Welcome to Southern Savers, where finding deals and steals is simple and rewarding!

See I told you, this would help!

Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

Going Nuts? I can help you understand coupon terms and abbreviations

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Extreme Couponer 101- Organizing Coupons

There are 4 levels of organization I would recommend.  They go up in order of time involved to organize but they also each make the time spent finding the coupon faster.  So you decide the system best for you and the time trade off.

The pictures below go in order of system type.

“Not Cutting” Keeping your Inserts Whole

When you get your weekly inserts write the date bigger on the front page of the insert.  Then get a large 13 pocket accordion file system and put all the inserts from this week together in one pocket.  Next week put those inserts in the next pocket of the folder.  As the weeks go on you have all the inserts from each week together organized back by the date that they came out.  If you buy more than one paper, just put all the inserts no matter how many into the same pocket.  Now when you come to Southern Savers you will use the SS dates that are next to coupons on the weekly deal posts to find each coupon and cut it out before going to the store.

This is where I live.  There are not any more hours in my day and this is a compromise with my husband.  I do not recommend this system to anyone that hates to miss a clearance or closeout deal in the store.  You can take your large file with you but you will spend way to long finding the coupon you need (if you even can find it).  The upside too this system is that the only time spent on it, is the time you spend getting ready for your trip.  Usually takes me about 15 minutes to cut any coupons needed for a trip.

You will also need to have #2 to keep any coupons that you cut and don’t use or any printable coupons in.

Canceled Check File

This is one small step towards organization.  Get a small accordion file with 13 pockets (these are $1 at Target normally).  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.  I use: Baby, Canned/Boxed Goods, Cereals, Desserts/Baking, Snacks/Drinks, Other food, Toiletries, Drugs, Paper goods, Cleaning products, Refrigerated, and lastly Frozen foods.

I DO NOT recommend organizing by alphabetical or expiration date.  If you choose alphabetical then you are the only person in the world that knows where that coupon is.  B for Betty C for Crocker or P for Potatoes.  If you try expiration date then you are helpless if you need to find the coupon.  (It is okay to let a coupon expire by the way, you will probably get another very soon and it really means that they item never came on a great sale).

This system is fast on the time it takes to organize them, you cut put them in twelve stacks and shove them in.  It is slow on the time it takes you in the store.  Your stacks will be large.  If you need to find a coupon for canned chicken you might have 30-40 coupons to look through.  Another problem with this system arises if you get more than one copy of the paper.  Your stacks of coupons are now really large and time in the store slows even further.

Make Your Own Box

Yet another step closer to mastering organization.  For this system find any box you like.  I recommend something that can fit easily in the top part of the grocery cart.  Then buy or make your own dividers.  You can go to town with dividers and make categories for anything you like.  You will increase the amount of time it takes to organize your cut coupons, but in the store you will have smaller stacks to sort through to find a particular coupon.  I made my own box and used a 3×5 index card file box, they sell dividers for it and it had a lid!  For my categories when I finally moved out of the box I had over 40 dividers with everything from Baby to Personal Care Supplies I don’t use (just in case it was free).

The only downside with this system is that no matter what size box you pick, a box is a box and it will not expand.  If you get a lot of inserts you will not be able to get every coupon inside at some point.

Three Ring Binder

This system is for the truly serious and devoted. You need a 1.5 inch or larger 3 ring binder, baseball card organizing pages, and section divider tabs.  Label the dividers again by location in the store and then start to put coupons into the baseball card pockets.  Place your coupons individually (put multiples behind it) in the slots so that you are able to see every coupon.  I put a coupon facing the front and a different coupon facing the back to maximize space.  For the dividers, you are not limited by 12 sections so you can go crazy with tabs if you like.  You can even get a little zipper bag (sold to hold pencils) to put in the front to hold your coupons for that trip and a pair of scissors.

This system takes the most time to get everything organized.  It is coupon origami getting some of the large coupons in the slots.  However, in the store if you were racing against anyone in a lower system you would win hands down.  If you need to know if you have a particular coupon it will take you about 5 seconds!  You will also be ready to make a run to the store for a quick deal rather then feeling like you have to sit down and prepare.

A Few tips for this system:

  • If you have more than one coupon for the same item, put the ones that expire first towards the front in the pocket
  • Buy a folder that zips up!!  If you hold a binder upside down the coupons will fall out the top.
  • Look for a binder that has a 6 pocket accordion system too.  Now if you cut and don’t have time to file the coupons you can still have them with you.

My Favorite Binder I found at Office Depot, they don’t have one of their site so here is a similar one if you are interested in cost and features.

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?

    • lynn

      thank you thank you thank you……………….. this is realy going to help and cut down on time i hab=ve some rr that are going to expire think i will use them to get my system started

    • I use a 1.5 in binder with baseball card inserts. I categorize based on Baby, Bread, Cereal and so on. There really is no rhyme or reason where they are in the section. I always make sure if I have to fold it, I can at least see the picture of what the coupon is. I go through it every major expiration date to sort out the old ones and save them to send to our military families. Even though there is no organization in the section, once you flip through it so many times to shop, you know exactly where the one you want is.

      I recently started a blog and one of my friends has started couponing and mentioned she keeps her inserts whole, which I tried before, but didn’t have the right storage system. I had been cutting them out to trade the ones I don’t use at all and putting them in a shoe box. I am thinking it might be less time consuming to keep them whole, so thanks for the info you had on that! I’ll just have to check your archive for the ones that were included!

    • Katie

      I use a Two sided 3 ring binder that zips and has a strap. ONe side is for grocery (food coupons) the other side is for store (medicines, toiletries, soaps, resturant coupons,etc)

      I have three zip lock bags in the food section labeled Publix, Kroger, and CVS. I look at the this site before heading out on Sunday morning putting the coupons I know I am gonna use into the correct bag. I copy what I know that I want to buy to notepad and print it and put it into the correct bag.

      Then just pull out the correct bag for the store I am going into. But I do usually find things in the clearance section at PUblix that I can use so having the binder with me saves me also.,..

    • Em

      Are the baseball card inserts easy to find? Are they pricey?

