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How I Organize My Coupons

Once you start accumulating a nice stash of coupons, you’ll quickly find you need to come up with some method of organization. There are all sorts of ways to go about this and the most important thing is that you do what works for you.

If you use more than a few coupons each week, you’ll likely quickly outgrow the little coupon organizers many stores sell and need something more substantial. My solution has to use the Coupon Box Method that my mom used. She originally got the idea from her friend, Renee — who introduced us to using coupons in the first place. (Thanks, Renee, we owe a lot to you!)

For those of you who have asked, here’s what it looks like and how it works:

The coupons are stored in categorical envelopes. The individual envelopes were made by using small letter envelopes (No. 6 3/4 – 3 5/8 x 6 1/2 in.), cutting the flaps off, and stapling an index card standing up inside.

The envelopes are organized alphabetically with the main categories and then multiple envelopes for each main category. Something like this:


  • diapers
  • products
  • wipes


  • containers
  • foil, plastic wrap

And so on.

Here are all the rest of the categories I have in my box (the items in parentheses are each of the separate envelopes):

Baking (mixes, oil/sugar)
Batteries, film
Canned (meat, soup, vegetables, fruit)
Cereal (envelopes for each brand)
Cleaner (all purpose, bathroom, dish detergent, disinfectant, laundry, furniture polish, floor, glass)
Dairy (beverage, cheese, sour cream/cream cheese/butter, snacks, yogurt)
Frozen (beverage, bread, ice cream, meat, snacks, vegetables/fruit/potatoes)
Health Food
Hygiene (band-aids, deodorant, face, feminine, hair, lotion, medicine/vitamins, shaving, soap)
Jelly, Peanut Butter
Office Supplies
Paper Products (facial tissue, cups/plates, toilet tissue, towels/napkins)
Salad Dressing

I sometimes put restaurant coupons, other coupons for non-grocery stores, rebate forms, and any receipts I need to hang onto on one side of the box. The front of the box is where I stash coupons which need to be organized into the categories. I stick envelopes for each of the stores I shop at the top of the box.

When I make out my grocery lists for each store, I put the coupons I’ll be using in these envelopes, along with the lists for the store. I always bring a calculator and a pen in my box, too. The size of the container fits into the front of the shopping cart (the child seat section), and if you don’t have a child sitting in there, this works well.

I have yet to figure out how to take three young children to the store without putting a child up front, so my coupon box usually goes in the cart. I just carry the envelope of coupons I’m planning to use at the store along with my grocery list. If I find an unadvertised deal or something I missed on my list, I can quickly search through the coupons in my coupon box and pull the item and stick it into the envelope in my hand.

Before going up to the register, I always double-check to make sure I have all of the coupons together and ready to go, as shopping with young children means I’m sometimes distracted and not as organized as I’d like to be! It’s better to realize you misplaced a coupon before you’ve already checked out!

I usually only take my whole box into the store when I go to Dillon’s, since I often find extra deals and reduced items that I have coupons for which were not advertised in the sale flier. At Walgreens, Target, Walmart or the health food store, I just pull out the envelope in the front of the box which is for that store and head in. If I find some special deal that I know I have coupons for, I can always run back out to the car and get them.

This method works well for me and, after using it for ten years, I’m pretty stuck in my ways. However, it’s not for everyone. And since I’m all about doing what works for you, next Wednesday, we’ll be talking about a variety of organizational methods for coupons — the binder method, whole insert method and more. I’m confident you’ll find something which works well for you!

In the mean time, I’d love to hear what method you use for organizing your coupons. Is it working well for you? If you have blogged about it, leave the link in the comments — I just might use your link in my post next week!

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  1. LindaB says

    I don’t like lugging a box or big binder into a store. I like to be as inconspicious as possible to avoid distractions while I shop. So I do most of my work at home. Before leaving the house I get as organized as possible. I don’t clip my coupons until I see the ads. I clearly mark the date on each insert. Then keep like inserts together (SS RP P&G) by using binder clips. I store the inserts in a portable hanging file holder I found at Walmart for about $8.00. I got hanging files at Staples for about $4.00 (There is storage area on top for scissors, clips, pencils, calculators etc…) I pull the inserts and clip coupons as I need them. Then they go into an accordian file along with my list and file by ‘store’ because I may go to 4-5 stores (Publix, Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Winn Dixie) in one day to get the best weekly deals. Any loose coupons I have are in a binder filed by category meat/produce/dry grocery/health beauty/snacks sweet/snacks salty/beverage/dairy/paper goods. Use 4×6 top load photo inserts or CD inserts along with baseball card for varied coupon sizes to avoid the frustration of getting them in and out. I leave all this stuff in my trunk with my reusable bags unless I am getting my list together! That way it is in the garage when I need it and with me if I find a bargain
    Hint: If you see a bargain jot it down and what isle it’s on on the back of your store list so you can check for Q’s before leaving the parking lot.

