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31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video Series: How I Organize My Coupons


This video explains my newly-revamped coupon organization system. You can see my old system here.

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112 Comments

  • debbieo says:

    I used to use a box just like that until the day I walked out of Dillons and dropped it and I lived in Kansas at the time so the wind……well you get the picture. I cried seeing my money (coupons) blow away.
    boo hoo Now I use a two expanding file folder system, one for all my coupons and one I take into the store with me.

  • Helen says:

    NO MORE BINDERS FOR ME!!!! This is MY system!!! or rather what I keep drifting back toward. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! No matter how many times I try to make that big binder system work, it doesn’t work for ME. Period. I end up with my little accordion card holder like you use in my purse EVERYWHERE I go. This is such a relief! No more trying to hammer my square peg into a round hole (or my pendeflex peg into a binder hole lol!) And I’m not weird! I can be a successful coupon shopper with a system that makes sense to ME. THANK YOU, Money Saving Mom!!

    • Kristy says:

      I second that Helen!!!! The binder has NOT worked for me either! I have tried and tried and then tried AGAIN! I am going to accept that my coupons CAN be in a box or an expanding folder and I WILL save money and heartache (over than silly binder)!

    • Shannon says:

      The binder has not worked for me either….I have one big box right now but I like the multi-box method MSM shows in the video

  • Esther a homeschool momma in Mid-Michigan says:

    Way to go Crystal 🙂 I enjoy your video series and recommend you to all the new couponers I talk too.
    When I started out couponing a few years ago, I used a Couponizer to organize my coupons. Since it does have around a $20 price tag, I used my Paypal balance to purchase it and only paid for the shipping/handling. It also came with a freebie. The 1st Coupon Mom’s book about how to start couponing. The second year my coupon stash outgrew the single Couponizer. I purchased a second one and kept one for newspaper insert coupons and one for internet printable coupons. My third year I bought a full size binder on a B1G1 sale at Rite Aid and some one-pocket see thru colored dividers and zippered pencil holders that fit in my 3-ring binder at Walgreens. These were all bought at Back-To-School sales at rock bottom prices 🙂
    The pockets are see-thru for easy at-a-glance access and are holding up pretty well with all the couponing I have been doing. The zipper binder however has started to rip at the seam because I tried to fit a clipboard in there as well 🙁 This system is working well for me with not too much upkeep 🙂
    Thank you Crystal for all your hard work in bringing quality content to your blog!
    God Bless 🙂

  • Pam M says:

    For many years I used a box system but instead of by catagory, I filed alpahbetically. All A brands in the As, all B Brands in the Bs etc. While this worked well for me, it did sometimes take time to find a coupon because I did not have time to sort each individual letter alphabetically. A few months ago I switched to a binder system but it is still alpabetical. If I quickly want to find a product, I just go the the A pages and I can see with in seconds if I have that coupon or not.

    • Stefanie says:

      I do the same thing with the alphabetical envelopes in a container, then I have a small notebook with a few pages for each letter and I list all my coupons with expiration dates. Writting it down helps me remember which coupons I may have and it only takes a few seconds to look down the list to see if I have a coupon instead of digging through the envelopes in the middle of the store. 🙂

      • Crystal L says:

        Great Idea with the writing them all out alphabetically with the expiration dates! I live in California, no one takes double coupons or expired ones here so I really have to stay on top of them:)

  • Jennifer says:

    what’s the new way? can’t watch video..no high speed internet where I live and too frugal for the wireless right now. 🙂

    • Honey says:

      She was saying she uses a box for ones she thinks she might use, saves whole inserts for ones she isn’t sure about, and the ones she knows she will use go into a purse size expandable envelope. HTH:)

  • Stephanie says:

    I started out with just a small exandable folder, like the one Crystal uses to take into the stores. When I outgrew that I changed to a coupon binder, organized roughly by the way a store is layed out (so produce first, then condiments, then canned foods, then snack foods, etc.). I did recently try a new way of doing it, that I ended up not liking but glad I tried something different. Instead of clipping the inserts, I put them in clear plastic page covers, added a list of the coupons in the insert. Then I only clipped as needed. May have saved time up front, but it took me forever to find a coupon I knew I had if I hadn’t clipped it before going into the store. So I went back to the old way of baseball card pages and clipping the coupons.

    • Princess says:

      yeah, Im much more type A personality. I like how the box system works in theory; But, for me, I’d go nuts thinking, “now, where the hell did I put that Q… I know it was here somewhere!” haha Im glad it works for others though!! I’m considering slipping extra inserts or Q’s I may not use into a file to save time though; But, I get anxiety thinking that the minute I step into that store, I’m going to be missing that very Q for something clearanced out or on sale! haha NOOOOooooooo!

  • Tenille says:

    I have found that if I make the catergories too specific that I will drive myself crazy trying to over organize. I carry a simple little envelope divider in my purse. My sections are very simple like, cold, personal, boxed items, etc. Before I go shopping I pull any coupons that I know I want to use to the front of the divider. I also go through each category and familiarize myself with the coupons and take out any expired coupons before going to the store. I’m usually so nutty with my 4 little ones that this system works well for me. I have to keep it simple for my overwhelmed brain!

    • Emily Jo says:

      Same here! I have three little ones and the big binders simply DO NOT work with toddlers and a baby! I also try to familarize myself with what is in my binder before heading out to the store.

  • Shannon says:

    I currently use the binder system which is a lot of upkeep but it works for me b/c I can see at a glance which coupons I have. I have also tried keeping the whole insert (disaster) and alphabetizing my coupons by brand name (mega disaster). Alphabetizing was a TON of work and I could never recall for some reason which coupons I had so it was more work to grab a coupon… like if I saw a sale on Newman’s Own dressing I would go to “N” and go through all the N coupons, only to realize that it was a coupon for Wishbone I was thinking of… that kind of thing.

    One question Crystal – how do you know right off which store you will use your coupons at? We have several stores that double, so that wouldn’t necessarily be a deciding factor for me, what other factors help you decide?

