How NOT to Organize Your Coupons

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During my never-ending difficult pregnancy last year, I fell off the frugal wagon. Bargain shopping was the last thing on my mind.

Since then, I am back to using coupons, but not with the same vengeance I once had.

And here is why…

coupon-fail

Yep, that’s several months weeks worth of coupon inserts. In a pile. Next to my empty coupon binder.

I wrote the date on the front of each one, but that’s as far as I got! Sigh.

I love my coupon binder. Really, I do! But it’s just not working for me anymore. My family has grown, along with my blog, and there is not as much time to clip and file these days.

Surely there is a better way. I have been (painfully) reminded that without a well-maintained system for your coupons, you just will not maximize your potential savings.

So there you have it. My big. fat. fail.

Operation organize-my-coupons has begun.

What is your favorite time-saving method for your coupons?

Comments

  1. Susan says

    I think it is more important to file them by category and expiration date as you pull them out. How many times do you pull one out that has expired?

    • Alyssa Francis says

      Ha! Can I borrow him, Katie? I wish mine would volunteer those services. ;) He’ll use coupons, but he does not clip.

  2. Marie says

    I had a huge pile like that too. I was just quite a bit pickier about what I cut out. I only cut out the bare necessities this time (stuff I KNOW I’ll buy).

  3. says

    Shelly (Coupon Teacher) has started to file hers in a file box by the date of the inserts… I’m thinking I may give that a try this year as well! I’m waaaayyyy behind on filing them in my binder too!
    .-= Mandy Roberson´s last blog ..Being Human =-.

  4. Bonnie says

    I have a filing cabinet that I use to sort my inserts by date. I usually have about 10 inserts a week, so I can’t possibly cut them all, so I pan through them while watching tv at night and cut the ones for products that I know I will use/buy at the grocery store. Only those go in my binder. The other inserts are put in folders (I have a color coded system for SS, RP and other, makes it easy to find when I need something) When I put a new weeks in, I find the farthest week left in my cabinet, usually about 4 months back, and cut what remains unexpired, those go in an envelope and the envelopes just add up in the back of the cabinet until they all expire. That enables me to use the folders for the newest week. It really doesn’t take me long at all and I can take a binder to the grocery store and preparing for my other stores with lists from blogs like yours takes minimal time and effort. Something that has really helped me stay organized is a separate little expandable for my purse like one of those that a beginner couponer would use. I have the tabs labeled with the stores that I shop most often, a spot for restaurant and mall coupons, and a spot for rebate receipts. This way, I can stash store coupons, ecbs, rr’s etc. and my list with coupons appropriately for the week. When I sort out my deals for the week on Sunday, I can put everything in there and have it with me and ready all week so that sometime while I’m out I can stop by the appropriate store and do my shopping. I don’t usually go on shopping trips, I just stop by a store when I’m close and have time while I’m out doing other errands. Plus, there are coupons that I find while cutting that I know right away where I will use them, so it’s easier if I file them by store right away. (ie Kotex at Walmart, Johnson’s buddies at Target, Johnson’s first aid at CVS) Sorry for the book, hope this helps someone get organized!

  5. says

    After attending, Myra’s @ My Blessed Life – http://www.myblessedlife.net coupon class, I started using a coupon box sorted by category. After her class, it occured to me that I could use as many categories as I needed. Then I cut and file and it has worked so much better for me.
    .-= Charissa Smith´s last blog ..Raspberry Pink Crochet Beanie Hat with Chocolate Brown Flower – Size Newborn, 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, 12 month, Toddler, and Child Available – Great Photography Prop =-.

  6. says

    I file coupons by grocery department in long, white envelopes. Low-tech, I know, but it fits easily in my purse. I used to sort each envelope by expiration date, but I no longer have time. I also just clean them out the first of every month.. This works well, because the grocery ads are sorted by department as well; I can easily match them up. I then put the coupons for each store in an envelope for that store. I use a grocery list app on my ipod that allows me to mark which items on my list have coupons.

  7. says

    Don’t worry – you’re not alone! Mine looked a lot like that this weekend! I was forced to get them into some sort of an order because I needed to show them for a coupon class for a MOPS group that I did on Monday! So, I showed them two methods – one where you clip & sort & I keep in accordion files (just takes too much time right now for me to do a binder). The other method I use is using a bigger accordion file and keeping the inserts labeled by date. Then, before my shopping trip, I go thru and find the coupons I need & cut them out then. It’s not my ideal method, but at least they’re still organized-in a MUCH shorter amt of time. Definitely my best suggestion for a busy time of life!
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Free Couponing E-Course =-.

