Coupons: You Gotta Know How to Hold ‘Em

Ok, so you’ve got your coupons. Now what?

Stash them in your wallet? Put them in an envelope? Spend a ton of money on a multi-compartment, fancy schmancy coupon organizer?

Well, that depends. There are all sorts of ways and means of organizing your coupons. Some people use boxes. Others special bags. Still others have their coupons filed neatly in binders.

The important thing to remember here is to organize them so that you will find what you want and therefore, use them. But, you have to find a way that works for you. If you can’t find the coupon quickly and easily or if you won’t use the organizational method you’ve got going, then that method isn’t for you.

I can only speak for what works for me. The next woman may have a better way, but my way’s not broke, so I’m leaving well-enough alone.

Last year I started out with this:

My sister gave me this green coupon purse one Christmas years ago, filled with money and gift cards. I had no inklings of couponing back then. Little did she know… But, in the beginning I was able to put it to good use. It attracted quite a few comments from fellow shoppers as well. Kind of like when I take my kids out shopping dressed like this:

However, I quickly outgrew my cute little green satin and sequin coupon bag. Then I went to this:

I transferred my stash to a Huggies wipes box. While it wasn’t super stylish, I liked it because the lid was attached. It worked well until my coupon collection exceeded 4 inches in depth. Then I graduated to this:

Now, I still attract attention, but for different reasons.

I actually got this idea from Crystal, so I can’t take credit for its brilliancy. In fact, I was resistant to this idea. I didn’t want to switch from my Huggies box and its cute manila folder dividers. But, this totally works. Crystal gives an in-depth explanation here, but here’s my paraphrase.

You’ll need:

a box with a lid (I just used what I had in the cupboard)
envelopes
index cards
a stapler
a list of categories that your coupons fit into

Each family’s coupons may differ from the next one’s. So, don’t feel like you have to have the same envelopes. But, to give you an idea, my categories are as follows:

Baby
Baking
Beverages
Breads
Canned and Boxed
Cereal
Cleaners
Dairy
Dental
Feminine Products
Fresh Produce
Frozen Dessert
Frozen Food
Frozen Veg
Hair Care
Laundry
Make-up
Meats
Medicine (divided into subcategories of allergy, cold, 1st aid, pain, supplements/vitamins, tummy, and other)
Mexican
Misc (usually includes things like batteries and light bulbs)
Organic
Paper Products, Plastic Bags, and Wraps
Shaving/Deodorant
Skincare (includes soaps, lotions, wash)
Snacks (divided into chips/pretzels/mix/popcorn, nuts/seeds, bars/gummies/fruit snacks, candy, and cookies/crackers/puddings)
Spreads, Sauces, Dressings, and Other Condiments

Now, once you have your list, write the category on the top of each index card. Slip it into an envelope and staple it to the back of the envelope. The envelopes serve to hold each category’s coupons together while the index card acts as a divider. I find that the envelope system is key to keeping your coupons together. Slit the side open if your coupons are a little too large for the envelope.

I keep my box of coupons in a large zippered tote bag with the ads for the week in a file folder. Everything I need is in one place. And I try never to leave home without it. You never know when a good deal will beckon you, so be prepared.

This definitely works for me.

How ’bout you? How do you organize your coupons?

PS Don’t forget to browse the offerings at Coupons.com and Red Plum. These change often and have some great coupons to print.

Next week: Shop Listing

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Comments

  1. I think I need to try this idea. The baseball-card sleeves in-a-binder takes too much maintenance. This looks like just the ticket (and cheap!) Thanks!

  2. Rachel @ Surviving The Stores says:

    My brain doesn’t like categories for some crazy reason, so this is how I organize mine:

    http://www.survivingthestores.com/2009/03/how-i-organize-my-coupons.html

  3. Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam says:

    I have found a balance between the baseball cards and your categories. I use categories in the box for the additional coupons but keep the major things that I know come around often in my binder so I don’t miss anything. Either way – I am really far behind and spent hours getting ready for triple coupons this week. Keeping up with it every week is key. :)

  4. UnfinishedMom says:

    This sounds very familiar. Mine are currently in a Baby Wipes container, though sometimes I have more coupons than will fit in it with the lid closed. But, I use envelopes. My envelopes are in order according to the sections of the grocery store that I visit most often.

    Now what I’m curious about is that bag with the coupon box and ads. I want to see that bag. I think this could be a good way to contain my couponing stuff. Do you keep other things in there too or just coupons and ads?