    • I was wondering the same thing. How do you decide when you get the coupon insert which store you will use the coupons at before you see the sales ads?

      • Shawn'l says:

        I use the same system Crystal does, though I did not know that until today. :o) Because of blogs you can know up to 2-3 days before a deal begins or when a great printable comes up frequently you know right away which store to use it at because the “deal” is posted with the link to the coupon on a blog. Therefore as you clip your coupons you simple place them into the store file the current posted deal is at. It makes it very convienent when you get into the store to have all the coupons for your deals all in one place. Also some items/brands are only available at certain stores in my area so that is a given.

    • KimH says:

      I use the same systems she does as well.. I’ve done them all over the years.. I tend to shop one grocery store.. or at least use coupons for one grocery store, so food coupons are the ones I put in there.
      Sometimes you kind of get the feel and know where you might use a certain coupon.. say you can usually get a great deal on Ponds Face Wipes at Target.. many times they have a Target coupon too.. so I’ll put it in my Target section.. I know its there so if a deal comes up elsewhere, I’ll remember its in Targets location so its not a problem.
      Also, if you’ve printed store coupons to stack with a mf coupon, you can be pretty sure theres a deal to be made there, even if you havent seen a circular yet.. You tend to remember where they are if you follow a system pretty closely.

      For me, once I put coupons in that box, I tend to forget about them though.. Thats been the one downside to that.

      I did have 2 accordian files, one with the stores and another with like products.. and may go back to that for the majority of my coupons.. I did quite well with those..and funny enough, they were my first system… 😉

      I uncolate all my inserts so like pages are with like.. staple them together.. staple & cut out the ones I think I may use and file the remaining in hanging file folders with dates on sticky tabs. Works for me!

  • Heather says:

    I have a simple box, similar to Crystal’s but less specific on the categories. I do drop it (rarely) which can be frustrating but I haven’t found any other organizing system that works for me. I have a section in the back that has store-specific tabs and I stick all my other store discount coupons (like Kohl’s %-off Qs) in a spot in the front.

  • Becky says:

    I was using two small accordion files (the little plastic ones that are about $3-$4 at WalMart) — one for food and cleaning categories and one for all else (hygiene, makeup, etc.). When I first began couponing, WalMart was my store of choice, so the two files made sense — one file for one side of the store, one file for the other. Then I expanded my shopping to several stores, but the files still worked well for me. But … it seemed everyone else in the world loooooved the binder system, so I figured it must be better.

    I switched to that a few months ago (someone gave me several packs of baseball card pages that she never got around to using, so they were free for me!). I don’t know if somehow I’m doing something wrong, but it sure does seem like more work to me, and the binder is harder to keep (and keep open) at the store, especially with a toddler in the cart. And stuffing each coupon into those little pockets — what a hassle.

    Additionally, I think I don’t clip quite as many coupons as I did when I first began because I eventually realized I was sometimes stocking up on semi-junk just because it was free/cheap. I don’t think my accordions would be as bulging now as they were then.

    Is the binder more specifically organized than my accordion files? Yes, but I still am not convinced it’s worth it. I think I might go back to the old way, although now you’ve got me thinking about your box method.

    • Heather T. says:

      I soo agree, my sister uses the binder and it looks like way too much work. I use 3 little accordion organizers they work great, one for food one for cleaners and odd things and one for health and beauty.

  • Ashley says:

    I know my system would drive organized people crazy, but I save the inserts whole in an empty drawer in our dining room with the dates written on them. When I need to find coupons, I depend on coupon databases and blogs to tell me where they are. I do usually try to go through them as soon as I get them for items that I know we will use, but mostly I use databases. I have a small accordian folder that goes in my purse with all the coupons I know I will use similar to what Crystal uses. I have found that it just takes up too much of my time to clip and organize all of my coupons. I was spending hours each week clipping coupons, but with my current system, I spend about 10 minutes before we go to the store to clip just what I need.

    • I use this system, too. All of my coupons are just piled together by insert and I use the blogs. It takes me 30 minutes at the most pre-shopping trip. I probably don’t get every deal available, but I don’t really need every deal available.

      • Christy says:

        I do this too. I was spending so much time clipping and I didn’t even end up using the majority of the coupons! Then I would have to spend all this time weeding out the expired ones!!

        When I get the inserts, I flip through them twice–once to clip any coupons I know I will use even if not paired with a sale (I use the blogs like y’all do). For example, I am brand loyal to Aussie shampoo and conditioner for my extra thick, curly hair (tried others when started couponing–not good). I buy it a lot even if not on sale. I can never seem to “stock up” on it as I have to use a lot of conditioner and the only place I ever get a good deal on it is CVS where it is a limit of one. So, I’ll clip the Aussie coupons, Dove soap (DH is brand specific on this one), etc.

        Then I flip through them again and look at the expiration dates. I write the date of the insert and the furthest exp. date on the front with a sharpie. For example 6-19-11, exp 12-31-11. At the end of each month, I go through and toss the expired inserts.

        I also have an accordion file that is divided by kind of product (baby items, beverages, breakfast, cleaning, etc.). I use this to organize those coupons we get in the mail with free samples, coupons my mom mails me, and those coupons I clip when I look through the inserts. She always mails me the Aussie coupons and diapers and wipes. If I see that I have already clipped the $2 off pampers coupon from the 6-19 insert, for example, I will check my box in case mom mailed me another one. I do sometimes have to go by memory on what is in here since the blogs don’t always link to all the coupons you get in the mail. I also use hotcouponworld.com to help find coupons when not listed on the blog. So, if we are out of mustard for example because I didn’t do a great job stockpiling, I can go to hotcouponworld.com and punch in mustard. Then I know that the 5-15 SS insert has a mustard coupon that I can clip even if mustard is not on sale that week.

        Sounds confusing when I type it all out, but it works for me–I guess everyone has their own organization preferences!

