Using Coupons to Save
When Coupons Aren't a Good Deal
I am looking for a way to organize my coupons so that:
Do you have any ideas or know of any gadgets that will help other than a coupon organizer with just tabs?
I sort my coupons by the month and I use the snack size plastic bags to keep each month's coupons together. I put these snack bags in a small container in my cupboard. Then, when I know I will be going to the store, I slip the bag in my purse and the coupons are all there. You could also put them in the organizer for the month and leave the rest in the plastic bags.
I know that many people organize their coupons by product, but I have always preferred organizing by month since I only clip coupons that I know that I will use. I went to my local drugstore. In the office supply area, I found a plastic canceled check organizer with 12 pockets and each pocket had a tab with the month on it. Now before I go shopping, I go through those coupons first, then the next months and so on. At the end of each month, I give a quick look through that month for any that aren't expiring until the next year and toss the rest. I find it is so much easier to handle this way.
I organized my coupons in a card file box with the dividers separating major groups of coupons into categories of my choosing. I created a separate section for "coupons expiring within the next 30 days" and also for "free" items. At the beginning of every month, I go through the card file to see which coupons need to be moved to the 30-day section.
Also, when I add new coupons to the box, I put the new coupons in their category in the back of the section so that the oldest ones are last. At least now the coupon expires only if I let it.
I circle the expiration dates on coupons and write the month and day in red pen large enough so I don't miss it. Every few months, I take out three months worth of the expiring coupons and group them by date. When I reach the beginning of the last month, I get three more months worth of coupons.
I also have a file (4 x 6 inches) for other coupons with dividers such as bathroom, miscellaneous food, packaged mixes like cake, frosting, and brownies, paper products, etc. Make up the categories that suit you best. Inside the main categories, I have additional sub-categories, such as: Bathroom - pain, allergy, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shaving, feminine products, deodorant.
All categories and subcategories are listed alphabetically. The coupons with longer expiration dates or no expiration dates are kept in that file and the up and coming expiration dates are put in the front. These are also arranged according to my file categories so I only have to look through those coupons, which fit what I am looking for.
I am just starting to convert my coupon organizer over to a three-ring binder with the clear plastic baseball card organizer pages. These have more spaces and it is easier to see and sort the coupons.
I purchased a coupon organizer from my local store. I made tabs from index cards that are a lot sturdier. I placed them in order of the store layout as best as I could. The coupon that is going to expire is in a prominent place and my prominent place is in the front of my coupon organizer. This frees me from fumbling around looking for the lone coupon. I organized them by expiration date in each category so that I can find them quickly. I also note on my grocery list with a star which coupons I need to use first. This is especially helpful in beauty supplies or when the kids are demanding your attention to 100 different items that they want in the cart.
I sort my categories first, using my favorite store's layout as a guide. In each category, I sort coupons by expiration date first (those which expire first in front). Then, I sort within in each expiration period by amount, with the larger amount in front. This way, the coupons due to expire are in front of each category, and the most valuable coupons are in front.
This system has served me well while I raised four children on an often strained budget, and continues to serve me during my "empty nest period. Looking at a $2 coupon due to expire this month forces me to make the decision to use or loose the discount. If my coupon filing got piled up, I would "pay" the older children to sort them for me. They got what I saved while shopping that week. I often found them in the sales flyers, comparing ads to see which store had in-house coupons to go with what I had, so they could "make" even more that week. Now that they have their own families, the system is quickly becoming a family tradition.
I have an old, salvaged three ring binder. I reused dividers and put my price list in it. This is a list of items with the lowest price and where to find them in one section, and in the second section are the coupons. I purchased plastic baseball cardholders at about $3 for a 10 pack to go in the second section. The advantages of using baseball trading card holders are that you can see at a glance what you have, can put duplicates in the same pocket which saves space, and you can put all the coupons which expire the same month together on the same page. This was not an original idea. I heard about it over the Internet, and it has been tremendously helpful. Now when I go shopping, I just bring my binder and put it in the front of the cart. Having it at my fingertips makes it easy to compare prices, as well as make sure that I have my coupons with me when I come across unexpected sales.
Sign up for our free eNewsletter Dollar Stretcher for Parents.
Looking for an answer to a frugal living question? Click here to ask a
Dollar Stretcher Stretchpert!
Copyright 1996 - 2013 "The Dollar Stretcher, Inc." All rights reserved unless specifically noted.
Contact the Dollar Stretcher at:
PO Box 14160
Bradenton FL 34280
"The Dollar Stretcher, Inc." does not assume responsibility for advice given. All advice should be weighed against your own abilities and circumstances and applied accordingly. It is up to the reader to determine if advice is safe and suitable for their own situation.