31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Finding a Coupon Organizational System Which Works for You

Missed the first posts in this series? Read them here.

Last week, I shared with you how I organize my coupons. My system has worked well for me for over 10 years. I’ve tried other systems and they never quite work as well so I always end up going back to the Coupon Box method of organization.

3 Tips for Choosing an Organizational System for Your Coupons

1) Start Small

If you’re new to couponing, don’t feel like you have to go get yourself some big honkin’ box or binder in order to use coupons correctly. It’s really perfectly okay to start out with a little index box or something like The Couponizer.

Get accustomed to something small. When you feel really comfortable with that and you want to move up, then it’s time to consider a box or a binder. But don’t overkill from the get-go and then burn yourself out. You can save plenty of money with a small coupon organizer, too.

2) Keep it Simple

The goal is to save money with coupons, not create some elaborate system. Don’t get hung up in all the details. Keep it simple — especially at first.

3) Do What Works for You

What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. I strongly encourage you to experiment with a few different methods and find what works best for you. And then stick with it, so long as it is working well for you!

::Coupon Organizational Methods::

photo from Coupon Magic Organizer

::The Binder Method::

This method of coupon organization is probably the most popular. There are many different ways to create a Coupon Binder, but they all usually involve a 3-ring zippered binder with baseball card holders. You file your coupons in the plastic sleeves of the baseball card holders.

Pinching Your Pennies has an excellent video here on How To Create a Coupon Binder. And Penny Pinching Diva has a great article on The Anatomy of a Coupon Binder which explains how to set up your own Coupon Binder.

Pros — You can easily see all coupons you have at a glance making it simple to locate coupons. Unlike the Coupon Box method, if you drop the Coupon Binder, you don’t have to worry about coupons scattering everywhere!

Cons — When I tried this method, I found it tedious to put all the coupons in the sleeves. If they didn’t fit, you’d have to fold them and stuff them in. It took quite a bit of time and effort compared to my Coupon Box method.

See more Pros and Cons on the Coupon Binder from Utah Deal Diva.

Pre-Made Coupon Binders

Don’t have the time to put together your own Coupon Binder? You can buy them already made up for you from Prospering Families or from Coupon Magic Organizer.

Want something more stylish than a plain old 3-ring binder? Order a Coupon Clutch!

::The Whole Insert Method::

This method of coupon organization is the least time-consuming. Instead of clipping coupons out, you file the inserts whole by date. See a video of how the Whole Insert Method works here.

Pros — It’s so simple and is perfect for a person who doesn’t have a lot of time to clip coupons. In addition, it’s easy to find your coupons when you’re planning your grocery shopping trip as you can search for coupon in our Coupon Database and then just pull the insert from the file and clip the coupon.

Cons — Since you don’t clip all your coupons, if you run into a great clearance or unadvertised deal, you won’t be able to search your coupons to see if you have some which you could use. This was the most frustrating aspect when I tried this method. I missed out on deal after deal because I didn’t have my whole Coupon Box with me and at my finger tips.

::The Coupon Box Method::

I shared how this method works for me here. You can watch a Video Tour of My Coupon Box to see how Carrie set her system up. Monica also has a great tutorial on her adorable coupon box.

Pros — You have every coupon at your finger tip. Plus, I found it much easier to file and find coupons than when using a Coupon Binder.

Cons — The box is a little bulky and might feel conspicuous to some of you to take into a store (doesn’t bother me, but I’m already weird!). In addition, if you drop the box, you may have Coupon Disorganization Disaster! :) And finally, you have to keep up with cutting and filing coupons, otherwise the Coupon Box is not that beneficial.

Those are the three basic methods used by “super-couponers”. There are a thousand different variations on these methods and I encourage you to experiment and figure out what works for you!

I’m curious: If you clip coupons, do you clip all of them or just the ones you think you’ll use? I’ve actually been moving more towards what Carrie outlines here (a combination of the Coupon Box method and the Whole Insert method) in order to save time. So far, it seems to be working well!

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Comments

  1. jan says

    I don’t clip- I keep the whole inserts- since I often have more than one copy of each insert it’s way too time consuming to clip. Also once you clip you have no idea what insert that coupon came from. It’s much easier to keep whole inserts in a folder and write the date on the front of each one. Each week on Thursday night I plan my grocery shopping list and pull all the coupons I will need. I only shop from my list. I have never seen any unadvertised deals in the store so I never need all my coupons.

