Clipping coupons has been a classic way to save a little (or a lot) of cash when shopping for generations. I remember growing up I had a friend who was one of nine siblings, four of them two sets of twins. They were a large family and they required a lot of supplies on a week to week basis. At the time bulk-seller stores weren’t as popular as they are now, and discount stores were also less commonplace. This meant that they had to save in any way they could, and clipping coupons was a big part of that.
A few times a week the entire family would sit together at the kitchen table and clip then as they talked and joked and spent time together. It was actually a rather nice scene, and I was a part of it several times when I would spend the night. I once heard my friend’s mother tell mine that they saved hundreds a month doing this little family ritual. It makes sense if you think about how large their family was, and how the savings must have added up.
While shopping trends have changed, this is one element of the experience that has remained the same. There are digital coupons that can be loaded onto customer rewards cards, but this is still a concept that hasn’t been taken over by all businesses yet. Likewise, online shopping using promotional codes does little for weekly groceries or other in-store items. Which is why paper coupons are still necessary and highly effective.
But using them is – let’s face it – a pain in the rear. Clipping them is bad enough, but keeping track of them can be a nightmare. Which is why it helps to have a filing system to keep them organized and useable. Here are some tips for making your own filing method that can make storing and using paper coupons a breeze.
Organizing and Tracking Coupons Online
The virtual world has made it very easy to collect and organize coupons. In fact, you don’t need to be tech-savvy: all you need is the right tool(s).
Here are few essential tools and tips for you to organize the Internet money-saving:
- HOW TO: Create a price-drop email alert: be the first to learn that a product you plan to buy can now be purchased at a much lower price (via MakeUseOf);
- HOW TO: Use Gmail filters to organize online coupons (via the Shopping Journal);
- HOW TO: Save money with this little free coupon alert tool (via Rather Be Shopping)
Yet, not everyone shops online and we do need to work on organizing our coupons “offline”, so here are a few ideas:
An oldie but a goody, using envelopes is still a great way to keep track of coupons. In fact, this is still my own preferred method that I have been using for years. I get a collection of envelopes and as I clip I organize them by type of item. For example, canned foods and dry packaged foods go in one, cleaning supplies in another, refrigerates sides in a third…and on and on.
I then clearly label the front, with a quick mention of the earliest and latest date of expiration. I use these envelopes to help me plan meals and shopping trips, which has cut my food budget down by an entire $50 per week.
This is a great idea if you have a problem with searching through your coupon collection every time you are going to use them. You just get an ordinary three ring binder and some clear, plastic insert sheets used for reports and presentations.
They are reusable and cheap. You then put all of your coupons into the sheets where they can be flipped through quickly and removed before you go shopping. Just compare it to your grocery list.
Of course, you will want to have an organizing system in place within the binder. Try doing it by item types (like my envelopes) or by expiration date, or even by store if you clip for more than one.
3. Expanding Fan Folder
This is a pretty cheap and simple way to go, though you have to dig through the pockets to find what you need. If you are going to use one part of the folder per coupon type, make sure to put a label at the top so you can easily find with is which. I would recommend the kind that comes with a plastic insert tab at the top so you can easily switch out labels when you need to.
But really, this is a better method when used with another. For example, I have a large one with laminated pockets that I use to put the envelopes of my coupons in. That keeps them all together but still easy to use, and keeps me from having to dig through a mass of them is each category to find what I need.
4. Filing Box
This is probably my least recommended. It is simple to use and really handy for finding what you want, but it is also not something you can easily take with you to a store. Certainly, you don’t want to pull it out of your purse and start rifling through it in the checkout lane. But if you don’t mind getting what you need before you go to the store, it can be a nice, safe way to store them.
I have one for recipes, and occasionally I will pop a coupon in there with it for when I plan on cooking it next.
Ann is a geeky mom and experienced blogger writing about social media and search marketing.