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Apr
11
2013

Couponing 101 Lesson 2: Organizing & Storing Coupons

BOGO_free - Copy - Copy (2) - Copy

If you read yesterday’s lesson then you know where and how to obtain coupons but what do you do with them after you have them?  Today I’m going to talk about how to store your coupons at home and how to keep them organized for shopping.

Home Storage:

You’ll remember in lesson one we encouraged you to get and keep several copies of the weekly coupon inserts. This gives you multiple coupons on the same item so you can stock up when you find a sale or clearance.

But where do you put them all and how do you keep them easy to find you may ask?  Well, I have manilla folders that I put each week’s inserts in.  I label the outside of the folders with the date the coupon inserts were found in the newspaper.  I do this in pencil so I can erase and use the folders over and over.   I have a file cabinet that I keep my folders in but you can use a plastic container like Rubbermaid or even a cardboard box will work.  The file cabinet  stays in my garage but you could use a closet, laundry room or home office.  Having your coupons organized this way saves so much time because you don’t have to cut out every single coupon.  When you see a deal listed on the blog telling you where to find the coupon, you just flip through your folders, find the right date and cut out your coupon!  Keep your inserts for at least 8 months.  I know that sounds crazy but some coupons don’t expire up to a year and you never know what’s going to be on sale a few months down the road.  I was able to get Dole canned fruit for $.25 each because I had kept my inserts from 4 months back that had Dole coupons in them.

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Another way to organize those inserts is to use hanging files instead of envelopes. Just label the outside of the file with the date the inserts came out and pop them into the file and hang in your file cabinet etc.

Use what ever system works for you as long as your coupons are organized and easy to locate.

Organizing Coupons for Shopping:

Although I keep most of my coupons at home, I always keep the coupons that I know I’m going to use with me.  For example:  My cat loves Friskies Party Mix treats.  Any time I see these coupons I cut them out and keep them in my coupon binder.  My grocery store doubles coupons up to $1.00 so I know I can get them free or cheap.  Having those coupons with me all the time keeps me from missing out on unadvertised sales and I can pick up a pack every time I’m in the store.

If you’re new to couponing you might want to start out with a small, simple coupon organizer that you can get pretty cheap at dollar stores.  These are small plastic or cardboard accordian style coupons holders that will fit right in your purse.  After you’ve been couponing awhile you’ll want to advance to a coupon binder or large accordian-style box with handle.

Binders: There are different binders to choose from……just depends on your preference.  You can use a regular 3-ring, 2- 3 inch school binder (this is my preference) or one of those nylon binders that zip up all the way around.   Using  a binder makes it easy to shop because I can turn it on it’s side in the grocery basket and have all my divider tabs sticking up where I can see them making my coupons a lot easier to find.  Many couponers use plastic see through baseball card holder sheets to store their coup0ns in.  There’s usually 9 slots per page to put coupons in which makes it easy to see what you have because you can see 9 coupons at a glance.  If you don’t like to use baseball card holders try using a zippered see though pencil holders to separate your coupons.  You can just put all your dairy coupons into one zippered pouch, beverage coupons into one zippered pouch etc. etc.  To make finding your coupons easier you need divider tabs labeled with all your different coupon categories.  You can find plastic and paper 3 hole punched divider tab sheets in the school section of the store.  I usually buy all my stuff at Walmart because it’s cheaper there and they have a wider selection.

Here’s some suggestions for dividing your coupons into categories:

  1. Baby ( diapers, wipes, formula, baby shampoo etc.)
  2. Baking ( cake mixes, baking powder, baking soda, frosting etc.)
  3. Beverages (soda, water, coffee, tea, kool-aid, juice etc.)
  4. Bread and Crackers (frozen, fresh, mixes, refrigerated, saltines etc.)
  5. Canned (Chef Boyardee, soup etc.)
  6. Candy ( any candy, gum etc.)
  7. Cereal ( hot cereals, cereal, cereal bars etc.)
  8. Cookies & Snack Crackers
  9. Condiments ( mustard, mayo, BBQ sauce, salt, pickles, peanut butter, salad dressing etc.)
  10. Cleaners
  11. Dairy ( butter, sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese, eggs, milk etc.)
  12. Frozen (ice cream, frozen dinners, frozen pizza etc.)
  13. HBA (health & beauty)
  14. Make-up (cosmetics and facial care items)
  15. Meat ( frozen , canned and fresh)
  16. Medicine (pain relievers, band aids etc.)
  17. Misc. ( light bulbs, batteries, air fresheners etc.)
  18. Paper ( toilet tissue, paper towels, foil, napkins, paper plates, plastic bags etc.)
  19. Pasta ( pasta and pasta sauce, rice)
  20. Pets ( food, treats, toys, flea and tick medications)
  21. Produce (fresh, frozen & canned)
  22. Snacks ( chips, popcorn, fruit snacks, pudding cups etc.)