        • jennifer says:

          I love your idea about noting the last expiration date on the front of the insert. I will definitely use that idea. That will save me a lot of time. Thanks!

        • Ace1234 says:

          Yes! Great idea to note last expiration date.

          • Christy says:

            I also do this on my All Yous and Publix booklets/fliers, etc. and other things I get in the mail like those P&G organizers–takes a little time up front, but then I know what to get rid of at the end of every month!

      • Jessica says:

        I have a similar system. Each week I:
        1) pull the inserts & write the date on the front of each insert
        2) I make a list of the items and their expiration date on small notepad page (sometimes I underline the HOT coupons of items I know I will use)
        3) I file the inserts in clear sheet protector pages, though I am hoping to get a filebox soon since my binder is not holding up so well.

        I let blogs with store deal information do most of the work for me, but if I happen to need a specific item such as yogurt, I can flip through my notepad pages to see if one there is a coupon for yogurt that hasn’t expired yet. Saves me time because I don’t have to go through each individual insert, I just pull out the notepad sheets.

    • Andrea Q says:

      This is what I do! I clip things I know we’ll use right away and file the rest in case there’s a great deal.

  • Dawn says:

    I started out using a binder but found that it was SO time consuming clipping every coupon, folding to fit into the card holders, sorting and pulling all the expired one’s. I must have spent at least 2 hours every week fiddling with that binder. It was so heavy to cart around with me and it did not work well trying to flip through my binder with my 2 small children in the cart. I gave up with the binder. Too much work and too much time. I now use a mini expandafile like the one shown in the video and I store my whole inserts in a larger hanging file box. Now all I take to the store with me is the coupons I absolutely KNOW that I’m going to use and it’s much faster than trying to concentrate on finding spontaneous deals with my kids in the cart (I rarely get to go shopping without my kids). I was a really big impulse buyer when I found a good coupon in my binder that I could use but those small purchases really ate a big chunk out of my budget. I’m trying to keep track of every dollar but somehow every week I would end up spending $10 or $20 extra on those “great deals” on items that didn’t really need. I had to realize that it’s not what you save, it’s what you spend! Who cares if you saved 90% if you still ended up spending $20 out of pocket. That’s still $20. That’s a good portion of my weekly grocery budget.

    I really like the clip-as-you-go method and my little expandafile that fits right in my purse! I spend MAYBE 10 minutes clipping coupons each week and I never overspend because all my coupon deals are planned ahead of time and budgeted for.

  • Natalie says:

    I was wondering what the different categories were that you file in your ‘coupon box.’ You mentioned baby section but I was wondering what your other sections are. Thanks.

  • I have been on this frugal journey for some time now, and couponing for several years, probably around 13. In fact, before couponing was “cool”. I was under the early influence of Amy Dacyczyn, from the The Tightwad Gazette.

    Fast forward to when my Husband & I decided to live debt free, approx 5.5 years ago. Couponing became not just a hobby, but a way of life. At that point I started with a simple coupon holder system. After a year or two, I graduated to 3 coupon holders. One for Food, one for Household Items… paper, cleaning, laundry etc, and One for Health & Beauty. I seperated each holder by section and knew them by heart.

    Around 5 months ago, I switched to a large coupon binder. Baseball card holder style, and organized it according to the store aisles. I had been reading about this type of system for sometime. My couponing skills were honed and I was saving my family thousands of dollars a year. It seemed logical to take the next step.

    I purchased my Binder at Target for $9.99 and the baseball card type inserts were another $10.00

    In truth, after 5 months I am still not comfortable with it. I feel more disorganized than ever, and have missed the simplicty that came with my “old system”.

    I said all that to say this, Crystal you have always encouraged your readers to do what “works for them”. Despite what might work for someone else. Couponing can be a lot of work and anything that can be done to streamline and improve efficiency should be embraced. Well I am taking your advice and returning to my old system.

    The key is your “system” has to be YOURS to truly work for you. It won’t matter how elaborate the system is if it’s not efficient.

    As with most things in life,I have found that Simple really is best! Thanks for all you do:)

  • Laura says:

    I’ve switched methods many times (never tried the binder, though). Right now I’m doing something similar to Crystal’s system, except I keep the whole inserts and don’t clip them at all until I need them.

    I collate and staple together the inserts every Sunday so that I can clip three coupons at a time, then I file those inserts by date. All printable coupons, magazine coupons, clipped coupons that I didn’t use, etc. go in envelopes by category in a coupon box (similar to Crystal’s old system).

    Using just the box system was not good for me because I got terribly behind, but I still use it as a way to organize coupons that aren’t in inserts. By collating and stapling together the inserts on Sundays, I still know which coupons I have available.

    Once I make my shopping lists for the week, I pull my coupons from the coupon box and inserts and put those in a small binder organized by store (with other folders for free product coupons and rebates), and those are the only coupons I bring with me. If I miss a deal every once in a while, so be it. 🙂

    • Catherine says:

      I agree! Whole inserts are the way to go!

      I wasted too much time trying to be like other people and clipping every coupon I thought I might need when I really only use probably 5% of them or less.

      And there’s so many deal sites that will tell you exactly what insert to go to for the coupon you need. It’s so much easier!

    • Elizabeth says:

      I keep the whole insert too, in a big accoardian file. I’ll keep them for 3 months, then recycle. I do Grocery Game, so when the shopping list pulls up, I go through and clip each coupon I want, then just take those to the store. Works for me!

  • Dee says:

    where did you buy the box?

  • Erin says:

    Wow, your system is very detailed Crystal! But I bet you are happy not to have to bring your big coupon box with you everywhere. I have a small coupon organizer from the container store (the expandable, accordion fold kind that is about the size of an index card). I keep it with me in the car and I have the tabs organized by the sections of the grocery store, since I only shop at one grocery store. I just keep all the wags/cvs coupons under my “personal care” section. I don’t get the newspaper either so I don’t have as many coupons as other people might have, but when I do get any I clip and organize them as soon as I can, otherwise I do drive myself crazy thinking “I know that coupon is somewhere, why can’t I find what insert it was in?” Plus I hate to be out somewhere and not have a coupon that I know is at home.

