I've used coupons for a long time. I just can't stand to think I paid more for something than I had to. I think I am pretty smart about how I use coupons. I only use coupons for things I would otherwise buy or for something that I want to try. (If you use a coupon for something you wouldn't buy without the coupon it's not really saving money.) Over the years there have been times I used a lot of coupons and times when I didn't use them at all.
For most of that time I used one of those coupon organizers that looks like a big envelope with several sections. That was not an effective way to use coupons. It was always frustrating. If I wanted to use a coupon I would have to dig through the entire section to find the one I wanted. Often I would find expired coupons because I forgot they were in there. To combat that, before I went shopping I would look through the entire organizer to find coupons that were about to expire. So, each week I would have to take out all the coupons and look through each one.
Last year I heard about a blog called Clippin' with Carrie. Carrie matches up coupons with the current ads. (I know there are lots of other blogs that do the same thing.) At around the same time I saw many examples of coupon binders. I knew I needed to change the way I organized my coupons. I created my binder based on the ones I saw at that time.
In my binder I use:
baseball card protectors that have nine sections (I found them at Wal-mart.) Most coupons fit nicely into them. (It's hard to see in this picture but they are on the right, behind the divider. I couldn't get a good picture without a lot of reflection.) For coupons that are just a little too big I got sheets with four 4x6 sections (I got them at Office Depot.)
For coupons that are way to big to fit in either of those I use 81/2x11 page protectors.
Here is my binder:
As always, more practical than pretty.
While my binder is NOT cute, it has a feature I don't think I would trade to get a cute binder.
It zips. I like that feature because it keeps everything contained. If I drop my binder, nothing falls out of it. I can't imagine being in the store, dropping my binder and having coupons fly all over the place. Lucky for me, I already had this binder. I got it many years ago on clearance. (That was one time buying something on clearance that I didn't need worked out for me.)
When I go to the store I carry the coupons I am going to use and my list on this clipboard:
I carry the clipboard and binder in this:
Although I quit getting the local paper, my mom saves her coupons for me. I have not figured out a way to work coupon clipping into my routine. That means it could be weeks (or months) before I clip the coupons. This time, this is what I have:
Yikes. They date back to January. (Did you know the inserts have the date printed on the edge? Knowing that will make it much easier to organize this mess.)
I was about to just chuck them into the recycle bin, inspired by one of my favorite bloggers (Nony at A Slob Comes Clean) who threw away 21 pounds of coupons (see her post here.) She blogged about how she just didn't have time for that right now. I felt the same way. Obviously, if it was important to me I would work it into my schedule. On the other hand, if I didn't care I would have already gotten rid of them. So, when I saw the current challenge at A Bowl Full of Lemons I thought I would give it one more try.
There is one thing I do that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere. It's this:
After I clip my coupons I keep the inserts. I put them in a hanging file folder and use mini-Post its to label the date on them. When I look at Clippin' with Carrie (and sites similar to hers) they often match up coupons that are in older inserts. By keeping my inserts organized in this way, I can refer back to those inserts easily if there is a coupon I need later. This has been so good for me keeping my sanity. If I hear about a great deal on something that I use but I no longer have the coupon for, it drives me crazy. I would rather not have heard about the deal. Plus, I would almost rather not do coupons than have something like that happen over and over.
Hopefully, I will be able to keep up with all of this--this time.