I’m often asked where I store my piles of coupons, and how I locate which ones I need before I go shopping. I’ve experimented with various systems, so I’d like to take you on a tour of what’s worked for me (and what hasn’t!):
1: Newspaper inserts – clipless filing system
I file my newspaper inserts in two plastic storage tubs with hanging file folders. As you can see, the one on the left has seen better days!
I mark each folder with the date the insert came out and an abbreviation denoting which insert it is. For example, January 18th’s edition of Red Plum would be marked RP – 1/18. By separating and labeling the individual inserts this way, I can quickly locate whatever coupon I am looking for.
The only problem is that I quickly ran out of space! I had wanted to buy a filing cabinet instead, but it seemed ludicrous to spend $80 on a new cabinet that was going to store coupons. So, I bought these plastic tubs as a temporary solution until I could find a used filing cabinet at a good price. But as luck would have it, I just found an old filing cabinet for $28 at a thrift store! Not only is it spacious, but it also came loaded with hanging file folders, making it an even better deal. Hanging file folders are expensive, and I probably would have spent $30 to get that amount of folders new.
The metal was a little rusty, so we sanded it down this afternoon and put on a coat of primer paint. It’s outside drying right now, but once it’s all finished, I’ll post an update with more pictures.
I love the clipless filing system – I find it to be very efficient. When I bring back a box of inserts after dumpster diving, it only takes me a few minutes to get them all filed and put away. When I’m about to go to the store and know I need X coupon from Y insert, it’s a breeze to simply pull out the insert and clip the coupons as they are needed. Some people can’t do the clipless system, and prefer to clip each coupon from their inserts and store them all in binders – but with the sheer volume of inserts that I get from dumpster diving, I can’t even begin to imagine clipping them all. And being able to access each coupon by date, instead of looking through general categories in a binder, makes it so much faster for me to find what I need.
So where do I store the coupons once I clip them out?
2: Coupon Binder
That’s where my binder comes in. Once I know which insert coupons I need, I cut them out and stick them in my coupon organizer.
I bought this binder at Rite Aid when I first began couponing. It’s organized by category, so there’s a slot for breakfast coupons, dairy coupons, cleaning coupons, and so on. When I first bought this, I naively thought that I would be able to store every single coupon I collected in here. Little did I know!!
I clip out relevant coupons from my inserts and put them in here right before heading to the store. The binder also holds a lot of miscellaneous “non-insert” coupons, that I got through mailing lists/trading/etc. They have long expiration dates, and most of them have been in there since I first bought the binder!!
I really need to buy a new binder, because this one is literally falling to pieces. I’ve taped it together countless times and it’s definitely on its last legs. I think I will invest in a Couponizer, since that looks a lot more spacious and organized than this one, and I have a feeling it will suit my needs better. I’ll let you know how I like it after I order one.
3: Non-Insert Box
I have many more non-inserts than the ones that are in my binder. I get a lot of coupons in the mail from companies, thanks to mailing lists and so on. I also save tearpads and blinkie coupons whenever I come across them in stores, and I did a bunch of coupon trading with other users on Hot Coupon World over last summer. Because of this influx, I gave up trying to fit them all in the binder a long time ago, because there is simply not enough space. So where do I put all of my non-insert coupons?
Um, yeah. I throw them in a Tupperware container! After running out of room in my main organizer, I got the idea to make a separate binder just for non-inserts. I bought this photo album:
And I started sorting the non-inserts neatly into different slots in the album.
It was a great idea, but you know what? I have way more coupons than I have hours in the day. I found it to be very time consuming and not all that helpful. Eventually, I just gave up and started throwing them all into the Tupperware container. When I need one of these coupons for a sale, I just root through the box until I find it. I don’t need coupons out of this box very often, so I find it easier to spend 5 minutes looking through the container every once in a while than spending hours and hours trying to keep it all in a binder. It just comes down to priorities – I think many people are leery of getting into coupons because they fear that they’ll spend ages clipping and sorting just to save a few cents, but that’s really not the case. I just focus on sales that will save me the most money, and if I miss out on one or two tubes of free toothpaste because my non-insert box wasn’t organized, that’s OK!
4: Expired Coupons
I keep this small shoebox for expired coupons. Why? Military commissaries accept expired coupons, so they are still useful to military families. My Precious Pennies has a page here where she talks about how you can mail your expired coupons overseas to help out military personnel.
And there you have it – my coupon organization system! Different methods work for different people, and this is what has worked out the best for me so far. How do you organize your coupon stash?