Ok, so now that you know WHERE to get your coupons, what do you do with them?
There are the popular, available everywhere sectioned, wallet style coupon organizers. I think everyone starts here...this particular one hooks onto your cart. That's a nice little bonus feature. These are good if you're just starting out and really don't have that many coupons.
- It fits in your purse or you can toss it in a reusable shopping bag before you go into the store
- It has dividers to help you sort
- It attaches to the cart so you don't have to keep picking it up to find what you want
- It's small - as in it won't hold much
- It's small - as in not very wide - you know those Bed Bath & Beyond coupons won't fit in there
- It's small - as in only a few (12 maybe) dividers for organizing
Now we're gettin' somewhere! This is more along the lines of two recipe card boxes side by side...better concept, but still shares some of the cons. Even SMALLER as far as the size of the coupons you can stick in there (sure you can fold them, but then you have to unfold them to see what they are - that just isn't efficient).
This is what I carry. Well, a version of what I carry. It's a Case-It 3-ring zippered binder. It has nothing to do with coupons...it's a school supply...if you have an old Trapper Keeper laying around that will work too! Mine was purple with a unicorn and a rainbow on it...by the time it got tossed it was probably also covered with scratch n' sniff stickers. I love the 80s!
How did I end up with a zippered binder? Well...partly because I had one laying around, partly out of wanting to stop the insanity! I had 4 of these poly check files and I just couldn't take it anymore.
I had a red one for CVS (aka coupons for things I would normally buy at the drug store). I had 2 green ones for Publix (aka 24 categories for things I buy at the grocery) and I had 1 blue one for Misc. (aka gift cards, coupons for dining out, and non-food stores a la Bed Bath & Beyond, Bath & Body Works, etc)
So along with my 3 ring binder, I purchased two boxes of currency pages from a guy on ebay. I tried baseball card pages, but again - the pockets were just too small and frankly, it was annoying. I know lots of people use them. Didn't fit for me...
So I got one box of the 3 bill size and one box of the 4 bill size...the only difference is the number of pockets / how deep they are. Thought i'd see which one I liked better. Turns out I didn't really care...mostly.
Turns out, I liked the separation aspect of my 4 (well 3) stores in the poly check file system. So I bought one of these bad boys (ok, mine is blue...because it's my favorite color...after orange. Go Gators!) for $13 at BJ's Warehouse Club. It's a zippered binder with two sets of rings - effectively 2 binders in one.
Now the binder is always in my car. Always. That way I can take advantage of surprise finds. If I go into the grocery store it goes with me. Drug store - yep, it goes with me. BJ's on Sunday morning? Of course...it even goes with me when I travel. Coupons are good everywhere you know.
So I haul my binder (which has that carrying handle, but also has a shoulder strap) and my reusable bags to the store and put the bags and my purse in the seat of the shopping cart. Then I unzip my binder and voila! It lays open flat on top in the seat of the cart. Easy peasy to flip thru.
So how do I have it organized? Well...the 4 pocket pages are in the left hand set of rings. The 3 pocket pages are on the right. I have 1-5 pages separated by alpha tabs on each side - plus a full page protector in the B section of the right side (that's for all the Bed Bath & Beyond coupons). Everything that I get at the drug store or fall under misc. goes on the right. Grocery stuff goes on the left.
Here's my binder...and my unmade bed / photo studio backdrop when i'm lazy.
I love that it has 2 sets of rings and that it will lay flat in the cart AND there are all kinds of extra pockets on the two black panels that have
velcro hook and loop tabs to keep both sides in place when it's zipped.
I used rainbow ABC dividers on the grocery side and black ones on the drug store / misc side. The only reason is because I already had them on hand.
Here you can see that i'm in the I section on the grocery side. I is for Ice Cream. Mmmm I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Not much starts with the letter I that I have coupons for, so I spread the coupons out by type. Tubs, bars, whatever...
Here's the full page protector in the drug store / misc. side that holds the dumb huge, all expired but I keep them because BB&B doesn't care if they're expired, coupons. They're at the back of the B section. I used 3 of them today. From last year...like I said, they don't care. They will also take up to 5 of them in one transaction (one per item of course...but up to 5 - you knew that right?)
Now this is how I "use" it when i'm shopping. That little pocket with coupons sticking out - I stick ones in there that are for free stuff or ones that I want to use and are expiring soon. That way they look at me as soon as I open the binder to shop. Heeeey i'm here, use me!
See the ones in the middle... that's where I stash the ones I've pulled and will be using when I check out. They stay right there, out of the way of my flipping between sections and I don't have to hold them or keep track of them once I pull them.
Note that I keep a Sharpie and a pen on that page too. Mr. Paisley and I are
usually on Weight Watchers. As I shop, I calculate points and use the Sharpie to write the point value right on the package - why do it again when I get home? I told you I was brilliant. The pen is there to scratch things off my shopping list...there's a big pocket on the other black flap - you can see the grocery list pad in it. There's also a gazinta in case I need to do some figurin'. You know...a gazinta. 2 gazinta 4 twice...some people call it a calculator - welcome to the South - y'all come back now...
Now you can use a regular plain old 3 ring binder you have laying around the house - but don't say I didn't warn you the first time you drop it and a million little scraps of paper
coupons go flying and you have to organize them again. It happens...ask me how I know. It's bad enough when you drop one that's zipped up and the rings pop open and you have to put 247 pages back in place....again, feel free to ask me how I know.
Oh yeah, organizing...aside from the obvious ABCs...I file stuff the way I think about it. Granola bars / breakfast cereal bars, Nutri-grain type bars...they all go under B in my book...because I just think of them as "bars". You are welcome to sort them by brand, by name, hell do it by flavor if you want. That's your story... another example S - S is for sauce. BBQ, soy, salad dressing, mustard...it's a sauce in my book. Anything bread goes under B...that's bagels, sandwich bread, buns, flat outs, wraps, English muffins, canned biscuits...whatever...EXCEPT garlic bread. It goes under G. I'm weird that way. Aside from that, I don't sort them in the sections. All the bagged bread goes in one pocket, the canned (biscuits, crescent rolls, sweet rolls) go in another, butter goes in another, etc...some people will break them down into brands or put them in alpha order in each alpha section. I don't have time for that. It's not that hard to glance at each pocket and know what kind of thing is in it. If X bread is on sale, I pull out the bagged bread stash and flip thru it quick. I also glance at expiration dates while I do that...my grocery store and BJs both have trash cans at every other aisle so I cull the expired ones as I go along. I also check each pocket of coupons when I add the new ones each Sunday. It keeps them pretty current. Some people will check them all each week. Too much work in my book. Do what works for you.
In the drug store / misc. section I also keep my ECB and RR coupons from CVS and Walgreens. The ECB go in C section (for CVS - the random other coupons from them go in the same pocket). The RR from Walgreen's go in that pocket on the black flap - because I can use them anywhere that has the Catalina machines (like Publix or Winn Dixie)...even if it says Walgreen's on it. (Remember how I said you need to Know The Policy...)
When the Wednesday paper comes out, we get our weekly grocery ads. I go thru them, mark what i'm interested in and I will go pull the coupons for those items so they're ready for my shopping trip. I paper clip them to the store ad and tuck it into the binder.
So there you go - welcome to my coupon binder.