Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Coupon101: Coupon Organization

This is Lesson 3 of the Coupon101 section of my blog. If you have not reviewed
the two previous lessons yet, you may do so Here!

This lesson is long overdue, and I apologize for such a long delay in getting it posted.
In lesson 2, we covered where to find coupons, so now that you have started gathering
coupons from various locations, you need a place to store and organize them. That is
what I will cover in this lesson, I will go over the various ways in which you may find
helpful to organize your coupons.

First thing to keep in mind, is there really isn't a wrong way to organize your coupons.
You need to focus on a way that is easiest and most helpful to you and your lifestyle.
Some things to take into consideration are:
  •  How much spare time do you have to commit to clipping and filing coupons?
  • Will you be coupon shopping for just your necessities, or hope to catch every deal you can find?
  • Will you be shopping at a couple of your main stores, or branching out to any store offering a deal that day?                                  
  • Do you mind lugging in your huge stash of coupons, or would you like to be simple and discreet while you coupon shop?                                      
These questions are important and can really help you decide which method will be
easiest for you, as well as the most enjoyable! The more organized you get with your
coupons, the more deals you will easily find. However, the more organized, the more
time you will have to commit to keeping up with it.

When you are new to couponing, I always suggest to keep it small and simple just
for now. It can be overwhelming and mistakes and confusion can happen easily if
you take on too much too soon.

Starting out, I suggest filing your coupons in envelopes, Small accordion type file or
a box or small tote and use the index card method. These organization methods keep
couponing very simple. It is easy to file, sort and to keep organized. 

In these methods, you stick to clipping and filing only the coupons you know you will
mostly likely use. For instance, if you have a baby and aren't Brand specific on the 
diapers they wear, you should clip any and all diaper coupons and file them in a baby 
category. Then when you need diapers, you can check all your local store ads and
compare prices along with coupons you have on hand and find the best deal that
week! The same goes with other items in other categories. 

Clipping only the coupons you are most likely to use keeps it very simple.
If you were to clip and file every coupon you find using a basic method, you're going
to end up with a huge mess and a lot of time in the store thumbing though coupon
after coupon to find the right one. Not to mention the time it will take with the upkeep
of finding and removing all the expired coupons. I have made a video on two
organization methods, The Index card method, and envelope method.

-Basic Coupon Organization Methods-

You can also clip and file your coupons into small photo albums, that will make it 
easier to take along with you.

If you aren't comfortable with taking a filing system in the store with you, or maybe
you just don't have the time to do more than run in, grab your items and leave, then
you may find helpful setting up any filing system at home and making your list and
gathering your coupons before you leave. Just keep the coupons with your form of
payment so you don't forget to hand them over at checkout!

Filing and storing at home can be good when sticking to a budget
and can prevent impulse buying or keeping you in the store longer than you
want to be. However, with this  method you are more likely to miss out on
deals you could have gotten if you had all your coupons with you.

Another way to file your coupons is the Clipless Method. Since most coupons are
found in Sunday Inserts, All You Magazine and other booklets some people  may
find it easier to not clip them out and file only the inserts and booklets away. For
this method, you would write the date the insert was released on the outside cover
of each insert so that you can refer back to it easily as needed.

When I first started couponing, I did the clipless method. I found it great for the fact
there was no clipping or filing. This method may be great for some, however it was
not working for me.

A huge con for me with this method was I found myself spending way too much time in 
the store flipping through inserts, trying to remember where I saw a coupon I just
"knew" I had seen somewhere! Then if I found it, I had to clip it right there in the store. 
Sometimes I would run across a really great deal and thumb through all my inserts
and just can't find the coupon I am looking for, or sometimes I find it, but it's one
that has already expired.  

I am a deal shopper. Sometimes I go into a store just to see if they have any
new price cuts or closeouts. So I really need an organized binder so that it
can take me right to the coupon I need if I have it.  I also disliked the fact
with the clipless method it is very hard to weed out expired coupons
because coupons in each insert tend to have varying expiration dates.

I have a hard time leaving my binder at home or in the car even. It seems each time
I do, there is always an amazing deal that I can't take advantage of because my
coupons aren't with me. 

If you are the type of person with lots of time on their hands, or wants the ability to
grab any deal they see, then I recommend the binder method! In this method, you
clip and file many coupons, usually in specific categories or orders. The binders are
carried with you during your shopping trips and makes it very easy to take advantage
of extra savings on top of sales because your coupons are filed away and easily found
 when needed.

A video of my coupon binder:

As  you can see, the binder method can be the most organized, but does take
quite a bit of time. You must consider the clipping and filing involved each
week when the new inserts come out. To help manage the time better, try to fit
the clipping and or filing during a time that it can be multi-tasked in, or get your
children involved! I'm sure they would love to help you clip and enjoy the time
spent with you while you do it. If clipping isn't there thing, maybe opt to take them
to a restaurant with a play area. You can clip while they play. This has been the
case for me on many occasions! You can also see my clipping method I use
to help speed up cutting time here in a video!

If choosing the Binder Method you will need:

-A Binder (3inch is recommended) 
You may want to opt in for a zippered one, or one with a handle or strap
Depending on the binder you purchase, it can run you $5 - $30.

-Baseball/Trading Cards Plastic Sleeves $6 for pack of 35 at Walmart

-Page Dividers with tabs $1 for pack of 5 at Dollar Tree 
(you will probably need 2-3 of these, it depends on how many categories
you plan to use)

- A Couple of Pocket or prong folders to hold your ads, Store Policies, Etc.

-Index Cards, or Card Stock (can be cut to fit in the plastic sleeves to make
the sleeves "double-sided")
-Page Protectors
-Extra Binder Pouches (to hold Scissors, Calculators, Pens Etc.)

The binder method is a bit more expensive to set up, but you will
make your money back with the deals you are able to find from
having an organized system! Try looking at thrift stores for your
binder, folders and other supplies. I found my larger binder for
only $0.99 at Goodwill!

This about sums it up for this lesson. Just remember know matter what method you
choose, make sure it is one that will not put more stress in your life.

*If any of you would like to leave a comment and share the type of coupon
organization you have used and what works best for you, it is welcomed!
I would love to read about it and I am sure others would love your ideas!*

The next lesson in this Coupon101 series is Lesson 4: Know Your Store, 
Coupon Policies and More!

What methods would you like to share? Leave a Link to your Coupon
Organization post or post  your methods in a comment below! Thanks 
so much for sharing with everyone!

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