Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Coupon Organization

I'm sure there are about as many ways to organize coupons as there are people who use them. I'm just going to highlight the pros and cons of what I consider some of the best ways. I apologize in advance if these begin to sound like options for birth control.

The Insert Method
This is also known as the clipless method. Each week you save the Sunday coupon inserts. You write the date on the front of each insert and file them by date or by the name of the insert in file folders or in an accordion file. Then, when it's time to make your grocery list, you clip only the coupons you need for your specific shopping trip, based on whatever coupon match-up site(s) you use.

The Pros: this method saves lots of time that you would otherwise spend clipping each individual coupon, especially if you get multiple copies of each insert.

The Cons: you miss out on any unadvertised sales or clearance items by not having all of your coupons with you at the store.

The Accordion File
This is a method I used for a while. You just purchase a small accordion file, usually with 5-7 pockets. Label the tabs with whatever makes the most sense for you; mine were food, bath, clean, baby, pet, and house. I actually used two of these files. One had the tabs I just listed, and the other had tabs labeled with the stores I most frequently shopped at: Target, Walmart, Safeway, Walgreens, Rite Aid. When I pulled coupons from the first file each week, I'd put them in the second behind the tab for the store I would use them at, then I would take only the second file with me.

The Pros: this system allows you to keep all of your coupons with you when you make your grocery trips, so you don't miss out on any sales. Accordion files are very cheap; I purchased mine for $1 each at Target.

The Cons: I'm not sure if you can tell from the photo, but a few of the sections in my file were way too full. It negates the convenience of having those coupons with you if you have to sort through 150 of them to find the one you want.

The Shoe Box/Recipe Holder Method
This method is probably pretty self-explanatory. Use a shoe box, recipe box, or any sort of similar container. Label note cards with the categories you want, place your coupons behind their corresponding note card, and file it all in your box.

The Pros: this strategy is easy to use and can probably be implemented using supplies you already have at home. If you use a larger box, say a shoe box as opposed to a recipe box, you'll have room for lots of coupons and extra tools.

The Cons: even if the box you use has a lid, you'll probably be living in constant fear that the box will be knocked over, ruining countless hours of work. This method doesn't travel well, either. While the box would probably be the perfect size to fit in the child seat area of a shopping cart, if you had a child with you the box would have to ride in the cart, which might be inconvenient.

The Binder Method
This method involves using a 3-ring binder filled with baseball card holders and dividers. Each divider is labeled with a specific category, and the baseball card holder behind the divider breaks that category down farther into several smaller categories.
The Pros: this method allows you to have every coupon with you at all times, and to know exactly where to to find it. Using a binder gives you the opportunity to carry a pencil pouch, too, that you can stock with a calculator, highlighter, scissors, or anything you might need in the store.

The Cons: the Binder Method is quite an investment. Purchasing the binder, card holders, and dividers can cost more than $10- quite a price when it's all in the name of saving money. I would caution that using a coupon binder is only for those who prefer to be well-organized. It might sound good in theory, but the binder doesn't do you much good if you end up piling inserts in the front because you don't get around to clipping them.

What do I use?
I use a combination of the binder and insert methods. When I receive coupon inserts, I immediately clip all of the coupons that I know I will use or that I am very likely to use. Then I keep the rest of the insert, with any of the unclipped coupons, in a file (or often stuffed in the back of my binder). When I'm making my grocery store lists, if I come across a phenomenal deal using a coupon I haven't already clipped, I pull out the corresponding insert and clip that coupon.

This method allows me to have most of my coupons with me, so I can make spur of the moment purchases if I find unadvertised sales. It also saves me time because I don't clip every single coupon that I receive in the mail. This is the best way I've found for me to maximize my organization and minimize my time spent clipping.

What do I recommend?
I recommend evaluating your own needs and deciding what's best for you, your family, your lifestyle, and your personality. If you're just getting started, I would recommend using either the shoe box method or the accordion file. Both options are inexpensive and easy to implement. A coupon binder is an investment that you might want to save for when couponing becomes part of your lifestyle. If the binder method is something you want to use, consider buying one as a reward for yourself after you've used coupons consistently for a set period of time: say three or six months.

Remember, these are just a few of the endless options you have for organizing your coupons. What works best for you might be one of the strategies I mentioned, it might be a combination of the strategies, or it might be none of them at all. If you adapt any of these for yourself, or if you are already using a different method, I'd love to know!

No comments:

Post a Comment