All About Couponing: Coupon Organzation 101

by Marcy on August 20, 2009 · 18 comments

couponorganization
Welcome to Day 4 of my All About Couponing series! This week I have shared information with you about Coupon Inserts, Printable Coupons, and eCoupons. Today I am going to attempt to share some information with you about coupon organization. Because I am big on keeping things real around here, I have to admit that I am struggling with this a lot right now. I know what my favorite method of coupon organization is, I’m just having a hard time keeping up with it! Regardless, one thing I do know is that amassing a large quantity of coupons does little good if you don’t have a method for organizing them, so read on for a few tips to help get you started. I also provide you with step by step instructions for creating a coupon binder which happens to be my favorite organization method of the moment.

Organization Options

Thankfully there is a multitude of ways that you can organize your coupons, which means that you should have no problem finding a system that works for you. Here are a few systems that I am aware of:

1) Accordion Style Coupon File – You can find these wallet style coupon files at stores such as Walmart and Target for under $5. These files allow you to sort your coupons by the categories of your choice and are often small and easy to carry with you to the store. These work great if you don’t have a large number of coupons in your stash.

2) Coupon Box – You can make your own coupon box using a recipe box or other small storage container and your choice of dividers and/or envelopes. For more information about these, check out Crystal’s example here.

3) Professional Coupon Organizing Systems – There are several pre-packaged coupon organizing systems available online and in stores. One that I am familiar with is the Couponizer. This system comes with a spiral notebook with pockets, a coupon sorting mat, shopping lists and several other features. You can read more about it here. Update: As of 2/6/14 it looks like the Couponizer is out of print. Check out this coupon binder option instead.

4) Clip/Print As You Go – I quite possibly just made this method up, but it is exactly as it sounds. File your coupon inserts and printable coupon sheets and clip only what you need for the week. If you are utilizing blogs like this one when preparing your grocery lists each week, the location of each coupon will be spelled out for you. All that you have to do is know where to go to find the coupon. Sounds easy enough, right? :-)

5) Coupon Binder – Coupon binders are exactly as they sound…binders with page protectors that store all of your coupons in one place. I personally LOVE my coupon binder when it is up to date. The hard part for me is keeping it current. Because this is the method that I prefer, I have outlined how I put together my binder what what I would do to keep it up to date assuming that I actually do!

What (Sometimes) Works for Me

As I just mentioned, I used a regular old coupon file for several years. As my use of coupons grew, I found that I grew out of my file. It ended up being stuffed too full and started to tear. After doing some research online, I decided to give the coupon binder a try.

I went to Walmart when back to school items were on sale and purchased this binder:


I also purchased the inserts that you file baseball cards in. I had a hard time finding these in my Walmart…and I ended up finding them not in the office supplies but up in the front of the store near the registers with all of the sports memorabilia type stuff. Because these were a little pricey, I only bought one pack and decided to make it work (Note: check eBay for a better price on these). I already had regular page protectors at home, which I figured I could also use to file store coupons and other miscellaneous items.

I store my weekly store ads, extra coupon inserts, coupons that are too large to file, and a pair scissors in the front part of my binder here:


As for my pages, I do try to file like coupons on the same page, using one page per category. Here are the rough categories that I came up with for my binder, with these coupons being filed in the baseball card style pages:

– Candy/Gum
– Produce/Eggs/Staples (ex: sugar)
– Beverages
– Dairy Items (ex: cheese, yogurt)
– Meat
– Frozen Foods
– Snacks
– Boxed/Canned Goods
– Cereal/Breakfast Items
– Condiments
– Dish/Hand Soap
– Cleaning Supplies
– Miscellaneous Household (ex: batteries, lightbulbs)
– Food Storage and Trash Bags
– Laundry Supplies
– Paper Products (ex: toilet paper, paper towels)
– Lotion
– Hair Care
– Face Soap/Deodorant
– Eye Care
– Dental Items
– Make up
– Feminine Products
– Body Soap
– Vitamins
– Medicine
– First Aid
– Diapers/Wipes
– Miscellaneous Baby/Kids

You can see an example of these pages here:

Note: I do end up having to fold most of my coupons to make them fit.

Because I have more coupons than space, I reserve the baseball card pages for the coupons that I am confident I will use. For all others I either don’t clip them (and keep the full insert in the front of my binder) or I throw them in page protectors that I put in the back of my binder here:

I didn’t do anything fancy with these pages when coming up with categories. I just wrote the following on a purple post it note and threw it in with the coupons.