  8. Laura says

    I to am way behind but I have a friend coming over at 10 today to see what this saving money thing is all about so this week I have been working on my binder. Having my binder organized is the only way to go for me. I have tried filing cabniets, marking the date on the front of each one and many other methods suggested but when I have my binder organized and in working order I save way more money! Good luck figuring out what works for you…Gotta go;) I need to finish my binder

  9. Jenn Mc says

    I still use a coupon binder, I just put the insert in a page protector with a printed list of the date of the insert and all of the coupons included. (Which sounds tedious but I actually just copy and paste from Taylortown preview).

    HTH!

  10. Kristen Foster says

    I love my coupon box. If you go to 4 best bargains or amazon they sell coupon organizer boxes. There are different sizes. I just have the smallest one. We have a small family with no pets so it works really well for me.

  11. Lindsay says

    I’m loving my box right now! I’ve tried several ways to organize, but since I’ve been using the box (for several months now) I’ll never go back! I’m so happy to not have to fit the coupons into the little baseball card holders in my binder anymore, or to have to sort through inserts over and over before my trips.

    My box is a medium sized accordion folder that is divided into my main categories. I have envelopes behind each section to further divide them. I cut as I watch TV, sorting them into piles on the coffee table for their categories. When I’m done cutting, I just put each pile immediately into its corresponding envelope. That’s it! It’s SO much easier than what I used to do, and very easy to use at the store.

  12. Leigh says

    I pay my son 25 cents to cut and sort my coupons. I also give him 25 cents to (sadly) look through my binder for expired coupons.

    Since I’ve become pregnant I, too, have been a bit lazy with the coupons.

  13. Melinda says

    Oh my, that’s what my binder looks like – a big ol’ stack of inserts right next to it, untouched. I just had a baby 2 months ago, but I think it’s time to get back into the swing of things. Let us know what you come up with!

    • Alyssa Francis says

      It must be the baby thing. Seems like as soon as those little people arrive, all routine flies right out the window! Sigh.

  14. says

    Are you sure you didn’t take that picture at my house??!! I’m an envelope-coupon-organizing-gal. Right now the envelopes are rather empty and the stack of inserts is rather high. I’m right there with y’all trying to get back into the swing of things!
    .-= Joy´s last blog ..In The News!! =-.

  15. SarahMay says

    A few months ago I started using the save-the-whole-insert method. It has revolutionized my couponing!

    I know the theory behind cutting out coupons each week and filing them (in a binder or a box) is that you can bring all the coupons with you for matching up with unexpected deals and markdowns. However, unadvertised specials and decent clearance sections are hard to come by in my area, so I rarely (um… never) used any when I hauled the WHOLE coupon box with me.

    Now I file the inserts by date. When I menu plan/deal plan, I pull out the correct insert(s), clip the coupon(s) that I need, and I’m done. It has saved me SO MUCH time and is a system that I have been able to stay on top of for several months now. With three children under four, that’s sayin’ something!

  16. says

    Ooo – I like the system Mandy posted the link to in the previous comment! Sadly, I am much like you right now – I write the date on the outside of the insert, put it in a pile, and it is just not fully utlized. I know I am missing out on some big opportunities.
    – But now I am inspired – thanks to your cry for help, we all can learn!
    .-= Keri´s last blog ..Be in Prayer. =-.

  17. Toni says

    http://cheapomcfrugalpants.blogspot.com/2009/01/tackle-it-tuesday-coupon-overload.html

    I cut all of the coupons out, organize them into VERY few categories, and put them in my little ole’ file box. The secret for me – is to not get behind. Plain and simple. If I cut them out and file RIGHT away – it takes no time at all. Seems like I’ve been couponing so long that I sort of “know” if I have coupons for items or not, ya know what I mean? I try to cut them out when something else is going on – like, if the guys are watching tv, I’ll sit in there with them and cut away – or while dinner is cooking I’ll cut a few more. Just seems to work that way for me :)
    .-= Toni´s last blog ..[Almost] Wordless Wednesday =-.

