An important step in your couponing adventure is finding a system for organizing your coupons that works for you. I am a firm believer that there is no one right way to organize your coupons, finding a system is like finding a bra, you have to find one that fit you. When it comes to organizing, everyone’s brains works a little bit different. Some people are visual and like to see all of their coupons easily, some people like to sort their coupons by category, while others, like myself like an alphabetical system.
In this three part blog series I am going to show you the three most common methods the coupon pros use to organize their coupons. I am going to highlight the materials needed, How to set it up the system, the pros and cons on each system, and insider tricks to using the systems.
The Coupon Binder Method:
This is the method that I personally use, after trying all of the other coupon organization methods mentioned in this guide, this is the one I keep coming back to. It just works for me. The premise of this method is that you have a book, or in this case, a binder of all you coupons, that you can flip through and find your coupons easily.
Who should use a coupon binder?
A coupon binder is good for folks who get 1-20 Sunday inserts weekly. If you get more than that and clip all your coupons and put them in your binder, you may need to carry two binders. I would recommend using the Whole Insert method (next post in this series) if you get a larger quantity of coupons. The coupon binder method is good for those people who like to have all of their coupons with them when they shop. The coupon binder is not however a good method if you are embarrassed of your savvy coupon shopping and do not want to be seen in the store with a large coupon binder.
Materials Needed For A Coupon Binder:
- A large three ring binder – I strongly suggest that you get a binder that zippers or Velcro’s closed, and get the largest binder you can afford. 3 inches or larger is best.
- Plastic organizing sheets – Most people use baseball card holder sheets to start off with, you can add in other sizes of sheets such as those for photos, currency, etc. for larger coupons, however these are not needed, I personally just use baseball card pages and no other sizes.
- Dividers – You can either use divider pages or self-stick tabs which can be found at any office supply store or big box retailer.
Those are the basics; some people like to add in a pencil pouch to hold scissors, calculator, a pen, and anything else they may need. If you binder does not have a pouch or pockets to hold these things in you may wish to add one.
Cost to set up: A good zippered binder can cost anywhere from $10 on up to about $30 for something like this Case-it 4-inch double binder. Plastic baseball card pages can range from $5.00 to $7.00 for packs of 20-25 pages at most big box stores like Walmart or Target or you can buy boxes of 100 sheets online for around $15.00 – $17.00. Dividers are pretty cheap, at usually under $1.00 for 8 divider pages or a pack of 20-30 self-stick tabs for around $3.00. If you need to add in a pencil pouch you should be able to pick one up for under $5.00. You the total cost is going to vary but expect your initial outlay of money to be around $30.00 unless you already have a binder (I started off using a CD binder I already had when I first started) or you find one on clearance.
Setting Up Your Coupon Binder:
Before you start tearing your packages of baseball card pages open and putting them in your binder take a moment to think about how your brain works and how you are going to organize your binder. Most people use a category system, meaning that they break down their binder into common grocery categories. While others, like me, prefer alphabetical.
Common Grocery Categories: Here is a list of common grocery categories you may want to use in your coupon binder. You can break the list down even further if you want but this a good starter list.
- Air fresheners/ Candles
- Baking Needs
- Dish washing
- Feminine Needs
- Food Miscellaneous
- Hair Care
- Household Miscellaneous
- Medicine/ First Aid
- Oral Hygiene
- Shaving/ Deodorants
- Skin Care/Make up
- Surface Cleaners
Write out a list of categories that works for you on paper first then think about how your stores are set up and try to put the categories in groups so that as you are walking down the aisles looking for deals you can easily flip to the pages of coupons in your coupon binder and find the coupons you are looking for.
If you like the alphabetical system setting up your binder is easy. Set up a tab for #’s (for coupons that don’t start with a letter like 2000 flushes) then a tab for A, B, C, D, etc. all the way to Z. Simple!
Once you have your categories all planned out go ahead and start putting your binder together. To start off with put a label on or between every 2-3 pages. Once you start putting your coupons in their slots you may find that some categories will have more pages of coupons than others, just move empty pages around to fit your needs.
Then you are going to want to insert your coupons into the slots in the plastic pages. Put like coupons together in one slot. So if you have 5 Pillsbury crescent dinner rolls coupons, put them in one slot in the appropriate category (“Refrigerated” if you are using a category or “P” if you are using alphabetical.)
Once you have all your coupons in your binder you are ready to go!
Coupon Binder Insider Tips:
Here are my top 5 insider tips for using the coupon binder method that you may want to try out.
- In the front of your binder include a couple of clear page protector sheets and label this section of your binder “Coupon Policies” then go over to our Store Coupon Policies page here at HotCouponWorld and print out the coupon acceptance policies for the stores that you shop at and put them in your binder. Should there be any confusion with a cashier or store manager when you are using your coupons, you now have their policy handy.
- Also in the front of your binder you may want to include a section for your “Hot” coupons, coupons you want to make sure you do not forget to use (Free item coupons, coupons that will make an item free, Winetags, BOGO coupons, etc.) I don’t personally do this. Instead I keep a small accordion file in my purse with my “To use coupons” so that I always have my hot coupons with me. Whatever works for you!
- If you are using just baseball card pages there will be coupons that are too big to fit in the slots, a little creative folding (either in half or in thirds) will usually do the trick. Some people hate folding their coupons, so they use photo pages to store the larger coupons.
- Maintain your coupon binder by setting aside time each week to pull expired coupons from your binder and to clip and file your coupons. I usually pop in a good movie in the DVD player, camp out on the couch on a Sunday afternoon and have my whole system organized in the time it takes me to watch a good chick flick.
- When you are preparing for a shopping trip look over your sales flyers or the deals posted in our Store Deals forums, make out your shopping list and pull the coupons you plan on using out of your coupon binder and put them in an envelope, plastic baggie or a small accordion file folder (this last method is what I do). That way you only need to crack open your coupon binder in the store if you need to find a coupon for an unadvertised sale or clearance finds.