Sorting Coupons without the Headache

by Tenna Perry

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After quitting my job of thirteen years to stay at home with my children, I soon became aware of just how much help my paycheck had been every week. Money became tight and the family was having a hard time adjusting to the sudden cutbacks of eating out, renting movies or going on regular trips.

It didn't take long for me to realize I had to cut back on our necessary spending so we could have some family entertainment money as well. At the time, I began to use coupons at grocery stores and restaurants. While they helped out, it soon became evident that they were almost more of a pain than they were worth. I had to come up with a system other than one of those off the shelf organizers if I was going to keep using the things.

One day I walked into the office to speak to my ex-boss and found him sorting his son's baseball cards into a binder. Right then I had a flash of inspiration.

The cards were placed in plastic sheets with individual pockets. The pages he showed me had six to a page, but Dr. J told me there were some that had larger pockets and only four to a page. He told me where he bought the pages, and when my husband asked that night what I wanted for Christmas, he was surprised at my request.

Simply put, I wanted a cheap, three- to four-inch three-ringed binder and one dozen of the four-to-a-page plastic baseball card sheets. I believe he thought I was joking until I repeated it several times over the next week.

When Christmas rolled around a couple of weeks later, there was my binder and sheets. He had gotten me other items, but at that time, they weren't important. That night I visualized the store that tripled up to fifty cents and laid my book out according to their floor plan.

The binder was easy to keep up with. Even if it fell on the floor, the plastic sheets kept the coupons in place. Also, the clear sheets allowed me to see what coupons I had without having to flip through a hundred or so just to find one.

I used this binder for about a year and kept track of the savings every week. Once totaled, I would transfer the saved amount from our regular account to our Christmas fund. This past year we had more than $1,000 in the fund.

One trip in particular stands out in my mind though. My grocery was tripling up to seventy-five cents and my husband decided to tag along. He and I both knew I had less than $100 cash on me, but I kept filling the basket. Pretty soon he had to go get a second basket and began to look worried.

At the checkout, I knew he was worried. Not wanting to be embarrassed by having to ask the cashier to put stuff back on the shelves, he wasn't willing to leave me standing there to face it alone.

Item after item was rung up and the end balance was more than $300. I thought my husband was going to faint. I tried to give him a smile of confidence as I handed over my mega-stack of coupons. As the final total reached $87, my husband was wide-eyed and standing there with an open mouth.

My final glory was when the man in line behind me asked his wife, "Why can't you do that?"

Since that day, my husband has helped me clip, sort and file coupons. He has made it a point to see that I have at least an hour alone so the children do not disturb me when I go to the store. What's even better, if someone asks him where I work or what I do, he replies, "She is self-employed at home and makes more money than I do an hour."

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