  • A N says:

    I’ve used this system for years: I know my “home” groc store very well isle by isle so I have two large envelopes 1 food/1 dry goods. As I shop my store I can just move my index card “bookmark” to the next isle to locate coupons for that isle. If I’m at another store I know right where to look (the toothpaste isle is after the razor isle in my home store).
    I “weed” the expired coupons once a month or pull them as I see them.
    I usually shop my home store for everything except for the loss leaders at other stores. Every year I print 26 sheets (I shop biweekly) of a homemade list of items according to isle for my home groc. store. One is always on the fridge to add needed items and before shopping I’ll go thru the coupons and note if a good coupon is expiring before my next major grocery shopping time.
    I clip all the coupons that I would use if it was cheap – though I scale down on the “possible use” ones when I’m too busy.
    Hope this helps someone 🙂

  • Christi says:

    For my sunday paper coupons I have a binder with clear folders in it. Every week I put the coupons in a folder and write the date on the top one so when you awesome women who organize the deals tell me a coupon is in the 6/19 Red Plum I can find it super quick. I have a pocket coupon organizer that I clip coupons I know I will use and store coupons and I carry that with me, like you do.

    Thank you so much for all of your hard work and advice and tips you give to so many.

  • Nancy says:

    I use system similar to Crystal’s; I have a box with envelopes by alphabetized catagory and a bunch of envelopes up front for each store. I keep everything in the same box and just take the store envelope in with me when I shop. It makes things simpler and helps to keep inpulse buying down to a minimum. I may look into using a small acordian file for the stores, that may actually be easier than the seperate envelopes.

    Thanks for the video, tips, and insight. 😀

  • sandy says:

    I use a binder system and I love it. I have it divided into sections ( Produce, snacks, baking etc.). I spend about 1-2 hours a week clipping/filing/ purging expired coupons. Each week when I plan my shopping trips, I make my list pull the coupons I need, paper clip it together and take that with me. However, I still take my binder with me on my shopping trips just in case. It may seem like alot of time to some people but it works for me.

    • Sheri says:

      Sandy, I am with you. I was using the box system but did not like having to stand in the store looking through the envelopes for a coupon. With the binder all I have to do is flip the pages to see if I have a coupon. I probably have to many categories but it really works well for me. I carry it in the store so is I run upon a special sale I have the coupon with me. Cutting and filing is what I do after church on Sundays so it’s my down time — love it.

  • Conni says:

    I’ve been clipping coupons for 30 years now, and I have used a large index box for storing and sorting my coupons most of that time. I break the box down into useable categories and sort my coupons accordingly. This box fits into a small reusable shopping bag that is easily kept in the car and taken into the store as needed. I also store 2 large shopping bags in the smaller bag as well.

    • Andrea Q says:

      That’s a good idea! I use reusable shopping bags everywhere, but I hadn’t thought to put my coupons in with them. Makes it more difficult to forget.

  • Jennifer says:

    I use a cosmetic organizer I found at Walmart (I think it’s called a train case). It is about the same size as your box but the “crate” is covered in a cute zippered fabric cover. I’ve dropped it before and as long as you have it zippered up there are no spills. I use dividers that are similar to yours and have 2 major divisions…food and non food and from there my tabs break out the categories (baking, beverages, cereal…and bodywash, medicine, baby). I found it is easier just to clip and file everything and carry the box with me when I shop.

  • Jenny says:

    I use a similiar system as crystal though I didn’t realize until today the only thing I do a little different is I also keep the store coupons in the expandable folder too. I know many who like the binder system but it seems like a little big to me and i love my box it can hold up to my 2 year old daughter and is still usable even after she has walked all over it used it as a stool, dumped it out, and who knows wha else when I wasn’t looking.

  • Mattie says:

    When I first started I used a single envelope! And since then have gone through several systems, but what works for me right now is a mini-photo album w/ black background pages. I love being able to flip so easily, organize, and see the coupons against the black. And I had an old one kicking around the house that had been a gift, so it was free!

  • Val says:

    Love the coupon organizer for stores idea!! Will be using that one forsure. I have a hanging file that I use to store all my inserts… Cub Foods still accepts expired coupons so saving them are a must. But I think I will also implement your system of clipping and filing coupons that will forsure be used and storing the rest. Thanks Crystal. 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    I got my system pretty much all the way from you, Crystal! Here’s a link to my system info: http://encouragementformoms.blogspot.com/2011/05/my-coupon-organizer.html

  • Lora says:

    I’ve been using a re-purposed photo album. It is cumbersome and time consuming. I’m going to try a system like yours. Thank you for the information.

    BTW, I read today that Target has revised its coupon policy: http://consumerist.com/2011/06/target-updates-coupon-policy-to-limit-bogo-stacking.html.

  • Kristen Trappett says:

    I started a year ago and used a picture binder that has three slots ea. page. It was cheap ( aka free) as i already had it and it has been working I wasn’t going to spend more money when I didn’t know if couponing was my thing yet,
    Well I do like couponing and since I am going to keep with it I am ready to move on to a bigger or maybe just a better system that will work for me.
    I am still researching and paying attention to how I like to organize but thanks so much for the comments everyone, one day I will be brave and try something else and hopefully that will work. I looked at zipper binders today and thought, “really, this is going to be big and bulky, I often have my two with me and am due with number 3 in a month and she will have to come along too, I suppose, teach them young right!! So I like the small box or accordian file organizer look, I might have to try this and see if it will work and be efficient as my kids are definetly done by checkout time!!

  • Morgan says:

    You’re going to think I’m crazy. 🙂 I’m new to this so I just made my own system. I’m doing the box method (but with envelopes right now since I don’t have many) plus an Excel Spreadsheet. The different tabs are the different categories, then the coupons are listed alphabetical by product, value, exp date, and notes like “Target Only.” I can use “ctrl+f” to find out if I have a specific brand or item coupon and also “sort and filter” to sort by exp date and purge. I’s fun so far; I just have to remember to delete the ones I’ve used!

