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One thing I have learned about myself over the years is that I tend to accomplish more when I’m organized. My life can get messy if I don’t take the time in advance to organize things!
So, when I took on the whole idea of couponing… I got set up with a coupon binder right away. There are many different ways of organizing one’s coupons, but for me a zippered binder seems to work the best. I’ve taken pictures of my binder and I will explain how I’ve organized it to work best for me.
The binder I use is an old, ripped binder leftover from my kid’s school work last year. 🙂 I didn’t have to spend any money on it this way…. recycling at its finest.
In this picture, you can tell it’s not even zipped at the moment. The front section has a zippered area where I stash the coupons I wasn’t able to use at the register (sometimes this happens and I don’t like to have loose coupons floating in my purse!)
On the inside of my binder, you will notice that I have a pencil case (another leftover from my son). This case carries my papercutter and/or scissors, pens, postit flags and a highlighter. There is also a bunch of notecards just to the left of that case. I often write my store specific lists on these notecards when I’m planning my trip. I also have a calculator in my binder. I’ve found it very handy while at the store to be able to figure out the price on on the spot deals, as well as keep track of my spending on big grocery trips where I didn’t make a complete list. The highlighter and postit notes get used most frequently while going through the ads and planning my shopping trips.
Also included in this particular binder is a very handy accordian file system. This is where I keep my individual store flyers. I also have a section here for “uncut q’s”. There have been times when I bought multiple papers because of a few particular coupons.
So, for those extra inserts, I write a list of all the q’s inside of it, mark the date of the paper as well as the oldest expiration date, and paperclip all of them together. When a big sale comes up on these items, I can quickly scan through to find the coupons I need to cut.
Now, for most of my coupons I precut them all. Even the ones I’m not sure if I’ll use or not. I’ve discovered many new products in the past few months because of this. You’ll be surprised how fun it is to “buy” an item you’ve never tried before because you have a coupon that makes it free! I do however, make a pile of coupons that I KNOW I won’t use (like baby stuff and cat stuff) and I send those on to my coupon train.
I lay them out on my table, separated out into sections that match my binder’s categories… which makes it easier to put them in when I’m all done. Here’s a picture of 2 newspapers worth of coupons! When I have more than 1 paper, I divide each insert and lay the pages flat on top of each other before cutting.. this saves time and finger power!
To organize all of these cut q’s, I’ve placed photo pages that hold 2 toploading 5×7’s into the binder. Each pocket holds a category of coupons. The first page has a section for my Check-out q’s and Re-file q’s. (Sometimes if a store is out of a particular item, I will have to refile my q later) When shopping I start with my “planned” coupons in the refile section and as I put the item in my cart, the q gets moved to the checkout section. This helps speed up the checkout process which makes my cashier happy and the guests in line behind me. 🙂
Now, because I am organized, but also cheap… when I bought dividers for my sections of coupons and discovered they were not wide enough to stick out past the other pages, I created makeshift tabs out of colored index cards. I’ve broken my sections into the following categories for easy page flipping:
Toiletries, Cold items, Boxed/Bagged items, Household/Cleaning items, Store specific/entertainment
Once you flip to that “section” you will then find that each pocket is also labeled. The longer I work at my couponing, the more pockets I end up with. For now this is how I break down my sections and pockets:
Toiletries: Makeup/skincare, Medicines, Feminine Products, Soaps/Lotions, Razors/Shaving, Hair, Deodorant, Tooth Health
Cold: Refrigerated Items, Lunch meats/Cheeses, Meats, Frozen Goods
Boxed/Bagged: Cereal/Breakfast, Snacks, Beverages(not cold), Breads/Fruits, Condiments/Dressings/Spices, Boxed/Pastas/Baking/Canned
Household/Pet:School supplies/Pets, paper Products, Kitchen, Bathrooms, General Household cleaning, Laundry, Household goods (like batteries, lightbulbs etc), Airfresheners/Candles.
Store Specific: Each store I use has a separate pocket for store specific coupons and ECB’s or RR’s.
Entertainment: fast food, restaurants, movies clothing stores etc.
As particular pockets end up getting overfilled, I then subdivide them even more specifiably by adding new pockets.
At the end of each month I go through them all and pull any expired coupons. I’ve heard that some overseas military families are allowed to use expired coupons, but I haven’t actually sent mine on to them yet.
Okay… now that you’ve seen a glimpse of how I organize my coupons. Would you like to see the stockpile I’ve been building? I only started in July… and you need to remember that I’ve spent LESS than I normally spend. And here is my growing stockpile. It’s my very own store of stuff I don’t need to buy anytime soon. 🙂
NEW BINDER PAGES
The longer I coupon, the better organized I become. I found that after awhile the 5×7 pages were getting rather full, and I was often wasting time in the grocery aisle with a handful of coupons looking for one in particular. So, I did some googleing around and found a better format.
I bought a few packages of baseball card holders at Walmart… and now my pages look like this:
Within each “category” section like Toiletries… I then have a sticky tab labeling each page with it’s smaller category, like Deodarant. Then on that page, each slot holds ONE brand. That way, when I’m looking for a particular coupon, I can simply turn the pages and see each one in an instant without removing a whole “pile”.
This system takes a little bit longer when I’m filing them, but it makes everything so much faster and easier to flip through while I’m shopping.
I still keep a section in the front just for CVS and another one for Walgreens. I reused one of those old 5×7 pages to hold rebate forms and additional $/$$ coupons.
Anyway… hopefully this system might be helpful to one of you! It’s paid for itself over and over again… and I love always knowing where my coupons are! You’ll never see me fumbling for that illusive coupon anymore!!!