ORGANIZING YOUR COUPONS
Cutting coupons from a paper, mailer or magazine or printing them from a website is of little benefit to you if you don't organize your coupons so that you can find the coupon you need or if you don't even know you have that coupon. There are many ways to organize your coupons; you need to find the one that works well for you and one you will continue to use.
Several basics to get you started:
- Develop a coupon filing system You can organize by category--dairy, frozen foods, cereal, canned foods etc. You can organize by aisle (this works best if you shop mainly at one store. This method is also the better option if you take your coupons with you to the store and discover unadvertised sales for which you might have a coupon). You can also sort your coupons by date. This method, however, requires you to sort through all your coupons each trip to the store. (More details on organizing your coupons are listed in the next section).
- Determine what you will keep your coupons in You can use a shoe box or a coupon wallet to start out. However, if you get serious about couponing, you will soon find you need an accordion folder or a notebook (or several notebooks) with slotted sleeves to sort your coupons by whatever method you have settled on using. If you use the accordion folder (or a box), you will also need envelopes to sub divide you coupons by your chosen method.
- Sort and file your coupons as soon as possible The more organized you are, the more money you will save. The more organized you are, the easier couponing is. Therefore, it is important that you file your coupons (either the ones you cut out or the ones that you print out) soon after you acquire them so that they don't get misplaced or thrown away. It is also much easier to sort and file as you go, rather than attack a huge pile of coupons all at once.
- Remove expired coupons on a regular basis Expired coupons don't save you money and they make finding the coupons you need more difficult. Set a schedule for removing expired coupons and stick to it.
COUPON FILING SYSTEMS
One of the first things you need to do is decide what type of system you will use for sorting and organizing your coupons. You need to decide on which filing system best suits your personality and style. The purpose of coupon organization is so you will know where to find a particular coupon and to help you make use of that coupon before it expires. If you try one system and it doesn't work for you, try another. The key is to find one that works best for your personality and that you will consistently use. Bottom line: If you do not effectively organize your coupons, you will not save as much money and you will be less likely to continue couponing.
Alphabetically by product name (i.e. Kellogg's or Kraft). Simply put, you sort your coupons by name A-Z. The biggest problem with this method is remembering how you sorted them. For example, did you sort the Kellogg's Frosted Flakes coupon under K for Kellogg's or F for Frosted Flakes? Did you sort the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese by K for Kraft or M for Mac & Cheese? If you choose this method you must determine how you will classify your coupons (by manufacturer or actual product name) and consistently follow that decision. If you are brand or product loyal, this method works well.
Alphabetically by product type (i.e. Cereal or Laundry Detergent). Again, this is a simple method of sorting A-Z. If you are not brand or product loyal (and to take fullest advantage of coupons you shouldn't be), sorting your coupons by product type, rather than product name makes it easy to save money. For example, you need cereal. If you sort this way, you can search and see if any of your coupons match up with a product on sale. Our kids prefer Cocoa Krispies and Cap'n Crunch but if we have a coupon for Cheerios and it's on sale, we buy Cheerios that week. It is also easier to remember to put the Frosted Flakes coupon under C for Cereal than it is to remember if you put it under K for Kellogg's or F for Frosted Flakes.
Alphabetically by Product category (i.e. Health and Beauty or Dairy or Canned Goods). If you use this method, you will clearly have fewer categories to sort into and some people prefer that. The problem with this method is that, because you have fewer categories, you have many more coupons to sort thorough to look for a particular product or product type. For example, if you need soap and it's in your HEALTH & BEAUTY section, you will have to sort through coupons for make-up, shampoo, Q-tips etc. to find the soap coupons. You also have to remember how you categorized a product. For example, did you put the aluminum foil under BAKING (for example) or did you put it under PAPER PRODUCTS? Did you put the coupons for Ziploc bags under GENERAL GROCERY or SNACKS or PAPER PRODUCTS?
By Expiration date. When sorting coupons by expiration date, you file by the month the coupon expires. For example, you put all your coupons expiring in December together; all those in January together, etc. Using this method makes it much more difficult to find particular coupons as you have to sort through every coupons each shopping trip. However, using this method does make it easier to cull your expired coupons.
By Aisle. When using this method, you sort your coupons by the aisle the product is found on in the store. This method works best for those who shop mostly at one store although many stores have essentially the same layout. Sorting coupons by aisle works really well if you decide to take your coupons to the store with you. You may also find it helpful when sorting by aisle or by expiration date to set up subcategories of similar products to make finding the coupons easier.
By Insert. There are two major coupon inserts that come in the paper: Redplum and Smartsource. A lot of couponers prefer not to cut their coupons until they are going to use them. When you get an insert, it will have a date on it. You put all the Redplum inserts together, sorted by date, and each of the Smartsource inserts together, sorted by date. This method works especially well if you use an on-line website that matches up sales at particular stores with coupons that are available. For example, a site may tell you that Oscar Mayer hot dogs are on sale at your favorite store and that there is a 50 cents off coupon for Oscar May hotdogs in the RP (RedPlum) circular dated 11/12/11 (just a random date for example purposes). You just go to your Redplum inserts, find the one with the correct date and cut out the coupon at that time. In our opinion, if there is a website that provides this information for the store(s) you shop at, this is, by far, the easiest (and best) method to use.
If you choose to file by insert, you will also want to select one of the other methods for organizing your printable coupons. We know many people only print coupons when they are going to use them right away but we suggest you scan the printable sites weekly, print coupons that you feel you will use and file them away.
Regardless of the coupon organization system you choose, you must make sure to cull your expired coupons regularly. Removing the expired coupons will make finding the coupons you need much easier and reduce the frustration of missing a deal because you couldn't find a coupon you just knew you had.