– Restaurant Coupons
– Store Coupons (including Catalinas)
– Miscellaneous Coupons
– “To be Filed” Coupons

In terms of keeping my binder up to date, I try to go through once a month (*cough*) and pull out the coupons that either have expired or will be expiring soon. The last week of the month is when I usually do this.

It is easier if I clip my coupons every week and file them, but that doesn’t always happen. On weeks when I am being lazy (or don’t have time) I just file my entire insert in the front of my binder and reference it whenever I need to clip a coupon before shopping. (Note: the date that the insert is in your newspaper is printed on the binding of the coupon insert. That means if you use my grocery deals posts to make your shopping list, you can easily reference your coupon inserts using the dates that I write in my store sale/coupon match up posts.)

I personally do not take my binder with me to the store. I am a planner, so I always take a detailed list to the store with me. That means I am able to pull the coupons that I plan to use for each shopping trip and I put them in an envelope (Tip: save money and use the envelopes that come with your bills if you pay bills online like me!) labeled with each store name.

Yes, that means that sometimes I don’t have a great coupon on hand if I see an unadvertised deal that I didn’t know about. But I figure that I can always go back to the store to get the item (with my coupon) if it is that great of a deal. Plus this helps me stick to my list (and budget).

I hope that this information has been helpful to you. Tomorrow I am going to wrap this series up by sharing a few lessons learned with you when it comes to my own couponing journey.

So what are your thoughts? How do you currently organize your coupons? Do you do something that I haven’t mentioned here? What have you found works (or does not work) when it comes to organizing your coupons? Do you still have questions about organizing your coupons? If so, please feel free to leave a comment or send me a note!

Find the entire All About Couponing Series here:


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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SuperJenn August 20, 2009 at 2:38 PM

Great description of the different styles! I use the binder too…have a vid on my site…BUT.. I used to use the baseball card holders…but I found the same thing at Hobby Lobby in the scrapping section…they are “wallet sized photo holders” …a package of 8 (or 10?) for $4 (roughly)… and if you buy them when they put out their 40-50% off one item they become quite reasonable!

2 Jennifer August 20, 2009 at 4:42 PM

I have the exact same coupon binder that you do, except mine is pink. I figured no one would bother it if it’s hot pink!

I clip my coupons and store them in the baseball card holders. I do take mine with me when I shop, and I usually only pull out coupons on the fly when they make an item free or very close to free. Clipping them also helps me remember which coupons I have because I’ve handled them and looked at each one.

3 Angela (from Coupon Makeover) August 20, 2009 at 5:47 PM

I use a combination of methods – clipping the coupons I KNOW I will use and putting the rest in a file by date in an accordion folder.

It is always good to keep ALL of your coupons b/c you never know when a GREAT sale is going to sneak up (and you can always give away products you don’t use!)

I am going to have to check out SuperJenn’s idea on Hobby Lobby!

4 Jenae August 20, 2009 at 5:56 PM

I just use plain old envelopes (because I didn’t want to spend money on organizing my coupons). I have 5 envelopes…food, cleaning products & household goods, personal products, diapers & baby care items, and restaurant coupons. I have just started taking them with me whenever I think I might be stopping at a store. And of course, I make a list whenever I go for my “big” shopping trip of the week. Lame system, I know…but it works for me (or until I cough up enough money to purchase a binder & some baseball card holders). :)

5 Summer August 20, 2009 at 7:07 PM

As you know I also use a binder and take it with me everywhere!!! ( Yes, I get the “you are crazy” looks from people :) ) I often find manager mark downs that makes many items free so its worth it for me.

One tip that I use is that I arrange my coupons in the binder by isles in the grocery store I visit the most. I almost always shop at Kroger so I start with produce, followed by meats,baby items etc. That way I don’t have to flip back and forth and its all laid out!

6 Marcy August 20, 2009 at 7:21 PM

Jenn – thanks so much for the Hobby Lobby suggestion…wish I had thought to check there!

Jennifer – great point about the fact that clipping and handling your coupons helps you remember what you have. When I fell behind on clipping, it pained me to see what I had let expire!

Angela – I tend to do things the way you do as well. Except I have been filing more than clipping/putting in my binder these days!

Jenae – there are no lame methods! Find what works for you and go for it. :-)

Summer – Your store rocks for manager markdowns…I am jealous! And the “you are crazy” looks are no different right? Just for a new reason! LOL I am only saying that b/c we both used to get them long before our couponing days. :-)

7 Leslie August 20, 2009 at 7:26 PM

Love the discussion on what works. I use something like what Crystal uses (from your post) – works well enough so far, but I’m not good at knowing what I have available and doing matchups. Wondering if I should move to the binder method where I can see each one better. Looks like more work ;-) Now, the other issue is – when you all go to the store: do you take your entire systems with you? I know I don’t! I take an envelope of “planned out” coupons to use. Problem is – no room for last-minute sales!