  2. Elizabeth says

    I use the Grocery Game to organize all of my coupon-related shopping, and I use her method. I have a large (letter sized) accordian binder that holds 13 weeks of coupons. Each week I slip that week’s inserts into them. Takes 5 seconds. Then, when it is time to put together my grocery list, I look on the Grocery Game to see what is on sale that week and all the coupons are identified (e.g. RP 4/25). I then search on that week’s sheet for all the RB 4/25, pull out that section, and clip everything out of that insert at once. Takes about 5-10 minutes to construct my list and clip. If I need things that aren’t on the list, she also has a coupon search function, so if I need, say, pasta, I search for it and then it tells me what pasta coupons have been published and where they are. So I never clip a coupon until I am ready to use it. It totally works for me, but these kinds of systems seem to be highly personal, so I say do whatever works for you.

    • shannon says

      @Elizabeth, Does it cost to use the grocery game. I think I saw her featured on a tv program about a year ago. Coincidentally, that is what started me on my frugal adventures.

  3. caroline says

    I love the binder/baseball card holder method. It is time consuming, but not too bad if you do some every night. I consider it my part time job. I have been saving about $400/month for our family of eight.
    Having many little ones around here I can’t risk a bucket/box getting dumped. And it would.

    I would say the best part about the binder method is having a mental image of all the coupons I own. I can easily match things up on a discount rack or a surprise sale because I have actually seen all these coupons(through the baseball card holders). I also can easily see the exp. dates. I am certain to have them showing either in front or back when I put them in.

    I have accepted that this is going to take work and commitment on my part. The Lord has been so good to us in His provision. The least I can do is put a little effort forth.

  4. Julie says

    I’m with Caroline! I used the box method and when my oldest, 7, would carry it sometimes it would get spilled and we had to redo it all. She felt awful! My kids (8,5,3,2,1) are always helping and wanting to help. So I switched to the binder. I like it alot! I just need to be more organized.

    • Emily says

      @Rebecca, I do a similar thing, but my thing that holds my whole inserts looks like a big ol black suitcase. Yours that your husband bought you is SOOOOO cute. I love it.

  5. says

    I use the binder method. I also keep scissors, a pen and calculator in my binder. I pull the coupons I need before going to the store but carry the binder in with me to the grocery store just in case I find another deal.
    I’m like you and leave the binder in the car when shopping CVS and WAGS. It’s easier to run back to the car than to carry it around with 2 kids. I have a picure of mine in the FAQ’s section but not a seperate post.

  6. says

    I’m still trying to figure out my optimal method. For years until just recently, I used a little coupon wallet with dividers that I’d seen advertised in one of the many coupon inserts. It worked okay with the pre-printed category tabs for awhile, but then I found myself creating new tabs for the stores I frequent. That worked okay until I accidentally misfiled a coupon then forgot about it and missed a deal in a different store. And eventually, I pretty much destroyed the wallet and the tabs and accumulated enough coupons that I was overflowing into an envelope. That was really annoying :)

    So now I’ve bitten the bullet and set up a coupon binder. I don’t dislike it because I’m not used to it enough yet to know how useful it’s going to be. So far, I don’t really like flipping through pages in the stores, even though I tried to set it up to be pretty aisle specific for the grocery where I shop most often. I also find that I still have an envelope that I use for CVS and Rite Aid, keeping what’s in the binder for the grocery store and Walmart. Again, not a perfect system at all. I have a feeling I’ll be tweaking for awhile :)

  7. Janet says

    I would love to use the box method as you do Crystal. I did this before and if you have time to clip them it’s great. However, since I work part-time and homeschool all five children, I don’t have that time anymore. I nearly quit couponing because I was getting so far behind and having to dig through a lot of inserts each week just to find those coupons I needed.

