Snack Time: Coupon Organization

I’ve had a few people ask me about my coupon organization system, so I thought I would share with ya’ll what I use, what I have used and why I use the method I do (mouthful, I know :-) I definitely recommend also checking out some other places to see their methods of coupon organization. I truly believe you can get other perspectives that might work better for you – one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to stuff like this!!

Here are all my coupons – or I think of them as money just waiting to be redeemed:


Yes, I use the file method. I only take the coupons I am actually going to use with me to the store each week so I’m not actually lugging this thing around. Here’s my process in organization:

  1. Receive inserts each week.
  2. Label inserts with Date/Insert Name (i.e., 6/1/08 P&G).
  3. Place inserts into monthly file with all other month inserts.
  4. Discard inserts when coupons are expired – if all coupons aren’t expired, I just keep the entire insert so I’m not clipping them out. I don’t want to cut them at all until/unless I use them.

I keep a separate envelope for coupons that I’ve clipped (or ones that have been clipped for me)and ended up not using and I discard expireds in this envelope as I go. I also put my Internet Printable coupons that are not used in that envelope too.

Now, I just file and cut my coupons as I need them. This method takes me about an hour each week when I’m planning my trips and I’m not backed up on clipping hundreds of coupons. I have enough chores to get backed up on and I never want my money-saving ways to prohibit me from saving more! This is an area I try not to slack on or else I may not stick with it!

I know some people don’t like this method because they want to have all their coupons with them in case of an unadvertised sale. For me, I have a budget and I really try not to go over it (like I have lately). So, if those unadvertised sales would get me to use more of our money, then I probably shouldn’t get it anyway. But, if it’s FREE then I’ll just bite my lip and wish I had them there :-) I know, I know, but I figure that sale will either come back around again or it just wasnt’ meant for me to have that. It’s how I look at it anyway :-)

Now, here’s why this method works for me since I’ve tried the binder system too.

When I started couponing, I had the binder system with baseball card holders. I clipped all the coupons I thought I would use and discarded all others. I kept the binder in two sections: Grocery Items and Health/Beauty. Well, do you know how HARD it is to lug around a binder (probably weighed at least 5 -10 pounds, seriously) AND a baby (who now weighs around 25 pounds) AND my diaper bag/purse (weighing around 5-10 pounds)? Well, if you have kiddos, you already know – it’s SO HARD and it makes your back all out of whack!

I would also get behind on the clipping of my coupons (know the baby I mentioned) and found that I was physically touching each coupon three times, which didn’t make sense from an efficiency perspective for me. I would clip (1 time), file (2 times), then pull as I needed them (3 times). So, for me, it just didn’t make anymore “time” sense (I’ve said before time has to be considered in all you do – you’re time is worth lots of money!). Also, I found that I discarded those coupons for things that I may not always use but ended up being FREE with my coupon. I will always want those deals because I can donate or try something for FREE!

So, there ya have it. This is my coupon method. What coupon organization system do you use, or do you have a system? Like I said, I really feel like this is an area where you can pick and take processes from each person’s system and make your own efficient system…then brand and trademark it and we’ll all want to buy it :-)

ETA: I have recently started carrying some coupons with me, I call them my “SMART” coupons because I feel smart by having them to possibly save me extra money! These coupons entail any coupon I have purchased through Ebay or a clipping service, and coupons that are for essential non-perishable items that we always use (wipes, brand loyalty hygiene products). I also include high-dollar coupons, that if found cheap, can end up making me money (like those $2.25 Electrasol or $1 Powerade coupons). So, this is one way to make those devoted to the “clipping and sorting” or the binder system feel some relief that all your deals will still be there for the gettin’, especially on those items you really need!

