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March 27, 2008

Organizational methods for coupons

Once you start accumulating a nice stash of coupons, you'll quickly find you need to come up with some method of organization. There are all sorts of ways to go about this and the most important thing is that you do what works for you.

I'd recommend you start out with a few envelopes - one for each store you shop at, and then one larger one for your extra coupons. As you collect more coupons, you could expand to an index card box with dividers for different food/item categories.

If you collect coupons like me, you will quickly outgrow an index box and need something more substantial. My solution has been this:

A few months before I got married, my mom made me a coupon box just like hers and gave me some of her coupon stash to get me started. It has worked wonderfully for me.

The individual envelopes were made by using small letter envelopes (No. 6 3/4 - 3 5/8 x 6 1/2 in.), cutting the flaps off, and stapling an index card standing up inside.

The envelopes are organized alphabetically with the main categories and then multiple envelopes for each main category. Something like this:

Baby - diapers

Bags -
foil, plastic wrap

And so on. Here are the rest of the categories along with some of what are in the categories and the separate envelopes in parentheses:

Baking (mixes, oil/sugar)
Batteries, film
Canned (meat, soup, vegetables, fruit)
Cereal (envelopes for each brand)
Cleaner (all purpose, bathroom, dish detergent, disinfectant, laundry, furniture polish, floor, glass)
Dairy (beverage, cheese, sour cream/cream cheese/butter, snacks, yogurt)
Frozen (beverage, bread, ice cream, meat, snacks, vegetables/fruit/potatoes)
Health Food
Hygiene (band-aids, deodorant, face, feminine, hair, lotion, medicine/vitamins, shaving, soap)
Jelly, Peanut Butter
Office Supplies
Paper Products (facial tissue, cups/plates, toilet tissue, towels/napkins)
Salad Dressing

I put restaurant coupons, other coupons for non-grocery stores, rebate forms, and any receipts on one side of the box. On the other side, I'll put coupons which need to be organized. The front of the box has envelopes for each store I shop at.

When I make out my grocery lists for each store, I put the coupons I'll be using in these envelopes, along with the lists for the store. I always bring a calculator and a pen in my box, too.

The size of the container fits into the front of the shopping cart (the child seat section), and if you don't have a child sitting in there, this works well. We usually get the "car carts" at Kroger - the kind with the little car attached to the front - and Kathrynne "drives" while we shop! Kaitlynn is in the sling or the ERGO, so we have space to put the coupon box upfront.

I usually only take my whole box in when I go to Kroger, since I often find extra deals and reduced items that I have coupons for which were not advertised in the sale flier. At Walgreens or CVS, I just pull out the envelope in the front of the box which is for that store and head in. If I find some special deal that I know I have coupons for, I can always run back out to the car and get them.

If you like this coupon organization method and think it would work well for you but don't want to go to the work to make a coupon box like this, RefundCents has a very similar coupon box which you can purchase here for only $15.95 plus shipping and handling.

For some other ideas and help on coupon organization, check out:

Organizing Junkie's alphabetical coupon holder

Rachel's coupon binder

Jeana's categorical method

Laura's coupon binder (plus lots of great couponing and refunding hints and tips!)

If you've written about your coupon method, drop me an email with the link and I'll be glad to consider adding it to this list.


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Original comments for this post left on my old blog:

Org Junkie said...

Wow Crystal, that is a lot of coupons. I live in such a small town up here in Canada and our coupons are pretty minimal. I'm drooling over all of yours and reading your $$ savings posts with fascination!

Thanks for the link!

October 10, 2007 6:46 AM
Blogger Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings said...

I have been using the binder method since 1999. Great way to store and use your coupons.

Laura's Couponing and Refunding Hints and Tips

October 10, 2007 7:06 AM
Blogger Crystal said...

Thanks, Laura! Great link - just added it.

October 10, 2007 7:19 AM
Blogger shawna said...

crystal, I have been wanting to ask you over on CL, about your coupon organization, so I am glad to see this. In your experience what do you think you be the best? Is there a reason you have never switched over to a binder? I have a binder but have had quite a bit of trouble keeping up with it. I am really tempted to try that tote, but I wonder if I will just end up going back to my binder? Do you have any thoughts on the two?

Thanks so much!

October 10, 2007 7:31 AM
Anonymous Mrs. Jo said...

I'm with org junkie; I marvel at your amount of coupons! I have the little plastic purse organizers that you can get at Target for $1. Our town's Sunday paper has about 10 coupons in it each week and of those, only one or two are usually useful to me. I guess I need to start buying coupons off of Coupon clipper!
Mrs. Jo

October 10, 2007 7:59 AM
Blogger momof2 said...

I personally have tried all different methods of stashing coupons but the binder has been the best for me. I didn't purchase one form online but made up my own using photo sheets and baseball card holders and it works really well for me. I have even had lots of people (both men and women) stop me in the stores to check mine out and ask me where I bought it! I explain it simply to them and tell them where to get the stuff inexpensively. I have my mom, grandma and myself saving coupons for me so when the loss leaders go on sale I can really stock up esp when I have multiple coupons so I can purchase multiple items on sale.

