Okay, money-savers. Now that we've covered , let's look at a few different ways to organize them.
The way you organize your coupons is personal and completely up to you. It all depends on how many coupons you clip, how dedicated you are to using coupons, how you like to shop, what you like to buy, etc. You can paperclip them to an old, ripped, partially used piece of construction paper (yeah, I've been there) or you can implement a full-on “crazy coupon lady” hyper-organized binder with fancy colored tabs and labeled sub-categories. It's all up to you.
Here are some options for you:
The Shopping List with Coupons Attached Method: Just paperclip your coupons onto your shopping list. This is how I started. I've since moved to a different method; we'll get to that later.
Pros: It's small and easy to carry along to the store. And, of course, you don't need to spend much time organizing.
Cons: You can't see all your coupons easily without fumbling through the stack (while trying to avoid dropping them all over the floor as you're resisting the urge to zip-tie your children to your cart to stop them from throwing themselves on the floor over that box of candy you just passed).
The Accordion File Method: You can find these at your local office supply store.
Pros: They are small, they are already alphabetized and they can be sealed with a rubber band or clip so your coupons don't spill out if it drops.
Cons: Again, you can't see all your coupons easily. Plus, I like my coupons to be organized by category and not necessarily by the letter.
The Shoebox Method: This involves getting one of those plastic shoeboxes with a lid and making your own categories with index cards. Some people tuck their coupons in little envelopes (with the tops cut off) between the index cards so they don't slip around.
Pros: These are custom; you can make your own categories. They fit very nicely in the “kid seat” of your shopping cart. They're relatively easy to thumb through while you're at the store.
Cons: You still can't see your coupons easily! Also, you need a lot of coupons to fill those boxes up. I used this method for quite a while and found it annoying that I had to shove a wash cloth or a Barbie or an oven mitt at the end of my coupons so they would stay tight in there (I'm resourceful like that...what?)
The “Crazy Coupon Lady” Binder: This is the ultimate coupon organization system for serious couponers. It usually consists of a big binder that preferably zips up (to avoid accidental coupon spillage) with baseball/trading card holder inserts to hold coupons.
Pros: Binders are also custom. You can organize them any way you'd like. You can also see every single coupon you have by just flipping to the appropriate page. Plus, since it's a binder, you can add a pencil case to hold your “all-important” coupon supplies, such as scissors, pens and a calculator. You can also add some clear page protectors for rain-checks, Catalina coupons, store coupons or the coupons you need to use at a different store. You could get extra fancy by putting your shopping list in one of those, too. That's the beauty of the binder. It's all up to you!
Cons: Organizing a coupon binder takes a lot of time. If you want a good one, you might want to categorize it and even sub-categorize it so you can find your coupons by just flipping to the right page. But once it's all nice and organized, it's done. Binders are also kind of big and bulky and, when you're clipping, it takes time to make sure your coupons, and their expiration dates, are visible. It can be kind of a pain.
I've used every method listed above. Can you guess which one I use now? Yep! I'm the crazy coupon lady with the giant monstrosity of a binder laying in the front of my cart. Sure, I get weird looks. Sure, my poor child has nowhere to sit. But, I also get many fellow couponers asking me if they can take a look at my binder.
One more thing about coupon organization: I feel it is crucial to be extremely organized before I go into a checkout lane. I would hate to hold up the line because of my coupon use. I always pull my cart out of the way if I need to double-check my coupons before hitting the register. And, on a side note: I always follow the “rules” and never try to pass a coupon through if I know it shouldn't apply to my purchases. “Getting away with it” is stealing, in my opinion. On the flip side...if a cashier questions one of my coupons, I have their store's coupon policy printed out and right in my binder so I can easily and quickly reference it.
What do you think? Have you or will you try one of these methods? Do you have a different method to share?