See how I organize my lists and shopping each week in a Q&A I did here. It explains the method to all my Mommy Snackin’ madness :-)

by Savings Lifestyle: Andrea on July 08, 2008

17 Comments

  • Emily - July 08, 2008 @ 1:54 pm
    1

    Wow, that’s an interesting system – I never thought about just saving the inserts and not clipping the coupons until I need them. I’m relatively new to this couponing thing and I have been overwhelming with all the clipping. But I just got organized in the binder system within the past month, so I think I’ll see how that goes for a while. But I will tuck this away for future reference.

  • Mrs. Bargain Hunting Wife - July 08, 2008 @ 3:36 pm
    2

    I clip all that I might use and stick labled envelopes into a photo album. I had an expandable accordian file but once I got serious about coupons, it got way too small. My way still isn’t the best but its better than what I had!

  • Mel's World - July 08, 2008 @ 4:38 pm
    3

    Seriously Girl, I stand in AWE of your system and ideas behind it…

    I am relatively new to the coupon thing but am 100% dedicated to sticking with it this time and saving some dough for the family. I clip all the coupons that I think we may/might use and put them in an envelope, then I will pull them out in another envelope after I make my grocery list (off the menu planning over at E-Mealz) and all print out the coupon list from the Grocery Game site.

    I make a menu plan for two weeks so that I am saving time/money at the grocery (with two teen boys we can throw down some serious dough at the grocery) and supplement our “stuff” by going to CVS (by using the Grocery Game, Mommy Snacks, and I heart cvs as my guide).

    This whole process can take me about 3-4 hours and I am desperately trying to get a better system. I am a WAHM and also trying to build my ministry, so time is of the essence.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks,
    Melissa

  • Darice - July 08, 2008 @ 5:16 pm
    4

    I’m very new to the coupon game but I use a box of legal envelopes I got from the 99c store. On the front and on the sides and back flap I write what type of coupons are stored inside. When it’s time to shop, I consult MommySnacks, CFO: Chief Family Officer, BeCentsable,The “Cents”ible Sawyer, Mommy Making Money, Coupon Cravings, Centsible Shopper, Why ask Why, etc for what they did at each store and put coupons that I will be using in an envelope labeled for that store. This allows me for places like Target, CVS and Walgreens that have their own coupons and ECBs to keep those together. As I’m storing my new coupons each week (takes about an hour, I review each envelope for expired or expiring coupons and try to work those in as well.

    http://tipnut.com/?s=coupon is also a great resource and I cannot take credit for my system for I found it on this TipNut.com entry: http://tipnut.com/coupon-organizer-system/

  • Beth - July 09, 2008 @ 12:09 am
    5

    I found that the binder system really works for me. I actually bought a 3ring binder that has file pockets, places for my pens and calculator, and it zips. I am an organization freak so it was well worth the $10. I should mention that my kids are past the diaper bag stage. :) The binder stays in my car at all times. I purchased my inserts from smartspendingresources.com by Faye Prosser.

  • Kama - July 09, 2008 @ 1:25 am
    6

    Cool, thanks for sharing about your system! I use a binder (floppy, 3-ring) with baseball card holders inside. I actually will be talking about it on my blog on Thursday–www.todayshousewife.blogspot.com. It seems to work well at the moment (I’m due in September, so we’ll see how that goes).

  • Lys - July 09, 2008 @ 5:42 am
    7

    Much tidier than my envelopes. Do you really label all your inserts? I thought that they all had the insert details (date etc) on the spine?

  • Lavonne - July 10, 2008 @ 1:57 pm
    8

    Andrea, again you’re a girl after my own heart. I use basically the same system you do, and I LOVE it. I have no time for unnecessary clipping, so doing it this way saves me so much time and frustration.

    I blogged about my system with pics a little while back here:

    http://www.economicendeavors.com/2008/06/organizing-coupons.html

    :) Lavonne

  • Andrea - July 14, 2008 @ 5:32 pm
    9

    Lys, I do label them. I know the date is on the spine, but sometimes I get other regions inserts (thanks to my MIL) and I like to have the info on the front for easy access rather than looking at the small print on the spine.

