How to Organize Your Coupons: The Coupon Binder Method

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My Coupon Binder
My Coupon Binder

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
  • Baby
  • Baking Needs
  • Beverages
  • Breads
  • Breakfast
  • Candy
  • Canned
  • Condiments
  • Dairy
  • Dish washing
  • Feminine Needs
  • Food Miscellaneous
  • Freezer
  • Grains/Sides
  • Hair Care
  • Household Miscellaneous
  • Laundry
  • Meat
  • Medicine/ First Aid
  • Oral Hygiene
  • Pasta
  • Pets
  • Produce
  • Refrigerated
  • Shaving/ Deodorants
  • Skin Care/Make up
  • Snacks/Cookies
  • Soap
  • Soups
  • 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Pros and Cons To Using A Coupon Binder – You decide!

45 COMMENTS

  1. I created a binder a few years ago and it’s great for shoppers who are just starting with the binder method. It has worked wonderfully for me with four boys to feed! I also designed it so you don’t have to carry a purse with you and it straps to the cart. The pages are categorized with labels according store aisle. I’m happy to see everyone excited about using a binder instead of the old accordian file! It works great…

  2. I Just started my binder last week! I have been thinking I needed a better way to organize multiple coupons and this definitely fits the bill.

  3. I love my binder. I use a 3-ring with baseball card pages and break it into 6 months of sections with each section categorized by type of product…i.e.: produce, health & beauty, baking needs, cereals & breads, pastas & rices, canned goods & condiments, beverages & snacks, paper & cleaning products, refrigerated & frozen, meats
    Because it`s divided by month, it is very easy to make sure I use coupons in a timely manner AND it`s easy to clean out expired (when I have any left

  4. Ok, I am new at this so bare with me. How does one get multiple inserts without dumpster diving or buying 10 papers?

    Also, Kroger has changed their coupon policy because of the TLC show. They no longer allow the use of ecoupons on one item if you uploaded it to your card and then a mfg. coupon for the same item. Plus, I know people like getting things for free but nothing is really free.
    The ecoupon is usually worth less but if you have it loaded on your card they cannot remove it at the register.

    The other thing is that most of the coupons are for processed foods and packaged foods. Does anyone put out general produce coupons like Chicita Banana for instance? I find that although it is nice to save money to help the budget I don’t feel the need to buy 15 yrs. worth of deodorant just to have it. I have a friend who buys because of the coupon. If it is not something I would normally feed my family then the coupon is of no value to me. I tend to leave coupons on the items that I won’t use since maybe it will help someone else.
    So although I see those binders all over the place I don’t ever have enough coupons to warrant such a size.
    For those who can do it I am sure it pays enough to warrant the work. With today’s economy the name of the game is strategy so I don’t think any less of the women who walk around my store with a binder.

  5. I started couponing a few months ago because I just got so tired of making a trip to Walmart for necessities and spending $100+! I immediatly started with the binder method and buy 2-4 papers a week. I even take the time to open in inserts and assess the coupons before deciding how many I want to buy. I only buy for myself and my husband so I am all for not buying something just because it’s cheap. If I see myself needing it in the next 3-6 months I will get it. However if I find things at a super deal, I will get it and give it away. Pet food is a great example! I can get treats, litter, and food at such a great deal sometimes and even if it’s not the brand I use, I know a shelter or elderly pet owner on a limited income would appreciate it. I am 28, have a Master’s degree, carry a Coach handbag, and have no issues walking around any store with my binder. In fact it seems to always spark a conversation at the grocery store. The TV shows give people an unrealistic expectation about coupons. No, chances are you are not going to go home with $600 worth of groceries for $1.00, but IT IS WORTH IT! My first grocery shopping trip with coupons I saved $85, spend $135 which is way below my $200 budget. This was without doubling a single coupon. It just takes time and patience. I spend 1-2 hrs a week clipping and organizing, but do spend 2-3 hrs shopping in a single store. But tip… GO LATE! the stores are less crowded and you don’t feel rushed walking up and down the aisles with your binder. For all of you thinking that it isn’t worth the time, you aren’t going to save enough money or you would be too embrassed to walk around with a binder… YOU WILL, IT IS, AND ITS EMBARASSING TO PAY RETAIL PRICE!

