This is day 4 of Couponing Boot Camp and my hope is that you now have a growing stack of coupons! So what are you going to do with all of them!? I hope that tonight's post will help you to better understand my method of organization and ways that you can use it yourself or adapt it to make it your own. I plan to explore 2 different organization methods in this post so you can decide what will work best for you and your lifestyle. Please understand that I have some perfectionism going on so you do not have to follow this to the letter! I just want to put this out here for you so you get a better understanding of how I organize my mass amounts of coupon gold!
*The 3-ring Binder Method*
For years now I have been aware of this method, but I always thought "who has that many coupons?!" Well now that I KNOW why you need that many coupons, I HAVE that many! I use to use a small expandable file folder to store my coupons, but it became such a hassle to dig through stacks of loose coupons while I was shopping. It was at this point that I decided to get a 3-ring binder to organize them in!
I have chosen a Trapper Keeper style notebook with 3 rings on the inside. I like this book because it zips all the way around and prevents my coupons from falling out or getting wet. On the inside there are several pockets, a pen holder, and a zipper pouch where I put my rebate offers and rain checks (more on that in days to come!). You can easily use a plain 3 ring binder...this is just what I have found to be best for me.
On the inside of my notebook I have a Table of Contents and 40 different categories. I cannot take credit for my categories! I went to www.thekrazycouponlady.com/kclcouponbinder.pdf and printed off the categories that The Krazy Coupon Lady has developed! I will admit that I found her print out to be lacking a few categories that I used frequently. I made categories for "Sweet Snacks, Meat, Bread, and Eye Care" giving me an even 40 categories (see...the perfectionism just oozes sometimes!) and I placed them at the back of my binder. If you would like a copy of the extra categories I have made then please feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send those to you as well! The table of contents is wonderful because it allows me to quickly find the category of coupons I need and then flip right to it. Once I had my categories all printed out I went to Wal-Mart and purchased 2 packages of clear page protectors (25 in each pack) and put each category inside one of the protectors. The category pages are numbered on the bottom side of each page so it makes it very easy to organize and flip to the page quickly. Once my dividers were in place I was ready to start organizing those coupons by category!
In order to clearly see each coupon quickly and easily, I purchased baseball card holders at Wal-Mart. There are 9 pockets on each sheet (as seen below) and makes it easy to flip quickly through each category to locate the desired coupon. At first I just bought one package of the baseball card holders, but I am now on my 3rd pack! I have become more organized within my categories so I needed more holders to separate coupons. The picture below is of my "Breakfast" category and you can see that I have different cereal coupons in each slot. This is totally my preference but I have chosen to put all of my duplicate coupons together in one slot. All of my "Save $1.00 on Total" coupons go in one slot while all of my "Save $.75 on Total" go in a separate slot. I want to be able to easily identify what my options are and how I can best save money while shopping!
You will have to fold many of the coupons in order to get them in the slots, but for the most part I don't have any trouble fitting 5 or 6 of the same coupon in one slot. In the beginning this may become very tedious as you try to group coupons into category and dig through your large pile of coupons to organize them. Once the initial organization has been completed it becomes MUCH easier to add coupons to your categories.
The 3-ring binder method works for me because I am able to locate coupons quickly, but it does require you to actually clip the coupons each week. As we get new coupons in Chad and I work as a team clipping and organizing the coupons. This may not work for everyone due to the large amount of time and scissor work required! If you don't want to clip coupons then this next method of organization is just for you :)
*The Coupon Insert Method*
This second method is for people who may not have time or the desire to clip large amounts of coupons. The idea behind this method is that you save your coupon inserts (Redplum, SmartSource, P&G, etc) as you get them. If you received the Redplum insert in yesterday's mail, as we did, you would use a marker to write yesterday's date across the top of the insert and you would then place it into your folder. Some people use the expandable file folder to place all the coupon inserts from one date together while other people use a 3 ring binder with the page protectors in it. After you date your coupon insert you simply pop it into your file folder or page protector and you leave it until it is time to go shopping. If you do purchase several papers at once and get 4 of the same inserts, you may decide to separate each page of the coupons and staple like pages together. You can then put the stapled pages inside the coupon divider so that you can easily see which coupons are on each sheet.
With this method you will need to be more prepared for your shopping trip by knowing what the sale items are, which items you want to buy, and which coupons you need to clip. This method requires more time being spent right before your shopping trip so that you are prepared with the coupons needed to save big! There are several coupon sites that helps you see what the sales are for the week and which coupon insert (by date) has the coupon you need to save on that item. Here are a few of those sites you may want to check out:
www.thegrocerygame.com *You can try this site for free for 1 month, but then you have to pay*
Choosing a method is totally up to you! I like to spend time slowly browsing each aisle of the grocery store and so having all my coupons available and ready to use seems to work best for me. I have also found that some of the best sales are not always advertised in the sale ad! This past week Chad and I were going through the toothpaste aisle at Kroger and we noticed that there were Reach Flossers that were part of the "Buy 10 save $5.00" sale making them $1.00 each! Low and behold I had a coupon for "Save $.50 off a Reach Flosser" which doubled to $1.00 off thus making that item FREE!! Luckily I had several of these coupons and we were able to take home several of these at no cost. This item was not advertised in the weekly ad and if I had not had my coupons with me..I would have missed out on a freebie :)
I hope that the coupon organization tips I have given you gives you several options for controlling your growing collection of coupons! I can't emphasize enough the importance of having LOTS of coupons. When an item goes on sale at a great price, you want to make sure that you have plenty of coupons to stock up on that item. In my next post I will begin to explain how and why we stock up on items when we find them on sale!
Got questions? Comments? Please leave them below! If you are wondering about something that seems a little unclear then chances are..someone else is also :)