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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Starting Out Series - Lesson 3 - Organizing Your Coupons

Lesson 3

Organizing Your Coupons


You're probably mad at me for spending so much time talking about the background prep and not showing you how to save yet, and I'm sorry about that. I just want to make sure you can hit the ground running and not get so frustrated to where you give up. (But honestly, start collecting coupons now. Save the inserts from your paper, look for blinkies at the store and find them online. Just make sure that you're ready before you go out and give it the old college try.)

So, Organizing.

There are many methods and schools of thought to this, but it's whatever works best for you. I actually employ two or three of these myself and you may find that you like bits and pieces of other ways as well.

Here we go!


1) The Binder

This is exactly what is sounds like - people get a binder, then put their coupons in it and lug it to the store. Don't be ashamed by how full it is - I've seen people with 6 inch binders that were over flowing. It may get heavy, and it's hard to balance in a cart, especially if you go with your kids who need to sit in that seat. BUT, you're never with out your coupons, as its hard to forget the binder. Plus, there are some pretty fancy binders out there with all kinds of pockets and zippers, especially after the Back-To-School clearances. But how does one organize a binder? You Can -

A) Cut out the coupons you want or know you'll use (both exact brands and competitors) and put them into pockets (like baseball card sleeves) where the pages are then organized alphabetically or by types of products (like "cleaning products" or "kids snacks") or by aisle or however you want. (I have a binder that I don't really use all that often but it's an old CD binder - I LOVE it because it has bigger pockets which makes it easier for my fat hands to get in and out of.)

  • Pros - you know exactly what page to go to when you need to find that shampoo coupon; you're not lugging around too much extra stuff (like scissors and all of your inserts.); a binder can fit into a tote bag so if the day is just sucking you don't have to pull it out; if you get a real binder and not use my cd binder idea you can add and subtract pages at will.
  • Cons - you're cutting out soooo many coupons, statically more that you'll end up not using than using; if you only bring the coupons you cut at home/the office to the store, you may come across some fabulous yet unblogged/heard about deal, only to not have coupons for that item with you; if you save the rest of your inserts they'll start looking really ratty after you've been cutting them up so; if someone on a blog or message board references a certain coupon by saying which insert it was in but you've cut it out, you may forget that you have it or where you put it or if you've already used it; you have to constantly go through it and toss what has expired.

B) Keep the pages intact and put them in whole page protectors, like what you'd use in school or at work. (Inserts aren't stapled and are printed on both sides, so cut the pages on the center creases and insert them into whole page protectors, then you can see both sides and keep them in booklet order, if that's important to you. You can also get rid of advertisement pages.) You can put a tabbed divider in between the weeks (to separate the inserts that you got on Sunday, August 8th from the ones you got on Sunday, August 15th) and can even write directly on the pages with a grease pencil if you know of an upcoming sale or paper clip stackable store coupons to the specific MRF page.

  • Pros - This method works well if you buy/subscribe/get multiple inserts every week; just match up all the page 1/2's and put them in a sleeve; same thing with 3/4's, 5/6's, 7/8's, and so on; if you are in a store and come across a stellar deal, price or sale, you can pull out your smart phone, go to hot coupon worlds online database and you will find out with a few short clicks in which insert to look.
  • Cons - Your binder will get very full, very fast; To store "found" coupons (peelies, in-box, mailings, etc) you'll need to add some baseball card sleeves or a 3 ring zipper bag or something; if you don't have a smart phone or the Internet while you're out you may have to rummage through tons of pages to find the coupon you need or are looking for.

2) There is also the Envelope Method

This is also exactly how it sounds. You cut the coupons you want and put them into an envelope (either a small white one or a reusable pouch or a small coupon "file" or even an index card sized box) and then go to the store. You can organize them by how you go through the store, through the stores aisle set up, by family member and then when you get to a great sale you think "oh, there is a coupon for that in Josh's tab", whatever makes sense to you.

  • Pros - you can keep it with you at all times in your purse or car; you can set it up to have just the coupons you want to spend on just that trip OR you can keep q's for items that you know you're always buying, so if a surprise sale or instant substitute pops up you're ready.
  • Cons - you can keep it with you at all times. I can't tell you how many times I've looked into my very fancy, very expensive purse and thought, if only the snooty people at the store could see that I have 3 envelopes of coupons in my $850 purse they'd cry.

3) The File Method

This is a little out of the ordinary, in that you do most of the work at home and leave the rest of it there. (Unless you get a portable file, like a cart or one of those cute file bags, but if get/buy/find 6+ copies of each and every Sunday paper, which at most contain up to 6 inserts each, that's somewhat overboard.) This method is one where you plan out what you're buying (by stalking the message boards and blogs) and finding what q's you need from the paper or online, etc, then putting it all together before you go to the store (by putting them in an envelope or paper clipping them, whatever). You can either file the inserts in a little cart or in a filing cabinet in file folders or by binder clipping the same weeks worth of inserts together keeping and then keeping them together in a tote bag or in a stack; Whatever you decide to do, I find it easier to write the date on each cover in sharpie, in case one individual insert or week gets out of order.

  • Pros - your inserts are a lot more sane - if you only go after the deals that others tell you about, then you're sure to have the q's; if you read that you need to thumb through the 8/1 RP to find a q, then you have an 8/1 to thumb through instead of looking through your crazy binder or envelope/box;
  • Cons - if you come across a hot sale or deal, you can't act on it 'cause the rest of your coupons are at home; you may need to invest in a lot of file folders, binder clips and even a file cabinet; its hard to keep up with the "found" coupons you collect.


I guess that's it for organizing - the next lesson will be about Coupon Rules and the Lexicon.

(I swear, we're really getting closer and closer to actually talking about finding and using coupons. I'm not counting you as stupid or incapable of learning, but I feel like if I were to give you that info first you'd take off and would never come back, like giving a kid a bicycle before telling them the rules - of course they aren't listening because they are too excited about the bike! If I were you, I'd be bike-excited about couponing. BUT you can start looking for and collecting coupons, and now you can experiment with organizing them!)

Until Next time


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