Wednesday, January 07, 2009

WFMW - A new try at coupon organization

Last year I began my attempt to become a coupon shopper.

I spent endless hours collecting, clipping, sorting, storing, and so on. In the end I used only a handful of coupons because I was so worn out by the task. I found it tedious and I found it impossible to really know what I had clipped, and where exactly I had stored it.

I originally started out with a cute little coupon file folder. I sorted my coupons by basic categories: breads/grains, canned goods, etc. This worked just fine except again, I never really knew what I had without shuffling through the little accordion booklet and I didn't have much patience as I stood in the aisles with my then 7 month old child who demanded constant interaction. Though looking back I must say a 7 month old strapped in a carrier as opposed to an active and mobile toddler seems like a luxury.

So I researched a new plan.

I had found that a number of women keep coupon binders. These binders are sorted out similar to the categories mentioned above, but using clear plastic baseball card holder sleeves. So, instead of thumbing through my little file, I'd have every single coupon in clear sight as I turned through my pages. This approach was nice in that I could see what I have, but the time it took was even more daunting. Not only was I now clipping all of my coupons (and yes, all, because you never know when there will be a great sale on something you may otherwise never buy), but I was also having to fold them and store them into little pockets making sure I was able to see the product description and expiration date. Ugh! More time I seemed to be wasting. Especially considering how few coupons I was really using in perspective.

After all of that work, and all of that time spent, I gave up on couponing for awhile. It didn't seem worth the effort. Why spend so much time every week clipping and sorting to not get the reward? My coupon binder was retired and put up on a shelf until I pulled it out just this past weekend with a new game plan.

On to attempt #3 at coupon organization. And let me say now, I think I've found a system that can work for me and I'm excited about it!

With the exact same binder I already had, I tossed out all of the categorized tabs and coupon sleeves. Still mostly full of coupons which expired in 4/08. It was time for a fresh start, but how was I going to do any better? I had read about the idea of not clipping coupons at all, not even sorting through a coupon circular, just storing it away for when I would actually need a specific coupon out of it. There you have it, hours of time I would spend clipping were saved. Instead of clipping one single coupon I instead dated the outside of the circular and slipped it down into a full page protector and organized my circulars by week. Voila!

So, how will I know what coupons I really have and what coupons I should be using when the time comes? Here is where I give another big shout out to the many women who help find great coupon deals and post them on their blogs for those of us who are new to this bargain hunting world.

I posted a list of blogs earlier this week that have helped me, and there are more out there! I have found that most bloggers who post a great deal will direct you to the exact circular you need, to find the coupon you need, to score said great deal. Shuffle through a few pages and make a couple of snips and I'm done clipping. It's that easy!

BUT, I didn't stop there. I wanted to know more about the coupons I had on hand and not rely fully on others to find those deals for me. I wanted to be on top of my coupon stash and not miss out on any product coupons before they expired, whether it was to get a great deal or merely save myself 75 cents on a product that I will plan to buy either way.

That was when I stumbled back upon...

What a great website!

You will see if you go to this website that it has listed all of the coupons in any given insert. It tells for any given week which coupon inserts you should have and the coupons included inside, along with expiration dates. What a handy service! I printed these out for the inserts that I have and keep them in the back of my coupon binder for easy access. I also have a list of anticipated 2009 coupon circulars by week!

Here are the many ways I plan to use this list in the coming months:

- I'm able to flip through them at any given time and scan through to see if I may by chance have a coupon for a product I may be planning to buy.

- I'm able to skim through the expiration dates to quickly determine if my insert is outdated, or if there is a coupon that I will want to use soon before it expires.

- I'm able to cross out coupons I have clipped and have used so I'll know at first glance if I still have it or not if additional sales on the product arise.

- I'm able to feel organized and better know the coupons that I have in each circular without having to flip through and make notes on coupons I don't want to forget to use.

I've also added additional vinyl page protectors to store my deal lists for the week, envelopes to store the coupons I'm planning to use, envelopes to keep my ecb's, receipts, etc. It's nice having it all neatly stored in one place!

In addition the binder I am using has many various pockets and places to store everything from my scissors, to extra pockets for restaurant coupons/ kid coupons/ Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons... I'm really excited about this system and have enjoyed using it so far.

It's working for me, maybe it will work for you!


Jane Anne said...

I really enjoyed reading your journey with couponing. I am trying to figure out what system works best for me. Thanks for sharing the Taylor Town Preview website!

Bek said...

I love your new design on your blog! You'll have to tell me how you got the background to show up...I've tried unsuccessfully with many internet tutorials. Sigh.

I'm catching up on all of your posts, so that'll keep me occupied for a while! I love your couponing ideas! By the way, have you ever thought of buying coupons instead of clipping them? It sounds crazy, but my mom has fared amazingly well with it. She buys them on Ebay and a few other websites for just the things she needs, but she buys them in MASS quantities so when they run them on sale at the store she can stock up. They're pretty inexpensive, because you're just paying someone to clip the coupon, not for the actual coupon itself (which would be illegal to sell the coupon.) They buy the coupons from the newspaper in bulk, so that's how they sell them to you in large quantities. It's perfect for getting coupons for just the things you need, you don't have to buy a paper to get them, and since it's a tiny coupon the shipping is sooo cheap.

Here's the websites she goes to:

Marvin, Erica and Calvin said...

It looks like you've got a great system. I've thought about changing mine, but it seems to work for me and I like that it is small enough to fit into a bag, but being able to see your coupons would be beautiful. I'm looking forward to saving our family money together. I must say it's a bit addicting once you get the hang of it.

Sarahlcc said...

Hmmm, this might work for me. Thank you for sharing! Every time I've tried something, I just get bogged down, like you said before.

Linda said...

I'm just starting to get back to couponing after giving up years ago (for the same reasons you did). I like your notebook idea and might just give it a try. Thanks for taking the time to explain everything.

Hillary Dunham said...

Great idea! I love it and it is just what I was looking for. I've used for a while and this is the piece they were lacking! They show what's on sale at your store and what coupon you should use to get the best price, but they don't list the coupons so if you NEED something, you don't know if you have a coupon for it or not.
I am so excited about the website. Thanks for sharing!
And thanks for commenting on my blog, too! Here's to hoping that you keep your keys handy for a long time. :-)

Corrie at "Cents"able Momma said...

Great system! I file my inserts by week also, but I never thought of printing out the Taylortown lists each week. That's a great idea!

I do use the Coupon Database at CouponMom to look up where coupons are located, if you haven't tried that before. It's free to use.

Ruth Ann said...

Great idea! I found the easiest way for me to organize my coupons is to buy a 4x6 photo album, which you can find for a dollar or two. I then put an index card with the category written on each of the pages....then I slip my coupons in accordingly. And it's small enough to just fit in my purse!

Anonymous said...

Great way to organize.

I started the binder method back in the late 90's and boy has that method taken off and others using a version of it too.

Glad you are saving with coupons!!

Have a wonderful day!
formerly known at LWMSAVON
The Coupon Binder Method Creator