      • sandy

        Walmart has them for about $2.97 for ten

    • Katie

      EM. At walmart there are with the magazines. Under two dollars

    • Amanda

      I use a combination system to save time and keep me organized. I get a ton of inserts, so I do use the file system like you do. However, I clip the coupons that I’m pretty sure will get used (or at least the ones that I have high hopes for! LOL) Those coupons I file in a binder, but I do not use the standard baseball card inserts – those a real pain when you have bigger coupons/tear pads coupons/etc. I purchased a medium size (approximate 8.5 x 11) photo book from Walmart to use for my coupons. I like the bigger “picture size” slots for my coupons and the fact that it is not as big and bulky as a regular 3 ring binder. There are two slots per page with a space in between that can be used to slip a label in. Mine are labeled by category. (i.e. breakfast items, boxed foods canned goods, meats, etc.) Then I have a small accordion file that I have my store envelopes in. There’s a section for CVS, WAGs, and for each of the grocery stores I shop at. I keep my ECBs, RRs, and receipts here. When I’m ready to shop I put the coupons I want in that store’s envelope and can take just that envelope into the store. It’ll be interesting to see how others stay organized!

    • Amber

      I use method #1.

    • Rhonda

      I use two binders, one for food and one for non-food items and schlep them around in a reusable bag along with the bags I’ll be using. I also alphabetize rather than categorize. Yep, I’m the only one that knows where the coupons are but that’s okay since I’m the only one who shops. It took me FOREVER to set this system up (most of a weekend with all my other responsibilities). I coerce my two kids to help with the cutting, sorting, and culling tasks<–it’s either that or help shop and they can not stand to shop (2 teenage boys). I file. Always. On Sunday nights or the coupons win. This system has worked well for the past 6 months.

    • EM, I got mine at Walmart, near the front of the store in a checkout line, but it was like a 100 for 6.99.

    • AngelathecouponNERD

      Wow! I use a combination of #1 (uncut) and #4 the binder with inserts, thanks to a good friend that gave me the most amazing 5 star brand binder for my birthday. My previous sad little notebook had been stolen, YES, STOLEN! out of my car one night. Now, I have a zippered binder with a section for filing inserts, as well as pages of cut coupons in the 3 ring part. I only clip what I know I’m going to use – this helps me if there’s an unexpected sale. Also, I print a list for each store each week, separate the coupons to use for the list, and put them in a zippered pencil bag next to the list.
      Nerdy, but it WORKS! My pantry is full of good stuff my kids like to eat!
      And, their bathroom is full of hair/body/face products that I could never afford to get before this crazy coupon game!

    • Delores

      I have tried a few things. First, I used 2 small photo albums (one photo per page type) and had for food, one for nonfood. I would take the food one into the grocery store, and the nonfood into CVS and Wags. It worked for the most part except then I just started to get sooo many coupons and the pockets were jam packed. Then I made my own. I took a larger binder, but smaller than 8.5 X 11. I think it is like 5 X 7. I took some regular size sheet protectors and put a piece of cardstock in the sheet protector. The cardstock is the 5X7 size that fits my binder. THen I sewed them so that there are two pockets on each side, so 4 pockets per sheet. They open from the top, rather than from the which most photo albums that size do. Then I put avery labels on the pockets and wrote the categories. There are still two main cats. of food and nonfood and then quite a few categories within each. Oh, and I made my own “coupstacker” thing like you get with the couponizer. I have to say that for a bunch of filing at once that thing is great! I put food on one side and nonfood on the other. But, after all that, I also have a mag. folder with whole inserts. I order mine off ebay now (through Ebates) and leave them in the env. they come in and just write the date on the outside.

      I live in an area where there are just not that many great deals to be had, and while in theory I think I am going to get all of them filed, in reality I just don’t take the time. So, this works for me and I don’t miss that many deals. Oh, and then before each trip as I get ready I write my list on an envelope (use the ones from my bills or whatever that comes in the mail) and put my coupons in it. Then at the store I take them out and as I get the item I put them in the envelope. I put the ones I end up not using in my purse and refile them later.

    • I have a dual system. The Coupon Binder and a “no cutting” folder system.

      I am a very visual person so I enjoy having the Coupon Binder with me in the store which is sorted by categories. I am not embarassed by it at all and it goes with me all the time. Often I am mistaken for a store employee and it opens the door for me to share the benefit of using coupons with other shoppers.

      I spend the time cutting my coupons at my inlaws over Sunday dinner while the children play. (Because this is where my papers are delivered) So, it doesn’t seem time consuming or like a waste of time to me. :) Plus, seeing, cutting and filing the coupons helps my brain register what I have and what I’ve used.

      I also use the “no cutting” folder filing system for any extra inserts that I am given by friends and family. Even though I love my Coupon Binder I find it to be a timesaver to not clip the extra inserts until I need them. The folder filing system enables me to find them as needed for additional trips to the store when I know there is coupons I want to clip & use.

      So, a dual system is what works for me. :)

      Here is what I have and here is what I’d like to have when mine falls apart, LOL. This one has an exterior flap and expandable sides.

      Happy organizing!

    • Kim

      I use a combination of 1 & 2. I have a large 3 ring binder for my inserts. I printed out bright pink labels with the Sunday dates of 2009 on them. Those labels go on each Sunday set of inserts (SS/RP). I use clear sleeves to put the inserts in, so no cutting for me. I also have a seperate 3 ring binder w/ sleeves divided into categories (food, baby, pet, H&B, etc.) for printed Qs. To top it all off I have an extra large/wide zipper pouch that all coupon booklets go into. I also have 3 envelopes I keep in it for cut Qs (printed/inserts, product package/peelie/CAT, blinkie).

      I used my coworkers idea for this and tweaked it to fit my needs, but I owe her a thousand thank you’s.

    • I use a 3″ zippered binder that is organized in alphabetical order. I cut all my coupons and file them by product name in page protectors divided in < $1.00 and then $1.00 and greater. For example…. “A” will have “Angel Soft Toilet Paper” filed and will have 2 page protectors in it one for less that $1.00 coupons and one for $1.00 and higher.

    • Esmelda

      I, like many other posters, also use a combination. I only cut the coupons I’m fairly certain I’ll use and organize them in a cancelled check holder by category. After my first few weeks of couponing I learned the hard way to keep the inserts too, even if I don’t think I’ll use them. That way I can still participate in the moneymakers and try out some products I don’t normally use.