    So, I started filing them by date in file folders in banker’s boxes nearly a year ago. I got those folders and boxes free on one of those Office Max perks deals you posted! Now, I can get the coupon matchups listed by several kind bloggers for my stores easily and only clip the ones I use. I put online printables, blinkies, catalinas, etc. in a small envelope I keep for each store. I do miss those clearance deal finds, but can look up coupons on one of the data bases if I need a specific one. It’s what works for me!

  8. Jennifer says

    I, too, use a box for my coupons. Mine came from e-bay and I really like it. It sits about five inches tall and the lid has a clasp, so I never worry about them falling out. I tried organizing by category, but my brain doesn’t work that way, so they are all alphabetical by brand, I have A-Z tabs, then specific brands I always use behind that (Betty Crocker, Bic, etc). If I have a coupon I don’t have a specific tab for, I just put it behind the letter. I find it works well for me. One tip I found recently that has started saving me a BOATLOAD of time is for multiple inserts, put like pages together and then staple the 4-5 coupons together (not through the barcode) and then you can cut them all out at once instead of cutting each coupon separately!

  9. Junnetta says

    Wow, I think my systems works really well for me. I purchased a make-up bag at Target a clear one ($8.99). Made tabs with Index tabs and Card Stock paper. It has a handle and zips up and has enough room for a pen and calculator. They have smaller sizes available for the begginer ( My friend just bought one of the smaller ones because her coupons just would not fit in the accordian anymore.) This works really well when you have a little helper carry your coupons. Here is a picture of one that looks like mine but I only bought the larger size not the set. Measurements are Length: 8.5 “; Width: 4.25 “; Depth: 6.0 ” http://www.target.com/Contents-Basic-Black-Train-Piece/dp/B002R08YDG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&searchView=grid3&qid=1273169760&frombrowse=0&fromGsearch=true&node=1038576%7C1287991011&keywords=basics%20case&searchSize=90&id=Contents%20Basic%20Black%20Train%20Piece&searchBinNameList=purchasing_channel%2Csubjectbin%2Ctarget_com_age%2Ctarget_com_gender-bin%2Ctarget_com_character-bin%2Cprice%2Ctarget_com_primary_color-bin%2Ctarget_com_size-bin%2Ctarget_com_brand-bin&searchNodeID=1038576%7C1287991011&searchRank=price&sr=1-2&field_subjectbin=1042004&searchPage=1

  10. T says

    Coupon bag method:(which looks like a medium purse)

    *Put a store flier in childs seat, then your coupon bag on one side, then your envelopes from the purse on the other side. The flier creates a little table that keeps your stuff from slipping through!

    Envelopes for each aisle/sections of grocery store.
    With paper divider in envelope if a subcategory is needed.

    For example:
    Dairy(main envelope)
    -Behind that a slip of paper(divider) marked “yogurt” in that same envelope

    Hope this makes sense! Very similar to the box method Crystal has, but instead of carrying around a box you carry around a medium cloth purse!

  11. says

    All you hard-core couponers are going to consider this anathema, but here’s what I do:

    I pretty much only use coupons for when Harris Teeter triples or super-doubles, so except for a choice few items/brands that we always use and need, my coupons are organized by value. Now when it’s triples week, I don’t have to dig through all my coupons to find the ones that work (for some reason, my inserts almost never match up to those posted about online). I also separate out the coupons that are for a single item from those that are for multiple items as the single-item coupons are really worth more.

    The ones that I keep up front are baby items, toothbrush/paste, sour cream, eggs, and a few others.

    I also don’t bother sorting into expiration date order very often – usually just when we have a long trip in the car (or there’s a triples or super-doubles event). I’ve got my sorted coupons in an expandable organizer and the ones that have only been sorted by value in large manilla envelopes. The next time HT super-doubles, I just have to sort the $1-1.99 ones and go from there!

    I also don’t clip items that we definitely will not use (like hair coloring or dog food/treats) unless it’s a free item (I’ve got a free can of dog food to pick up that I can donate to a food bank).

    Do I miss out on lots of free/cheap stuff this way? Absolutely. But I was driving myself nutty trying to keep up with those.