October 10, 2007 8:16 AM
Blogger Crystal said...

Mrs. Jo: Do you live anywhere near a big city (like within a few hours?). If so, you may very well be able to subscribe to their Sunday-only newspaper at a discount and get a lot more coupons that way. It's worth checking into. I did this when we lived in a smaller town. Larger cities usually have much better coupon inserts and they often have discount subscriptions for out-of-towners.

October 10, 2007 8:25 AM
Blogger Carrie J said...

Even though I haven't been doing this very long I have already switched from an accordion file to a binder. I get the card holder sheets 6/$1. They have both vertical and horizontal slots so any kind of coupon fits. I like being able to see at a glance what I have in each category. It saves me a lot of time.

October 11, 2007 12:03 PM
Anonymous eileen said...

Wow. That's way better than the stashed-behind-the-phone method that I've inherited from my mother. I'll have to try that.

Have you ever tried using online coupon alerts as an organizational method? I really like the one at Coupon Mountain. Once you create an account, you can choose which stores you want to see coupons from and the website saves them for you in your account. It really helps me find coupons for stores I visit a lot, like Target.

October 11, 2007 3:25 PM
Blogger momneedshelp275 said...

I use the expandable file that fits right in the cart seat. I also use envelopes within the expandable file. I buy coupons from Ebay. I recently stocked up on ketchup for 25 cents a bottle. I have this one seller I buy from and know that the coupons can get to me in time before my sale ends. I am sad though, Krogers has stopped doubling the $1 now. If anyone needs baby wipes they are 1.99 huggies at CVS this week and if you have 75 cent off coupons, make a good deal. What a great place you have here. I will be back for bloggin info, I am a single mom that lost her job 2/2006 because the company sold and I can not find a job making the money I was making. So I have started selling on Ebay and trying to make ends meet. I have considered moving but my son who is 7th grade does not want to move. Thanks!

October 16, 2007 8:56 AM
Blogger Mark and Courtney said...

I only recently started couponing, but was quickly overwhelmed with the number of coupons I accumulated!

Consequently, I am using an alphabetical accordion envelope. I file my coupons alphabetically, since I am usually shopping sales and looking for a specific brand, not a general category of item. The key for me is this--I set up an Excel spreadsheet on my laptop. The columns are "brand", "item" (any, 3 pack, etc.), "amount", "category" (food, pet, medicine, etc.), and "expiration". The benefit to me is that I can sort my coupons as I need to on the spreadsheet--so I can look for coupons that have expired without digging through my entire coupon file. I can alphabetize by brand so I can find coupons for a sale on Dove products (for example) quickly.
When I take coupons out to use, I highlight those in my spreadsheet. When I come home, I delete the ones I've used and un-highlight the ones I didn't (if an item was out of stock, for example, and I wasn't able to purchase it).

So far this is working GREAT for me as it simplifies the process of finding coupons within my file. It is quick and easy to enter new coupons into the spreadsheet and to delete old ones.

March 13, 2008 9:04 AM
Anonymous ceciliasmom said...

My favorite way to organize my coupons is in a mini photo album. Mine has 2 4x6 sleeves per side of the page, and it works perfectly. Fits IPs and everything! Plus it's small enough that I can fit it into my bag. I have one for CVS and one for groceries. Hope this helps someone.

March 30, 2008 4:11 PM
Anonymous determinedsinglemom said...

Thanks for the great coupon organizing idea! I created the envelopes with the index cards just as you did but I didn't have a plastic container to put them in so I used the box that the envelopes came in. I'm sure it won't take me too long before I outgrow that though as it is almost full now :-). In the back of the box there is just enough room for my calculator and a pair of childrens scissors (to cut my ECB's off when I'm at CVS...came in VERY handy tonight).

April 05, 2008 10:43 PM
Blogger sheeri said...

Wow! Thank you so much, Crystal for posting all of this! Is there a good book out there on coupon-savings? I think I could get it with paper in front of me!

May 07, 2008 9:17 AM
Blogger melissa said...

I also organize by category and have done so for years, but I've found that filing within each category by expiration date makes maintenance easier -- you can just check the front of each section periodically to throw away "dead" coupons, and that way it's also easier to be sure to use the eariest dates first.
I've raised 7 kids as a frugal stay-at-home mom; started working part time when #7 was in 2nd grade, and now she's in high school. BUT I just recently discovered all of this great online thrift info and love it! Thanks for sharing so many great ideas. --Lisa

Thank you so much for describing your system! I am just starting out, so I modified your categories for 12 pockets in a 5"x8" accordion file. I am so excited to go to the grocery store today.

I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into maintaining this site. Your tips and inspiration has really helped me to trim my budget and be a better wife.

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