Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Organizing Those Coupons

Good morning ladies. This morning I thought I would share with you the various ways you can choose to organize and keep your coupons. I will also share with you the pros and cons (in my opinion) of each system so hopefully you can decide what is best for you.

If you look through the world wide web, you will find tons of different ways people suggest to organize their coupons and each person will tell you they like a different way. So, you may want to try a few different ways and see what works best for you. I have tried them all pretty much and found what works perfect for me and almost all those that I have helped with the couponing adventure, have chose my "notebook" system as well. However, I will explain a few different ways for you below:

#1 - "Don't cut at all method"

This method seems to be used by a lot of the "big name coupon clippers" (clippers not being the real proper term since they don't even bother clipping their coupons. LOL) I do not use this system, never have and never will. The "no cut method" is when you get your coupon inserts from your Sunday paper, or wherever else you may obtain coupons from, and you dont actually cut them but simply paperclip or staple the upper corner of the pack in order to keep that entire insert of coupons intact and then you would file them away like that by date. So what you would have is something similar to a small file cabinet or box with file folders in the box labeled in chronological order by date.

This is a time saving method for sure! You have absolutely no time consumed up by clipping those coupons and organizing them by product type or whatever other means you may keep your coupons in, so it is definitely a real time saver.

If you use coupon sites that match weekly sales to coupons, it makes your life easy. You will see something like this on those type of sites:

"Publix Lays Potato Chips BOGO - RP 11/15 - .50 off"

That would mean that Publix has Lays Potato Chips at BOGO and you can go to your "Red Plum Newspaper Insert dated 11/15 and there is a coupon in there for 50 cents off"

You have absolutely no idea what coupons you have for any given product at any given time. So, say you are at your local grocery store and they have an unadvertised "Close Out Special" on Bandaids (this is a true story) for $1.00 per box. If you use the above system you would have no idea (most likely) that you have a coupon for 50 cents off per box in your coupon stash because (1) you would not have ever looked through your coupons; (2) they are not on the sales list for that week since it is an unadvertised special so you would not have been told to clip that coupon and take it with you. So, you may go ahead and buy 5 boxes of bandaids and spend your $5.00 and think you just got the best deal in town. However, the lady behind you that uses some other sort of couponing system that sorts by product sees those same bandaids, looks in her coupon organizer (which she carries with her everywhere), sees that she has 5 coupons for bandaids at 50 cents off each box. She carries her 5 boxes to the cashier, hands them her coupons and she gets all 5 boxes for free since the store doubles coupons.

#2 Coupon Pocket Organizers/Box Organizers

This is a very common type of organization used by "newbies" to couponing. It is also used by "coupon queens" as their preferred method. I did use this method to begin with but since I collect so many coupons, I seemed to "outgrow" this method rather quickly. The pocket organizers are those little organizers you see hanging up at grocery stores and other stores you frequent often. They are usually made of fabric or plastic and have a little flap on them that folds over and is either held around by an elastic band or velcro. You open the little flap and there is a large "pocket" that will have 10-15 dividers for your products such as canned goods, meats, dairy, frozen goods, etc. You simply clip your coupons as you get them and file them behind the divider appropriately. You can do the same thing with a little 4x5 file box and use some dividers. I have even saw ladies use old shoe boxes, make their own little dividers and keep their coupons in there.

Will keep coupons organized by section for easy access to whatever you are looking for. So you can quickly go to the section of any coupon you may need to look to see if you have for those "surprise" sales you will run into. - Or, say your husband says as he is rushing out the front door "I need razor blades so I'm running out to buy some". If you kept your coupons in the "no cut system" explained above, and you say "Hmmmm, I think I saw a $5.00 off coupon for those" do you think he is going to stand there long enough for you to flip through the last 5 months worth of flyers looking for that coupon? Mine wouldn't! However, if you could quickly go to "Body Care" section of your coupons and flip through 20 coupons, he just may wait to save that $5.00!

You can easily transport this system with you anywhere you go by throwing in your purse or keeping in your car with you for unexpected trips to the store.