  12. Audrie says

    In enter all of my coupons and their information into a spread sheet that has various information on each coupon (If you can type fast it just takes seconds per coupon). Any duplicates don’t need to be entered.

    Then apply a filter to them and you can search by brand name, type, category, exp. date, etc. I use the binder method with this so I can take my coupons every store I go to. You never know when an unexpected price cut will come your way.

  13. Katie says

    That’s almost exactly like my box! I just use an old diaper wipes container, but the envelopes are exactly the same. Love this method! So much easier than anything else I’ve ever tried.

  14. trisha says

    I have a box too. I categorize mine also, even some subcategories (Canned: soup/veggie/etc.). There’s a certain grocery store I go to about once a month to do the vast majority of our shopping and I have them in order by how the aisles are….first is produce aisle, then condiments, juice, jelly and pbj aisle, then soup, mexican, tuna aisle, then canned veggies/fruit, etc. It’s just easier for me to have them in order to the aisles so I’m not going back and forth. I find the other stores typically have the same stuff in their aisles too (baking aisle, pasta aisle). It works really well for me to have them in order like this.

    I do have a section for individual stores so that I can have those coupons for that particular store I’m planning on using ready, then I can just grab that section or take the whole box in.

  15. Shawna says

    I used to cut all the coupons I anticipated using and carried a small coupon organizer into the stores. But then I realized I was missing out on loads of other great deals by discarding the coupons I thought I would never use. Now I keep the entire insert intact and write the date on the front and file it into an accordian type filing system. I never do my weekly grocery shopping without referring to an online store ad/coupon matchup site first. I print out my list and matchup all my coupons to the store ad at home. The particular site I use makes it very easy by matching the item on sale to the all the available coupons for that particular item by giving the the coupon flier(Red Plum, Smart Source, etc.) and date the coupon flyer came out. I cut only the coupons I need, then file the flyer back into place. I then take the list, store ad and all my cut coupons to the store. I’ve found this to be the easiest way for me to really stock up and try out new products that I would have probably thought twice about at rock bottom prices. It has also allowed me pick up free items that I may not use, but can be donated to a charity.

  16. claire says

    I do the same thing you do, only I tuck the envelop flap down into the envelop so its sturdier :)

  17. Melissa says

    CAREFUL with that box — I have a few of them, and find that when carrying it, the top sometimes comes off, dropping the box and SPILLING the contents! You’d hate for that to happen and have to re-organize all the coupons.

    Another tip: take a bag clip with you to the store and “clip” an envelope to the cart. When you’re using a coupon, put that coupon into the envelope and replace the clip.

  18. jessica says

    ok i use the binder, yes it is somewhat time consuming but i put it in a cute purse no one know i have it, and have the coupons in the store…i cant tell you how much i have saved this way. I also put the store policies in the back so i have them. I just need to find a way to cut corners, any suggestions?

    I also have a mini according file folder i label with the stores i shop at for store coupons and another for my actual trip.

    I have a big letter sized according file folder for my “other” coupons. I have it labeled with fast foods including pizza, resturants, house, car and retail stores (a few tabs for clothing, toys etc) that i keep in my car. I also put the ads in here.

  19. says

    I’ve tried several methods over the years. Boxes worked for a while, but I accidentally dropped it a couple of times and let me tell you that was a huge mess and it had to be totally re organized.
    I’m currently using the binder method. I know it takes a while to stuff but it really helps me visually to see the coupons and I use and find more that way.
    In my box method I would skip over coupons sometimes because they were stuck to another one or something weird.
    I also alphabetize my binder by product name not by category. Although I do have a separate section for Kraft, Pillsbury, mouth products, medicine and cereal. I also have a separate section for Kroger and Target since those are two store I frequent. Also another good idea is to put your phone # in your binder or box in case you get distracted and leave it at the store. I’ve done that too and gotten a phone call.

  20. says

    I tried the envelope method and it didn’t work for me. I find it much easier to just put everything in alphabetical order then I can go straight to exactly what I need. I make my list before I go and match my coupons to it (after checking websites for the ones I don’t have). But I also take the ones that I would use if the item were on sale, but not advertised, & nearing expiration. When I print off my grocery list, I also add these coupons to the bottom that I plan on using. That way I don’t have to stand there and go through a bunch of coupons looking for one in particular. Has been working quite well as I have been saving in excess of 40% on each of my grocery orders lately. For me, that is INCREDIBLE!!! I thoroughly enjoy your blog and have learned a lot from your posts.

