One of the most frugal, money-saving things you can do is to take advantage of the free coupons you have at your disposal. You’ll never redeem each and every one that comes your way, but by keeping them sorted and at your fingertips for when you need them, you’ll surely notice the dollars being shaved off your grocery bill.
If you’re ready to be a Coupon Queen (or King) but aren’t sure how to setup a system, here is a How To Guide giving ideas for sorting them efficiently, how to make your own organizer and implement an efficient system plus you’ll find plenty of tips listed below. If you’re already full steam ahead with your own method, you might find a few new ideas to try.
1. Using Envelopes
To organize all the coupons you have on hand with envelopes, one idea is to create an envelope for each category (such as Meat, Beauty Products, Soaps & Detergents, Paper Products, etc.). Clip all the ones you plan on using and store them in the applicable envelopes so they can be found easily.
Once you have them sorted within the envelopes, store them in a plastic tub, photo or shoe box, file folders, whatever works best for you. Another idea for envelope organizing is to label and sort the envelopes by month (expiry dates). You’ll find more sorting tips toward the bottom of this post (under How To Sort & File).
2. An Expanding File Or Wallet
You can choose a large expanding file (example in the image) or even a wallet sized one, they do hold a lot even though they’re smaller.
The best wallet sized ones for long term use would be a plastic or fabric organizer since they hold up longer, the wallet size also makes it easy to bring all your coupons with you on your shopping trips.
You can buy an accordion file or make your own (see Design Your Own Accordion File (pdf download)). Use each pocket to store your clippings. If you have a wallet sized accordion file organizer, keep the front pocket free and you can toss in the coupons that you plan to use on your next shopping trip.
If you’re going to buy an accordion file (either a folder or wallet), look for one that has tabs on top of the pockets. This way you can mark each pocket (ie. the Month or Product Category) and you can see at a glance what each pocket holds.
If you’re going to make yourself an accordion system, construct or buy tabs that you can attach to each pocket. The tabs really do help you find the right pocket quickly.
3. An Index File Box
Boxes are great for organizing clippings, you can use anything from a cardboard shoe box, a plastic tub (with lid), a recipe box, or try an index card box. You can go as large as you need or keep it small with recipe and index card boxes if you don’t have a large collection (although these little boxes will hold plenty!).
Use dividers to separate your categories and then cut, snip and sort your coupons within each category. Either buy index dividers that will fit your box or make them out of cardboard from old cereal boxes. Ensure each index divider is tabbed so you can mark the sections.
4. A Binder
You can make yourself an organizer binder to sort and store your clippings, this is an especially nice system if you are a heavy-duty couponer and have lots to keep filed.
You can use a regular binder but for a complete center, a zippered binder with inside pockets will give you lots of useful features. With the binder zipped up, you’ll have no worries about clippings or supplies falling loose and getting lost. You can setup the binder to hold everything you need for shopping plus there’s an added benefit: you can easily take it with you while shopping.
Some ideas to store in the zippered binder:
- Small pair of scissors for clipping
- Pad of paper (for grocery list making)
- Sorting mat (here’s an example of one)
- Pens or pencils
Inside your binder of choice, fill it with plastic sheets for trading cards (like hockey or baseball card collecting). You can also find plastic sheets with four pockets per sheet (the ones you buy for photo albums), these pockets are a little larger than the trading card sheets. Use these plastic pockets to store your coupons and keep them organized.
Separate the plastic sheets with binder dividers. You can sort each section: By alphabetical, By expiry date, By product category, or whatever you like. Do some experimenting to see which method works best for your needs.
You can buy binders in any number of sizes, but you’ll want a size that will fit the plastic pocket sheets. These plastic sheets can be bought online, at your local card collecting shop and most department stores such as Walmart and Target.
How To Sort & File
Whichever method you choose as your organizer, you’ll need to have a battle plan on how to keep them arranged within the storage system of choice. Here are a few suggestions:
- By Expiry Date: You can clip together batches by month (based on expiry dates) or just store them all loose in the envelope/pocket/etc., with the about to expire coupons at the front and moving back (by date).
- By Products: Within your Beauty & Health category, you can stack together all the shampoo rebates, all the deodorant ones, those for makeup, etc. Within each product category, sort the clippings by expiry date (with the soon to expire coupons on top).
- Sort Alphabetically: Another way to organize within the system is by product name or product item (Ivory Soap, Smuckers Jam, or Peanut Butter, Laundry Detergent, etc.).
Choose whatever method works best for you, the goal is to setup a system that will help you to use your coupons before they expire as well as know where to find a particular one when looking for it.
Preparation Before Shopping
Get everything ready before you go shopping, here’s a suggestion:
- The first step is to make your grocery list on a sheet of paper or on the back of an envelope, then go through your clippings and pull out any that are applicable to your needs. Mark a “C” beside each item on your list that you have a coupon for.
- Store both the grocery list sheet and the clippings inside an envelope (or stick them inside the envelope that you wrote your list on).
- Follow the grocery list while you’re shopping and you’ll quickly spot which items have a coupon.
Another good idea is to regularly review those that are soon to expire. If there are any products that you normally use or is a great buy, yet have no immediate need for it–still consider purchasing it (and using the coupon) on your next trip.
Free Patterns & Tutorials For Holders
7-Pockets: The finished project folds up in thirds and is secured with an elastic loop and button. You could also use the elastic loop to hang the open wallet on a kitchen bulletin board, making it easy to drop new clippings into the proper pocket.
(Paper) Insert: A stack of pretty paper envelopes are made & assembled together then inserted into a wallet making available several pockets to hold clippings.
Grocery List/Pouch on Lanyard: Cute little case features a vinyl window pocket that displays your shopping list, a handy credit card pocket on the opposite side and a zippered inside pouch to hold clippings and more.
Fabric Case: Made with a sample square of upholstery fabric. Velcro strip closure.
By developing an effective system, you’ll find it much easier to save money on groceries and products since you’ll have all your clippings in one place, and you’ll know just where to look for that specific one you wish to use.
Keeping things sorted and organized will take some time to first setup and figure out what works best for your needs, but once you have determined the best system that works for you, maintaining it regularly won’t be such a chore. It will simply be a matter of purging those that have expired and filing away new ones.