If your new to couponing, it can certainly feel overwhelming at first. I have been couponing for almost three (3) years now, and believe me it was a messy start . When I first started, I felt the need to clip EVERYTHING, and practically dashed to the store to use them. What happened was when I got to the store I felt overwhelmed and literally broke out in a sweat trying to organize my products with my coupons. It was not pretty.
When it became clear that I needed help, I started looking into the internet or local news channels for help. One channel in particular has a ton of great coupon information from time to time on the news. From there I was able to organize better and understand how to take advantage of coupons to their maximum value. It definitely takes some time to initially organize and match-up coupon deals, but in the end it will be well worth it. Once, you become a couponer, you are one of us for life
I am going to start a series of posts as a “couponers guide” to hopefully help any newbie couponers to not feel so overwhelmed while snagging these great deals.
When starting out, I suggest in investing in one Sunday Newspaper so you can get the weekly coupon inserts. Coupon inserts will come from Red Plum, Smart Source, P & G, and General Mills. DO NOT worry about diving in and cutting them all. Only cut what you and your family uses or will use, or think about the item in this way: If I could get this for Free, would I use it? What happens is, if you cut everything out you get overwhelmed and have a ton of expired coupons to go through that you never used. Once you get your coupons down to a science, you may want to purchase more papers, or if you have a local store you could call to see what they do with their leftover Sunday papers and ask if there was a way you could get some for the inserts. It wouldn’t hurt to ask, and maybe let the manager know you will recycle the papers!
Secondly, please don’t feel like you have to use all your coupons right away. If you do this, you are actually not getting the full value of the coupon as you could. What do I mean? Chances are that item (Brand Name) probably will go on sale soon after it’s release. Most coupons will expire 60 days after, or more (except on-line coupons, they will be sooner). When you pair your coupons with a sale, you will get a better value than even store brand items most of the time. If there is an item that you need right away, then yes I would say don’t wait for the sale, but take your coupon and get the most off that you can. Once, you get used to clipping and matching coupons, I would suggest for you to start stock piling coupons for items you use a lot, and then you can really save a lot of money by stocking up during a sale with those fantastic coupons.
Coupons are just like us, they come in all different shapes and sizes! Read, Read, Read them carefully. There are coupons that are very restrictive, and then there are those that are not. If the coupon does not specify a size, or does not say “does not include trial size”, then you can actually use the coupon on the smallest size (travel) available, which then really maximizes your savings. There are also stores that just will not accept internet coupons. This is such a bummer because there are some great coupons available every month. Just make sure you know your local stores coupon policies. Check back on my Coupon Policy page for updated policies I have received from various stores.
While doing the store matchups, you will see me refer to a certain coupon from a certain insert. One way I found to keep track of the dates, are before you cut them out, write on the back of the coupon the date of the insert. If your not sure if you have a coupon from a certain date, this will make it easier for you to check.
Do you have more Basic Tips to share? Please feel free to share them through the comment box!
Now that you are all clipping and printing all these great coupons, this would be the best time to figure out what organization system works best for you! There are many different ways to organize your coupons. It really comes down to what you prefer and how many coupons you have.
1. Small Expanda-file Organizers or Index Card Boxes
These are a great way to start! They are usually available to buy at the Dollar Store, Walmart, or even Target. They are very inexpensive and have anywhere between 5 – 10 slots for your coupons. A lot of times they will not give you section labels, which is good because then you can customize to your needs. Some people know their stores enough to classify them by aisle. I usually would classify them as: Dairy, Frozen Foods, Baking, Beverages, Canned, and Side Dishes (just as a starting point). But make sure you organize the way that it fits for your needs!
2. File Folder System
Another way to organize i Is by using a file folder system. You can pick up regular Manila file folders at Walmart, Target and other retails for a fairly reasonable price. This will help if your small Expanda file is bursting at the seems . I have tried this method before, but the down side is you need a space for all the folders because you can get a little crazy. But on the good side, you can make a folder for anything/everything. I was making folders like: Milk, Breads, Oils, Butters/Jellies, Snacks-Healthy, Candy, Cookies, and more. So you can see how this can be helpful because you will know exactly where to look for a specific coupon!
3. Binder System
This is my current favorite choice. This is for everyone that wants an organized “to go” coupon binder and has too many for the small kind or doesn’t want to be tied down to a folder that is not travel-able! The binder system is awesome. You can choose a regular 3-Ring binder, which I would suggest starting with a 2″ binder. You could also choose a zipper binder that usually only comes in 1 1/2″. Then you can get some of those plastic baseball cover page protectors. I picked mine up at Walmart, near the front of the store, by where they have all their baseball/Yugi-Yo cards (If you have trouble finding them, just ask customer service). Start out with a couple packs of those (9 slots on each page). Also, you want to grab some 5-7 tab dividers. You can get the paper ones, but they don’t hold up long and tend to tear, so I suggest getting the poly ones! They are a little bit more money, but they will last longer.
I choose the zipper binder becuse I can easily store my scissors, calculator, and sales ads with all my coupons, and they are zippered so if I drop it, all the coupons will stay in place! My labeling system is my own preference, but you can have whatever works out to be the best for you! I have labels such as
* Dairy – Cheese – Yogurt
* Side Dishes
* Laundry Detergent
* Cleaning Supplies
and many more. Below is a picture of my binder system.
I think the best way to be organized is to make a list at home for each store, and match the coupons up so that when you get in the store, you already have everything you need. But I would never leave home without your coupons because you may come across an unadvertised sale or clearance that you can get for a great deal by using your coupons!
I hope this helps give ideas on organization. Do you have more Organization Tips to share? Please feel free to share them through the comment box.
Another one of the greatest resource’s we have as couponer’s is Internet coupons! They are at times, invaluable. You don’t have to go through an entire insert to get the coupons you want, they are higher values most of the time, and are frequently updated. Although there are also some downside’s as well. The expiration dates our usually only 30 days after your print the coupon (or less), and there are a lot of Companies that restrict the use of Internet coupons. Why? Well unfortunately there has been a lot of counter-feit coupons on the Internet. So in order to combat these fraudulent coupons, Companies have put in stricter policies. I have a lot of coupon policies already on this site, just head over HERE.
There are coupon sites that are reputable and I do recommend. Other than direct Manufacturer Internet Coupon links (Directly from their website or Facebook) or Coupons from a Stores Website (i.e. Target, Rite-Aid, etc), I would be careful about what you are printing. I do everything I can to make sure that any Internet Coupon link I post here on the blog are legitimate, however, no-one is perfect 100% of the time:
Recommended Internet Coupon Sites:
There are also Savings Centers that I will post from time to time that have been great sources of coupons. Such as: Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, BoxTops for Education and more! Just remember that coupon values will change by location, so if your local zip code doesn’t offer you as much, you can try another zip code (I traditionally will use 90210). My suggestion would be if you are getting the coupon links from here or other reputable sources then your should be good, but if you doubt the legitimacy then don’t print it out!
If you have any tips on Internet Coupons or comments, please feel free to share them!