In last Wednesday’s Couponing Basics post, we talked about where to find the best coupons. If you have been working on gathering your coupons for the past week, you’ve probably got a pile of them overtaking your kitchen table by now.
I know – I’ve been there. It’s time to get organizing!
Today I want to teach you two of the most popular methods for organizing your coupons. But don’t worry, there are no right or wrong ways to get organized. If it works for you, it works!
The Coupon Binder
The Coupon Binder is one of the most popular ways to organize your coupons. The skeleton of the binder system is a binder – as big as you can get (at least three inches) – filled with those plastic baseball card sleeves, which are divided into categories by tab dividers.
The guts of the system are your coupons. You clip coupons every week and “file” them into the pockets of the sleeves. You also print out coupons, trim them down and (fold them to) fit them into the pockets.
To keep your binder current, you go through your sleeves every so often to purge any expired coupons, so your binder is always up-to-date.
The binder goes with you everytime you go shopping – which means not only will have all the coupons you need for advertised sales, but you will also have coupons to match with unadvertised sales and clearance items.
My blogging buddy Laurie did a great video tutorial about her coupon binder, which will give you more detailed information about how this system works in the “real world”.
Advantages of the Binder System
* It’s exhaustive – you will never be without your coupons so you won’t miss out on any saving opportunities.
* It’s secure – with the coupons tucked neatly inside the plastic pockets (and some even buy zipper binders), you don’t have to worry about dropping your envelope of coupons and having them scatter all over the store floor!
Disadvantage of the Binder System
* It’s exhausting – For some people (me!), keeping up with the clipping, filing and purging requires more time than they have in a week to dedicate to couponing. And if you don’t keep up with it, then your binder is incomplete and even out-of-date (expired coupons), which negates the benefits of the system.
* It’s more costly to start up – Buying a binder can be done on the cheap, but baseball card sleeves can be costly, especially if you have hundreds of coupons you want to file.
The No-Clip Coupon Organization Method
I have a confession: I am a coupon binder flunkie. When I first started couponing, I saw all these bloggers talking about their binders and I thought it was soooo amazing. I spent hours putting together my binder. And it was amazing.
Until the next week, when I had to clip more coupons and file them.
I quickly fell behind – both on filing new coupons and purging the expired ones. Soon my binder was a coupon wasteland, and I had to admit defeat.
That’s when I decided to adopt the No-Clip method. This is what works for me, so I wanted to tell you all about it.
I actually wrote a detailed No-Clip tutorial back in 2010, which included all sorts of pictures and wordy explanations. Feel free to read that in detail, but here’s the synopsis.
- Get 12 file folders – label them with the names of the month if you want to be really organized
- When you get your Sunday inserts, label them with the data and name of the insert (for eg. Red Plum 1/1/12) and “file” them into the appropriate file (in this case, January).
- That’s it – you are done interacting with your coupon inserts until it comes time to use them.
But how do you know when you need them?
Either you go looking for a coupon in my Coupon Database – in which case it will tell you what insert the coupon is in and what date that insert came out. (That’s why you want to label them with the date.)
Or you might know from the coupon match-ups on blogs like KOAB. For example, in this week’s CVS post, I told you about a deal on Colgate Sensitive toothpaste.
Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief Toothbrush 1ct. or Toothpaste 4 oz – $4.99, Get $2 ECBs, Limit 2
$1/1 Colgate Total Advanced, Optic White or Sensitive Pro-Relief, exp. 2/4/12 (SS 01/15/12)
=$1.99 each after coupon & ECB
If I wanted to do this deal, I’d simply grab the 1/15/12 Smart Source – which would be in my January folder – clip the $1/1 coupon and refile the rest of the insert.
It takes only a few seconds, and I’m not overrun with guilt about not clipping, filing and purging coupons.
The only thing this system doesn’t work for is my printables. Right now, I keep those in a big basket next to my desk. I tend to wait until I need a coupon to print it – but I do make an exception for high value or rare coupons, which I know will disappear quickly.
Is it perfect? No, but then perfect is the enemy of good – or something like that!
Advantages of the No-Clip Coupon Organization System
- Quick and easy- takes me less than 2 minutes a week to “file” my inserts
- “Do-Able” – while the Binder is no doubt more exhaustive, I wasn’t keeping up with it, which meant it wasn’t working for me
Disadvantages of the No-Clip Coupon Organization System
- You might miss out on the increased savings from an unadvertised sale, since you don’t have all your coupons with you at all times
- Doesn’t really work for your printables or other coupons not from the inserts, as I mentioned above
Again, the best way to organize your coupons is the way that will work for you. If you have the time and attention to detail that a binder requires, you will enjoy huge savings. If you are willing to compromise a bit of savings for some earned time (at least that was the trade-off for me), the No-Clip System might be better.
Or maybe there’s another system out there that’s just perfect for you…
Tell me: How do you organize your coupons? Do you use a binder? The no-clip method? Something else entirely? Let’s talk coupon organization in the comments section!