Whether you're looking for ways to stretch your household budget or you simply love the thrill of scoring a bargain, clipping coupons is a great way to save money. And with the price of food, gasoline and other necessities on the rise, even the most brand-loyal buyers are following in the footsteps of extreme couponers and enjoying some extra cash in their pockets as a result.
If you're new to clipping coupons or your old haphazard system of collecting and organizing is ready for an overhaul, it can seem daunting to figure out how to clip, carry and organize all those little slips of paper so that you can find them again when you need them -- and before they expire. Fear not! Our five simple tips for creating a coupon organizer will help you sail through your next trip to the store -- and hopefully save a few bucks in the process!
Choose a Binder
If you've been carrying your coupons to the store in an expandable coupon file or -- gasp! -- a plain white envelope, it's time to step up your game. A three-ring binder lets you carry more inventory, organize more creatively and see all your coupons at a glance.
Some coupon aficionados swear by a zippered binder -- the kind that zips all the way around the outside -- to hold everything in place and prevent your carefully arranged coupons from spilling all over the floor of the grocery store if you should happen to drop it. But any three-ring binder will do, and repurposing one of your kids' old school notebooks for this purpose will save you some money. If you're worried about your binder falling or flopping open, a sturdy rubber band or two should help to keep it closed.
Now that you've chosen your carrier, it's time to get those coupons organized!
Decide How You Want to Organize
By aisle or expiration date? Alphabetically by brand or product name? Everyone has their own system of organizing coupons, and the only right way is the one that works for you. To decide whether you ought to file that coupon under "frozen foods," "Eggo," or "waffles," think about how you tend to shop.
Do you shop primarily in one store, or do you go in search of the best prices every week? Are there must-have brands that you purchase week after week, or does the best price win? If the store where you always shop keeps the juice boxes in the cereal aisle, for example, then it might make sense to put those coupons near each other in your book. But if you visit different stores every time you shop, it might be easier to sort by category (cereal, beverages, snacks, etc.) or even product name (Cheerios, Fruitables, Oreos).
Whatever system you go with, keep it simple, and remember, you can always change it later if it's not working for you.
Pick Your Pages
No matter how you decide to organize your coupon collection, you'll want to find clear pages that make it easy to insert coupons, view them and get them out again when you need them. Baseball card holders are ideal for coupon binders, as are photo album sleeves designed to hold around four photos per page.
To create double-sided pages (so you won't need to buy as many), just cut pieces of plain paper to size and slide them into each compartment of the page. The paper acts as a divider, allowing you to use both sides of the clear sleeve without mixing up your coupons.
Now that your pages are ready and waiting in your coupon binder, it's time to fill them up. On the next page, we'll help you make this task a breeze, rather than a chore.
Arrange Your Coupons
Now the fun part begins! If you have coupons piled on your counter, crammed into envelopes or stuffed into an old coupon wallet, you'll love the satisfaction of sorting them all into your new binder.
Believe it or not, there are mats sold specifically for this purpose: You unfold the mat onto a table and sort your coupons into piles according to the labels on the mat. We think this step works just as well without a mat, though.
Simply gather up all your coupons and sort them according to the categories you've chosen for your coupon binder. It's easiest to spread everything out on a flat surface, create your piles, then transfer everything to the coupon binder at once, rather than paging through each section and adding the coupons one at a time. Be sure to toss any expired coupons as you go through your stash, and if you have duplicates of any coupons, put those that expire soonest in front of (or on top of) those with later dates.
You have your binder, your beautifully organized pages and more coupons than you could spend in a lifetime of shopping sprees. But is there something you're forgetting? Read on ...
Don't Forget Your Gear!
Create a zippered section in your coupon binder where you can store small scissors, a pen or pencil, and a calculator. A zippered pencil case punched for a three-ring binder works perfectly for this job -- if you can't steal one from your kids, you can find one at just about any office supply store.
A zippered pouch or a few full-size plastic sheet protectors are also perfect for holding things like shopping lists and the coupons you'll use on this shopping trip, so you have them readily available in the checkout line. Once you find the product that matches your coupon on the shelf, simply move it to the "ready to check out" file. You'll breeze through the checkout, and the next person in line will thank you.
For more tips on creating a coupon organizer, take a look at the links on the next page.
Dollar stores — where most items cost just a buck — always seem to make money. HowStuffWorks finds out how they do it.
- CouponPro. "Best Way to Organize Your Coupons." April 11, 2012. (April 27, 2012) http://www.thecouponpro.com/blog/best-way-to-organize-coupons
- Frugal Coupon Living. "Extreme Couponing Acronyms and Explanations." Sept. 8, 2011 (April 27, 2012) http://www.frugalcouponliving.com/2011/09/08/extreme-couponing-couponing-acronyms-and-explanations/
- Jones, Michelle. "Coupon Queen Savings: Get Your Grocery Coupons Organized!" 2004. (April 27, 2012) http://www.betterbudgeting.com/articles/frugal/couponqueen.htm
- Mooney, Abigail. "How to Make a Practical Coupon Organizer. For Free." Feb. 1, 2011. (April 27, 2012) http://www.percyandbloom.com/down-abbies-road/2011/2/1/how-to-make-a-practical-coupon-organizer-for-free.html
- Nelson, Stephanie. "The Best Way to Organize Coupons." Good Morning America. Dec. 16, 2005. (April 27, 2012) http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Moms/story?id=1411527