I can promise you won’t ever see me on television (or in print) with advice on how to save tons of money using coupons. I also don’t have a stash of toilet paper to last us to next Christmas hidden in our basement which was really too bad the year we woke up on Christmas day only to discover we were out of toilet paper! I’ve never been so thankful for Walgreens being open on Christmas in my entire life. I do though use coupons to save us money on the things I routinely buy and occasionally use a coupon to try a new product. I also love to get a deal! Here is how I keep my couponing organized and from taking over my time and sanity.
First, I let others do the work! I am very appreciative of the great money-saving couponing sites that are out there on the Internet! MoneySavingMom is my very favorite although I confess I enjoy her other posts as much if not a little more than the ones featuring freebies and coupon match-ups. When I am in coupon mode (and sometimes I am not), I always check KansasCityMamas for the grocery store deals before shopping. Another deal blogger, Hip2Save highlights her favorite CVS and other drugstore coupon match-ups in red which I love because I see the best deals at a glance!
Once you start trying to coupon, then keeping all the coupons organized becomes a bit of a challenge. I can remember my dad keeping his coupons organized in an empty check box and going through them before making a trip to the store. I honestly can’t remember if he actually took the box with him to the store or just the coupons. I have tried cutting the coupons out and having a coupon organizer in my purse in the past. That method didn’t work very well for me. I tend to get hung up on the categories on the organizer and then all my coupons were winding up in the front of the thing. I don’t find those organizers like you buy at the stores to be very sturdy either. After reading a bit about how some of my favorite bloggers listed above organized their coupons and getting a bit frustrated when I couldn’t find say the 10/14 SS bread coupon I wanted to use (translation for non-coupners: The bread coupon from the 10/14 Smart Source Insert), I came up with the following system that works for me. I keep all my coupon inserts together and scribble the date across the front with a Sharpie.
I can see the date of the insert at a glance by using a Sharpie to write it on the front.
This way when I read about a deal, I can quickly access the insert and cut the coupon out right before I go out shopping. So if I am grocery shopping, I go on-line and get all the deals and cut out any coupons I’m planning to use (as well as print any I might want to use. I have found though that many times the same coupon is in the insert and unless I want to buy double the products, I usually save my printer ink and use the coupon from the paper!). Once I have done that, I have a pile like this:
Coupons that are coming with me to the grocery store.
I then take all those coupons and sort them according to the grocery store aisles. Yes, I have a mental image of the layout of my local grocery store. Doesn’t everyone?
Coupons sorted by grocery aisles.
In the above photo, you can see a preview of my ultra-fancy super expensive coupon organizer! Have you spotted it yet?
My grocery store essentials: my coupon envelope and my calculator.
Yes, that is right. I use a plain business envelope to store my grocery coupons when I go out shopping. They are already in order from the previous sort so no need for dividers. The envelope keeps them from falling to the bottom of my purse and keeps them together. I simply pull out the coupons I’m going to use as I’m shopping. It is also a handy place to jot a quick item or two I MUST buy (I am quite defiant when it comes to making a proper grocery list but really I buy pretty much the same things each trip and mostly just make sure I spend a certain percentage of my budgeted amount of money on produce while attempting to avoid as many products as I can that contain High Fructose Corn Syrup–try not putting any items containing THAT ingredient in your cart and see how much you save! You can read more about my grocery store method here).
What do I do with my coupon inserts when they aren’t in use? Well, for a while they were ahem all over the bedroom floor but when I am in serious coupon mode, I do use a binder. It is just slightly fancier than my coupon organizer!
My recycled coupon binder is not pretty but it gets the job done!
Inside the binder, I simply have some of these pocket folders where I store the inserts (I do keep my inserts filed in date order so I can find them quickly as well as go through once in a while and weed out the really old ones).
The pocket folders inside my binder.
I know there are couponers out there with better and fancier systems probably saving a lot more than I do. I have read about the binders with the baseball card sleeves and other organizers that can be carried into the store. I was quite in awe of a woman in the store one day using one of these methods while herding her small children. My children are older and still trying to coupon with them in tow gives me quite the headache! Do I get every deal with my casual system? Nope. I probably miss quite a few but I still save money while preserving my time and sanity. Maybe someday I’ll be a serious binder carrying couponer but for now my casual couponing style is working quite well. Oh and in case you are concerned, we buy our toilet paper at Sam’s Club now so the likelihood that we’ll wake up to no tp on Christmas isn’t a concern anymore.
Are you a casual couponer or are you more serious about it?