Especially during a down economy, many people look for new ways to pinch pennies and pad their savings accounts. One of the best ways to save money is to spend less on the products you buy often and use every day. But just because you're cutting back doesn't mean you have to go without.
If you're a savvy coupon shopper, you may be able to save a substantial amount of money on the basics without greatly changing your shopping routine. In 2007, coupons saved American shoppers around $3 billion, and some research suggests that figure may be rising, since experts expect coupon usage to increase, too [source: Washington Post].
Whether you find your coupons in the newspaper, online or through the mail, you need to know how to organize them -- they won't be useful if you can't find them. Deciding the best way to organize your coupons is up to you -- just choose a method that makes sense to you, so you can always find the coupons you're ready to use. You'll need to decide what categories to divide your coupons into, how to store them and how to use them when planning your weekly shopping [source: The Simple Dollar].
There are many great organizational techniques, whether you like a highly specific method of organizing or just want to make sure you don't lose the coupons before you have the chance to use them. For ideas on how to start organizing, grab your coupons and read the next page.
Methods for Organizing Coupons
Everyone goes about clipping coupons differently. You may clip only the ones you know you'll use, or you may cut out every coupon you have a possibility of using. This means you could end up with a lot of coupons on your hands. Deciding the best way to organize them will help you know what you have and when you need to use them.
One method of organizing coupons is to sort them by category, such as type of food, beauty products or medications. This can be helpful if you want to pull out coupons for a certain type of shopping trip. For example, if you're running to the grocery store to stock up on breakfast foods, you'll be able to quickly grab the cereal or yogurt coupons while skipping over others.
You may find that sorting your coupons by expiration date will help you. This will ensure that you don't have many expired coupons on your hands, maximizing the use of your coupons. This is a great system if you don't shop as often or aren't accustomed to using coupons on a regular basis.
Finally, you may try organizing your coupons alphabetically by brand name or by product type. This can be easy to flip through if you're shopping for a specific product. However, this also may be a bit more difficult if you have a lot of coupons on your hands.
No method of organizing coupons is right or wrong. Evaluate how you use coupons and how often you use them, and develop a system that will be easy to maintain.
Once you have your coupons sorted, you'll need to find a way to keep them easily accessible. Keep reading for hints on how to do this.
Once you've decided how to sort your coupons, you'll need a place to store them that's easy to keep organized and readily accessible. Just as you'll find your own best method of organizing, you'll also find the best way to keep your coupons organized. There are many options, ranging from free methods you can find around the house to simple organizational tools you can pick up at an office supply store.
If you want to keep it simple and free, try recycling some common household items to store your coupons. You can use paper clips to separate them into categories and store them in a plastic sandwich bag. You can also use envelopes to store your coupons by category, or you can grab an old shoebox or diaper-wipe container to create a filing system. All of these items can be found around the house and can be easily transformed into a convenient storage container [source: Jones].
If you want something a bit more official, purchase an index card box from an office supply store, and you can either make or purchase dividers that will help keep everything in order. An accordion file with a built-in filing system is another option. If you have a lot of coupons to keep track of, you may want to make a coupon binder in which you can put clear trading card sheets. These pockets are perfect for storing coupons, and you can find specific coupons at a glance [source: Moms Need to Know].
Whatever you use, make sure you can easily store the coupons according to your organizing system. You may also want to pick a storage system that you can take with you when shopping.
If you want to be even more organized, there are some easy-to-use online organizing options to check out. Read on for more information on how to use these.
Coupon Organizing Software
With technology as accessible as it is today, you may have most of your life organized on your laptop or PDA. If this is the case, you may find a coupon organizing system handier if it's on your computer. Luckily, there are many different types of online programs and downloadable software available for you to try. Most are either free or relatively inexpensive.
There are many options out there for coupon organizing software, but most offer similar perks. First of all, having your coupons organized on your computer allows you to have a printable and searchable list of every coupon you have. This is especially helpful for those who have a large collection of coupons and may not be able to remember what they have when planning a shopping trip [source: CNET]. Having this list will help you minimize your planning time before heading to the store.
Also, many of these programs will allow you to search for coupons that have expired or are about to expire, which will help you weed out old coupons and help you use coupons before they expire [source: MicroBlast Software]. Again, if you don't think you'll be able to sort through your collection manually with ease, having a log of your coupons on the computer can make shopping and saving much more manageable.
As you assess your shopping routine, you'll figure out how many coupons you tend to use and the best way to manage them to maximize your savings. By making coupon shopping an easy-to-manage habit, you'll find that you can stick to your budget and even save a little cash.
For more tips on how to organize your life, see the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- CNET. "ProbuSoft Coupon Organizer 1.1." January 28, 2007. (Accessed 1/11/10)http://download.cnet.com/ProbuSoft-Coupon-Organizer/3000-2124_4-10622357.html
- Jones, Michelle. "Coupon Queen Savings: Get Your Grocery Coupons Organized." Living a Better Life. 2010. (Accessed 1/11/10)http://www.betterbudgeting.com/articles/frugal/couponqueen.htm
- MicroBlast Software. "Coupon Wizard for Windows." 2009. (Accessed 1/11/10)http://www.microblast.com/couponwizard.htm
- Moms Need to Know. "Coupon 101: Sorting and Organizing Your Coupons." January 6, 2009. (Accessed 1/11/10)http://www.momsneedtoknow.com/2009/01/06/coupon-101-sorting-and-organizing-your-coupons/
- Neighborhood Link National Network. "Using Grocery Coupons Effectively." 2010. (Accessed 1/11/10)http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/article/Thrifty/Using_Grocery_Coupons_Effectively_To_Save_Money
- The Simple Dollar. "How We Organize Our Coupons and Execute Our Coupon Strategy." June 13, 2008. (Accessed 1/11/10)http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/06/13/how-we-organize-our-coupons-and-execute-our-coupon-strategy/
- Thrifty Fun. "Organizing Coupons." November 14, 2006. (Accessed 1/11/10)http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf000782.tip.html
- Tipnut. "Making a Coupon Organizer System -- How to Guide." August 11, 2009. (Accessed 1/11/10)http://tipnut.com/coupon-organizer-system/
- Trejos, Nancy. "Snipping, Clipping, Scrimping; On Paper and Online, Coupons Are Coming Back." The Washington Post. October 26, 2008. (Accessed 1/20/10)