This is one way to organize your coupons, you have to find what’s right for you. If you prefer the binder method, make sure to check out our post on how to organize your coupons using the binder method.
Finding the perfect way to organize your coupons is a challenge for most. I am still not sure that there is a perfect way to organize them. I am sure of two things however. First, I know that the “perfect” system is the system that works the best for you depending on your goals, time and couponing experience. Second, I know that switching from one system to another can seem like a very daunting task.
Over the last week, I have done just this. I switched from one method of coupon organization to another. I decided that I was ready for a different system because my couponing goals have changed and I am a lot more skilled in couponing than I was a couple years ago when I set up my original system.
As I started this task, I decided that I would document my journey and share it with you. I want to share with you the step-by-step process I took with the hopes that it may help you if you are considering taking on a similar endeavor.
What system was I using before and why did I want to switch it out?
- I was using a very easy system. I had a hanging file folder box that I had hanging folders in labeled by the month. In each hanging folder, I had envelopes labeled with the different insert types – Red Plum, Smart Source, General Mills, P&G, etc. Every Sunday when the papers came, I pulled out the insert and wrote the date on the top corner and then filed them away under the appropriate month in the appropriate envelope. When I was ready to go shopping, I would pull up the online coupon database find the coupons I needed for my shopping trip and clip them.
Why I liked this system?
- This system was really easy! Being a mother of two small children, I didn’t have to put much thought into the system. It was also very inexpensive to set up and didn’t take too much time every week.
What I disliked about this system?
- Since I didn’t clip my coupons, I didn’t have them with me. If I got to the store and found that they were out of something, I couldn’t grab a new coupon on the fly. I also couldn’t create my own great deals in the store when I found that there was something on clearance and I knew I had a coupon for the item.
What was my solution?
- I knew I needed to switch to a system that allowed me to bring my coupons with me. It needed to be portable and easy to use in the store. After some thought and research, I narrowed it down to the box system and the binder system and then I finally decided on the box system. I still needed something easy and the box system seemed to be the easier of the two systems for me at this point in time.
How did I set up the new system and make the switch?
- Purchased my supplies – I went to Office Depot and bought a photo box and dividers. I spent around $20 for my supplies and the individual boxes inside the photo box proved to come in handy. You will also need labels but I didn’t need to purchase them because I already had some at home that I could use.
- Decided on my categories – This was the most difficult part for me. This is also going to be a very personal decision depending on your shopping habits. I broke my box up into 60 tabbed categories. Some are very broad, like cleaning supplies, because they aren’t items that I usually purchase in store (I have an outside company that I get them from). Some are broken down quite a bit because I buy a lot of them.
- Labeled my tabs – Once you have your categories decided, print them out and cut them to fit your tabs. This was actually a very quick process.
- Clipped my coupons – This was the most time consuming part of the process since I had almost a year worth of inserts to go through and I have multiple copies of the inserts. I went page by page through the inserts and stacked the pages so I could cut multiple pages at once. There is some debate on clipping your coupons….Should you stack them? Should you cut them one by one? Should you hand cut them? Should you use a paper cutter? This is a decision you are going to have to make for yourself. **You will also decide on what coupons to clip….Clip them all? Clip only the ones you may use? I only clipped coupons for products that I knew that I would use or there was a possibility of me using. For instance, I don’t have carpet so I don’t need carpet cleaning supplies.
- Filed my coupons – Now I had piles of coupons that I needed to file, this was something great for me to do while I was sitting at home, watching some of my favorite shows. **Now if you are like me, your box may be overfull with coupons. This wouldn’t work for me so I went back through my coupons to double check to see if there is anything else that I really wouldn’t use. For example, after a second glance, I got rid of my coffee coupons. I don’t drink coffee and my husband is very particular about his coffee so why hold on to coupons for products that I would never use.
What did I do with the little boxes?
- I labeled them with the stores I frequent and placed the store specific coupons in them. It fits in my purse so when I am going to a particular store, I just grab that store’s box and my coupons and go. They also work great for organizing the coupons that you know you are going to use when you are out shopping. I still pre-plan my trips and gather the coupons that I know I will be using and bring my box for the unexpected deals and the plans that fall through.
How did the box work when put up to the test?
- I took my box into Target the other evening and it worked great. It fit nicely in the cart and I found my categories worked perfectly. I was able to capture unexpected deals and it was great. I was happy that I did all the planning on the front end because it led to a wonderful couponing experience with no stress and no frustration.
How do I maintain this system?
- In order for me to continue to have a system that works well for me, I have to make the time every week to sit down with my new inserts to clip the coupons and file them. In addition, I need to make sure that I purge expired coupons on a weekly basis.
I am very excited to have had the opportunity to share this journey with you. For some of you this is old news or you already have a system that works well for you. For others, you are transitioning from a newbie couponer and are ready for the next step. I hope this helps you on your journey. There are systems out there that you can buy but they aren’t tailored to you or your needs. If you spend a little time planning it out, you can spend a lot less money and have a system that fits your needs exactly.
Let me ask you this – What system do you use right now? Does it fit your needs? Could your system use a makeover?