    • ET

      Since learning of Southern Savers just over a month ago, I have tried several methods. First, I just used my canceled check holder I had previously from doing the normal couponing. Once I learned not to throw away any coupons, that holder was too small. (I do recommend that if you use a canceled check holder to get the longer ones.) Then I went to method #1, but as mentioned above, when I needed a coupon for a clearance sale or unexpected purchase, I didn’t have it with me. I then completely skipped over the box method and went straight to the binder system. The baseball card inserts are such a pain for the bigger coupons! I imagined a system with horizontal pockets instead of vertical ones for holding the long coupons such as I print from the internet. I found such a thing on eBay with three horizontal pockets. They just arrived Saturday and I have not yet begone organizing it all but plan to use a combination of the baseball card inserts with the horizontal inserts. Thank you so much for suggesting that I stack a different coupon facing the back! It is time-consuming on the front end, no doubt, but I think it will pay off when it is time to get my coupons ready for the store!

    • I use a combination of 1 and 2. At first I clipped all the coupons, then I realized I should only clip ones I would most likely use, so I save all the others in a 3 ring binder, whole together. Clip the one’s I want or think I may use and organize them in a small photo album. The small photo album works good too, because you can slip them in the pockets, much like the baseball card holder pages, only on a smaller scale. The only problem is that I’ve got so many that I’ve stuffed in it now, I need to go through it and remove the expired coupons. Thanks for all the info!

    • Stacey

      I am an organization freak so chose to go with the binder method; I use a Daytimer notebook I had on hand and the baseball card sleeves. If I don’t have time to clip my coupons I just stick my inserts or the pages I’ve printed from the internet in the back of the binder until I can get to them. But this way I have them when I go shopping.
      I even went so far as to break down each category by specific type item: all of my HBAs are together but I have a page for deodorant, oral care, shower gel, hair care, lotion, etc. Within each page I have put all the coupons by the same brand name together in the same pocket so I don’t use so many pages.
      I purchased the big packet of baseball card sleeves at Wal-Mart but I have also purchased individual pages from a local comic/baseball card/hobby store in my area. They have pages with 2, 4, and 6 pockets which have really come in handy.
      I keep one of the 4-pocket pages at the front of my book. When I get ready to go shopping I put all of the coupons I intend to use at Publix in one pocket, all my Bi-Lo coupons in another pocket, etc.

    • Shauna

      I use #1 and #4 for the very few printables that I print for later use. I generally just print what I need at the time and use them immediately though.

      I get several papers a week so in addition to #1 I decolate the coupon inserts and staple identical pages together. I also stack the stapled pages in the folder with the coupons I expect to use closer to the top so when it comes time to find them I know whether to start my search from the top of the stack or the bottom. It takes me about 2 hour long tv shows per week to do this to 10 papers but it makes finding the coupons very quick.

    • Shauna

      Oh, when I go to the store, I print my shopping list and staple the coupons I want to use to the bottom of my list in the same order. This way I can quickly double check when I pick out the items that I am getting the one that matches the coupon.

    • I have a combo of #1 and #2. I tried the binder method but it took too much time. I do have a spreadsheet with all the coupons that come in the inserts that I keep updated with the coupons I have used already. In the cancelled check file I have all the store coupons as well coupons of stuff I have seen on clearance or I have read about being on clearance.

    • I use the binder method with the basebal inserts. It takes time at first to get it started but it well worth it to be able to see every coupon that you have. It takes me about 30 minutes to clip and file them. It’s worth my time to clip because I have 2 infants that I have to take shopping with me sometimes, so I need all the time I can get in the store (just in case a melt down happens).

      I don’t clip every coupon because in the beginning I was throughing a lot of them out. I only clip and save the ones that I would use if I could get the item for free.

    • AM

      I started out about 6 weeks ago with the cancelled check version. Little did I know that I would become way obsessed with couponing, so it didn’t last long. I just had accumulated way too many coupons.

      I purchased the 3 ring binder with baseball card inserts. It took FOREVER to get organized, but now it’s amazing. I can see every coupon. I do use front and back, but only if it’s in the same category. As far as my tabs go, every tab is a pre-made number and color (I got this at Office Depot). At the very front of my binder is the color coded numbers 1-30. Each category is labeled appropriately so when it’s time to find a coupon, I open to the first page and find the correct color/number for my category I’m looking for and flip to that section. This way makes everything nice and neat. I do have sections for Publix only and Bi-Lo only coupons as well. Those items are all mixed together in those sections. I also have a section for my CVS ECB’s, Walgreens RR’s, and my receipts for Rite Aid until my SCR is mailed out monthly. Lastly, I do have a zipper pencil bag that contains a small pair of scissors and a small calculator for those last minute corrections. You wouldn’t believe how hany those have come! Before I head out for my shopping trips, I print my list for each store and place in the front pouch of the binder. Hope this helps someone!!

    • Julie

      I had used an accordian folder in the past but it didn’t work for me. I realized I’m also super visual and flipping through my binder (plus actually clipping/filing) forces me to keep a mental list of what I do and don’t have.

      I got a zip-up binder at Walmart for $10 that has a 3-ring insert, front mesh pockets and inner accordian slots. I can stash coupons I’ve yet to clip or restaurant/clothing coupons in the accordian section and I put all the coupons for single trips in the front pocket. I got one packet of baseball card holders at Walmart but my coupon stash got so big I ended up buying a pack of 50 from eBay. Came out cheaper.

    • I use a combo of all of them. I have a 3 ring binder for coupons that I have been given that are clipped, RR’s, ECB’s, rebate forms, register tapes and Rain checks.

      I have a file box for inserts.

      I have an accordian file I can put in my purse that I call a Take-a-long for shopping trips.

      It keeps me organized and ready to go !

    • All these great ideas, someone should start a business organizing these things and selling them to people like me who have absolutely no organization skills! Someone like Deloris above who sewed the sleeves to fit her coupons!

