Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Organize Your Coupons

Do your coupons look like this?

Getting and keeping coupons organized is something that has frustrated many a couponer. Unorganized coupons can prevent coupon users from getting the best deals, waste their time, make them frustrated enough to stop using coupons, or stop them from even starting to use coupons! There are many ways to organize your coupons. Picking the way that works best for you will save you time, money, and a lot of frustration!

Index Card File Box
When I first started clipping coupons I used a small index card file box. The box had inserts so that the coupons could be sorted in alphabetical. This method worked great when I had a small amount of coupons.

As the amount of coupons I had grew I realized I needed another method. The following two methods I use alternately, depending on how busy things are going in my life and how much time I have (or don't have) to keep things organized.

File By Insert Method
The easiest way to file coupons is file the coupon inserts by date using an accordian file.

What is a coupon insert? Each Sunday (except for major holidays) the paper will have coupon inserts put out by the major coupon distributers; Smartsource, Valassis and Proctor & Gamble. If you see someone on a coupon message board refer to getting a $1.00 Cheerios coupon in SS 6/24, that means it came in the Smartsource insert on June 24th.

Now, how to file the inserts? Simply drop each week's inserts in a new slot in the expanding accordian file. Label each slot with the day that the inserts came out. Easy right?

Pros- Takes seconds to drop your coupons into the file.

Cons- Shopping trips will need to be preplanned. You won't be able to easily access your coupons in the store unless you clip them out ahead of time. If you use the Grocery Game to shop then the coupons you need for that week's list will be easy to find because they will list the date the coupon was available in the paper. Simply look at the date (ex. SS 6/24), pull that week's insert and clip the coupon.

What if you don't use the Grocery Game?

There are many websites that have compiled databases of all available coupons. Let's say for example you see that there is a great sale on Pampers diapers at Target. You want to know when the Pampers coupons came out. Simply search the database for "Pampers" and it should bring up the dates that the Pampers coupon came out. Then you are able to easily find the correct insert containing the Pampers coupon.

Where can I find these coupon databases?

Refunding Makes Cents- Refunding Makes Cents is both a website and a print magazine that is available by subscription.
Refund Cents

Hot Coupon World- Free, but you must register
Hot Coupon World

Binder Method

This is my favorite method because I know that when I have times where I need to run to the store I can just grab my binder and go. If I find a good deal I won't miss out because I have all my coupons with me. I can easily flip through the pages (coupons are filed alphabetically) to find what I need. If I need a Prego sauce coupon I flip to the "P" section.

What is it?- A binder is simply a large binder found in an office supply store. The best kind to get is one with a zipper (so your coupons don't get dumped out). If you can find one with a strap or sew one yourself it will make it even easier to carry if you have babies and diaper bags in your arms. The binder is filled with plastic pages (usually baseball card holders).

Pros- You can see all your coupons at a glance and can take them anywhere.

Cons- Can be bulky or heavy to carry depending on how many coupons you have. Cutting out the inserts each week and filing them can be time intensive. This really all depends on how many copies of the Sunday paper you get and how many coupons you want to file. For example, I have no use for dog coupons. I don't file these, but instead I quickly drop them in an "extras" file. They might be given to a friend or traded for other coupons.

Are there any other methods?
Yep! There sure are! Couponers are pretty creative people and I've seen everything from large tackle boxes to small briefcases and rolling suitcases used as coupon files. What you use depends on your lifestyle and budget.

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