  21. Lauren says

    Great article! My system is almost identical to yours except that instead of a box I have a 12×11 plastic zipper pouch that has 12 dividers in it. I’ve divided the tabbed dividers up alphabetically. I categorize my coupons in envelopes just like you & stick them behind the appropriate alphabetical tab. I have envelopes for each store I shop at & those are stored in the back of the zipper pouch.

    I used to do the binder method, but got tired of carrying something so big. The size of the zipper pouch is just perfect for me ~ I can toss it into my canvas shopping bag, or just carry it like a clutch under my arm.

    Happy Couponing!

  22. says

    Curious what people’s strategies are for purging unused/expired coupons from your binder. Any ideas?

    By the way, I do use coupons as well – definitely an advocate.

    • says

      @The Wise Squirrel,

      For me I go through my binder once a week page by page and pull out any expired coupons. I do this right before I put the new coupons in. I also use ms. A’s coupon organizers so I can see the expiration dates at a quick glance. I’m not sure how it would work easily if you used the baseball card holders. My understanding is you have to fold a lot of coupons with the baseball holders that might make it difficult.

  23. says

    I love your box idea. I recently did a post about my system: http://savingsformoms.blogspot.com/2008/07/organizing-your-coupons.html
    I have used cancelled check file type folders in the past, but I now use a binder and I love it. It fits on the top of the grocery cart and I can see everything in a category at once. I live in an area that triples regularly so I use the color dot sticker on the outside of my baseball card insert sleeve to mark the best coupon deal. This helps me float up and down the aisles turning the pages and grabbing what I need, so I get in and out. It also keeps me from pulling coupons out and then having to re-file them.
    I also keep full inserts in a expandable file in the trunk of my car organized in date order. I only clip a coupon if I’m sure I’ll use it. The others I hold on to but keep them in the insert so I can go back and clip it if I need to. I find rarely do I dig one out and it saves me time by not clipping coupons I may never use.

  24. says

    I use the binder method for about a year now. I started with the small files but having to pull everything out to see what’s in there just doesn’t work for me. I love the binder I have everything sorted by categories so I can flip and quickly see if I have a coupon and what it will bring my price too. I don’t use the baseball card holders that is just too much folding and organizing of each little coupon too much. I purchased MS. A’s coupon organizer inserts. Yes I paid for them but its 100% worth every penny. The are flat sheets with 5 strips across to put your coupons behind. Then you don’t have to cut them out perfectly and fold them to fit them in there. I love it. If you want to see pictures got to LivingTheDomesticLife.com and click coupons where to start/what you need to know just below the total. I love that I can get all my coupons in where they go fast! I usually pull out any coupons I plan to use before my shopping trip and put those in a front pouch and if I am not going to use one I put it in another pouch until I get home and can put it where it belongs. I really thing the organizer makes all the difference. My binder zips so I don’t have to worry about it falling over and coupons spilling. That’s one big problem I could see with a box plus I think it would be much bulkier. My binder fits when open across the baby seat in the front of the cart. I just rest it there for easy flipping and keep my list on what ever page I’m on!

  25. Carrie says

    I tried the envelopes first, and am now doing the binder. I can’t keep up!! I am getting multiple inserts, and just can’t stay on top of it! I have a bag full of coupons to be filed / organized, yikes!

    Another thing I have a problem with- how do you fold them so that they show the product / expiration date in the small baseball holder??

    I’m not complaining, I’ve saved SO MUCH! and am greatful! I am willing to do the work, but with a full time job and toddler – I can’t find the time!!

  26. says

    In Alaska we only get about 1/3 the coupons as the Lower 48 (if we’re lucky), so I tend to do the whole insert method. I only get one paper a week (unless the P&G insert is awesome or there’s a coupon in the paper that I KNOW I will definitely use more than one of), so I just date the inserts and throw them into a box after I clip any coupons for items I KNOW I will use (Pull-Ups coupons, Darigold milk, etc). As I need them to do the weekly deals or to flip through to see if I have a coupon that the Lower 48 got, I just pull them out of the box and look through them as needed.