      I started out with a cute little photo holder, and put on those little adhesive tags that are like small post its but in different colors. It looked cute and very chic, but it wasn’t big enough. When I put more than one coupon in the sleeve, it would rip when I put them in and out.
      Recently I bought a huge accordian type folder that has a handle and I just put the whole insert in there, but I haven’t figured out what to do with the extra coupons like the printables that I get but am not using until they go on sale. I have them in something similar to baseball card sleeves, but again, they’re not big enough and I don’t have them in a binder or anything. People have actually stopped me and asked me if that big thing I carry is where my coupons are! it doesn’t fit very nicely in the front of the buggy either!

    • Beth

      I actually started off with the binder method. I think it was too time consuming, especially putting them in the binder. While I was organizing myself for the binder, I sorted all my coupons in a very generic fashion…bread, canned/boxed, meat, etc. I then put all of these in plain old envelopes until I could get them in the binder. Well, after weeks of clipping and no time to actually put in the binder, I took my generic categories and got real picky. My cleaning supplies envelope has now turned into 4 or 5 more precise envelopes (laundry, floor care, general cleaning, etc.). I probably have 70 envelopes in my box.

      My son had bought a pair of shoes a while back that did not come in a regular shoe box. The box has a clear lid that opens like a card file would. The lid is attached in the back so it will not come off. The box is taller in the back than in the front so it is easy to thumb through the envelopes. I have made cardboard dividers to fit the box. The box is also a little larger than the length of the envelopes so I either put the sales flyers there for the week or I can put coupons that I have not filed there also. I am sure I will probably change this system down the road, but right now it works for me.

    • Joy

      I use the binder method, but instead of using baseball card holders, I use 3×5 picture pages. One page has 3 slots and most coupons fit into these without having to fold too much. On each slot, I have a 2×4 label with the categories written. I have 30 pages which equals 90 categories. I like lots of categories because it is easier to find and none of the pockets get too full.

      My first three pages are for my shopping trips. On the first page, with three pockets, it is labeled: Check-out, This Week and Re-file. The next two pages list the stores that I frequent and also has a pocket for Rainchecks. Before I go shopping, I pull my coupons for each store and they go in the right pocket. When I get to each store, I pull those coupons and move them to the “This Week” pocket on the front page. (While I’m shopping, I have my binder opened in the seat area. I put my list to the left and clip it to the binder with a small clip and then the other page with the coupons that I need is to the right.) Then, while I’m shopping and I put something in my cart, I move the appropriate coupon to the “check-out” pocket. If I decide not to get something, they are out-of-stock, or I find some “blinkies”, those go into the “re-file” pocket.

      My binder also has a 3 pocket accordian type file thing in the front and a couple of nice zippered pocket and a pencil holder thing. I file: weekly sale ads, store flyers and coupon books (like Family is it’s Own Reward or similar) in one pocket, anything that I’m working on a rebate with in another, and all my receipts in the third. Then I also carry a small pair of scissors, pens and my store reward cards in the pencil holder thing.

      And like Jenny said, if you choose to do the binder method, it is a MUST to get a zip up binder!!!! You will be sorry if you don’t! I started with a regular binder and cleaned up all my coupons three times after I dropped it before I broke down and bought the $15 binder at Wal-Mart. It was worth every penny!

    • Joy

      Here is a great way to cut coupons from multiple inserts:

      I stack the inserts, then staple each coupon in the middle, avoiding the barcode, and then cut them out. Not only does it keep the coupons from slipping, it avoids your coupons getting messed up with others in the same pocket. I usually have 4-8 inserts, so it makes these nice little “packets” of coupons. It is really easy to take the staple out before I go to the store or even while I’m there. It also helps me count easily to see how many of a certain coupon that I have.

    • Great Post ! Check out my file box here

    • I do three things. I get multiple papers (they throw them free in my n’borhood in the yards each week).

      First, I cut out when I get the paper the coupons I know I will use (organic milk, cheese, glad wrap, pasta) and put those in my baseball card inserts in my plastic binder. This is good in case I see an item on unadvertised special that I know I would actually use, or could donate.

      I cut out at least one or 2 of every drugstore coupon, that way if I find something in a clearance bin on special I know I will have it on me, or if I need to buy a filler to get my total up at CVS I can buy something useful.These I keep in a little Plastic photo album that fits in my purse.

      Thirdly the MAJORITY of my coupons get filed by date in these huge accordion files. Stuff with 5-15 of every insert. I don’t cut until I need mostly. Then I have an ENVELOPE in my purse by marked PUBLIX, CVS, KROGER, WALGREENS. When I am searching around on the internet and see a great deal I cut out the coupon and put it in that particular envelope. Plus STORE coupons go directly in the STORE envelope.

      This system evolved over a 2 year period, the first year, I just used the little photo album… and it took off from there… The envelopes are cool, but they do tend to break down over time.

    • I use method #2. I have 2 of the organizers from Target, one for groceries, one for cleaning/toiletries/baby etc. There are 12 sections in each and small (non-business) envelopes fit perfectly in such that I can sub-divide. (For example, in “Dairy” I have an envelope for eggs, cheese, yogurt, icrecream etc). Makes searching for coupons SO FAST. I keep both with me always (fit easily in my mom-purse) and never miss a deal. :)

    • MarySC

      I use a combo of 1 and 2. I clip the coupons I think I will use (and the ones I print and pull from store displays) in a standard “coupon keeper” that always stays in the car. I do sort each individual section (dairy, frozen, paper, etc.) by expiration date, and I organize those sections to follow the aisles in the store I use the most. I have 2 unlabeled sections in the front of the coupon keeper. In the very front I put coupons I plan to use in the next shopping trip, then move coupons for items I have placed in the cart from the very front to the very back. I can then check easily that I haven’t forgotten any. (I HATE letting a good coupon expire by mistake!!) In the second front slot, I put all coupons that expire that month. (Near the end of each month I go through each section and pull the coupons that will expire in the next month, and remove the expired/expiring coupons that I haven’t/won’t use … my sister’s church sends them to the troops.

      The rest of the inserts I just date and throw in a box that is just the size of the inserts. That way the most recent is always on top, and I can easily find an older one. I really only go back if Jenny finds me a great deal, since I tend to clip what I regularly use. (I keep the store fliers there as well.)