staples_mini_binder

All though I prefer a binder, there have been times when I’ve had to use  a large 26 pocket accordian-style coupon holder. I had a really nice notebook binder that I kept in my car but when our neighborhood flooded, my car flooded, and my binder was no more!  I spent days drying out my coupons, but that’s another story.  I needed something quick and easy and when I saw this storage box at Walmart I grabbed it.  The advantages of the accordian-style storage is that it already has divided compartments with plastic tabs attached. I just filled out my catagories on the perforated white paper that was included, slipped them into the plastic tabs and threw in my coupons! It couldn’t have been easier.

If you’d like something smaller, we recommend the Coupon Possible mini binder. It’s very well made and reasonably priced!

coupon_possible_binder

You can also purchase a mini binder at Staples. They even have the small coupon inserts made especially for mini binders. If your Staples is out of the inserts or doesn’t carry them you can order online and have them shipped free to your local store. :)

The only problem with the binders at Staples is there are no divider tabs that work with the coupon pages. The ones available for the mini binders aren’t long enough to stick out past the coupon pages so it makes it hard to locate your categories. Before I obtained my Coupon Possible binder I made my own divider tabs by cutting down a large one, making a template. I then made enough to fill my binder and used reinforcement tabs around the holes I punched in my homemade dividers before putting them in my binder.

 No matter which organizer you choose you need to include the following:

  • A copy of your store’s coupon policy:  Ask at the customer service desk if they have a written policy.  Some stores have them on their website.  There are always cashiers that think they know their store’s coupon policy but don’t.  Having the store policy with you will help solve any problems that come up. If that doesn’t work ask for the manager. CLICK this link for our list of store coupon policies.
  • Calculator:  You’ll need this to calculate the price of an item after use of the coupon. For example if an item is 3/$5.00  and you have a $1.00/1 coupon, use your calculator to divide $5.00 by 3 to get price per item so you’ll know how much you’re going to spend.  Use the calculator to keep track of what your spending during your shopping trip.  I use my calculator a lot at CVS figuring out how much my out of pocket expense is going to be after coupons so I know how best use the EB’s I have.
  • Small Notebook and Pen:  These are something I use a lot!  I write down prices of items on clearance so I can check the coupon data base for coupons to use on them.  If I see an unadvertised great deal but don’t have the coupons with me I write it down so I won’t forget.  If I see a new product I’d like to try, I write it down so I can remember to watch for coupons.

So  you know where to get coupons, what to do with them after you get them, now it’s time to learn how to use them at the store.  Join me next week for Lesson 3: How Shop With Coupons.

If you missed Lesson 1- Coupons: Where To Find Them you can find it HERE

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About the Author

has written 16316 posts on ConsumerQueen.com.

Queen Mum does all of our store matchups and misc deals.She also Helps Melissa with Coupon Classes.

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  • Lacie9 September 10, 2010, 8:10 PM

    I recently decided to go the route of storing the coupon inserts intact rather than cutting them out individually. I love it so much. When I was cutting them out….I grew to despise my coupons!

    Reply
  • Queen Mum September 11, 2010, 3:46 AM

    It's so much easier to just store them and cut out when necessary……I'll never go back to cutting them ALL out again!

    Reply
  • TheConsumerQueen September 11, 2010, 9:11 PM

    Yes I agree so much easier!

    Reply
  • Amy C. March 6, 2011, 8:12 AM

    To learn what works best for you, I strongly recommend experimenting with a few different organizational systems for several months. You might find it easiest to start with the intact-insert method described above, or clip just the coupons you know you’ll use, carrying them to the store in your wallet or an envelope. Due to the greater initial investment of time and money, I’d hold off on the coupon binder method until you know whether or not the simpler systems are enough for you.

    As a new couponer, I’ve been experimenting with all three methods for the past four months. My conclusion: to use a combo coupon binder/filed insert method. Why?