  2. says

    For the most part, I only clip the coupons when I am going to use them (right before my grocery trip, or even in the store sometimes!). However, I don’t use the whole insert method. I go through the inserts and clip what I think I might end up using, then ditch the rest. I print off the internet coupons I think I might use, but I don’t clip them right away. All my coupons are just in a manila folder, which I keep in my coupon bag (which holds my reusable bags, calculator, scissors, etc). You can see more here:
    http://momforhim.blogspot.com/2010/02/coupon-disorganization.html

  3. says

    I use four small accordian files- one for groceries, one for cleaning supplies and household items, one for health and beauty items and one for store specific coupons. It works great for me because depending what kind of store I am goin to I can leave one or more of the files in the car plus they fit in my purse so I don’t have to lug a binder along with my 2 kids.

  4. says

    I’ve experimented with a variety of different coupon organization tools and methods. I’ve finally settled on what works best for me. I have a coupon box, (I found this really pretty “scrapbooking” carryall that fits my coupons perfectly, closes up securely and has pockets for scissors and such – it was clearanced down to just a few dollars) I also have one of the traditional 13 pocket small organizers. I keep all my coupons in the coupon box – but I don’t carry my coupon box everytime. My small 13 pocket one – I used the tabs to create a different tab for different stores that I frequent and a couple of pouches for “free” items or “look for trial size” coupons, which I might use in any store. When I plan my shopping trip, I will usually pull coupons from the big coupon box and transfer them to the smaller one that can go in my purse – it’s basically the same thing as carrying an individual envelope, but it’s a little more durable. When I have more time for shopping, I carry the full coupon box in, so I can look for clearances and unadvertised deals.

    Whether or not I clip just what I need or the whole insert usually depends on how hectic things are. When I get coupons – I flip through them and clip the ones that I know I really want to use. If I have time, I’ll go ahead and clip most of the coupons, but if I don’t have time, I just tuck those inserts in the bottom of my coupon box. That way, I can either go back to them at a later time or pull the insert if someone mentions a good deal… and sometimes, when life is really hectic, I forgo extra clipping and just clip what I know I’ll use – then pass on the rest. I’ve found that flexibility is key… otherwise, I just get frustrated and chuck the whole process.

  5. Teresa says

    I saw your video on coupon organization.. I have a clear vinyl cosmetic bag with a handle that I have organized my coupons into. It is deep enough, wide enough and long enough to hold all mine. My printable c oupons also fit without folding. I got my bag at Rite Aid Drugstore. It is perfect. fits in the cart perfectly, facing me. I do use a binder clip to hold the zippered lid open. I also discovered that if I bring along an envelope and another binder clip that I could clip it to the cart and put the coupons that I will use in the checkout in it. NO MORE dropped coupons throughout the store!!!!!

  6. DOROTHY FISHER says

    IF THE COMOANY WHO MAKES THE COUPON CLUTCH COULD RUNA SPECIAL I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE ONE OF THOSE. CUTTING COUPONS FOR EVERYTHING ELSE, THEN SPENDING $30 ON THE HOLDER DOESNT SEEM RIGHT. THEY LOOK NICE AND FUNCTIONABLE THOUGH.

  7. Courtney Holcomb says

    I really like how I do it.

    I have four 4×6 accordion organizers. Three have seven pockets and I labeled them what I wanted, one is labeled by STORE. My fourth organizer is the same, it’s from the dollar store and has a lot of prelabeled pockets. I so I have approx two dozen catagories and seven stores to file coupons under. They go in “store” when I plan my week’s outings.

    Four accordion files fit nicely in my purse and I’m organized, know I won’t miss a deal, I won’t loose my coupons, and my kids won’t sabotage it!

  8. says

    I used to keep my coupons in a small scrapbook, organized by category. But it did get to be tedious to flip through all of my cereal coupons in search of that one Rice Krispies coupon.

    I’ve now opted for the binder/baseball card sleeves. I wasn’t sure I would like it, because I’m a little OCD about folding my coupons. :) But now I fold like a pro, and it is SO much easier to find coupons when I’m in the store. I carry my binder up on its end like a file, and just flip through it to find exactly what I’m looking for. It’s saved me time, frustration, and money!

