You may have seen one around: the three-ring coupon binder. Though heftier than the standard coupon holder, mine routinely trims my grocery bill and substantially cuts down my shopping time. Want to build one yourself? Here's how to start.
Assemble equipment. Three items are essential: a three-ringed binder, tabbed dividers, and nine-pocket baseball-card holders. The baseball-card holders look like a plastic sheet protector that can be inserted into a binder. The face of one side is divided into nine pockets that are the perfect size to hold most coupons. Larger coupons can be folded and tucked in. The nine-pocket baseball-card holders can be purchased at hobby stores that sell trading cards or over the Internet.
Go to your favorite grocery store and make a list of the aisle names. Based on the aisle names and what your family buys, decide what you'll choose for your tab names. For ease of shopping, try to make the tabs roughly in synch with how you walk through your store. I have 25 tabs in my binder. Some tabs cover more than one thing: bread coupons for example are grouped with peanut butter, jelly, and tortilla coupons because these things are grouped near each other in my store and because not a lot of coupons come out for any of these things. I have one tab just for cereal. The fattest sections in my binder are for personal care and cleaning supplies. These are sections that I will sub-divide the next time that I reorganize. Put your tabbed dividers into your binder and insert about three nine-pocket baseball-card holders after each tab. You can remove or add more sheets as needed.
Buy newspapers. For my family, I want four copies of the same edition of the Sunday paper. Not all papers will carry coupons, and not all papers will carry the same kind and value of coupons. To get the best variety and face value of coupons, pick the top tier paper circulating with Sunday coupons in your market.
Sort. Remove the coupon booklets and stack by kind. All the Vlassis in one pile, all the SmartSource in another, and all the P&G Saver in a third. Some weeks will have one coupon section total. Some might have up to five. About five holiday weekends per year, the papers will not run coupons.
Stack. Once your coupon inserts are grouped by like kind, you are ready to begin. Start with your first stack. Pull the booklets apart and stack similar sheets. Here is where having four copies of the same paper comes in handy. Different papers might use different layouts for some ads, which means the coupons for different products might not stack tidily.
Trim. Once the pages are stacked, get your scissors and cut out coupons for all the products you might possibly use. Cut not only for you but also for someone you know or your local food shelter. You never know what will be on sale. Be prepared! As you are cutting, watch that the lines of the lower pages meet up. Be sure not to trim the bar code and the expiration date. These things need to be on there for the coupon to be valid. After I cut, I stack at an angle. The first set of four coupons goes horizontal and the next set of four is stacked vertical on top.
Insert. Find the appropriate sections of your binder and insert your coupons as a set. All four coupons for the same brand of juice can go into the same pocket. You will appreciate having more than one when things go on sale!
Build up your supply over time. You'll need to build up a few weeks' worth to start having a really fat binder, but even with the coupons from one week, you'll probably find some good deals. Sometimes when a coupon runs for a new product, the stores will have that new product on sale the same weekend. Thus it becomes very attractive to buy it.
Shop! When you walk through a supermarket, go aisle by aisle, looking for sales tags. Flip through your binder for coupons to sweeten the deal. Having them laid out on the page makes scanning a quick job.
Maintain. At least once a month, go through your binder and pull coupons that have expired. Use a sticky note to track which page you are on if the process takes more than one sitting.
R. Kellogg lives and plays in the sunny southwest. She attributes her interest in couponing to her excellent friend next door.
Take the Next Step:
Assemble the items essential to your new coupon binder, namely a three-ringed binder, tabbed dividers, and nine-pocket baseball-card holders. Then proceed to step #2.
Print FREE Coupons at Home at Coupons.com
. You'll also find some more printable coupons here.
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