    I have an accordian style coupon organizer I got free from 4Imprint years ago and I use that to keep coupons that my mom sends me clipped, Catalina coupons, etc. I use the front of the acordian file to hold coupons for products that I would like to try, have rebates attached to them, or are coupons I know I’ll use and then I wait for a sale to match them up with (or use them period in some cases if I can’t find a sale just because I need and/or want the item). I then go through the weekly ads and just take coupons (usually from the front file folder on the coupon organizer) and put the coupons into different “store” envelopes. I then just use the elastic on the outside of the coupon organizer to hold the envelopes down and so everything is in one place. As I get to the store I am currently shopping at, I pull the envelope I need off the front of the organizer and I make sure I also have my list with me as well. This really has seemed to help me keep track the best of what coupons I’m using when. On average I save about 50% of my shopping bill per store I go to when I “coupon shop” so I’d say that the system is indeed working for me :).

    Really, anymore, I use internet printed coupons so much (since we get so few of the printed) and my stockpile is healthy enough that I usually end up shopping at one store and sometimes two, both about five minutes away from where I live. I just replenish my stockpile as I find awesome sales and so forth.

    When I first started out couponing though, I went with the box method for a while and then tried switching to the binder method (which did help me to create a nice stockpile don’t get me wrong). Neither one worked great for me, I have to say…they worked but I didn’t love either system. With two kids under 2 and both of them busy…I quickly learned to streamline. I like my “use coupons on items I need” system I have now and just stick with it :). I’m glad I’ve gotten to the point in using coupons where I’m at the “slow and steady” point and don’t need to hectically run around to all the stores every week. It has reduced a lot of stress in my couponing.

    And I’ve cut my grocery budget by 2/3 with coupons, so I’m definitely going to keep it up.

  27. says

    I use the box method for food stuffs, and I was using the binder method for toiletries, paper, cleaning & misc (ie lightbulbs, pens, etc). I’m contemplating using a second box for those items since I prefer the box method. The binder just doesn’t seem to work for me. The only thing is…my boxes are big & the thought of lugging around 2 boxes in the store is a little embarrassing.

  28. says

    This article was perfect timing for me. I’m planning on starting into coupon shopping and wondered how to organize all of them. I appreciated the comments about the binder vs box. Thanks!

  29. Jill says

    My friend took a photo album- made tabs for different sections such as cerea;, bread and then on the lines next to the slots where the coupons would go she seperated it out into kellogs, general mills ect. I have tried the binder and have struggled with keeping it organized and having to cut the coupon so neately, I was missing out on good deals. I then tried the box system but the envelopes would never stay up and then I could not find what I was looking for. I think using a photo album is great. My album starts out with a section for CVS, Walgreens, Rite aid and then has a section for freebies and then goes into sections. It is so easy to use. I then have a folder where I put coupons I have printed off the internet. I find I am so much more oganized this way.

  30. says

    I use a combination method. I have a coupon box which I use for printables, coupons from the mail, and tearpad coupons. Then use the whole insert system in a binder. I have a coupon bag that fits my coupon box and the binder in perfectly. If I find a clearance item or unadvertised deal, then I pull up my coupon database on my phone to search for a coupon.
    My Coupon Box
    Whole Insert System

  31. Bridget says

    I use the same method you do, Crystal (maybe that’s because I learned to coupon from your blog! :0)). But I’ve been wondering lately: do you or your readers organize your coupons within the envelopes in any way? Right now I put them in order of expiration date. The advantage is that I can just pull out the expired ones, since they’re right up front. On the other hand, getting my coupons filed every week takes FOREVER! I’m starting to think I’m overdoing it…

  32. Sandy Treece says

    curious, does anyone have a spreadsheet that they use to keep track of what items they have on hand? i am looking for something to track quantities of grocery items and personal care items. Since I am couponing and rebating I am getting disorganized in knowing what and how much of each item I have. Any help would be appreciated.

  33. Courtney says

    my method is pretty simple, I dont cut out any coupons unless I need them for that week. I keep all of my inserts together and label the front of each one the date I recieved it. That way when I need for example a coupon in SS 5/2 then I know to pull out smartsource (SS) May 2 and I flip through until I find the one I needed! It has been working great for me. I cut out all the coupons before and it takes FOREVER and I just dont have the time or patience to do so.

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