Saturday, July 18, 2009

Untangling my coupon mess....

I like coupons. I like them a lot. They save me lots of money on things I like to buy, like cereal, toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant. But what I am not crazy about is the whole process of managing my coupons. I have not been very successful at it lately. Allow me to explain.

When I started using coupons seriously, about a year ago, I started with the insert filing method of organization. This did not work for me. For one thing, once you start cutting up that insert, the whole thing is a mess. For another thing, I was always seeing random clearanced items while I was out shopping, and of course I wouldn't have the coupon with me. And what was maybe worst of all, I had a really hard time remembering if I still had a coupon or if I already used it. It was too hard to rely on internet sources to match up coupons for me and tell me what inserts certain coupons were located in.

So I started to cut out mostly all of the coupons in the inserts, except the ones that I was 99.99% sure I would never use, and file them in a huge accordion file thing by categories. I have a little accordion file that I keep in my purse that has a section for each store that I am going to. I put all the coupons that I want to use in there, and I keep the big file nearby in case I find something extra. For the most part, that system has worked okay. However, maintaining it is pretty time-consuming. Cutting the coupons is time-consuming, looking for them when I want them is time-consuming, and then getting rid of all the expired coupons is time-consuming. And when I don't use a coupon in my little store file, it just sits there and I usually forget about it, so I don't end up using it at a different store.

These little organizational glitches make me miss deals! For example, earlier this week I wanted Olay coupons because there was a sale at CVS. I could only find one. Today, when I cleaned out my file, I found more. Last week, I didn't bother going to Stop and Shop when they had Special K on sale for $1.50, because I only had one coupon for Special K- or so I thought. Today when I cleaned out the little file I found a pile of Kellogg's coupons that expire tomorrow, that I could have used if I had only been a little more organized. ARGH!

When I clean out my coupon file, I get rid of a lot of expired coupons- I would say I don't end up using 90% of the coupons I cut out. I am not sure if I should be more particular about what coupons I end up cutting out- like, cut out things I know that I will use, like cereal and Colgate, and maybe leave the 80 gazillion L'oreal coupons in their inserts in case I need them. So many people swear by the binder system, but I don't know if that would be any better for me. But I should probably try something different if what I am doing now isn't working all that great...


Jennifer said...

You get out of your filing system what you put into it. You pretty much already covered in your post how much you are handling and rehandling your coupons so why not take the time and handle them all up front once and have a big binder?

I spend anywhere from 1-2 hours each Sunday cutting & organizing 8 newspapers into my binder. That's it.

Then, when I'm in the store all I have to do is flip pages to a certain category. Yeah, cause I'm so OCD that even my breakfast section is broken down by sections (cereal bars, cereal, oatmeal, etc.).

Anywho, while I'm looking at cereal all I have to do is flip a tab and I'm done. I don't have to pull out a stack and flip flip flip or try to remember if I used it or not.

So, I've spent maybe a little more time upfront organizing into those little baseball card holder pockets but I'm saving TONS of time in the store by just flipping pages to my little categories.

I will admit that if you switch to a binder system that it does take lots of time to setup the first time. My advise if you just want to test drive is to try a few categories at a time and see if you like it or maybe do your whole food section. If you do non-food I would wait until after the current set of PG coupons expire so you'd be inserting brand new ones since they always expire in 30 days. ;) Just saying.

Hope that helps give a little more of my personal opinion on my method. Jennifer ~ Coupon Mommie

Happy Cheapskate said...

I like the idea of taking the binder for a test-drive, just doing one section at a time. My non-food stuff is probably the worst to manage- because there's so many coupons for that kind of stuff, and so many different categories. Right now, I have a "Household" category and a "Health and Beauty" category, which is just nutso- it's so disorganized!

I've contemplated tweaking what I do a little bit- maybe having a separate non-food file, clipping like coupons together, and putting new coupons at the back so older ones are in front... but, yeah, the more I think about it, the more the binder system might be the way to go...

PoorMom said...

Im crazy about my couponizer .. its very well broken down by store aisle , and you can customize it as well . If i am clearance shopping , which i do almost every time i shop i can quickly find my coupon. There is also a section for soon to expire coupons . The only thing i do different is paper clip my coupon sections with the most volume , like personal care : which i have paper clipped for shampoo, styling and cosmetics, mouth stuff, and all others .
You can get more info on it at . When i teach my coupon classes I sell it and all my customers love it too. There is a video that breaks down the couponizer system there too.