Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Secrets of My Success - Part 2, Coupon Systems

Okay, you have all of your newspaper and printer coupons. Now what?

Now, you need a system for them. Most people think of coupon files as either a card box or an accordion file with categories. Either option is great and they work for lots of folks.

I never liked those systems because I would have to scroll through each piece of paper and more often than not, I'd find the perfect coupon, but it would be expired. I started sorting mine just by month of expiration. Then on the first of the month I would just toss the entire previous month's leftover coupons. Alas, this is also far from the perfect system. Any time I wanted to run out and pick up one particular thing, I had to go through each month to find the right coupon.

The Coupon Mom recommends a binder system which I love. Switching over to the system was a lot of work, but I am so happy with the results. I was able to use a binder I already had. I bought one set of trading card sleeves for the small coupons and used extra 4x6 photo pages that I already had for the large ones. My binder doesn't sit up on a shelf because I have those longer pages in there, but I don't care. It works for me and cost me very little to put it together.

Before I assembled it or sorted my coupons, I first made a list of the "categories" I wanted to use. I try to sort by areas of the store. My categories are things like medication, toiletries, cleaning supplies, dairy, bread/coffee, etc. Then I put them in roughly the order they are in my primary store. I used file folder labels to make the tabs for my sections.

Now, not only can I see what I have very quickly and easily, but I can also see what coupons have expired and clean them out.

There's one more trick about clipping coupons that I should have mentioned yesterday. I print out coupons for things like cookie dough, frosting, brownies, and candy - things we rarely use at our house. Why? Because I have a school-aged child and his class has regular parties and other occasions where I am asked to contribute something to the celebration. By having these coupons on hand, I feel a little ahead of the game.

Also, I don't print out or cut out every coupon I find. I only do this for things we would buy anyway. I If I'm not picky about brand, I might cut out coupons for three different kinds of fabric softener and try to play the sale ads to get the best deal. Otherwise, I clip and use coupons for the things I know we will use.

So, what do you do with your coupons? Do you have a system to make them manageable? I would love to hear about it - I am always up for trying to ways to better organize my life!

Come back tomorrow and we'll talk about the next "secret" to my shopping success.

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