    Here’s a picture of my (oh-so-hot-pink) binder: http://www.savingandgiving.net/works-for-me-wednesday/my-new-coupon-binder/

  9. Aimee says

    I used to save the inserts and file them away according to date (filed by Red Plum,etc…and then date), but I ended up missing out on so many deals so I quit doing that method and went back to my old method. I cut all of the coupons and it does take forever (especially when I get behind) and I file according to date and category. I file in a large accordian file. I have a category for food, restaurants, pets, heath/beauty, household and retail. I also have a small accordian file that I put all coupons that will expire that month (eg. I put all May’s in the file). I put all later date coupons in the bigger accordian file. If I see a deal, I usually go through my coupons to find it. If I see a store coupon, competitor coupon and manufacture coupon, I staple them together when filing. If I have more than one of a coupon (which I usually do b/c I always buy 2 papers each Sunday), I staple them together. I know my method sounds crazy, but it mostly works for me. I just need to get it to where it’s not quite so time consuming!

  10. says

    I combine the binder and whole insert method with the DuoBinder. It’s a binder on one side and a file folder on the other. It’s really cute too. I’m actually giving one away on my blog. It ends tomorrow so there’s still time to enter.

    http://www.thebuzz4moms.com/2010/04/duo-binder-review-and-giveaway-ends-may.html

    This method works great for me. And I use photo album pages instead of baseball cards. The sleeves are bigger and not as big of a pain to file.

  11. says

    I only clip the ones that I think I will use, but I love the idea of keeping the inserts. There were a couple of times in the last few months that I had thrown them out and then a “smokin’ hot deal” showed up and I missed out. :( I recently went to the coupon box method and I love it. Lots of room and a lot more organization than my original, throw everything in a ziploc bag and then search through it right before shopping technique.

  12. Kelly says

    I have found that the coupon box works for me. The coupons are sorted by brand name. I know that seems very detailed and was it kinda to start. It is so nice to go the grocery store and see something on sale and can go look for the coupons by brand name and know right then if I have a coupon or not.

  13. Whitney says

    I’ve been doing a combo of the whole insert method and coupon “box” method for over a year. I take each insert and glean it for coupons I already know are good or are for things likely to be on sale and also clip out all that are for perishables. Clipping the perishable coupons has been the key to this method for me. Yogurt, meat, juice, etc. If I’ve ever seen it on manager markdown then I’m likely to again and this way I have the coupon with me. Then I file all my coupons in a small coupon binder with about 10 sections that fits in my purse.

    Before I go to the store I check coupon matchups and go through my filed inserts by date and clip the ones I plan on using. Then I add these to the last section of my coupon binder in the order in which I will encounter the item in the store. If I run into that great deal I had a hunch about, I also have those coupons I clipped earlier.

    The other part of my system that gives me a little edge is that my mother mails me her coupons already clipped and I just file them. This way I have at least one copy of every coupon from the Sunday inserts with me. If I find a great deal but can’t find a coupon for it in my binder, I know that the coupon doesn’t exist and I don’t wrack my brain trying to remember if I have a copy of it at home. If she stopped sending me coupons this way then I would probably take the time to cut out one copy of each coupon from each insert and file them. If I do find a fantastic coupon to match with a deal, then I know I can go home and clip 6 or 7 more from the whole inserts I have filed at home.

  14. Laura Walker says

    Hi,
    I have used several methods, and I always come back to the binder method. I have a 3 inch binder with baseball card holder, and dividers. I LOOOOVE my method because I am a student and the binder method seems more comfortable for me. I strive for organization, and I like to keep printed lists of deals, (EX: the ones usually found on this website) On Saturdays I just come and print my CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens Deals. Or I jot it on a piece of paper. The binder method allows me to store everything , coupons, printed lists of deals, and even inserts that I haven’t clipped. Walmart has these awesome dividers that hold stuff on frnt and back. The colors are cool, since I’m a visual person, and then I also have Sub dividers. all bought at walmart, they are small round shaped, or round edge type dividers. My binder has a strap, so I feel that I can have it all in one place.

    I pull out the coupons I know I need or the trip, and carry my binder in the cart, just in case I see a deal, Or sometimes I leave it in my trunk , wherever I go. Yes , because You never know, i have restaurant coupons in there, even ones i use at the mall. Its safe, convenient, and to me I enjoy clipping them an organizing them, It doesn’t take too much time for me, since its an art for me , I feel.!

  15. says

    I usually only clip coupons I know I will use and put them in a small photo album I found at a thrift store that fits easily in my purse. I’ve found this works best for me since I don’t have a lot of coupons yet, I can easily see and find the coupon I want to use, and I can keep it out of my 14 month old daughter’s little hands! : ) She loves to hold the circular and babble while we shop…I love my little helper.

