Organizing Your Coupons
by Amy Trauntvein
Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I love, live and breathe coupons. Even though I have been couponing for over 20 years, I am not what some people call an Extreme Couponer. I do not keep stacks of coupon inserts nor do I clear shelves. I coupon to save money, and yes, slowly add to my stock of food and nonfood items in my home. I wouldn’t call it a stockpile either, just some extras to have on hand when I get a great deal so I don’t have to buy it at full price when we run out. And if I find that I’m starting to “pile” my stock, I spread the love by donating items to various organizations and/or give away to friends who can use it.
So let’s start organizing those coupons! For years, I used an accordion coupon organizer and thought it was great, but it took me a LONG time to grocery shop since every time I wanted to grab something off the shelf, I had to pull out the pile from one section and sift through it all to find the one coupon I thought I might have, but couldn’t remember. It finally came time to swtich over to the binder system. Here’s my lovely binder…
When looking for a binder, it MUST have a zipper closure and a handle. Ease for carrying and also, if you drop it (like me), you won’t have coupons flying everywhere. Been there done that. I found mine at Staples for around $12, but you can buy one at most places that have a school supply aisle. The next thing you need is a zippered pencil pouch. Enclosed I keep a calculator, pencils, and paper clips. The front pouch on the left holds general store coupons that don’t really belong in any of my categories (example: $5 off $50 grocery purchase).
The next essential supply you need for your coupon binder are Tab Dividers.
REALITY CHECK: I actually had a bunch of tab dividers from school supply shopping for my kids so I just used those. Some were used but still in great condition and they don’t match, but it’s ok! You don’t need to go spend a bunch of money just to make it look cute when you’re trying to save money! Use what you’ve got and then purchase only if you have to. Notice mine don’t even match. Some are solid colors while the ones in the back have designs. Truthfully, this helps me find the category faster since I know what all my nonfood category tab dividers look like. :)
Finally you need Baseball card inserts. You can find these and any discount store (Walmart, Target etc) wherever they sell baseball cards. Just ask any associate, they’ll point the way. You can usually find boxes of 25-30 pages for around $5. This is what keeps your coupons nice and clutter free! Can you tell mine are well used?
When putting your coupons in, many times they need to be folded to fit. Just try to fold it so you can easily see, 1. the product 2. the amount off 3. the expiration date. If its too big, just do your best. Many of my coupons are folded so #1 and #2 are on the front, but #3 is on the back, but it’s ok because you can just flip the page to see the exp. date on the back. Also, one great thing about these pages is that you are constantly looking at all your coupons so it is easier to remember if you have a coupon for a certain item. It’s amazing what you remember when you are looking at them all the time! Here is what it should look like once your coupons are in.
Now…What categories do you choose for your dividers? I have 19 different categories. I have chosen to divide my categories into “aisles” meaning, how the grocery store aisles are usually set up. That way, as I’m heading down an aisle, I normally only need to open up one category and flip through 2-4 pages of coupons. I know some people have a tab divider for EVERYTHING like; (Breakfast aisle) cold cereal, hot cereal, granola bars, fruit snacks, on-the-go breakfast bars/pouches for 1 aisle so they are flipping through 5 categories in 1 aisle! I just keep all “breakfast aisle” coupons in one section. Remember, I’m still only having to look through 2-4 pages instead of 1-2 pages of 5 categories! Plus, by dividing everything up in the sub categories you have even more dividers and baseball card inserts you have to flip through and it makes your binder thicker and heavier with all those extra pages. Just simplify, please. Here are the categories that I use and work for me.
1. Breakfast/Fruit Snacks/Granola
2. Fruit/Vegetables/Juices ( includes fresh produce)
4. Condiments/Soup/Dinners (Mac & Cheese, Box Potatoes etc.)
6. Inernational foods
8. Deli/Dairy/Meat (basically the refrigerated section)
9. Candy/Nuts and Popcorn/Drinks
10. Paper Products (includes sanitary items)
11. Cleaning Supplies
14. Body (Lotion, Shaving men and women, shower gel etc.)
15. Hair (shampoo, style)
16. Face (makeup, contact soluction, face wash, fingernail polish since it is with makeup)
17. Meds/First Aid (includes vitamins)
19. Office supplies/Clothing/Misc. (include batteries)
Work with the categories and adjust to what works for you or how your favorite stores are set up. It took me a few months of moving coupons here and there and creating new and taking out hardly used categories. These 19 work great for me!
In the very back of my binder I keep a copy of my favorite stores’ coupon policies. Very nice to have on hand when you need to win an argument with a checkout employee who is not familiar with their policies. I’ve been glad I’ve had them for a few occasions. Just to the stores website and you can find a link to their printable coupon policy near the bottom of the home page. If not, just use their “seach” box at the top. Keep updated around twice a year and reprint the new policies as needed.
One other “coupon divider” I do still use for my purse is a small accordion coupon folder for those stores that I DON’T need to haul my binder in with, but I DO have a coupon for. Clothing stores, for example.
This little one also holds any gift card I have, and any TOTALLY FREE coupons (that aren’t for groceries) I need to use. I’ve found they can get kind of lost in my big binder and forgotten since I don’t want to carry my big binder into clothing stores etc. Notice my pile of CVS Extra Care Bucks! Those are like cash so I keep them in my little binder right in the front so I don’t forget about them and can see them and their expiration date clearly. I keep the FREE coupons in the front also according to expiration date. And then other coupons in the other sections.
I hope this post has gotten you converted to a binder system if you haven’t switched yet. It’s not that hard, and in the end, it WILL save you time AND money! Later this week I will do a post on coupon clipping, when to pull expired coupons and which coupons you should and shouldn’t clip and more. Stay Tuned…..! Love to all! ~Amy
I have been married for 22 years to my awesome hubby, Todd and we have 4 equally awesome kids who keep my young! Our favorite thing to do together is travel. I enjoy gardening and puttering around my yard. I am very active in my church and am currently serving the children, and I love volunteering at my kids’ schools doing whatever I can to help the teachers and staff.