ORGANIZING YOUR COUPONS
There is a lot of money to be saved from couponing, but to get the best results, organization is key. The only unifying aspect of coupons is that they save you money. Apart from this, everything is different. Size, expiration date and item type all differ and this can become slightly overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you organize your coupons which will hopefully save you even more money.
No matter what filing system you choose to use, organizing your coupons alphabetically is key. While this may seem time consuming at first, especially if you are starting with a large pile of coupons, you will greatly benefit when the time comes to actually use the coupons.
How you store your coupons is also important to decide. The majority of coupons are tiny, flimsy pieces of paper and more often than not are forgotten in a kitchen junk drawer of even the pocket of a pair of pants. Select a storage system that will work for you.
Most couponers use binders. This is a flexible filing system that can be arranged for individual needs. Start with page protectors, like ones used for sporting cards. These will store the coupons themselves. Then, add dividers to partition the binder into the categories of your choosing.
Shoe boxes can also work for storage although unlike binders, they are not very portable. You can use index cards to divide the coupons into categories.
There are two major ways to keep track of your coupons: either as you find them or once a week. If you have multiple streams of coupons, you can print or cut them out as you find them. Alternately, you can set aside some time once a week to go through all of them together and organize them. Both have their merits and it really comes down to what kind of an organizational person you are.
Remove old coupons
Some form of your organization system should pay attention to expiration dates. Regularly look through your coupons and discard any old coupons. It does not pay to dwell on a lost opportunity to save $1.00 off a can of baked beans.
Types of Filing Systems
Your coupon filing system needs to work with your train of thought. Each system will be different for each person, so while it is a good idea to compare organization strategies with other people, know that ultimately, yours will be unique to your needs.
Brand Name Alphabetically
While this system may seem like a good idea to begin, it is not always the most practical. It involves arranging products by product name from A to Z. This could look like Adam’s peanut butter at the beginning to Zyppah snoring eliminator at the end. The problem is that brand names are often forgotten or not really relevant. However, if this inherently makes sense to you, then by all means, go ahead and try it.
Product Type Alphabetically
If there is little or no brand loyalty towards products, then shopping can be a lot easier. For example, if you like any type of peanut butter, then whatever has the better sale, Skippy or Kraft, becomes the product that you will purchase. To this end, alphabetizing by product type is a great way to keep track of different coupons. Major product types can include cereal, toilet paper and coffee. Keep these types of coupons together so that when you need to purchase an item you can go with the best deal.
Product Category Alphabetically
Product types are a good way to sort coupons, but it can be a bit too selective. Instead, you could start with product categories. Broader themes such as ‘Health and Beauty’ or ‘Produce’ are a good way to start. If you think of a few major categories it is an easier way to parse through the large amount of coupons. Beware, though, that the products that fit into each category may not be self-evident to others. Blueberries are a natural ‘Produce’ item, but can also fit in the ‘Frozen Foods’ category, depending on the season.
If you are extremely organized, you can write out a list of items that fits inside each category. You can also, and should also if you really want to be organized, alphabetize the items within the already alphabetized category names.
For those that find they forget to use their coupons before expiration dates, this can be a really great way to keep organized. Start by month and then organize further by date. While this is not the most effective organizational tool, if you are more worried about using coupons when you have them, it is still a useful way to store them.
Shoppers who tend to frequent the same grocery store will be familiar with the layout. This is a handy organization format for people who are spatial thinkers. By storing coupons according to corresponding aisles, it can be easy to find what you are looking for. As a bonus, most supermarkets group like-items together, such as baked goods, canned goods and frozen items, so in essence you are also categorizing by product type.