  5. Angela (from Coupon Makeover) says:

    I teach 3 different ways in our Coupon Makeover Classes to “manage” the coupon monster. I personally use the binder for the things that I KNOW I will eventually buy. Then I use an accordian folder to store the extra coupon inserts that I didn’t waste time cutting (you NEVER want to throw away a coupon b/c it will be FREE or $.09 and you will be hunting for it in the trash:) – they are labled on the spine with the dates. This is what works for me…(I use thegrocerygame.com to help me in matching the sales with the coupons and dates)

  6. Donna(mom24boyz) says:

    Funny, I just did a similar post showing my new coupon box

    It was suggested by my husband….a toolbox..check it out

    http://helpfulhomemaker.blogspot.com/2009/05/is-it-tool-box.html

  7. Mrs. Querido says:

    My coupon box is a Rubbermaid container that has the lid hinged to it. I organize according to alphabetical order. Oh and its purple :)

  8. Hoosier Homemade says:

    My coupons are in the baseball card plastic file system. But I have totally outgrown it. I like this idea! Thanks!
    ~Liz

  9. The Bertone's says:

    Thank you! I was looking for an idea for something big enough to use, and I couldn’t come up with anything. I had already done the envelope and labeling thing…just no where to store them. Wipe container never dawned on me! THANK YOU AGAIN!

  10. I use a binder with baseball card slots for my coupons. Here’s a link to my old blog where I wrote about it:

    http://couponmommom.blogspot.com/2008/07/coupon-organizing.html

  11. Courtney says:

    This is brilliant. I love the idea of the wipes box! I think I’m ready to graduate to that. Thanks!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I use a box similar to a wipes box, but just use index cards that fit the box to separate/label the categories. It seems like it would be more difficult to pull coupons out of the envelopes, and also I’m afraid I’d be ripping and therefore replacing envelopes all the time. Are these issues for anyone or am I just not very careful? :)

  13. Amy -Cutting Coupons in KC says:

    I used a red Winnie the Pooh Huggies wipes box for a long time. I also switched to Crystal’s method when the wipe box became too full!!

  14. Thanks for these great ideas. I actually had a wipe box ready for recycle. It now houses all of my organized coupons. You inspired me!

  15. Michelle H. says:

    Tried doing the baseball card sheets, but it seemed like I spent all my time either filing or removing expired coupons. It got to be so much work that it wasn’t fun anymore!

    I now use an accordion check file – similar to the traditional coupon file, but larger. I only clip/print what I regularly purchase, and then file the rest of the Sunday inserts by date. If a free deal comes along later I go back to that supplement and clip the coupon.

  16. FishMama says:

    Anonymous, I slit the side of my envelopes (just on one side). This works well because I don’t tear anything getting them in and out of the envelopes, but the envelope still keeps the group together.

  17. I like your storage system. I need to look into doing something like that. I should take a picture of my mess and post it! I have all of mine thrown in a reusable grocery store bag right now, it is horrible and takes me forever to find a coupon that I am looking for.

  18. Jennifer says:

    I previously had an 8×8 scrapbook with a page for each category. I had a hard time sorting through them when I found a good clearance deal at the store. I just switched to the baseball card sleeves in a binder. So far I’m finding it MUCH easier to find coupons quickly. I haven’t found it much more time-consuming yet, so I’m pretty pleased.

    By the way, the binder is Pepto-Pink! You can see it here:
    http://savingandgiving.blogspot.com/2009/05/works-for-me-wednesday-my-new-coupon.html

  19. FishMama says:

    And I thought I was sharing old news with y’all. Apparently not. ;)

    The big black bag only holds my coupon box, my ads, and sometimes my wallet. It is essential to my grocery geekiness. Essential!

  20. I had read about Crystal's method on her blog. I would like to give it a try, but doesn't it take you forever to cut out all of your coupons (if you get multiple inserts)?

  21. FishMama says:

    It doesn't take forever, but there is a time investment. However, I tried it the other way for awhile and was just frustrated. I often find a deal while I'm in the store and to rifle through the inserts in the grocery aisle with kids barking at my heels wasn't working. I've found that as long as I keep up with it, it's not bad. Usually do it while we're watching a movie as a family.

  22. Anonymous says:

    hi ladies – we are in the Uk and coupon – our supermarket will take the coupons regardless of whether you buy the product so it is a real saving for us to be able to use them – we are coming to Florida 2010 for holiday and wonder if Walmart take coupons, where we can print them from? and if you have to buy the product to use the coupon? many thanks. Betty, UK

  23. Anonymous,

    Here in the US, you must buy the product to use the coupon. Most store cash registers will match up the product to the coupon and if it's not there the coupon will beep. Walmart does take coupons, but if you have a lot (like 20 or more) the cashier may get a bit annoyed. Just stay pleasant. Coupons can be printed from a number of sources – Redplum (dot) com, smartsource (dot) com, and coupons (dot) com. Manufacturers may also have coupons on their websites as well. New ads for grocery stores come out on Wednesdays, Target and Walmart ads come out on Sunday. They all last for a week. Hope this helps.

  24. I have a coupon ‘wallet’ with categories in order of store item/dept locations. in the front, I put coupons for things on my list, paperclipped together. Another clip is for coupons that are expiring soon.

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