      I do most of my coupon management in the car. I clip/print in the house of course, but do all organizing in my “dead time” in the car while waiting for kids! I can’t call myself an extreme couponer but I do pretty well, and my system is as elaborate and time consuming as I am willing to get.

    • This is a fantastic post! I am trying to decide how to re-do my system that is in the canceled check file. It is not cutting it. It takes me forever to find the coupon I want. :) Thanks for your help!

    • Amy

      I also use #1 & #2, but on your website, I go to coupon inserts, and print down the list of coupons from each week and put on the front of my coupon booklets. Very helpful.

    • Rhonda

      Oh, BTW, half-size index cards slip into the baseball sleeves perfectly. I use these to make it easier to slip 2 different coupons in one sleeve (i.e., one goes in front of the index card…one goes in the back of the index card). Meade makes pretty colored ones — about 200 for less than $1.

    • Jason

      I use a binder with baseball card sleeves. I organize mine by insert and within insert by expiration date.

    • Em

      These ideas are great! So much better than the basket on my car’s passenger floor board overflowing with coupon booklets, inserts, flyers, and ads topped off with my cancelled check/accordian file that will not stay closed on its own! LOL
      I usually have to haul the whole thing inside the house at least once a week to clean out and go through to meticulously plan my trips to the store so I don’t miss anything!
      I really do love organization and will be revamping my system this week!

    • I started couponing doing the binder, and now I feel thats the only way to be organized.
      Everything is right in front of your face and its so easy to find the QP you’re looking for 1,2,3!
      I feel this saves a lot of time flipping through each and every page.
      When I buy multiple papers, I cut them 4 at a time… Meaning I put the same sheets one on top of the other and cut. I place the QPs in piles and when Im done cutting, I then place them in my binder. It takes me under an hour now that I have it under a science.
      I always make the time for myself to do this.
      You can find an hour to do it even if you are overwhelmed.

    • I use option #4, but I’m a very detailed person by nature. I’m relatively new to couponing, so this post was really useful for me. I don’t think I’m quite to “extreme” but I’m doing pretty well. I do only get one paper so that might be why I’m not extreme LOL!

      I used to only clip coupons for things/brands that we used. Now that I’ve learned more, I clip almost every coupon – knowing that if I’m a little more relaxed on brands, etc. that I can save some serious cash. Plus, I’m all about some freebies :) There are some things I just don’t need – like cat food (we don’t have cats).

      I’m only using a basic 1″ 3-ring binder at the moment, though I definitely see the benefit of a larger zippered one. I’m careful with mine, but I know the day will come that I dump it! Plus, 1″ is already too small for me. I keep a small calculator in mine and would like to get one of those zippered pencil pouches for that and a pair of small scissors. I have some pretty general categories labelled (about 20 in total). I love the tabs, makes finding stuff so easy. I’ve only been using one side because I didn’t like the messiness of having both sides…but now that I’ve read the idea of putting a piece of paper (or 1/2 index card in there), I’m so going to change that!!!

      I have an envelope for each store that I frequent and I keep those at the front of the notebook. On Wednesdays and Sundays, I make lists and pull coupons and place in each envelope. I usually only hit 2 grocery stores (HT and BiLo) and I’m trying to get in the habit of doing that on a Sunday when my hubby can stay home w/ the baby. Then I hit 3 drugstores (if they warrant a visit) – Walgreens, Rite Aid & CVS. I will often put these envelopes in my pocketbook for the week so I can easily swing by on my lunch hour or when I pass one. I do try to keep my binder in the car though b/c I have found that I end up needing it on these drugstore stops. I always take it inside the grocery store with me.

      QUESTION: Someone mentioned sending expired coupons to military families??? What is the story with that? Do they have a use for them? I’d love to do that if it helps someone. Would love to know more!

    • Learning2CouponFL

      I started out with the box system but pretty soon I couldn’t stuff any more coupons in it, plus I felt like I was spending a lot of time clipping, searching through big stacks and then eventually removing expired coupons.

      Next I switched to a binder method using photo pages (because I found them on clearance super cheap at Staples). Making the switch took forever! I had them sorted by main categories with tabs, then by subcategories with labels in the skinny sections of the photo pages. I didn’t mind cutting the coupons, sorting into the main categories as I went, but I quickly grew to dread putting them into the pouches. Plus I still had to go through the notebook every month to get rid of expired ones and I was wasting time handling a lot of coupons that I never used.

      Now I’m doing a variation of #1. I get two copies of the paper so I collate the two inserts and cut them down so they’re single pages and clip them together with a cover page listing the insert name, date and the expiration range. Then I flip through the insert and add the coupons to an inventory I keep in Excel. I made macros, so by clicking a button I can sort the coupons by description (I always start with the brand) or product category (I have about 50 of them) and I print the list sorted both ways when I’m done adding to it for the week. Another macro allows me to periodically delete expired coupons from the list with a single click. I store the lists and the inserts in clear vinyl 3-ring pocket pages in the binder I had from before. I kept some of the photo sheets split into the same categories as my inventory for loose coupons from other sources. My binder has an accordion section on the front so I use that to store inserts I haven’t inventoried yet, weekly ads and coupon books from Publix. Pouches inside hold a pad of paper, pencils, a calculator and a pair of scissors.

      So far this compromise seems to be working for me. I don’t spend any time clipping coupons that I might not use, I don’t have to sort through them looking for expired ones and I know if a coupon is missing from the insert it’s because I’ve used it, plus I still have them all with me and thanks to my lists, I can find them pretty quickly if I see an unexpected deal or realize we need something I’d forgotten about.

    • JEB

      I use method 1 and 2….if I had to cut out every single coupon, I would go crazy and have a sore hand!

    • Lorie

      I use the binder method with the baseball card holders. It did take forever to get it organized because i had collected quite a few inserts over a 2 month period! I have learned to make sure to have the weeks coupons in the binder and organized BEFORE a new paper comes out or the coupons will win and I will get frustrated and most likely give up -and I CAN’T do that!! My binder came from Office Max and is zippered with a nice handle, it is a 3 inch 3 ring binder and I have it in 2 sections – food and non-food and then in the front I have dining and dessert (Cold Stone, Krispy Kreme) coupons. It has an accordian file on the inside too and 2 mesh pockets great for scissors, pens, etc. I have everything organized by alphabetical order and it works best for me.Been doing this since the beginning of March and can’t go back to shopping the “other” way!

