Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Getting organized

Once you accumulate a large number of coupons, you'll need to get organized. I know of couponers who use binder systems, regular envelopes, and many other supplies to organize coupons. You'll eventually figure out what works for you based on whether you keep full coupon inserts intact or clip all the individual coupons, and also based on whether you want to be able to have all of your coupons with you when you shop.

I use a file box with a handle to store full newspaper coupon inserts, sorted by date. It took me a few months to realize that the date is printed in tiny type on the spine of each insert, which makes things easier for sure. If I need a coupon for Colgate, for example, I use the coupon database on http://www.hotcouponworld.com/ to find out which inserts contain Colgate coupons, and then I can quickly find them in my file box. The box is too big to take with me into stores, especially when I'm lugging a baby, too. I generally plan my shopping trips ahead of time so that I have all the coupons I need for sale items. The problem with leaving the bulk of my coupons at home is that I never know when I'll find clearance items or unadvertised sales. If I have an afternoon to myself to shop at a leisurely pace, I might stash the file box in the car in case I need it (although without the database at hand, I have to have a very good memory!).

I have two small accordian files that I keep with me at all times--one for grocery coupons and one for drug store coupons. These files are for loose coupons, and I separate them by category (pantry items, frozen foods, beverages, etc.) and then sort each category by expiration date. You might notice in the pictures that the file tabs are not labeled--that was originally due to sheer laziness, but now I know those files like the back of my hand, so I haven't bothered to label them. As a side note, I found these accordian files at Staples when I was hugely pregnant, and they were marked "Regular Price $6.29, Sale Price 4/$10." I knew it had to be wrong (probably should have been 2/$10), but I also knew that they would have to honor the posted price. My dad had some $10 Staples coupons, so my husband and I left the store and drove down the road to my parents' business to get a coupon. By the time we got back to Staples, it had closed early because it was the 4th of July. That was a Friday, so I told Don we had to come back the next day to get the files before the sale ended. Well, my water broke a little after midnight and I ended up in the hospital, but after several hours, I was still not in labor and the nurses said the baby wasn't coming anytime soon. I said, "Don, you have to go to Staples!" He said, "I know, honey--I knew you wouldn't forget about those coupon files!" So he went and got four of them for free! Now you know for sure how coupon-crazy I am.

So anyway, experiment with different coupon-organizing systems and hopefully you'll find something that is ideal for you.

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