Get Your Coupons Organized This Year

The end of 2009 meant the expiration of a lot of coupons.  If you, like me, clipped and filed away ones you thought you might use (but couldn’t find a good enough sale price to match up), it’s time to purge your stash.  Take this opportunity to organize your system, or try a new one.

Start by reviewing expiration dates on your coupons (before you clip this week’s inserts).  Set aside your expired coupons, but don’t toss them!  Military families overseas can use them at their BXes and commissaries.  For more information, visit the Overseas Coupon Program, which explains how to send expireds to military facilities for families to access.

For organizing keepable coupons, I like to use a file system.  I’ve been using a black plastic file box that I’ve had for decades — really.  Some time back, the latch stopped holding tight, so I was using a piece of black elastic around the box.  As Life would have it, I needed the black elastic for #2’s Halloween costume this year, and the remaining frugal closure solutions at my disposal failed.  I pulled out an expandable “check file” that I used years ago ($2 at some discount store), that has an elastic band to keep it shut; the file dividers from the black file fit perfectly, and it’s about the size of an evening clutch ( if you’re old enough to remember what those are).  I keep a big paper clip attached to the inside flap so I can pull and secure coupons while shopping.  In the front pocket I keep a small calculator, scissors and highlighter.

The other day I noticed similar check files in the $1 bins at the front of Target.  They weren’t as sturdy as my coupon file, but would do to get someone started.  They come in a variety of solid colors, my favorite being pink.

Some folks use coupon binders.  This seems to be helpful to some for taking along sale flyers to PM.  I have not preferred this method (although I’m warming to the idea, perhaps, maybe), and there are so very many various systems and explanations available.  Basically, it’s what it sounds like: keeping your coupons organized in plastic pocket pages in a notebook binder (usually zipped).  There’s a good example at Stretching A Buck.

However you physically keep your coupons, you might want to think about the order in which you keep them.  I prefer to group by category (produce, pantry staples, condiments, soup, cereal, etc.), and within each category, keep like products and brands together.  So, in the cereal pocket, I’ll have all the General Mills coupons together, the Cheerios in particular, and sometimes in a good week, in order by expiration date (ha!).  If I have a matching Target coupon, and I know I’ll be doing a deal, I’ll keep them together.

Some folks keep products alphabetical by brand name and product.  Hunt’s ketchup, Hunt’s spaghetti sauce, Hunt’s tomatoes, for example.  If you think that might work for you, try it.

Here’s to an organized year ahead!  Organization leads to saving money and time, and that’s a Cheap Thrill!

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