    1) I do best when I can see all of my coupons in one quick glance.
    2) The act of clipping and filing my coupons into the baseball card holders cements them in my memory.
    3) I’m prepared well in advance for any shopping trip.
    4) I’m able to immediately take advantage of unadvertised deals.
    5) I have all the coupons available for possible money-making (overage) deals.

    What I do is clip and file into the binder just my very favorite coupons – those for products I buy regularly, want to try, or that match store deals I plan to take advantage of that week.

    I keep the remaining coupons in the insert, then file them in a portable file box. The reason I keep these less-desirable coupons is 1) to share with friends who might want them; 2) for trading; and 3) for taking advantage of unforeseen money-making deals.

    Summary: Experiment, then choose whatever method best suits your temperament, time and energy needs.

    Have fun and Happy Shopping!

    Reply
    • Queen_Mum March 6, 2011, 9:34 AM

      Well said Amy! I do the same with the exception of the baseball card inserts. I don’t have the time to put each and every coupon in a card slot so I have those see thru zippered pencil holders and just put all of my dairy coupons in one, frozen foods in one etc. I like the baseball card method, I just don’t have the time to do it. I too keep my inserts in a file but since I keep them for up to a year (I’ve found really good unadvertised sales using coupons from inserts that came out months before the sale) I can’t carry them with me because it’s too many. I keep mine in a file at home. Sometimes I carry the most recent coupon inserts with me just in case I see something new. Thanks for sharing!!

      Reply
  • Myloe April 4, 2011, 8:32 PM

    If you keep those inserts at home filed and for so long, how do you know when do get them? And how can they help you or do you have to leave the store, go home, get them, and come back?

    Reply
    • Queen_Mum April 4, 2011, 10:45 PM

      Myloe, You know when to use them by following a blog that lists the weekly ad deals for the store (or stores) you shop at. Take Homeland Grocery here in OK. Every week I post the weekly ad deals. I post what item is on sale, what coupon to use and where to find it in your file and how much it will cost after you use the coupon.
      For Example: I’m just making this up lol!!
      Tide Detergent 40-oz. $2.99
      Use $1.00/1 any Tide Detergent SS 3-13-11 (doubled)
      Final price: $.99

      You plan your trip, & organize your coupons before you go to the store. Now you can cut out all the coupons every week if you want. There’s nothing wrong with doing that but if you have a lot of inserts it’s going to take you a long time. Yes, the down side to not cutting every one of them out is that you may see an unadvertised deal that you have a coupon for but it’s at home. I always cut coupons I know I will use for sure right when the insert comes out in the paper and I put it in my binder so I always have them for a deal.

      Reply
  • myrna May 12, 2011, 8:29 AM

    So inserts last for up to a year or some do?
    I really have tons of time for couponing but is clueless as too my stores do double coupons or not.

    Reply
    • Queen_Mum May 12, 2011, 8:48 AM

      What we’re saying is that some of the coupon in the inserts don’t expire for a year so you should keep them for a future sale:)

      Reply
    • Queen_Mum May 12, 2011, 8:50 AM

      The best thing to do is call the stores you shop at and ask if they double and what are their rules about it (ie what do they double up to and how many of each particular coupon will they accept for doubling)

      Reply
  • Sierra May 12, 2011, 10:38 AM

    Ok i dont understand the whole $1/1 thing could you explain it to me. I’m trying to understand as you can tell im very new to this.

    Reply
    • Queen_Mum May 12, 2011, 3:06 PM

      Sierra, I’m not sure which part you mean but if it’s the part about taking a calculator with you let me see if I can help. Most stores will put things on sale for say 3 for $5.00. Now most of the time you don’t have to buy three of them, because the store will let you just buy one if you want. For example: at the store Dial Soap is 3 for $5.00. You only have one $1.00 off 1 coupon so you only want to buy one. You’ll need the calculator to tell you how much they are apiece. $5.00 divided by 3 is $1.67 so each one you buy will be $1.67 or 3/$5.00. Since you only have one $1.00/1 coupon you’ll buy the one Dial Soap for $1.67, use your $1.00/1 coupon and get it for $.67.