  16. says

    I used the insert method for a while but then found I was constantly going back through the inserts over and over again looking for the coupons that went with the deals that I heard about.

    I now use the binder method. I just clip the coupons I know I will use and still save the inserts in case a freebie comes up. It’s a bit of a chore to clip and sort and put in the pockets but it’s my little mindless therapy on Sunday afternoons sometimes.

    I know the box method wouldn’t work for me because I would drop it and have coupons all over the place. Plus I would constantly be flipping through each category trying to find the coupons I was looking for. I think I would invariably miss some because the same kind wouldn’t be together.

    That’s just my .02. I love to hear how others handle all this too.

  17. Amy says

    I use the binder method, but buy the medium quality page protectors from Office Max and sew them myself. I put 6 slots per page, but I make half of them tall enough to hold the size of the internet printable coupons and then the other half will hold the smaller coupons. However after seeing the Coupon Magic Organizer I think I am also going to sew some 3 slot horizontal sheets as well. The system works great, but I just need to find the time to sew some more page….it is a little tedious!

  18. Kimberly C says

    Not sure (since I wasn’t able to go through all the comments) if anyone has seen Mrs. A’s Coupon Organizer. I have done some research and this will be the one I’ll be trying for my fledgling coupon collection. The website says the complete kit with their binder isn’t available but you can purchase the kit that goes inside your own binder (in small or large). Please check them out :)

  19. Hannah says

    I am just getting started couponing and am having great success so far (though not as good as those of you with experience!). I’m usually able to come out of the store having paid half or less than half of the total amount my groceries are worth. I’m trying to decide what method to use. I LOVE the box idea with all its super broken down, detailed categories. However, I also like to take my Price Book sheets (thanks Crystal and Joy!), my list, sometimes my menu with me to the store, so the binder sounds like a great way to keep it all together, even at home for planning. I was also thinking the inserts could be kept in the binder and a pair of sewing scissors brought along for those unexpected deals. Or do you all just tear the coupons out when you find something unexpected? On the other hand I don’t usually have much time in the store to browse for those deals; I usually just get what I came for and that’s it. So is the insert method worth it? Just musing here, I guess.

  20. Katie says

    I just made my own coupon binder for about $18.00 and love it! It really helps me keep my coupons and grocery lists/ inserts so organized. Makes it so much easier to shop to, especially when I have my 3 yr. old with me! :) I buy two newspapers as well to get twice the coupons! :)

  21. GFauci says

    I cut every coupon I can get my hands on! I don’t have any babies anymore, but if you can get something for free – why not? I have friends with babies and grandchildren. I love being able to give them something that they can use! I do the same for pets. I only have one dog, but if cat food is free with a coupon, I pick it up and give it to my neighbor for her cat. Denture cleaner? Sure! I have all of my real teeth, but denture cleansing tablets are great for cleaning out vases, coffee pots, or any other glass containers with “hard to reach” bottoms. Mineral deposits – gone! Free = good, I don’t care what the product is!

    I also use the box method. It looks very similiar to the one in your picture. I use 3X5 index cards to separate the categories with stick-on labels at the top. I belong to “The Grocery Game”, so when I print my list each Tuesday, all I have to do is go through and pull out the coupons that I will use at the store. I transfer them into one envelope. I put a 3×5 index card behind the coupons inside the envelope. When I find the item and place it in my cart, I then move the coupon behind the index card so that it is separated from the “to be used”. By the time I reach the checkout counter, all of my coupons are behind the index card and stacked for the cashier. This keeps me from having to bring the entire box of coupons to the store and risking a catestrophic drop. And, if an item is sold out the coupon remains in front and ultimately gets filed back in the box in the same place I originally pulled it from.

    I tried the method of keeping the entire insert in a file and then only cutting the coupons on the day I shopped. The problem is that I would cut coupons when it was time to use them, but if the store was out of or did not have the item on the coupon, I would get back home and forget which date I cut it from. I ended up with a huge pile of “misc” dates to be checked every single time I made my list.

  22. says

    I use a coupon folder – it’s not nearly as big as a box but it can still fit a lot! I don’t clip every coupon, that would take me forever. I’m on a schedule, so I clip coupons only for products we typically use or I think we would use. That way I have them when I need them and I’m not tempted to buy things I normally wouldn’t just because it’s a “good deal”.