    • LB

      I use three large sized index file boxes to file my coupons in envelopes that I cut down to size. (I could buy envelopes that fit the boxes, but having that one side cut makes it much easier to take coupons out and put them in. It opens the envelope up more) I cut almost all of the coupons and file them alphabetically by manufacturer. I use a-z tabbed divideres to keep each letter separated. For example, cheerios would go in the g’s because the manufacturer is general mills. No matter where the cheerios coupon came from (publix baby club, cvs, blinkie, store coupon, tear pad, printable, inserts etc.) it will go in the general mills envelope because that’s the manufacturer. If Jenny lists several coupons for cheerios, then I know that every one I have will be in that envelope or I don’t have it. On the front of the envelope I write the date of the first coupon to expire that’s in the envelope. So if there are several different expiration dates inside the envelope, I write the date of the first one to expire. So at the end of June, I will look on the front of each envelope and see if any have a June date written on them. If they do, then I will pull that envelope and clean out the expired coupons, and write the new date on the front. If an envelope is empty after cleaning out the expired coupons, I leave it in the box, because pretty much the same manufacturers come out with coupons time after time. It’s very rare that I have to create a new envelope any more. When Jenny makes her lists, I very easily pull the coupons and place them in my coupon organizer that I keep in my purse. The organizer is one that i picked up at cvs and is has everything. The front pocket is more like a box that is sturdy and holds my pen and small calculater. Then, I have the dividers labeled: publix, cvs, walgreens, winn-dixie, food world, think about (this is where I put coupons for things I’m not sure I want to get and will think about while I’m at the store), blinkies/refile (for the ones I collect at the store or don’t use), separate transactions (this is for when I need to do a separate transaction apart from the main one…keeps me from having to search through the main stack for that store while I’m there), restaurant coupons, and receipts. There are three spaces left for me at the back. I fold the lists for each store and put them in the pocket for that store along with the coupons. This way works for me. I don’t mind not having all of my coupons with me at the store because I’m always shopping with three small children and am not really looking for anything other than what’s on my list. I’m okay with missing out on the unexpected deal. Plus, if I have all of my coupons with me, I’m tempted to use them on things just because I have a coupon for it. That would not be smart shopping. I hope this helps anyone looking for another way.

    • I use a large accordion file, one that fits 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper. It has an elastic around it to keep it shut. I have each section labeled in general terms.
      My sections are as follows:
      1. Free or nearly free
      2. Coupons for this week
      3. Store fliers
      4. Receipts
      5. Food
      6. Personal Care
      7. Household
      8. Medications
      9. Baby
      10. Store coupons

      Within each section, I have a 3×5 card labeled with subdivisions. For example, under food I have snacks, condiments, meat, dairy, etc. I then use paper clips (or if the stack is too large, one of those mega paper fastener thingies)to attach the coupons for the various categories to the 3 x 5 cards. Everything is color coded to make it easier too. If I have multiples, I fold them together within the stack to cut down on sorting when I’m looking for a coupon. I also discovered a technique to cut down on cutting and sorting time. If I have multiples of the inserts, I cut the same coupon out of each insert before going on to the next coupon. I spread everything out on a large table, ending up with all these stacks of like coupons. Then it is a breeze to pick up all the stacks belonging to a particular category, and fasten them to the pile.

      I do like the binder and baseball card divider idea though, and may decide to give that a try. I was just using what I had on hand here, and it seems to work well for me.

    • LB

      An extra note… I make my lists the day Jenny lists them on this site. It might be late while everyone is sleeping or early before everyone gets up, but this way, I’m prepared to shop whenever I’m able to go. And what do I do with the rain checks? I simply put them back in my purse coupon organizer in that store’s pocket. That way, the next week when I go with my new list and the shelves are restocked with that product, they are already there and I don’t have to remember to bring them with me. Same with RR, and ECB’s, $4/$20 etc. They immediately go in the store pocket as well.

    • gini

      Praising God for you!!

    • Max

      I usually use large bulldog clips to hold together each week’s flyers, with the different flyers sorted within the stack. Sometimes this requires a couple if I have, for example, 5x SS, 5x RP, 5x PG, et cetera. But it works well and keeps everything together. Then, I simply affix a post-it note to the front flyer which states the date of that bundle.

      These bundles simply get stacked flat on a shelf chronologically, i.e. oldest on the bottom. This makes finding, for example, a 04/19/09 SS a snap.

      As for organizing the coupons themselves, I’ll usually wait until a list comes out, copy and paste all the items I’d like into a separate text file, and then go through my stack of flyers, cutting out each coupon from the flyer with an X-Acto knife and putting it into an envelope (I have one envelope for Publix, one for Bi-Lo, one for CVS, et cetera). This process can be somewhat time consuming, but the upside is I spend very little time in the store, and am usually in and out within 20 mins. Additionally, it keeps me from making impulse purchases, because if it’s not in the coupon folder, it doesn’t go in the cart. I don’t bring any of the flyers to the store with me because 1) it is so cumbersome, and 2) to resist the urge to buy something I probably don’t need but have a great coupon for.

      Coupons I’ve clipped for items that the store is out of (or simply don’t stock) go into a separate envelope once I’m home. I go through these periodically if I see something on a list later on and am missing the coupon, otherwise I’ll send them over to Jenny for her coupons for troops program, which I recommend to all.

      I would also recommend for all of you who are using scissors to cut your coupons to invest in a self-healing rubber mat and an X-Acto knife to do your coupon clipping. It’s much quicker and easier on the hands, and keeps the fliers intact if you prefer that method of organization.

    • I have a combo method too… #2 and #3. I use a container with envelopes inside to sort the different sections. It has a lid with a handle and is easy to take around. I also carry a small accordian file that fits in my purse. I usually grab whatever q’s I need for specific stores and put them in there to shop since I am shopping with 3 kids 5 and under. :) I posted about how I break up the categories on my blog. Thanks for all the great ideas!

    • New at This

      I have a ton of questions for For Learning2CouponFL.