  18. Toni says

    I failed at the binder method. I just couldn’t keep it up. I went back to the coupon box. I have lots of categories. My DD helps with clipping & sometimes will even help file them. I now need a bigger box!

  19. says

    I buy 5 – 20 papers a week depending on the week and what will be in them. I (or actually my son) will lay them out on a table and sort them all by pages, laying all page ones together and page two’s together and so on, then I staple each stack on every coupon making sure not to staple the barcode or date or mailing instructions. Then I file each insert into dated folders folders. When I need a particular coupon I pull that stack and can cut them right away. The staples hold the pages and coupons together and then I have a nice little stack of the same coupon stapled together and cut out! Works for me!
    .-= Dian´s last blog ..WalMart Deals – Updated 1/15 =-.

  20. Helene says

    I would’ve taken a picture of my pile -on the edge of the dresser, on my desk, on my oh nevermind-they are everywhere just like yours-only more piles -but my camera needs to be charged :-)
    I can’t do the binder method, I tried and wasted too much time with the coupon box.
    I opted for Jill’s method (jillcataldo.com) of filing the inserts. However we are now entering week three of the new year coupons and my inserts are sitting in a plastic bag.
    .-= Helene´s last blog ..Blogs You May Have Missed =-.

  21. Liz says

    I know how you feel about the coupon organizing. I use a photo box that is not plastic, so it’s sturdy. I’ve seen real nice ones at Michael’s. I also have another tip for you & your follows, my daughter is in 3rd grade & she has gym once a week, so I have her wear her sweatpants & school gym shirt to bed the night before. This saves us time in the morning at least one day a week & she gets to sleep a little longer. Hope it helps. Thanks for all the great info. you share with us. Take care.

  22. lynn says

    I file the inserts in a binder in page protectors. When most of the coupons in an insert has expired, I cut out the onsie twosies and use baseball card holders in the back of my binder. Using couponmom regional list of coupons helps me identify when I can cut and toss an insert! I thought about clipping each one and doing the category binder, but really with my baby, I am not lugging that thing to the store. I plan my trip and clip when I need to.
    .-= lynn´s last blog ..FREE Breakstone Doubles | Stop & Shop =-.

  23. Michelle says

    Through the years I have tried several methods of saving coupons. What works for me now may seem simple for some but it works for my busy life. After cutting only the coupons I think I would use I store them in a single small folder that can be opened and thumbed through. The new coupons go in the front and the older coupons which will expire first keep moving their way toward the back.
    I use the ads to make my grocery list then find and pull the coresponding coupons, placing them in the front of the file. When I find the item on my grocery list I pull the coupon from the file. While standing in line at the grocery I take that time to pull out the expired coupons and look for other coupons I might have missed that I bought corresponding items for. Seems to work for me.

  24. mary fuentes says

    I feel your “pain”. I’m in the same boat. I’m still couponing, however not organized and I so want to be organized again!

    But with 2 jobs, keeping up with kids,the home,etc I just have so little time. I need to find a new way to get organized!!!
    .-= mary fuentes´s last blog ..Update!!! =-.

  25. Karrie says

    I got a accordion style craft box,with a handle. (used for scrapebooking decorations) I then labled the permenent dividers with main categories like cans, boxes, drinks, meats, dairy, frozen, paper, bath, cleaning, personal , health, other, ect. Then I bought large file cards and trimed the tops like a tab. Then I labeled each one for all kinds of sub-categories. So like in cans, the file card tabs would read Tomatoes, fruit, vegetables, meats, potatoes, ect. Then it was very easy finding coupons. I left the first slot emtpy to put “pulled” coupons in as I shopped.

  26. Tiffany says

    Alyssa-

    I am with you! My new system is putting some of those folders I got free at CVS to work. I just put them in the folder, date it, and put them in a canvas bag.

    I like it better when I could see them all, but it started to be too much. Folders are easier to stick them in! Plus pretty to look at when they are colorful :)

    Tiffany
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..Walgreen’s Deals & Coupon Match Up 1-17 =-.

  27. says

    I liked Karrie’s idea. I have a little accordion styled one from the Dollar Tree..and I hate it. There are too many categories clumped together. My problem with coupons has always been I can get a better deal with store brand items than the ones for the coupons. Am I doing it wrong??
    .-= Tonya´s last blog ..eHow Again =-.