  • Susan says:

    I use the same concept except instead of the box I use a small lunch box. It is about the same size as Crystal’s but it has a zipper and a strap. The zipper really helps if you drop it or it gets tipped over.

  • Telisha says:

    Wow, I actually have this same system, down to the box. The box only cost me 3.97 at WalMart. Can’t beat it. I am just not organized enough to keep up with the binder.
    Instead of the tabs, i use labeled plastic envelopes. Works like a charm!

  • Monica says:

    I have lots of coupons for diapers if anyone wants them. I have no use for them since my kids are 8 and 10 years old. ljymj@msn.com first person to email can have them!!!

  • Leigh Anne says:

    I started having a different envelope for each store and it may have been my best decision yet! As deals are posted along the week I just stick that coupon in the correct envelope and it saves so much time when I’m ready to go to the store!

  • I’m considering revamping my coupon system, too. It’s nice to see your new system, Crystal!

  • Danielle says:

    I love this system. I have been looking for a new system since I have outgrown the accordion files for coupons. My last one just broke from the amount of coupons. I think I will try this since the binder seems like so much work. Thanks for the great ideas.

  • Carole says:

    I love the idea of keeping the uncut coupons in a folder by “week”. It saves a lot of time of cutting and distributing under each heading in my coupon organizer. I have found that I occasionally need one in the “week” folder but not all that often.

  • Cris says:

    I pretty much use the same system as Crystal, only my box is an index card box, my store specific file is a small coupon organizer with a note pad (bought at a garage sale for a nickel!) and I keep the whole inserts in a file box with a lid (clearance at target $4.18, paid for with overage), organized by month. I put the dates on the covers of the whole inserts. I just need to get better at throwing away whole inserts that’s all expired. I read someone once say they write on the cover the date of the latest expiring coupon so when that comes around they know it can all go to recycle. I just keep forgetting to do it! Also like Crystal I only clip coupons I think there’s a good chance I’ll use them and this cuts down on a lot of work, you can always go back to the whole inserts if you need something. The binders did not seem appealing to me as I don’t have a whole lot of time to dedicate to organizing coupons.

  • I am doing a post on this this week too! I started with a box, moved to a homemade binder system (cardstock, sheet protectors, and scrapbooking adhesive, and now back to a box system. Here is my very first VLOG!! 🙂 I linked to your series in my Vlog! http://mylittlebitoflife.com/?p=1651

  • I hope this doesn’t post twice! I’ve used a box, homemade binder (cardstock, sheet protectors, & adhesive) and back to a box. I explain it all here on my first VLOG!! 🙂 (I also linked to your blog in my post!) http://mylittlebitoflife.com/?p=1651

  • Carla says:

    I love my system and it works for me, although I am sure it is not perfect!
    1.I have a clear “folder” that could probably hold up to 20 cardboard folders if necessary. I have about 5.
    2. I put all of my coupons in white legal size envelopes that are alphabetized, according to what is in them. They stay in the front of the cardboard folders in alphabetical order.
    3. In the cardboard folders I have categories such as restaurants, fun places to go, auto deals, stores like Bed bath and beyond.
    etc.
    4. Behind the cardboard folders I put inserts I still need to cut.
    5. I put all of the coupons I know I will be using at the grocery store in another plastic folder (before I leave home) and put them on a clipboard with my list. Each item on my list that I have a coupon for I circle the letter c by it.
    6. The whole large plastic folder comes with me, but I normally do not have to look through it. It does not fit in my purse.

    This may sound very confusing but it works so well for me, after years of trying to use other methods.

    Best to you all!

  • Michelle says:

    Were you able to find dividers that were already an appropriate size for that box, or did you have to alter something larger? I’d love to know where you got them. 🙂

  • Erin says:

    Ok, I might have to try this…. I have only been couponing for a few months and I have been using the baseball card holders/binder system because it seemed like everyone thought it worked so great! I do like having the coupons all laid out nicely so I can see them all when I turn the pages, but it takes me forever to clip the coupons and then stick them all in the sheets. I have been putting off organizing my coupons for weeks because it takes so long. My newest coupons are all in a pencil bag in the front of the binder waiting for me to sort them. Not going to happen. I think I will be switching to something like this! Thanks for sharing your system Crystal!

  • hilary says:

    I have been using a binder since I started couponing and I don’t worry about organizing by brands or alphabetizing. As long as I have “like” items grouped near each other I can find what I need on the fly. Also, I have found that opening a spreadsheet for the weekly matchups saves me lots of time! I have each store listed in the spreadsheet so that all I have to do is add the item, sale price, quantity, manufacturer coupons needed, store coupons needed, and final price for those items. As I add them to my spreadsheet I pull coupons from the binder (or print the ones I need) and add them to store pockets in my binder. Then I print my final shopping “deal” lists and keep them in the binder. That way if I am near a store, I not only have all of my coupons with me, but also the weekly matchups!

  • Judy says:

    I use a Tupperware lunch box for my coupons with index cards tabs for categories. I love it. It has handles and a snap on lid. It fits perfectly in the buggy. You could also use a Ice cream saver though they do not have the handle. When I go into a non grocery store I leave the box in my car and take only the coupons for that store. I also put my list of deals with the file for the store.(Wal mart, Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, Target etc.) In my purse I have a small coupon accordion folder for Restaurants,Fast food,car wash coupons etc.

  • carrie says:

    Chrystal,
    I just discovered you last week, and I want to tell you what a blessing you are to me already. I consider you a friend! Thank you for all the tips and inspiration you have been to me already.

    where would you recommend finding the small acordian binder you put in your purse? Thank you for your time! Carrie

  • Chris says:

    Some technical comments: The lighting is great, so is the distance from you to the wall, I’m not sure the towel (?) is there on purpose :), the shadow is not obvious and , that green looks great on you!