      I have been considering a spreadsheet organizational method as well…but was kind of afraid that all the data input would take more time than just clipping! On your spreadsheet, how many fields do you include with all the info about how much the coupon is worth, what the source is, etc? (I tend to go overboard with details “just in case” and end up with more than I need). For loose coupons, you say you still use the photo pages, right? do you organize those in any particular way? For the inserts, do you put all the “bundled” pages of one insert together in one sleeve (all SS’s from the same date in one sleeve, colated) or do you use a different sleeve for each page (all SS page 1’s in one sleeve, page 2’s in another)?

    • Sienna

      I transformed one of my many diaper wipe containers into my “go” coupon box. I taped dividers into it, so that I have coupons for each store that I frequent. Then I put free/almost free qs in the front spot, so that I always have the “good” coupons with me. The rest of the coupons stay as whole inserts that I put in plastic sheet protectors in a big binder, organized and labeled by date. Then I use Hot Coupon World’s coupon database to look up any coupon I’m looking for and just go to my insert to cut it out and put it in my diaper wipe coupon holder.

    • Honey

      This was helpful. I have been couponing for just over a year now. I started with a small box with envelopes. Then I went to more specific categories as I accumulated more coupons. Then I went to a bigger box. Now I can’t fit them all and have them in two boxes. I like always having them with me because if I have a quick chance to stop in Kroger and there is a clearance item I can snag it for free or almost. I get many free things each week just by having the coupons with me-so I know the file-the-whole-inserts method won’t work for me. But having two boxes isn’t working either-can’t carry two boxes into the store… So I think I am going to give the binder a shot. I hate forking out $ for it, but I have simply outgrown my current system. My only concern (besides expense) is that it will be tedious to put the couopns into the slots-as others have shared. Or to keep track of expiring coupons. But I think if I do the work upfront to put them in in order of expiration this can be avoided. Thanks for everyone’s ideas.

    • Sweetheartface

      I use 2 big 3 ring binders, one with baseball card inserts. I got all of this at Walmart. One of the binders have only the sunday inserts in it. I have a 3 hole puncher, I put the date on each insert and punch the holes in them and put them in the binder. This way I can flip through each insert with ease and cut out only the coupons I need at the time. This binder also has pockets on the front and back flaps where I put my rebate forms and copies of the forms that I already mailed in. I keep copies in case they say I didn’t submit the forms correctly. This binder also has a clear full front pocket where I printed out a cute name and picture for the front of my binders. The other binder has baseball card inserts with plastic dividers in between for each catergory. Such as personal, household, food, baby, dog, etc. These dividers have plastic pockets on the front of each one. This is where I put oversized coupons for that catergory.(these pockets are really handy).I just happen to have these on hand ,not sure where to get them. When I print out coupons on the internet I go ahead and cut them out and put them in their catergory in the baseball card pockets with multiples in the same pocket. I also have plastic dividers with pockets for each store in case I have store specific coupons, I keep the store coupons policy and rebate books, anything pertaining only to that store. I also keep envelopes for each store in these pockets for when I go to that store I have the coupons I want to use in it. (I am considering plastic pencil holders in place of the envelopes). I hope I have helped someone,I know I have gotten great ideas here myself!

    • Lauren

      I use the accordion file to store the coupons and I carry it with me wherever I go. I have a little 5 x 7 notebook with a pocket in the front, and when I’m planning my shopping trip, I write my list down (broken down by store) and put the coupons (paper-clipped together by store)in the front pocket. I always carry the accordion file, in case there is an unadvertised sale on something, but I really like to shop the circulars, so that I basically know what I’m going to be spending. I always aim to save 75% and it’s AMAZING how often I achieve that.

    • Stephanie

      I have a question…I am trying to transition to cutting less b/c all these stacks of coupons are a little out of control LOL!

      Here’s the problem…I have several weeks worth of SS and RP that have not been cut but I didn’t put the date on the front!! Any where in the where the dates will be printed??? Help me please!!!

    • Crystal

      The date is in small print on the binding edge of the cover of each insert. It usually says the name of the paper it came from also.

    • Crystal

      I use a combo method:

      I have a 3″ three-ring binder, I have page protectors inside that I slip the inserts into, each week each group gets one (ex: Smart Source, Red Plum, P&G, etc.) Then I print out a Word Document that I had cut and pasted this sites coupon preview into (making any changes to dollar amounts or such as needed) and place it in the front of each page protector. This has the date and type printed on the front and I can just flip pages and read down the alphabetical list if I need a coupon in a rush.

      I also have 2 index file boxes (one for food items; one for cleaning, H&B, etc.)divided into categories that I use for any booklets, mailing, blinkies, etc.

      Granted, using this system I don’t get to take advantage of in-store clearance items as easily but it works well for me and takes me but about 15 minutes to get my lists ready each week – Thanks to this wonderful site!!!

    • Ashley

      Firstly, I cut all of my coupons, ones I don’t use; I divide up amongst my family. I label envelopes with their names on them and put coupons in each envelope of the family member I think will use them. Every couple of weeks I give them to my family members. It works great, because it’s less coupons I have to discard if they expire and I did not use them. That is the same as throwing money in the trash, and I cannot stand that.

      I make a grocery list every week. For each item that I know I have a coupon for I use a different colored pen and make a “C with a circle around it” next to the item. This reminds me that I have a coupon I need to pull.

      I have a very different way of organizing my coupons. I feel it is very efficient and ideal. I take a legal size envelope and seal it…then I cut the envelope in thirds. I have the 2 from the ends of the envelope that are little “already made pockets.” The middle piece, I tape one side, to get my 3rd pocket.

      I do this to several envelopes. Then I label each individual pocket by category:
      • Frozen items
      • Cereal aisle
      • Nutritional/Vitamins
      • Medication/First Aid
      • Paper goods (ex. Toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex)
      • Bagging items (ex. Sandwich bags, foil, trash bags)
      • Dairy products
      • Refrigerated Case Items
      • Meat/cheese
      • Drinks (ex. Juice, water,)
      • Condiments (ex. BBQ sauces, marinades, ketchup, mustard)
      • Dry Foods (ex. pasta, beans, canned items)
      • Hair products (ex. Shampoo’s, hair color, sprays, etc.)
      • Body soap (ex. Bar soap, liquid soaps)
      • Lotions
      • Razors/Dental Items

      This is just some of the ways I categorize my coupons, you can chose according to what works best for your.