Your small children can help you place in the separate sections of the organizer to help them with sorting. (Of course, your teenagers can help too but might be a little less "willing" to do so unless you pay them! LOL) Trust me I know. If they don't want to do it and you make them, you will end up finding a frozen pea coupon in your dental hygiene section!

If you are a "hard core" coupon clipper and clip every coupon you see, you may quickly outgrow the little fabric/plastic organizers you buy at the store. If you are this type of coupon clipper, or plan to be, you may want to opt for purchasing a file index box or just start with the shoe box method to begin with. I "busted through" many of the little paper organizers you can buy within a matter of weeks. It is not fun scrambling around on the floor of your local Bi-Lo picking up 200 coupons - don't ask me how I know this! :o)

Certain sections of your organizer will be "overgrown" with coupons more than others. For instance, you will usually always have lots of coupons for dental hygiene products, body wash products and frozen foods. It would be nothing to have 50 frozen food coupons in that section alone. If you were looking for a coupon for Birds Eye Frozen vegetables, you would have to flip through every coupon in that section until you found it. But, when you found it you would certainly not want to stop looking because you may have 2 or 3 more of that same coupon tucked within those 50 coupons.

#3 Coupon Notebook

This is my preferred method of coupon organization. It may take a little bit more of an investment at the begining, but it is sooo worth it. If you think you may "eventually" want to use this sytem, I would suggest you start with it, even if you only have 10 coupons to begin with. I say this from experience. I did not move to this method for several months and it took me literally WEEKS to convert to this method because it is time consuming when you have hundreds of coupons to organize. However, if you start with this method, it is easy-peasy and this is how I have all my "students" start at if they are serious about wanting to save money. Even if you have hundreds of coupons, I still feel it is worth the effort to convert to this method. The time you "waste" now converting over, will be saved three times over later in your weekly shopping ventures.

The "notebook" system is simply that. It is a 3-ring notebook binder that you keep all your coupons in organized by section and by individual coupon. I highly suggest spending the extra few dollars and getting a 3 ring binder that has a zipper around it to keep everything in the notebook contained. This will prevent from accidentally picking up the notebook upside down and all your organized coupons ending up on the floor (Again, don't ask me how I know this! ugh). You will fill that notebook with baseball card holder sheets. These can be found at your local Walmart, Kmart, Target, or any other store where you can find baseball cards. They are 8 1/2 x 11 plastic sheets that usually have 12 or so individual "pockets". You will divide those plastic inserts by dividers labled with the various sections you prefer your coupons to be divided. Some examples may be: Beverages, Canned Goods, Cleaners, Frozen Foods, Meat, Medicine, Snacks, etc.

Then, as you clip your coupons you simply place them behind the designated section for that type of product in its own separate pocket. Have 3 of the same exact coupon? Place them all together in that same pocket.

Will keep coupons organized by section for easy access, similar to the "box method" above. However, when you flip to that section, you can easily see every coupon in that section without having to flip through 50 coupons.

Fast access to every coupon! In a store and see something on sale and want to know if you have a matching coupon? You can find out in less than 30 seconds!

At end of each month when lots of coupons usually expire, you can easily "sort" through your coupons in less than 5 minutes no matter how many coupons you have and easily pull out and discard any expired coupons since you can see the face of the coupons at a quick glance.

Can easily take with you everywhere.

Slightly more of an "investment" to get the items you need to organize this way. However, you will most likely save the amount of money you spent on this sytem in your first week of grocery shopping.

Time consuming to get system started if you have a "backlog" of coupons to organize, however will quickly make up the time and effort by quickly finding coupons on a weekly or daily basis when you need them.

Well - that is it ladies. The top 3 ways I have found that people use to organize their coupons. I hope this will help you in deciding the best way for you to stay organized, or perhaps show you a different and possibly better way than you are already using. There are no right or wrong ways to organize coupons, as long as you pick a system and follow through!

If you would like to use the notebook system as I do and would like a copy of the index I have finally perfected (in my opinion) on how to best separate your coupons for maximum efficiency, leave me a comment here or email me and I will certainly email you a copy for your use!

I know this was a long topic, and thanks for hanging in there!

Happy Couponing!

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