  28. Jan says

    I think the worst thing to do is cut your coupons out. I write the date on the front of each insert and file each month in a folder. Then when I check a blog site or HCW or another site- I know just which insert to check. I spend about an hour a week researching my grocery list and pulling coupons. I think the majority of the coupons are online now anyway- so I don’t wast time clipping. I save about 3 months at a time and then throw them out- they will be expired.

  29. says

    Take heart…mine looked like that 2 weeks ago. Then we got a big snow (I don’t go out in the snow). So, I sat by my fire and cut, clipped and organized for about 4 hours total. Now, it’s completely up to date..and I got a ton of FREE groceries this week!
    .-= Julie @Kingdom Klipper´s last blog ..My Points.com =-.

  30. teresa says

    The binder works so well for me. This month alone I have saved $170.00 by using the coupons and the store sales. I have my binder divided by categories. No matter which store I choose I can quickly flip through my binder to find coupons for that section of the store. I’m addicted now!

  31. says

    I am just getting started with a new method myself. I am trying plastic zip envelopes that I can lable and yet still see through. They work well in my small coupon tote but the tote is not very travel friendly so I’m not sure about that part of it.
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..Still Learning =-.

  32. says

    I’ll try to make this simple because it really is . . . just takes a little to explain it well. :)

    I use two long envelopes, two different colors. One is for food and the other is for non-food. (I think I had to cut the dividers out of them the last time since that’s all I could find. More dividers saves time!) If you don’t have a ridiculous amount of coupons, one envelope would probably work. I make my own dividers out of card stock and then use mailing tape to reinforce the tabs and also the whole envelope. Once they are set up they last me for a few years. However, they do take awhile to set up, but I love that it’s exactly what I want it to be.

    Now the best part . . . the simple purging method. I file all the coupons I get in the back of each section, unless I get them late and happened to notice they are about to expire while I am filing. I don’t worry about putting them by date since that takes too long. I organize on a two month cycle. At the beginning of the first month (ideally, that is!) I go through each section and pull the current month of expiring coupons to the front and put the next month behind those. Everything else I leave mixed up behind them. The next month, I get a break. I just quickly pull out all the front ones that have expired. I miss some, but it gets the majority of them out. Then, on the third month, I go back to pulling the current month in front and the next month behind, etc, etc. I have tried various methods and this is what has worked the best. It’s not for a perfectionist, but it’s for the time savers out there who can handle an occasional coupon that gets in the wrong spot.

    Another huge time saver is that I always attempt to do the filing and organizing when my husband is driving, since I’m not a TV watcher. I keep my coupons in the car, so they’re always there and I can get a little bit done even on short trips. I can even hold a conversation at the same time! :)

    Oh, some of my tabs are for the individual stores that I frequent. As I pull coupons for a specific store’s list, I file them there. They are ready for my trip to that store. I also keep all the Register Rewards, Extra Care Bucks, rainchecks, etc, in each store’s designated section.

    Sorry for the length of this, but I hope it helps somebody who likes to cut them. It has been a huge time saver for me!

    Thanks for highlighting some great deals that are out there!

    Juli
    sjlonas@gmail.com
    .-= Juli´s last blog ..Joy’s Birthday Party =-.

  33. says

    That looks kind of like my coupon collection at the moment, a nice big empty coupon binder, sitting next to numerous inserts, sigh….

    I always have good intentions, but usually I alllow something else to come before coupon clipping and filing. Maybe soon I’ll get in the swing of it!
    .-= Liz´s last blog ..Why I’m Going… =-.

  34. Cindy says

    I use several methods together to keep my coupons in order. I use a large plastic file box with hanging folders and file weekly, uncut by date as I usually have 2 or more newspapers each week depending on how good the coupon selection was. Then I also have a binder that I file my printed coupons and any oddball loose coupons from the newspapers (those would be ones that I have cut so many from that only a few remain unexpired). My favorite way to carry my coupons to shop at the store I stumble upon by accident. I picked up an old zipper pencil case of one of my children, the kind you put in a 3 ring binder. This one has 2 zipper compartments and I love it. I carry my coupons to the store in it and as I go though getting my items and know for sure I am using a coupon I move it to the other section, and the ones I find I am not using I leave in the section I had them in, so when I get to the checkout my coupons are sorted. Before this I was dropping them trying to keep track of them. Now even during the week when I am printing and know there is a sale i will go ahead and put the coupons in my zipper pouch. I like it so good I have started using another pouch and put coupons for my drug store deals in it as I print them during the week, so when I am ready to go, I just need to go to the file then and cut out the newspaper coupons.