      When I’m in each section of the grocery store, I find the appropriate “pocket of coupons”. If I am in the Body soap aisle I can go through all the coupons and see which I get the best discount for depending on which brand is on sale, or which coupon offers the best discount. It really makes it easy.

      You can keep all your little “Pockets” in a small file box, or in a Ziploc bag. Which ever is convenient for you.

      Every few weeks, I go through each pocket and pull my expired coupons out. This gives more room for the following weeks coupons as well. It really is a great system.

      My system may be a little time consuming at first, but once you have your “pockets” made, you’re pretty much set. They are durable for quite some time.

      Currently, I alphabetize my “pockets”. This works well because if
      I’m in a certain aisle, I know I can find the adjoining “pocket” easily when going through my group of “pockets”.

      Good luck.

    • I love your blog!! I direct readers from my blog to yours every week! Thank you for all the information you provide!

      This (http://livelargespendless.blogspot.com/2009/04/couponing-101-part-2.html) is how I organize/file my coupopn inserts at home & this (http://livelargespendless.blogspot.com/2009/04/time-saving-tuesday-organizing-coupons.html)is how I organize my coupons on the go.

    • Learning2CouponFL

      New at This,

      I’m sorry for not responding sooner, this is the first time I’ve made it back to this post. If you have more questions or you’d like a copy of my spreadsheet you can email me: Learning2CouponFL(at)gmail(dot)com

      My spreadsheet has 6 columns:
      1) Insert date
      2) Insert – I just use the common online abbreviations (RP, SS, PG, etc)
      3) Coupon description – this is pretty similar to the descriptions Southern Savers uses on its lists. I’ve also had to remind myself that I don’t have to list every detail (I can always look at the coupon itself) but I do make sure that the brand name is first. Here are some examples: “Friskies pouch” “Johnson’s baby product” “Benadryl – any” “L’Oreal HIP eye shadow, liner or mascara”
      4) Value – $0.50/1, $1/2, BOGO or whatever
      5) Expiration
      6) Category – for this I used the data validation feature of Excel and I have a list of about 50 categories.

      A couple of things that save me time: I copy/paste the insert date and abbreviation down the column a ways so I’m not retyping it for each coupon and I can usually just inventory the coupons during my free time then I select the categories when it’s slow at work or during my lunch hour. This way I’m actually only typing out the description, price and expiration on Sundays, which minimizes the time I spend on coupons and keeps my husband from looking at me funny :)

      Yes, I use photo pages for loose coupons, mostly because I already had them on hand. I sort them into the same categories I use on my spreadsheet, with roughly one page per category. I have a couple of extra pages for the categories I get a lot of loose coupons for, like “Baby Products.” The category pages are in alphabetical order but most of my categories are subdivisions of Health & Beauty and Household items.

      I was putting the bundled pages of each insert together into one vinyl pocket but since continuing with this system I’ve been clipping each insert together and putting the whole week into a pocket together to avoid buying a bunch of pockets. I don’t use ordinary sheet protectors, these are heavy-duty clear plastic and the front of the pocket only goes about 3/4 of the way up the page. They each hold about 70 sheets and usually come 5 in a pack. You could use sheet protectors but I think that would make it harder to get the inserts in and out, especially as they get cut up. Since my last post I’ve also stopped cutting the double-pages in half, I just collate them together, which saves a step and a couple of minutes.

      One problem I’ve run into, is that there are usually a few coupons in each insert that expire long after the other ones. I’m not sure whether I’m going to start leaving inserts at home once a majority of the coupons in them have expired or whether I’m going to go through and throw away pages. I hate to go back to searching for expired coupons but saving the whole insert until every coupon in it expires is making my binder really full.

    • I use a binder. I found one already put together on e-bay. It was around $20 and worth every penny since it came fully loaded with dividers and sheet protectors! There were also a few tip sheets in the front. I highly recommend purchasing one, I only wish I could remember the name of the seller.

    • Robin

      My coupon adventure began less than two months ago. I decided to file my coupons in a 3×5 index file box with index cards alphabetically by brand name. (Betty Crocker, Kraft, General Mills, and Gillette are a few of my bigger sections). I also have sections for each drugstore, each grocery store, each office supply store and restaurants. Already this system has expanded to a plastic shoe box, then into a really cute purse that one of my daughters had around the house. The purse is about the same size as a shoebox with sides and bottom sturdy enough to keep the index cards and coupons in order and upright. I keep a small pair of scissors, a pencil and a calculator in there as well. It has a nice zipper. I can just carry my coupon purse with me everywhere. I am mulling over the idea of a binder to be able to see the coupons better, but dread the thought of things getting out of alphabetical order. :-0 Maybe that will come later when I am able to stop adding brands. (I can already see that brands seem to repeat themselves after a few weeks)
      I absolutely love this site and all the fabulous deals Jenny sends our way. Shopping has a totally different meaning to me now.

    • Erin

      I wasn’t sure where to put this comment so bear with me. RE: expired coupons – do not throw them away. My personal experience is that almost EVERY store where I shop (Ingles, Kroger, Food Lion, CVS, Rite Aid) takes expired coupons. Walmart is the ONLY store I go to that will not take one. I regularly use expired manufacturer coupons and have maybe have had one or two denied in the past 6 months. Since reading Jenny’s post about the life of a coupon, I will not use a coupon that is more than 6 months old. I also discard IPs once they are expired.

    • Beryl

      Sorry if someone has already mentioned this. But, if you use option #1 for organizing. I have found that printing a weekly listing and attaching to coupon booklets for that week, helps if you are at the store looking for the “special coupon” you know you have – somewhere!

    • Jolene

      For those who can sew, instead of buying the Baseball card sheets. I used Protection sheets (cheap, even cheaper when they were recycled from last year’s school assignments. I place a sheet of paper in each as a page divider then sewed the pockets myself and used a craft knife to cut a opening at the top of the middle and bottom pockets. Lines were not the straightest, but it does the job great. I add some extra sheet protectors to hold the store ads, rebate offers, etc.
      It’s a cheap system, but it works.