  • Anonymous - December 06, 2008 @ 12:07 am
    10

    WOW, I have been serious about cutting coupons for a while now, but you all have REALLY serious systems! I just wonder how you know what coupons you have in your inserts if you don’t cut them out and organize them by type. Maybe I’m missing something here…

  • Andrea @ Mommy Snacks.net - December 06, 2008 @ 2:27 am
    11

    Anonymous – since I keep them by insert, I always refer to the Hotcouponworld coupon database to find matching coupons.

    That’s how I match up the store sales each week. It really does shave so much time off your planning and coupon preparation if you just have to clip them once and shop!

    HTH!

  • Anonymous - December 06, 2008 @ 2:58 pm
    12

    Me again! I just registered at hotcouponworld (had never heard of this before!!!!!!) I guess I’m just still confused…I have always made my grocery list based upon the circulars (mainly Meijer, sometimes Kroger) then matched my coupons, then shopped. Do you make your list first then look for deals?? I’d LOVE to save time as well as more money, which is why I LOVE your blog, but I am so confused!!!!

  • Andrea @ Mommy Snacks.net - December 17, 2008 @ 3:43 am
    13

    Anonymous – I make my list of items we need for the week (milk, eggs, produce) and then add items that I have highlighted in my store snacks for the week.

    Since I make the sale lists for you each week, you can simply use the weekly snacks to pull your coupons and not worry about matching the coupons yourself!

    But, if there is an item you need and it’s not on sale or highlighted in one of my snacks for the week, you can search for a coupon using the database at Hotcouponworld.com.

    Hope this helps!

  • Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings - April 23, 2009 @ 8:36 am
    14

    Great way to organize.

    I started the binder method back in the late 90′s and boy has that method taken off and others using a version of it too.

    Glad you are saving with coupons!!

    Have a wonderful day!
    Laura
    formerly known at LWMSAVON
    http://laurawilliamsmusings.blogspot.com/2007/07/lauras-couponing-and-refunding-hints.html

  • Darlene - March 05, 2010 @ 12:04 pm
    15

    I am trying to figure out what method is going to work for me. I have the binder one going, but would love to not spend so much time clipping. Here is a question I have. If I use the insert filing system, suppose there is something I need and it’s not on sale. so no coupon matching listed anywhere, I may have a coupon in one of the inserts for it…how would I know? Ant ideas on this? Am I missing something about organizing the coupons? Please help! Thank you. Darlene

  • Annaliese - March 30, 2010 @ 5:13 pm
    16

    I am actually in the process of converting over to something similar.

    I also write a blog that focuses on my area which has very few national stores. But I also focus on 3 different newspapers that we can get in this area- and they are ALL different in what they get in inserts. Part of my organization is I keep a master excel sheet of the coupons in each insert- what is is, amount, what date it came out, when it expires and what insert & newspaper it is found in. It’s a little time consuming, but it’s my “go to” place when I want to know if I have a coupon for something.

    When I first started couponing I did the binder system, but I just got overwhelmed with all the clipping and felt that I was wasting so much time, especially when I didn’t use so many of the coupons I had clipped before they expired! So- I’ve been filing my inserts by date, referencing my list and trying to keep some of the ones I know I use regularly, or would like to use in my binder that I do bring to the store.

    I’m not sure if I’ve really figured out what works best for me, but I guess even in couponing we all evolve to what works for us! Loved seeing your system and getting ideas!

  • Mandie Cox - August 03, 2010 @ 9:35 pm
    17

    my system is soo easy. i purchased a .99 cent photo book and sewed each page in half vertically. then cut the plastic down almost half way.i labeled each new section…( cheese/milk, mayo/mustard,meat,quick meals,dessert…etc). i cut all my coupons,foldthem in half and file them in their catagory. when i go shopping i have all coupons on hand incase something is on sale or clearence that i didnt know about. if i need shampoo…i lip thru that section ad se how to get bet deal. have used this for 3 years now and i love it and all my friends have switched to my method with great success.

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