How to Have More While Spending Less

Monday, February 28, 2011

How To Organize Coupons

If you play your cards right, you’ll find yourself holding multiple copies of each week’s coupon inserts.  Score!   That’s money in the bank, baby!  (& food in your pantry, too!)
But, that excitement can turn into Coupon Claustrophobia in a hot second! 
“What do I do with all of these flyers?”
“Am I supposed to clip ALL of these coupons out individually?”
“If I actually DO, then where do I put ‘em?”
“They just end up expiring anyway, so why bother?”
“It’s a $5 item…it’s NOT worth me combing through this stack of mayhem to find a 35 cent off coupon!”
My BFF Ginger finally gave me the epiphany I needed.   We sat at lunch & I took notes so fast my pencil was smoking! 
She showed me her method AND 2 other variations.
In the end, you should do what works best for you.   Our brains are wired differently & some peoples’ methods would drive me crazy!  Likewise, my method might not be the perfect one for you, so I’ll show you all 3 & let you pick your favorite.  (Even then, you’ll probably end up tweaking it a little along the way.)
Method 1
Keep all coupon inserts in-tact.  Look on the spine for the publishing date & write that in Sharpie on the front (you won’t want to squint & search the spines every time you search for a coupon).
File that insert in an accordion file by date.
Then, when you hear about a hot sale, you can go to the inserts that contain the coupons for those items & cut them out.

Method 2
This is what I do & it’s a tiny variation/expansion of Method 1.
I still keep the coupon inserts in-tact & sort them by date.  BUT, I’ve amassed so many that I have 2 separate accordion files & further sort the inserts by the type of insert
My black & blue file is for SmartSource. 
My purple file is for Red Plum & all the others.  The front pocket in that one is full of P&G, General Mills & any other full pages I come across.  Behind that are my Red Plums in order from oldest to newest.
In addition to these 2 big guys, I keep a smaller accordion file for individual coupons that are small enough to get lost in the big file.  Those are organized by category (freezer, pantry, household, dairy/meat, drinks).  I use the very back pocket of that file for the coupons for my current shopping trip.  I always take that little file into the store with me just in case I run across a sale & have a coupon to match it.

Method 3
Cut out all coupons individually.
Method 3A:  Some people sort them by category like I do in my little file. (dairy, freezer, etc.)

Method 3B:  Other people use baseball card sheets in a 3-ring binder & sort them by individual item.  (Kleenex, Campbell’s Chunky Soup, etc.) 

There you have it.  Those are the 3 main methods I’ve heard the most about.  If you have a creative twist or an entirely different method altogether that works for you, tell me about it & we’ll post it!  The more the merrier.
My personal experience:
Method 3 : Both variations would give me an aneurism.  I tried clipping & sorting by category in the past & about 90% of those ended up expiring.  It wasn’t organized enough & I was frustrated by wasting the time searching through my 75 household item coupons each time I needed toothpaste…then again 2 minutes later for shampoo…
Also, Method 3B lends itself to an additional type of expiration.  Rotation Expiration.  For example, I probably have Kleenex coupons from 12 different weeks right now.  If they were all in my plastic baseball card sheet, chances are good that they’d get at least slightly out of perfect date order.  What if the coupon is long & narrow so you have tiny pockets full of folded up coupons all jammed in together?  There is a distinct probability that throughout those 12 weeks’ worth of Kleenex coupons, at least 1 coupon is out of date order.  Therefore, I will use a newer one & let the older one accidentally expire.  Plus, that robs me of using the one I just used on a later sale.
That being said…some people live by this method.  They’re hardcore, devoted fans & wouldn’t change it for the world.  God bless ‘em.  …& their brains that function much better than mine.  J
Method 1:  I began my Money-Saving Mission using this method.  It’s awesome.  I just gathered too many coupons for it to be practical.  Having 2 separate files cuts my searching time in half.  Simple math.
Method 2:  When I’m parked at the kitchen table on Tuesday nights, it’s like watching a Pit Crew at Talladega!  Every item has its function & they all perform with precision in perfect sync.

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