      Reply
  • Lauren May 20, 2011, 9:48 AM

    I am really grateful for the vast collection of knowledge that I have been able to get from this website! I found a zip up binder at Walmart for $10 that has pockets on the outside for my scissors and such and it even has a hook for me to keep my car keys while I am shopping, which has all my store rewards cards on it. I was able to get all my baseball card plastic holders for FREE! I just dug up that old 3 ring binder my husband had in a tub that held all of his childhood baseball card collection and simply repurposed them for something a little more useful. He didn’t mind at all. He is actually looking forward to saving money. On only my 2nd couponing trip I saved over 50% on my total order!

    Reply
    • Queen_Mum May 20, 2011, 3:01 PM

      Great job Lauren and thanks for the info!!

      Reply
  • Lynn August 29, 2011, 12:14 AM

    How do I find the blog that lets you know where the sales are and the date of the flyers?

    Reply
    • Queen Mum August 29, 2011, 1:26 AM

      Lynn all you have to do is click on “find my store” tab on the homepage of our website ConsumerQueen.com (the website is the blog) once you click on “find my store” click on the store you want to see the deals for and all the most resent deals will come up:)

      Reply
  • Jan September 29, 2011, 10:44 PM

    This site is so great. I’ve learned a lot from reading the questions people posted. I’ve use coupons in the past but I really want to help save on our budget more. I can’t wait to start. Thank you for the website.

    Reply
  • Jan September 29, 2011, 11:01 PM

    I think I know the SS means it’s in the Sunday sale ads but what does RP mean? See below for an example.

    Use $1.00/1 Nivea For Men Body Wash 16.9-oz RP 7-31-11 (exp. 9-30)

    Are there any other abbreviations we need to know?

    Thank You.

    Reply
  • Jan September 30, 2011, 1:41 PM

    Thank you so much Princess Karen. I never realized the name on the Sunday coupons. I printed the list to learn the lingo. For those of you reading this asking the same question, the lingo is under Lesson 5.

    TY

    Reply
  • Helen January 17, 2012, 10:38 AM

    I added the large plastic sleeves to my binder and use them for grocery adds, my master grocery list, and copies of store coupon policies. . Plus I have pockets that are marked redeem need and use soon. so that I can get to the register and know what Im doing.

    Reply
  • Patricia January 24, 2012, 11:17 PM

    Hi there, I am new to the website. I was reading the CQ savings chat and — what is a “saving star acct” . Really enjoy your friendly, easy to follow website. Thanks for all your work.

    Reply
  • Terry March 8, 2012, 8:25 AM

    I was watching the extreme couponing series and notice some of the women carrying a tablet with prices and lists on those, that looked like another nice way of keeping track of purchase’s and coupons to use. Is there something that can be downloaded to use that application on phone or tablet?

    Reply
    • Princess Karen March 8, 2012, 10:00 AM

      Many people create their own spreadsheet. I know I created my own.

      Reply
  • Voni July 30, 2012, 9:32 AM

    I’ve been couponing for quite a while but was cutting all coups out and using a box. I’m ready to do the binder, but was confused about one thing. So “queen mum” if you leave your inserts at home, then am I understanding that you go ahead and put every thing you will use in your binder divided by folders? I’m still not understanding if you don’t use baseball card folders, how do you get the to stay in the binder?

    Reply
  • SMM August 11, 2012, 11:23 AM

    It really pays to organize your coupons. You can easily find them just in time when you need them…

    Reply
  • Alona September 2, 2012, 7:01 PM

    I use the file method, it works better for me with 2 young kids. I don’t always have time to sort, staple and clip, and put in a binder. So the file method works great for me.

    Reply
  • Flora November 4, 2012, 10:40 PM

    I am new to this site and using coupons as well. My husband is the only one working and we are expecting a new addition to our family. My due date is in a couple of days and before I found this site all I was thinking about was our new baby and how we’re going save money but now I find myself thinking about learning and dreaming about coupons all the time. I just want to thank Consumer Queen, ‘Queen Mom’ and everyone who is a part of this website for the help and the work put in to sharing this information with others who need it most. I look forward to learning a lot and would continue to learn to save money for my family. God bless!!!

    Reply
    • Queen Mum November 5, 2012, 1:21 PM

      Thanks for the kind words Flora…it makes us happy to know that what we do helps others :)

      Reply
  • Dawn L November 17, 2013, 7:20 PM

    Just received my Coupon Possible binder this weekend and loaded it up. I love it, just wish I would have ordered the 1-inch instead of 3/4-inch. I’ve already got it bulging!

    Reply

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