So You Want to Start Couponing Pt. 2: Organization
Now that you have a pile of coupons sitting in front of you, you’re probably wondering how to take those to a store and effectively use them. It will become obvious to you after just one couponing trip without a system of organization that you need one NOW. I tried using one of the small accordion files intended for coupons and found that it was hard to sort things, impossible to find anything, and stressful in the aisles. There are TONS of ways to organize your coupons (other dedicated coupon sites go over these, and a quick google search will yield interesting results) but I can only attest to what works for me.
Things you’ll need:
1. A fancy but sturdy binder with some sort of closure. You should make sure that you can stomach looking at this thing all the time, so pick a binder you like with sturdy construction. I chose this matte-leathery Marth Stewart for Avery binder and the featured band closure to keep everything secure. I wouldn’t ordinarily splurge on something like this, but her line of office supplies at Staples is divine . . . plus I had a coupon!
2. Specialized coupon protector sheets. I use business card sheets because they’re cheap, readily available at office supply stores (so I don’t have to order them online) and able to fit tons of coupons on one page. The downside to these is that I ALWAYS have to fold my coupons to make them fit. This isn’t a problem for me because I used to fold things for a living (funeral home memorial card folding trains you for life, not death) but it might be annoying for those not desensitized to mindless uniform paper folding. Other options include currency sheets, baseball card sheets, etc.
3. Normal Page Protectors. You’ll want these for maintaining weekly circulars, your coupon policy print-outs, etc.
4. Coupon Policies. It’s nice to have the coupon policies for your frequented stores readily available in your binder so that if you come into a dispute (more on that later) you can defend yourself with the company’s own regulations. Be smart about couponing by reading these guidelines BEFORE you start shopping, not after you’ve yelled at a cashier.
5. Folder(s). It’s nice to have a space to keep extra fliers, coupons that still need to be clipped, etc.
6. A Ziploc or Zippered Bag (optional). I use mine to hold all of my rewards cards so they don’t weigh down my wallet, to keep coupons that I’ve clipped but haven’t organized, and receipts that I need to file or look over.
7. LOTS of dividers. The front of my binder features all of my store-specific coupons organized by store, and the back features manufacturer coupons organized by category or aisle.
I have my store dividers on the top and category on the side so I can easily see all of my tabs at once.
8. A Notepad for Lists. This is a necessity to make sure you buy everything you need, no more and no less. It’s easy to go overboard and buy everything on sale, but when you have your match-ups (that’s a bit of jargon referring to the sales of the week matched up to the coupons in your binder) listed and easily accessible in your binder, you can stay on track and be responsible. I make a list for each of the stores I love and make sure to stop at each during the week.
9. Coupon Scissors (optional). Not everyone is crazy about scissors, but most crafters know that you can’t have just one universal pair of scissors in your arsenal. You need fabric scissors, pinking shears, paper scissors, thread scissors, precision scissors, travel scissors, cardboard scissors, kitchen scissors, ETC. As a crazy scissor person, I have coupon scissors on me at all times, just in case of a coupon emergency.
10. Paper Cutter (optional). Especially helpful if you plan to print lots of coupons. You’ll find that a fat stack of your coupons will all be perfectly aligned and if you have a paper cutter, you can chop several pages at a time up with ease. This saves me a ton of time and makes clipping coupons less of a chore. I bought the Fiskars SureCut Paper Trimmer from Michael’s with a 50% off coupon, so I just paid $10 for this little piece of convenience. I highly recommend it.
11. Expired Coupon Envelope. When your prized coupons expire, you don’t have to
throw them away recycle them. You can donate them! Ask your friends with military family members if they could use coupons on their base (military bases tend to accept coupons long past expiration date) or send them here!
That’s all I have at the moment. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section. There’s more to this series, so stay tuned!