8 Jill August 22, 2009 at 5:29 AM

I don’t use a binder. I have a small oval plastic basket (fits nicely in the top of shopping cart with plenty of room for purse too) that has a well-made old fashioned accordion type organizer that I printed labels for and use just for personal items — shampoo, shaving stuff etc. that divides everything out to 13 sub-categories. Then I have another cloth coupon organizer that I bought on Etsy and it has 20 sections & long enough that almost all my coupons do not need to fold — I use the cloth organizer for grocery store items. I also have small scissors, reusable shopping bags that fold up very small, post-its, pen & colorful metal binder clips in the basket. I usually pull together all coupons for a particular store and clip it with any notes for that store. In my purse I have a leather envelope (photo wallet) and I stick all the restaurant.com certificates, restaurant coupons and non-grocery & non-drug store coupons such as: Victoria’s secret, Aveda, Dick’s sporting Goods, free car wash, 7-11 etc. I have a bright yellow card listing all the coupons in expiration date order in the envelope too. The leather wallet has all the things I might do unexpectedly or really wouldn’t want to let expire.

9 Stephanie August 22, 2009 at 11:15 PM

I used to just use a small accordian file that I bought at Target in the $1 section. It held up, but didn’t have enough space to hold all my restaurant, and extra store, coupons so I moved up and purchased the Couponizer. I REALLY like it. I know it’s $25 spent on organizing coupons but to me it was worth it. I like that it’s large enough to hold all my coupons but small enough that I can still bring it with me to the store. I like having ALL my coupons with me just in case I DO find that unexpected bargin. I live about 20 minutes away from my grocery store so I only go once and week and make it count. :)

10 mommy308 August 23, 2009 at 4:50 AM

I have the exact same binder you do right down to the color. The only difference is I use photo pages instead of the baseball card holders. Each page has 5 big slots and I hardly ever have to fold them and I am certain I wouldn’t be as organized if I had to fold every coupon. The best part is for a pack of 10 or 15 it’s not even $3.

11 Mary Moss August 24, 2009 at 1:56 PM

YAY! This is a wonderful, wonderful resource! I’ve recently been accepted as the Richmond Frugal Family columnsit for examiner.com.

My first post included a link to Stretching a Buck! Looks like I’ll be including LOTS of link backs1

I am a consummate couponer, but your blog is helping me take things to the next level. I know I’ve already save quite a bit of money using you as a resource!

Thanks a million.

12 Anonymous September 15, 2009 at 5:05 AM

I subscribe to your email.

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13 Anonymous September 15, 2009 at 5:05 AM

I subscribe to your email.

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14 iheartdeals September 15, 2009 at 11:08 PM

I use the binder system also. I have a folder that I keep store specific coupons and unfiled coupons in.

15 iheartdeals September 15, 2009 at 11:09 PM

I just subscribed to your blog.

16 Kelly Casto January 30, 2011 at 5:43 PM

I also tried the binder with Baseball dividers. But i too found out that I had to fold all of my coupons and still didn’t have enough for them all(coupons). Well then I found another solution that works great for me and leaves room for my purse and calculator in the Grocery buggy basket. For orginizing my coupons I use a Plastic Rubbermaid Box for index cards aprox. 4 X 8. Then i use index cards and fold the bottom 1 centimeter to create a shelf for the envelope that will go behind it. Example Index Card standing UP on its side with the coupon category listed on the top, the matching envelope also had the same category name such as Frozen Foods. I find that the Envelopes hold many many coupons, and is handy to take to the store. And leaves room for Envelopes for particular stores like walmart, CVC, etc. I also use a Index Card label and Envelope in the Front That says USE @ Register……that way as I shop and place items in my cart I also place the coupons in that Envelope. That way I have EXACTLY the coupons that I need always with me and ready when I get to checkout. When you have a busy life and impatient family members TIME management is mandatory. This box is also small enough that it goes with me in my car or purse anywhere…Hope this helps someone.

17 Yolanda May 1, 2012 at 8:12 PM

I just want to know what the brand is on that binder. I just love it and I realize that I will have to look online to find it. I want one. Please help. Thanks!

18 Marcy May 2, 2012 at 3:44 PM

I purchased the binder at Walmart a few years ago during back to school…I’m unsure of the exact brand.

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