    Also, where did you get your store organizer? I use envelopes for the stores, but they get ratty so quickly.

  • Lynda says:

    I currently have a cardboard box that was some gift box that is perfectly sized to hold the coupons and paper dividers upright. Unforthunately the lid does not fit with the coupons and I did experience panic when I dropped it in the Target parking lot. DD, myself and a wonderful good samaritan got about 95% of them picked up including ALL the ECB’s, etc. I am going to look for a covered plastic box. I am familiar with the larger versions of Chrystal’s box and have had some ‘opening’ negative experiences.

  • Leslie says:

    I’ve tried different ways of organizing my coupons also, including the binder which was too much upkeep. I have a black canvas case that is actually to hold a small portable tv. It has 2 zippered sections and a handle. I used index dividers to make my categories in which I have all of my manufacturer coupons in one zippered section, the other one is where I keep Target, CVS, Meijer along with a pen & small notebook. It’s the perfect size and works great!

  • Jess says:

    I have a binder filled with baseball card inserts. I file them according to isle. I start from the right side of the store and work my way down, so my coupons get filed in that order. In the front of my binder I have a clear divider with a pocket in the very front. As I pull the coupon out that i’m going to use, I slip it in that front pocket….this works so well for me. At the end of a shopping trip, I just pull out all the coupons from that pocket and call it a day. 😀

  • Jan says:

    I purchased a coupon wallet. It is about the size of a clutch hand bag with dividers. When not in use, it is in my car but fits nicely in my purse when I go out. I have around 14 categories plus a section in the front deemed expiring. With those, I check them every time I go in a store for unadvertised savings and if the coupon and the price are good then I go for it. I also have a section in the back that as I am pulling them to purchase the item – I have a place to stash them all and then pull out for the cashier. It works for me – no muss no fuss and since I check them once weekly for ones that are expiring. I pretty well know if or if I do not have a coupon for an item.

  • Sakura says:

    I use a combo method of a binder system and filing the whole insert. I think the most important thing is to do what works for you.

  • Claire says:

    I love a binder system & this is how I make it work for me:
    I have a binder with A-Z tabs & basebaseball card holders. In this binder, I only clip & file coupons that I feel are a) staple items or b) I know I can often find a good deal on that we’ll use. Everything is in alphabetical order- for example, in the “B” section, the first page is “baby” then “baking” then “boxed snacks” (I don’t label these specificially, I just know the category in my head & keep them separate by keeping them on different baseball card pages). When I’m filing & a page is filled up, I just throw away any expired coupons in that section & I usually have enough room for all/most of my new coupons- if not, I add another baseball card holder or just paperclip extra coupons to the current holder. This really helps to see all my coupons at a quick glance when I’m in the store shopping for “eggs” for example, I just flip on over to the “egg” page & I can easily see and compare various prices for eggs fairly quickly. After clipping coupons for the week, I write the date of the insert on the front of it & keep all of my coupon inserts in order by date (in case I hear of a deal for an item that I didn’t clip & put in my binder.) If I happen to get more inserts for free, I just file them with my “coupon insert” stash in case I come across a great deal, I easily can find multiple coupons for that item. & that’s about it. When it comes time to go grocery shopping, I check online for deals, pull out/print the coupons that I need & keep them in a baggie to have handy for the store & I’m ready to go. I always take my binder with me for staple items & deals that I may run into:) Perhaps, I’m a little OCD, but this system really helps me to know what I have & to get the best deals on my groceries.

  • Katie says:

    I used the box method when I first started out and it worked for awhile. But I am visual – I need to see it all laid out and switched to a binder. Everything has general store categories, and then, like you, I have subcategories behind some of them (ie, beauty: lotions, body wash/soap, razors/deodorant, shampoo/conditioner) to make it easier to file and find.

    I used to be so cookoo about it that I filed by expiring first to last; but honestly, I don’t have the time to do that. So every week or two, I go through it before I add new ones and put all the expiring ones into an envelope where I list it and expiration date. I send the others to a military base for their use (they can use up to 6 months after expiration in the commissary).

    I keep each store (we have 8 grocers/super-stores within 1 mile) in the back with any store Q’s, ECB’s, store loyalty cards and coupon policy in them. Makes it easier on my purse to not have to carry all the cards around. And all restaurants/non-food stores get filed in a separate 3-ring folder in the front of the binder. The binder stays in the car in my reusable shopping tote so I have it whenever I need it.

  • Traci says:

    I have my own little system that works good for me. It is somewhat similar to yours, Crystal. I have two small-ish coupon accordion folders that I can fit inside my purse. One for food items and one for non-food. Each has several tabs that I have divided into the categories I use most often. So each week when I get my coupons I go through them and cut out the ones that I will most likely use and then sort them into my folders. I will then keep the rest of the insert in case a good deal comes later on. So I always have my main coupons with me wherever I go. Oh, also I try to go through my inserts about once a month to cut out any remaining coupons I may use before they expire and throw out any inserts that are expired. It’s also handy to write the date in big letters on the front cover so it’s easier to find the one I’m looking for.

    Thanks for all you do Crystal! I love your video series and all the deals and articles you provide for us! It really inspires me to stick with it and keep saving money. 🙂

  • Katie says:

    And I should add that I take my binder with me in the store, but I clip my coupons for each store onto their specific shopping lists. I generally don’t buy much that isn’t on the list; but sometimes there are great deals that weren’t advertised, so having the binder in the basket is helpful. Plus, I also will write prices for staples on the dividers to track increases, etc. so I can plan out better as they are needed. And now, onto my next cup of coffee to wake up ;-)…

  • Patricia says:

    I began “serious” couponing about two years ago, quit for a while, but now back to it again. I started out with a zippered binder and baseball card sleeves, my biggest issue is how time consuming it is to keep it organized. So, I tried Crystal’s system with the box, but it just didn’t work for me, I found myself spending more time in the store searching for the coupons in my box. Now I’m back to my binder…binders, I’ve reorganized and now have two binders, one for food and one for non-food. This was necessary after I dropped my binder and the rings popped open and plastic sleeves scattered all over the floor (luckily this was at home!), the binder was just too full. I have tabs for main categories and then those are sub-divided alphabetically into more detailed categories, however the sub-divisions do not have tabs, I just put a sticker label on the front of that page. Having the categories and sub-divisions alphabetized makes it easier to flip through and find what I need. Personally, I found using either system and keeping it up to date requires a fair amount of time, for the binders I spend more time at home, for the box it required more time in the store. Now if I could just become more efficient at this whole coupon game.

