the proper envelope. For example, let's say I am planning a trip to Rite Aid and CVS in one day. I pull out those 2 empty envelopes. I plan my trip and place the coupons I'll use at each store in each envelope for easy access. I can then just take those small envelopes in the store with me (although I normally take my whole bag in case I find a surprise deal). I may switch to using the small coupon organizer for store organization instead - we'll see if it fits in my bag.
After the initial page protector, I have blank notebook paper. This is where I store my lists for trips. I will also copy and paste deals from blogs and print my list and place here as well. The list in crucial in staying on track when shopping and not getting carried away!
Now begins my section of categories. Categories are separated by tabs - whatever tabs I found on sale! After each tab is a page protector. In the page protector, I put coupons that have not been filed yet. Sometimes I will also put coupons here that do not fit in the baseball card holders.
After the initial page protector, I have a few sheets of baseball card holders. Business card holders can work as well and usually are the landscape orientation rather than vertical. If you want larger pouches, try floppy disk organizers or photo organizers. I put like coupons together with the closest expiration date in the front. If I run out of room in a category, I'll either add another page of holders or start adding coupons on the "back page" of the holder. I prefer to add pages if I have room.
After my regular categories, I have pages dedicated to specific stores. In the beginning, I would file all store coupons with each specific store. I found that I would forget what I had and then would waste the coupon so now I file store coupons in their proper categories (at least for grocery/household items). I use the store categories to hold receipts, hold Extra Care Bucks, hold mailers, and to - MOST IMPORTANTLY - hold the coupon policy for that store.
When a store has a major event (like the Kmart Super Doubles!!!), I will add baseball card holders behind the store tab and lay out my coupons for that event. At the very back of my binder, I have filed rewards cards and shoppers cards for stores that I don't frequent all that often. My Kroger and CVS cards, for example, are on my keychain with extras stored in my file box at home.
In the very back, I have more unfiled printed coupons plus extra blank envelopes.
Now, I made my own binder. I am about to move up to a 2" binder - hopefully one that zips. I need some more baseball card holders and tabs that aren't falling apart. I will add a zippered pencil case in the front to hold a pen, calculator, scissors, etc. If you aren't up to creating your own, there are many options out there! Some of my friends also make great binder covers to transform any plain binder into a fun binder bag!
How do you organize coupons? What system works for you? What do you like about my system? What don't you like?