Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teaching Tuesday: Lesson 3-- Organizing Your Coupons

Now that you know the prices you normally pay for things and know your stores coupon policies, it's time to really start saving!

But you can't save with coupon if you can't FIND your coupons!

Finding the right way to organize your coupons can be confusing because there are probably as many methods as there are couponers!   (In fact, if you google "coupon organization" you will likely be overwhelmed with what you find--I just did it, and I certainly was!  Although Pinterest may be a better option for those of us--like me--who need visuals!)

The method you choose to organize your coupons is going to depend a great deal on the type of shopper you are and the stores available to you.  (Read an older in-depth article I wrote on coupon organization.--I'll sum this article up below)

There are 3 major methods of coupon organization that I'd like to tell you about, and then I'll tell you how I incorporate them all!

First off, there is the accordion folder method.  Many people begin couponing using one of these.  It is small enough to stash in your purse, and you can separate coupons by category so that you can find them easily.  The major drawback to this method is that you cannot hold many coupons in it.  If you are very brand loyal, and only use coupons for a few items, this option may work well for you!

Many people eventually graduate from the accordion folder--because they amass too many coupons in most cases-- to the binder method.  This method involves a large binder, and usually baseball card or other clear inserts to hold the coupons.  This method is great for being able to see many coupons all at once.  The major drawback to this method is that it takes the most time BY FAR!  If you have plenty of time to devote to couponing, this method will definitely allow for the most savings!  If you tend to buy extra things just because you see a sale and have a coupon, this method may also lead to the most overspending, so beware!  If you wish to use the binder method, my friend MS. Do has some great info on how to set one up!

Busy people tend to prefer the whole insert method.  For this method, when you get new coupon inserts--you don't clip the coupons!  Instead, you write the date on the front of the insert and store them someplace.  Then when you want to know if there is a coupon for a particular item, you look it up in an online database (more on these next week).  This will tell you what insert the coupon was in, and you can quickly find that insert, flip through it, and clip the coupon.  The major drawback to this method is that you miss out on unexpected deals, like clearance finds, because you will not have all of your coupons with you.  If you are a very organized shopper, and like to go in with a pre-planned list, you will probably like this method a lot!

Personally, none of these methods by itself works for me.  I've tried them all at different seasons of my life.  When I was in college, and would take a few coupon inserts from home when I visited on the weekend, I used an accordion file.

When I was first married, and working part time and had no children yet, I assembled a binder for myself.  I really loved it, but when I had toddlers and diaper bags to drag into the store also, it just wasn't the practical choice.

When I began working full time teaching, I nearly stopped couponing altogether because I didn't have time to clip and stuff by binder, and by the time I got around to it, they were all expired.

Then, I became a stay at home mom.  I knew I needed to get back to saving some money!  That's when I discovered online databases and began shopping grocery store sales instead of just Wal-mart.  I would often take advantage of my husbands evening off to go out shopping ALONE, so I would usually go to more than one store.

I would use the database and clip coupons to match with several store's sales, so I needed a place to store them.  That's when I brought my accordion folder back into my life!  Only, I don't organize it by coupon category, I organize it by store!   I have a section in mine for each store I shop at, so when I'm planning my trips, I can place my list and any coupons I"ll be needing where I can easily find them at the store.  (You can read about how I plan my trips here.)  I have a couple extra files in here, so in the front I keep any high value or free product coupons that I know I will be using.  I will also bring along several coupons that may be a good deal after they double, just to see.  The rest of my coupons stay home.

I still keep my binder around to store my printed coupons and any that I get in the mail.

I've purchased a small file box for my whole inserts, and it is working very nicely for me.

This method works very well for me, and I've been using it for nearly about 2 years now.  I used to keep my inserts in a box, so the grey file box is a recent addition that I am loving (though it was too heavy, and the handle broke off!)

I'd love to know about how you organize your coupons, so leave a comment below!  If you blog and have a post about it, leave a link in the comments so we can all check it out.

If you'd like to see another version that is VERY similar to my method, only it uses different physical objects to put them in (and much more stylish, I might add!), my friend Cricket at Thrifty Texas Penny has made a short video showing how her method works!


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