    I do like your mini-expanding folder and wondering where you got it? That looks like a great tool for keeping all the individual store match-up coupons separate, yet together. Currently I’ve been using individual envelopes for each store. They tend to get ragged and I’m always afraid I will drop it and my coupons will go every where.

    It’s kind of funny, even my husband has began using, searching for and printing coupons! 😉 Thanks for all your advice, I check your site first when looking through the coupon blogs!

  • Emily says:

    I use a box as well. I have switched back and forth between an empty diaper wipe box and a shoe box. I use a large rubber band around the box so if it falls or gets dropped it stays shut and in place.

    For a shopping trip I make my menu, list and collect all the coupons I will use. I place my coupons in a nylon clear front pencil pouch. I divide them up between 4X6 indext cards as I check the coupons for the correct size and item I place them behind a large piece of cardboard and when I get to the register to check out all I have to do is pull all the coupons out behind the cardboard and I know I have them all. If I don’t use a coupon I just leave it in the front with the index cards. When I get to the store I use the large alligator clips to clip my pencil pouch on the buggy. If my small child isn’t with me the back of the child’s seat is the perfect place for it. If he’s with me I usually cllip it to the side of the cart facing towards the inside incase I should drop any coupons they go in the buggy instead of the floor.

  • Holly says:

    I have a coupon binder with baseball card inserts and I also carry an accordian coupon file with one of each coupon so if i find a good deal I would at least have one of the coupon with me…when I’m not shopping with my binder ( I only take my binder when I’m doing my weekly grocery shopping and couponing.)

  • Elli says:

    You look a whole lot more comfortable doing these videos! Way to go! 🙂

  • Stefanie says:

    I put mine in envelopes (alphabetized) in a container, then I have a small notebook with a few pages for each letter and I list all my coupons with expiration dates. Writting it down helps me remember which coupons I may have and it only takes a few seconds to look down the list to see if I have a coupon instead of digging through the envelopes in the middle of the store. 🙂 I tried the binder and it’s too big to lug around for me, bc I’m one of the extreme couponers who have 20 coupons to use on the same type of item! AND I never know when there will be a good markdown or manager’s special I can use a Q with.

  • Robin says:

    This is just the right post at just the right time for me. The more I’m getting into coupons, the more I’m discovering that my old coupon “organizer” is completely inadequate, so I’ve been contemplating changes to it. I’ve gotten to the point where I almost dread trying to use coupons because I can never find what I’m looking for quickly. I’m looking forward to increased efficiency and saving more money after implementing a system like this. Thank-You!!!

  • Jody says:

    Hey Frugal friends! Has anyone ordered a coupon organizer from Etsy before? There are a couple handmade coupon organizer bags on there that are super cute and look like a good solution for me. (I’m not digging the binder idea – I’d like a box). Your advice would be appreciated.

  • Kimberly says:

    I like the mini-expanding file folder shown in the video – where did you get that? Also, the box idea is really good for coupons kept until expiration – where did you get the box? Your videos are very helpful. I’m just beginning to get back into using coupons again. Thanks.

  • Honey says:

    I used to do just the box (have the same one as you), and then it evolved. I went to a bigger box! Then I out grew that (I have a household of 7). So I decided to pull my food coupons from the box and use a binder for them. The main reason is that I love finding items at the grocery that are clearanced and because I can find the coupons very easily, I can get items free or nearly free each week. Yes, it does take a little longer up front to file them, but they are easier to retrieve when needed so it all comes out even:) My non-food coupons have specific sections so they are pretty easy to look through when you need say, lotion or razors. I also have enough room for store coupons, and restaurant, fast food, fun, etc. I also like having the food and non-food seperate because most of the time I use the non-food at drugstores and the food coupons at the grocery so I only have to take either the binder or the box and not both. If I know I am going to buy food at cvs or wags, I just pull the food ones I need. Or if I am going to buy non-food items at the grocery, I just grab the envelope I need. If not for the “manager’s specials” and “scratch and dent” shelves, though, I would probably file inserts (just haven’t been able to bring myself to it since I get many free or super cheap items this way). I think impulse buys might not work for those with smaller families. But for us, these “impulse buys” are part of our bread and butter.

  • Nicole says:

    I live in Mississippi and would love to know if there are any bloggers from my area. We don’t have a lot of the same deals that are posted on this website so I would love to be able to follow a local blogger as well. Anybody know of a blogger from Mississippi?

  • Amy says:

    I have used a binder from day 1 of my using coupons over 2 1/2 years ago. I’m not talking about the “as seen on extreme couponing” double-sided ginormous binder, either. I have a simple, probably 1 1/2 to 2-inch ZIPPERED binder like kids get for school. I got it (and the baseball card holders) at Wal-Mart. I have stick-on tabs to label each “section” stuck on the first clear sheet of each section, and the sections are alphabetized. Makes it super easy to see all the coupons I have, their expiration dates, etc.

    I also have sheet protectors (that I keep in the back) that I can put the printed copies of each store’s coupon policy in and then place that in the front. That came in SO handy when I was trying to price match at Wal-Mart a while back.

    There’s a zipper pocket on the outside, which usually houses my scissors and any unfiled coupons. There are two accordion-type pockets in the inside front of the binder where I can keep whole inserts, store fliers, and printed coupons that haven’t been cut out yet.

