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This topic could be a small book (there are probably people that have actually written and published some…).
I’m going to cover a few ways that most use to organize coupons and then tell you what I currently use.
Canceled Check file: it looks like a small accordion with usually 13 pockets. I have never known a single person that used it as a canceled check file, but that is what they call it. The best way to set these up is to leave the front pocket empty and as you plan your trip, you put the coupons there that you will use that trip, then in the remaining pockets label the tabs on them according to the areas that you use the most. When I used this system my tabs/sections were: Baby, Canned/Boxed Goods, Cereals, Desserts/Baking, Snacks/Drinks, Other food, Toiletries, Drugs, Paper goods, Cleaning products, Refrigerated, and lastly Frozen foods.
Pros: Simple system to get started and it does help you stay organized. It works well if you clip only a few coupons each week, or if want something small to take with you in your purse.
Cons: If you cut all the coupons out of the paper or get multiple inserts this system doesn’t provide enough ways to organize and separate out coupons so you end up with large sections that you are searching through to find a particular coupon.
Three Ring Binder: this system is for the truly serious and devoted. I have never tried this method but I envy it a little. You need a 1.5 inch or larger 3 ring binder, baseball card organizing pages, and section divider tabs. You place your coupons individually (put doubles behind it) in the baseball card slots so that you are able to see every coupon, and then use your tabs to organize them into sections. Here you are not limited by 12 sections so you can go crazy with tabs if you like. Look below for my tab labels. You can even get a little zipper bag (sold to hold pencils) to put in the front to hold your coupons for that trip.
Pros: This system is fast, you have no stack to pull out in a store and search through. It also fits nicely in the top area of your grocery cart. It just sounds so wonderful doesn’t it?? It sounds so nice that people have actually made them for you and market them to people at $30 bucks each!! (I’m not providing a link because I will not help you waste money, you can put this together for under $10 dollars)
Cons: It isn’t going to fit in your purse. Well it wouldn’t fit in mine anyway. The main reason that I have not gone to this though is that I have three kids and there is always someone sitting in the upper section of my grocery cart! That leaves no good place to set the binder while shopping, and handing it to a 3 year old to hold doesn’t sound like a wise idea. Had I gotten into couponing before kids though this would have been my system. If only I had known what I could save back then…
Ziploc Bag System: this is for the unorganized at heart really. You need lots of sandwich bags and 1 gallon sized bag. Label your smaller bags by section, then close up all little bags and keep them in the big bag. You can have lots of sections or just a few, whatever works for you. To me this sounds like it would work best with under 10 sections.
Pros: Quick, Easy, and requires no special shopping to get started. This will also hold every coupon you can throw at it without a problem.
Cons: The idea of searching through all those Ziploc bags standing in the middle of an isle with screaming twins stops me from ever trying this system. This also will not fit easily into your purse.
Index Card File: puts a few concepts from each of these together (this is what I currently use). Get a small index file box (3×5 card size) and a package of index file tabs. You can have as many tabs as you like, look below for my tabs. Leave the area in front of the first tab empty to hold your coupons for that trip.
Pros: The box closes and fits in my purse without a problem. It gives me the size of the canceled check file with the ultimate organizing ability of the three ring binder.
Cons: As I mentioned in my last extreme post, this fills up and is maxed out eventually. It does not expand, so if you cut all coupons and get multiple inserts it gets a little tight eventually.
Here is an idea of groupings that gets more organized than the above 12:
Baby, Drugs, Breads, Cereals, Snacks, Meat, Canned/Boxed goods, Condiments/Seasoning, Desserts/Baking goods, Other Food, Frozen, Refrigerated, Cooking Helpers (Ziploc bags, aluminum foil etc.), Paper Goods, Cleaning Goods, Other Household (bug spray etc.), Store Specific (Store coupons, CVS ECB’s etc.), Body Care (soap, razors, deodorant etc.), Tooth care, Hair Care, Facial/Makeup
What method do you use to organize coupons, have one that I should add to the list?