As you know, September is National Coupon Month and we are posting tips on how to better coupon.
Today we're going to talk about how to store your coupons at home and how to keep them organized for shopping.
We always 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 for several months 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.
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 50¢ 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.
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:
- Baby ( diapers, wipes, formula, baby shampoo etc.)
- Baking ( cake mixes, baking powder, baking soda, frosting etc.)
- Beverages (soda, water, coffee, tea, kool-aid, juice etc.)
- Bread and Crackers (frozen, fresh, mixes, refrigerated, saltines etc.)
- Canned (Chef Boyardee, soup etc.)
- Candy ( any candy, gum etc.)
- Cereal ( hot cereals, cereal, cereal bars etc.)
- Cookies & Snack Crackers
- Condiments ( mustard, mayo, BBQ sauce, salt, pickles, peanut butter, salad dressing etc.)
- Dairy ( butter, sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese, eggs, milk etc.)
- Frozen (ice cream, frozen dinners, frozen pizza etc.)
- HBA (health & beauty)
- Make-up (cosmetics and facial care items)
- Meat ( frozen , canned and fresh)
- Medicine (pain relievers, band aids etc.)
- Misc. ( light bulbs, batteries, air fresheners etc.)
- Paper ( toilet tissue, paper towels, foil, napkins, paper plates, plastic bags etc.)
- Pasta ( pasta and pasta sauce, rice)
- Pets ( food, treats, toys, flea and tick medications)
- Produce (fresh, frozen & canned)
- Snacks ( chips, popcorn, fruit snacks, pudding cups etc.)
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!
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