  35. KimH says

    I’ve been promising to share my way of coupon organization for a while, so here it is.
    When I first started couponing a year ago, I tried other methods but this is what works for me. Its fast, its efficient and I like it.

    There are 5 parts to my coupon organization.

    Sunday Coupon Inserts

    I buy 4 copies of the Sunday paper for the coupons and I usually wait till Monday to get them half price.
    Then, I write the date in large letters on the front page and I collate them and put each page group in a page protector so I can flip thru each page easily when I want to look thru them.
    I also print a copy of the weeks coupons description with the value & expiration date from one of the coupon blogs and put it in a page protector in front of that weeks coupons for those occations when Im searching for a specific coupon and I don’t already have the information I need to find it.
    I dont write all the info on the coupons, expiration dates etc etc.
    I go to Dealseekingmom.com and l do a search for the Coupon Insert Schedule and click on the weeks link Im interested and copy & paste & print it.

    This way of “filing” these coupons is fast & easy to do and it takes about 5 minutes each week.

    Another benefit is when I want one specific coupon, I just pull out one group of the collated page & I only have to cut once, no matter how many copies I have. I can cut 4 or 10 at one time, depending on how many I have that week.

    You can see where the Dentyne gum coupon was has been cut out. There were 8 copies of this particular page and I only had to cut once.

    This 4 inch binder will hold between 3 & 4 months worth of coupon inserts done this way.
    The coupons older than that have generally expired and the few that haven’t are in the back in a page protector where I can see them.

    I recently made another binder specifically for Proctor & Gamble coupons which expire usually in 1-2 months. Also I put Red Plum coupons in here since I don’t get them on a regular basis.
    I organize this binder the same way as I do the Smart Source Coupons.

    The Weekly Deals Binder

    I read quite a few coupon blogs. I sign up for their daily emails and I’ll remember some of the deals but to be honest, Im not good at it or remembering where I read something so I started copying & pasting the deals Im interested in.

    At first, I kept them with my pages of printed coupons (waiting to be cut) but I found that I would lose them and it just wasn’t working for me very well. I really hate having to search for anything.

    I made a weekly deal binder in which I have more page protectors. I’ll copy & print either a deal or a stores “deals” for that week and I’ll put it in the binder in an area I’ve placed a divider with that stores name on it.

    This really works well for me. I’ll toss the papers out when the dates have passed unless it’s a deal that I think may be ongoing like many from Target or Walgreens which are monthly deals.
    This keeps the weekly deals all in one place and Im not shuffling thru dozens of papers looking for them .
    Often the bloggers will have new deals or find something they missed earlier so this is my way to keep them all together. For some reason, I like flipping thru pages. 

    I often put the coupons for a deal Im interested in inside the page protector along with the page and pull out the pages & coupons when Im going into a store instead of taking the binder in with me.
    I also use a highlighter to mark deals I want to do for sure and then will highlight the coupons I have for that deal as well. Makes looking at it easier for me..

    My Purse Organizer
    I have one of those little plastic coupon organizers that I keep in my purse and I’ll put the coupons from the binder into the corresponding stores tab before I go shopping. I usually take the binder with me wherever I go, but I rarely take it inside.

    Printable, Mailer, & Other Coupons

    I also have a lot of printable coupons and I’ve been working on finding the best & fastest way to organize them.

    I got this little accordion box organizer recently which is about 8”x5”x4”.
    Once the coupons are cut out, I’ll file them in the proper location. At the moment I don’t have all my printable coupons in here but this is what Im working on (or thinking about) getting up to date.;-)

    I’ve had the most difficult time with the printable coupons and I’ve tried all sorts of different methods but I think this one is the one that will work best for me.
    I need to spend a couple hours to get this project up to date.

    Rebates & pdf files

    I have a folder on my computer where I keep copies of rebates and pdf files of different coupons when they’re available. I can print some now & print more later if I want to. Also I can quickly find a rebate Im interested in if I need to print it.

    I keep track of the rebates I do by printing a copy of I, making a copy of the filled in form and receipt and put it in another binder..
    I make a note of the date that I mail it & write the date I receive the check too.
    This way, I know if I’ve done a specific rebate and when.

    So, there ya go. This is how I do it. :D

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