  6. I’m a single father and have three children and have got to start using coupons. I get confused quick and hard to make disisions , so going to get food at the store takes hours and hours. To many products for the same use ? OMG please help

  7. Ok, yours was the first one i clicked on when i searched how to organize a coupon binder. As i have been doing this for a few months now.. not great at it, but i am up to 50% on 2 checkouts:) so that was fun.. anyway this was a great help as all my coupons are in a grocerybag by my diningroom table lol.
    Some are cut our, some are not. I need to go through them and organize them and get some shipped over seas.

    Any idea how to find a place/family to send them too.? i have seen a few sites but i would like to send them directly to a family. Thanks for your info and time:)and thank you soo very much for sharing your tips:)

  8. Okay so I am 14 and helping my mom do coupons.I am new at this,but I have almost no sorce of income and a limited budget.I have a binder and page dividers,but no baseball card protectors.I really,really,really dont want to buy them;does anyone have any ideas that dont require buying them?
    Thanks,
    Nicole

  9. I have been using the binder method for about 6 months now and I just love it. However, I am a little perplexed by the stores. Lots of them do not allow “overage” and will actually DELETE or REMOVE coupons from your reciept until they get it back to where you OWE them money. This has been done to my mother and myself at least twice this past week. Just passing it along… hope no one else has this problem.

  10. I just started couponing. I love the savings. I have the binder method almost down packed. Just wish I could dwindle my cash spent down to nothing like the extremists do…lol I am sure it will come in time..however…wish it were now. We have a lot of kids and animals…so the savings is great!

  11. Nicole, try Goodwill or a thrift store, people sometimes discard office supplies there. Also, I saw one lady with an old photo album for her coupons. The pages are larger than the baseball card slots, which I find too small.
    Find an old photo album your family has not used, an 8×8 or 6 x 6 size and use that.
    I am a scrapbooker, and you can find unused ones at Goodwill also.
    I spray all purchases from there with Lysol, just in case.

  12. I organize my binder in a way that wasn’t mentioned but works VERY well for me. I do it according to the isle layout in my favorite store. So it would go something like this: Bread/tortillas/LittleDebbie snacks, anything in the produce dept, milk/coffee cream/sourcream and OJ. Then down isle 2 for chips/candy/beer. Isle 3 for sodas/water/energy drinks, isle 4 popcorn/cracker snacks/cookies and it goes on and on. I have my binder open throughout the entire store and as I go up and down each isle I flip the pages on the corresponding isle so I can quickly scan to see if I happen to have a coupon for a sale or clearance item. I don’t have a good enough memory to remember ALL the coupons in my collection so this is easier for me. 🙂 Thought I’d share.

  13. I started couponing about 6 months ago and it is ADDICTIVE!! My family and friends are amazed by it. I had gotten a good stock pile goin and at Christmas, I did gift baskets up with things from my stock pile(razors, shaving cream, shampoo, etc.) Everyone absolutely LOVED them because it was all things that they use and if they were to go out and buy it all, it would have cost a pretty penny. Everyone is looking forward to their birthdays and Christmas to come around now so they can get a basket. It was a lot of fun.

  14. Our newspaper has stopped putting inserts in the paper you buy from the grocery store. only subscribers can get them. I used to buy three or four papers to get the inserts. Now I buy none. Are there any places you can buy inserts?

  15. Thanks for your encouraging tips. I am literally just starting and hope that I can stick with it enough to make it worthwhile. I do have a question. How do people decide whether it is a good coupon, since sometimes it makes more sense to buy a different brand altogether and then the coupon clipping was worthless? Also, can you tell me about donating coupons to the military?

  16. This is a fantastic post! I wanted to let you know that I shared it with my readers on my website. (In the form of a link to your post.) Thanks!

  17. Great tips on how to organize coupons. This is really going to help me get started couponing. I just bought two newspapers this morning and I am going to use the binder method. I like the complete organization of it and keeping everything in one place. Thanks for sharing.

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