    I keep the binder in the van so that any time I’m going in the store (whether a quick trip or full shopping trip) I take it with me “just in case”. I tried the small accordion file system (for about a day) and it just didn’t work for me. I couldn’t see (or find) all of the coupons I had and they all ended up expiring before I could use them. With my binder, I just pull out the coupons as I put the items into my cart, put them in the zipper pocket, and they’re ready to go at checkout.

  • Dana says:

    Where did you get your dividers? I use a similar system and I got little files at Dollar Tree but they do not carry them anymore. Not sure if you covered this at the end of your video (it cut off) or if someone else has asked already.

  • Rae says:

    I use a check-sized file box to do my coupons. I like it a lot more than carrying multiple coupon organizers (I used to have 2 check sized accordion ones plus a small one) and I just have a lot of issues with binder organizers (not discouraging others from doing this, it’s just my personal preferences). I like the box method but mine is falling apart (I need a sturdier one like you have) on the edges because it is the same plastic that the accordion organizers are made out of pretty much and since I use it so often… well yeah. I’ll have to upgrade when it gives out. But for now (well soon) I’ll add some duct tape. I get enough looks with my coupon box as it is I don’t think I’ll get too many more just because it has tape lol 😛

  • Carol says:

    I love your blog and frequently post links to it on SparkPeople.

    Just wanted you to know I am really a true fan. I think you are helping alot of people, and will continue to support you. And I am glad your coupon sys works for you . . . but it’s way too complicated for me.

    I clip ALL coupons (except ones I know there is zero % possibility I won’t use, even if the food or item was free) and file alpha by BRAND NAME (because that’s what goes on sale) in a 5×7 plastic box that contains alpha index cards. I do not have subdivisions. This means Colgate and Claussen pickles both live together in the C’s. This means Pampers and Peter Pan are in the P’s. I do put edible in front, nonedible in back, in each alpha section without a divider. I put clipped but not filed, and rainchecks, in the front and back sections of the box.

    I also shop online and make a printable grocery ad online (99% of grocery stores let you make an online grocery list from their weekly circular sales ad that’s online). I print the list on 8.5 x 11 paper, and tri-fold it and place it in the front of the box. Before I go to the store(s), I match clipped coups from the box to the printed store-specific list, place the coups inside of the tri-folded list, and put the list + coups in the front of the box.

    I also add the refrigerator’s grocery list (out of eggs!, etc) onto whichever grocery store’s printed list that I usually buy eggs at.

    The coupon box’s permanent home is in a mesh recycle grocery bag, “my coupon bag”. I also keep a few folded up plastic bags in there. Other than that I do not use the bag for anything else; it’s sole purpose is to hold the coupon box. I never leave the house without the bag on grocery day; and on weeks when “it’s one of THOSE weeks” and everything is crazy, I print out the lists of specials at each store and then keep the mesh coupon bag in the trunk. When I bring it in I hang it on a hook inside the closet.

    Having these specific things in place, and a home for everything, makes managing the coupon process easier.

    I never put coupons in my purse. ALL coupons are REQUIRED to live in a single location; either unclipped in the trash, or, if clipped in the coupon box inside of the mesh grocery bag.

    It is a rule I never enter a grocery store without the mesh bag; I ALWAYS take ALL of my coupons inside of EVERY store. This is because you never know what will be a “this store only” or “discontinued” or “manager’s special” markdown. I remember missing out on Burleson’s honey once. There was a huge bin of it, 75% off. I have never seen that special before or since. It must have been old, but since honey is so simple to warm up it doesn’t matter if it’s crystallized or about to. Burlesons has coupons all the time, and is usually too expensive so I never buy it; in this case I could have had Burleson’s honey for almost free but I didn’t have the coupon bag with me. So now the coupon mesh bag stays on my arm like a second purse, anytime I go into any grocery store.

    One bag, one box, clip ALL coupons, they live in a SINGLE location NEVER in any other place except inside the box, and filing alpha by brand works really really well when you are a frugal shopper like me who matches coupons to this week’s sales. My method also eliminates elaborate filing systems and subdivisions – you have 26 file spaces for A-Z and that’s it. No there is no problem retrieving Claussen instead of Colgate from the C’s – I do it instantly and on-the-spot in stores. No digging in the HBA section of the coupon box to find something, etc.

  • Crystal L says:

    I use 2 accordian style coupon organizers. 1 is dedicated to food items, the other to non food like shampoo and laundry detergent etc. I have only been using this method for a short period of time, before I had a bunch of envelopes I carried around. So far though it has worked out wonderfully, especially since I can put them into my purse and easily have them on hand. I like your method with putting the coupons into the sections of the stores you know you will use them at, but for me it is not practical because I only shop at 2-3 stores at most. I live in a rural community with a Vons and CVS, all else is a day adventure.
    Thank you so much for your work on this blog, you have revolutionized homemaking and I am becoming a better homemaker because of you!
    God Bless!

  • Michelle K says:

    At this point I use and accordian filer also. I only store those I have clipped and didn’t end up using and printables. I was clipping everythin for awhile but didn’t use many of them. I have a spreadsheet that lists the coupon, expiration, and amount that I number. I then keep them filed according to number. I can easily look at my printed out list that is in ABC order to see what I have in my filer. It has been easy to find my coupons. I keep all my inserts filed by date in a portable file box. I keep for about 12 weeks. I enjoyed reading all teh comments as I am thinking of switching to the binder system and maybe incorporate the database spreadsheet with it? I am a visual person and can remember just where I put things so I am thinking it might work for me. You can see a video of the way I discribed at http://www.practicalsaver.com. (it is under on of the tabs)

  • Sarah says:

    I just want to say thanks for making the video. I’ve been trying to get into couponing but it gets really overwhelming really fast!!! Having your organizational method spelled out like this is extremely helpful!!!

  • Amy Reynolds says:

    One question…You mentioned that you get coupons from recycling bins… Do you mean that on your neighborhood’s recycling day you go through the bins or is there some kind of recycling center near you?

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