Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ideas for Coupon Organization

Are you planning on joining me and several others as we “Get-Together + Get Organized” this Friday night? With this event coming up, I thought this would be a good time to talk about how we organize our coupons. I know I’ve used several different systems at different times in my life, and each way of doing it has its pros and cons. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

Accordion File
Smead Expandable File
My mom had an accordion file for her coupons, and I’m guessing her mom did as well. This method is an oldie but a goodie. When I started clipping coupons and had a few too many to keep in my wallet, I started with an accordion file. When I started to outgrow it, I kept two; one for food and one for non-food items. The smallest accordion files are very inexpensive, showing up in the Target dollar spot several times a year, or just a few dollars in the office supply section of most any store.

Pros: Accordion files are inexpensive, easy to carry with you or keep in a purse, and don’t take long to set up or maintain. Choose to organize by category (grocery, dairy, meat, etc) or by brand name A-Z.

Cons: Accordion files are generally too small once you start clipping multiples of many coupons and you’re only able to see what you have by flipping through each category.
Alternately, some folks prefer to use a box, shoebox or other small bin that is larger than an accordion file, but still using the same method to organize them.

Binder Method
I love the binder method, because I love to see all of my coupons as I flip through. It's a great choice for organizing though it typically costs more and is more time and labor intensive to get set up. Using baseball card pages or other clear sheets (full or divided), individually cut coupons can be displayed singly so that you can see each coupon.

Pros: You are able to see each coupon individually and quickly access them. Easily store multiples of single coupons. It is also fast and easy to pull coupons that have expired.

Cons: Initially, this method can cost more if you have to purchase all the supplies. Filing coupons take more time, since you file each coupon individually. Binder usually needs to be carried separately or in its own bag.

No Cut Method
Many people prefer not to cut their coupons at all until they need them. You can do this by keeping your inserts whole, marking the date on the front and filing them by date. You can file them by date in file folders, folders in a binder, or even in zip top bags stored in a tote bag. There is very little time involved in filing your coupons, but more time involved in preparing for each shopping trip. When you’re ready to shop, use my weekly store deals posts to help you know what week to go to for the coupons you need. Otherwise, use a coupon database like the one at Money Saving Mom or Coupon Mom to find what week’s inserts you need for a certain coupon.

Pros: Easy, and fast to maintain. Inexpensive (depending on how you choose to file them), and possibly portable if you buy only one or a few inserts each week.

Cons: More time to prep for each shopping trip and clip coupons. Can be heavy or difficult to carry all the coupons with you to the store if you prefer to have them with you, and takes up even more space if you store several inserts for each week

What Works For Me... A Bag, A Binder and a Small Accordion File

When I started using coupons, the small accordion file was the best method for me, then I moved into a small box when I outgrew it.  My current method of organizing is the binder method, but I've downgraded from a huge 3" binder to a 1", which is working better for this season of life where I'm not using coupons as intensely.

My coupon binder and any uncut inserts all find a home in my coupon bag, which goes with me when I'm headed to the store.  My binder has tabbed dividers for each store, where store specific coupons are filed.  I also use full page sheet protectors for rebate forms.  Behind those, I have my coupons filed by category: produce, canned and boxed, breakfast, baking, dairy, etc.  The bag also has a pair of scissors and this week's sale flyers.

When I'm getting ready to shop, I clip any uncut coupons and pull coupons that I need from my binder.  I have a small accordion file (yes, it has seen better days :) with tabs for each store, and I keep all the coupons I plan to use for that shopping trip in that folder.  When I'm at the store, these are all the coupons I will need unless I come across an unadvertised sale or clearance item, which is why my coupon bag almost always comes along as well.
If I'm cutting or printing coupons and know that I'll want to use a specific coupon at a certain store, I just go ahead and file it there so I'll have it ready,  If I have to request a raincheck while I'm shopping, I keep it in that store's file with the coupon so it is ready to go next time I'm at that store.

What about you?  What is your favorite system for keeping track of your coupons and why?

1 comment:

  1. Tired the Binder method with 8-pocket inserts and really liked it. Works super well when you run into unexpected clearance items. However it took so much time I finally dropped out of it.

    What I do now is to have 2 good quality accordion, just big enough to stuff printable coupons. First accordion is for CVS/Walgreens (coupons for deal of the week, CVS cards, ECB and RR...) My 2nd accordion is for grocery stores at front, plus Wal-Mart and Target at the back. Soooooo, even though I no longer have ALL the coupons with me but now I have all the essentials that I can easily carry with me at all times.