Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Couponing 101: Organizing your coupons without going crazy

When I first started couponing, I didn't get the newspaper.  I stuck entirely to printable coupons.  I will say that couponing is entirely doable just with printables -- more and more companies are going with it now, and sometimes the printable coupons are better than the ones you get in the paper!

Printable coupons are great because you don't really have to think about organization.  For the most part you can just print out what you need, when you need them.  You might miss out on a few good coupons this way -- there are often limits on how many people can print a coupon -- but you can score plenty of deals without bothering to try printing things out in advance.

When I got the opportunity to get a year-long, Sunday-only newspaper subscription for $26, I couldn't resist getting in on the paper coupons too.  I knew I'd be able to save well over $26 a year with the additonal coupons I'd receive.  But once I had them, I couldn't figure out how to keep them sorted and organized without losing my mind!

I've seen people in the store with these beautiful binders full of carefully cut and sorted coupons, like it's some sort of Pinterest-worthy craft project.  Good for them.  My idea of a good time isn't spending an entire evening with a stack of coupon inserts and a paper cutter.  I tried cutting them all and trying to roughly sort them, but it took forever.  I knew there had to be a better way.

You want to know my secret?

Until I need them, I don't cut them at all.

Most coupon sites -- my favorite being Living Rich With Coupons -- will help you find a coupon by giving you the date and the insert to look through.  On Living Rich With Coupons they mention the date/insert when referring to coupons on the weekly match-ups, and they also provide that information in their free coupon database, where you can search for coupons for items you need that might not "match up" with a store sale.

Here's my expanding file folder:

You can get one of your own for super cheap.  Mine is huge because I once used it to organize references for my bachelor's thesis.

Here's my routine:

  1. The paper shows up.
  2. If I have time, I'll flip through the inserts just to see what's in there.
    1. Optional: If there's a coupon I'm 100% sure I'm going to use soon, I might clip it.
    2. Optional: Look at the dates on the coupons and find the latest date.  If you make a note of that on your file label you'll know when those inserts are ready to be recycled.
  3. I throw the inserts in one section of my file folder.
  4. I write the date on a post-it.  
    1. If you looked at the coupon dates and know the latest date in those inserts, you could add this to your label for easy purging later.
  5. Some day, probably when my folder's full because I'm incredibly lazy, I'll purge the old stuff and maybe move the new stuff forward.  
And when it's time to shop?
  1. I look at the deal sites to figure out what date and what insert I need to look at
    1. Hint: They're usually abbreviated.  SS = SmartSource, RP = RedPlum, P&G = Proctor and Gamble.
  2. I pull out that insert and quickly flip through until I find the coupon (or sometimes don't find the coupon if it's regional and I'm not in that region -- but given that my search is focused on just that insert, I can usually figure that out quickly and move on).
  3. I cut the coupon I need then put the insert back for another day.
It's simple, yet gives me exactly what I need.  Even if it's some wacky product I'm only buying because I'm getting paid for it, I'll have the coupon and it'll be relatively easy to find.  It takes so much less time to not bother with all the clipping!

If you want to, clipping the coupons you know you'll use can be helpful.  To keep them organized I have this little coupon file, which fits in my bag and can come to the store with me, in case I stumble upon a good deal.  I also use it to hold the coupons I intend to use on my shopping trip -- I just put them all together in the front so they're ready to hand to the cashier in one big stack.


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