Does anyone else see the irony of spending $50 or more on tools to help organize your coupons? We’re supposed to be spending less here, right? Of course, I redeem thousands of dollars worth of coupons each year, so perhaps it’s worth the “investment” in a good organizational system. But I would encourage you to look around at what you already own before purchasing new materials.
When I first started collecting coupons, I read lots of recommendations for items I could purchase to organize them. But I didn’t want to spend money on yet another new organizational tool, only to decide in six months that it wasn’t working like I wanted, and have it land in the pile of other
useless junk fun tools that I will never use again keep until I find another use for them. Plus, I was sure I already had something in that already existing pile that would work for coupons.
As I sorted through my supplies, I found stacks of file folders, sheet protectors, accordion files, several sets of dividers and a slew of binders in various sizes. I also had many of these same items in 12×12 sizes, because at one time I was an avid scrapbooker (that experience definitely taught me a lesson about accumulating stuff and searching for the mythical “perfect organizational system”). I settled on using the 8.5×11 sheet protectors, some dividers, and an old zipper binder that originally was an off-brand Franklin-style planner (from back in the days when planners were still made of paper).
Here’s what I came up with.
I cut the page protectors in half cross-wise. I made the cut just above the second hole, so that there would still be two holes to hold the page protector inside a 3-ring binder:
I found that internet printed coupons would easily fit three across (though I’ve become lazy about clipping them right along the cutting line, so now they often overlap. No problem, they’re still plenty visible). I liked that the edge of the coupon stuck out the top of the page protector, making it easy to remove. Most other coupons are smaller than internet printables, so I knew pretty much any coupon would fit this way.
I place coupons facing out on each side of the sheet protector. Most of them hold six coupons, 3 each front and back:
I used pocket dividers to create categories by store department, then added smaller dividers for sub-categories as well (e.g. the blue slash pocket divider is labeled “packaged foods,” and the plain white dividers are labeled with “condiments,” “pasta/rice”, “canned goods,” etc.):
I try to order my categories by store aisle (e.g. produce and organics first, then canned and packaged foods, then cereal, etc.). But there’s no way to do this perfectly if you shop at more than one store, since they’re all laid out differently. Even one Kroger to the next will have aisles in different places. *Sigh*
This is certainly not a 100% original idea. Every coupon binder that you see will be organized in pretty much the same way – coupons clipped, organized by category, with see-through holders so that the coupons are visible. The difference is that mine didn’t cost a single extra penny!
Please don’t go buy sheet protectors and dividers to create a system like this, unless you love it and have absolutely no alternative! The idea that I really want to convey here is to try and use items that you already own before spending even a dime on something new.
What if you don’t have a bunch of unused office supplies accumulated at home? Get a little creative – consider plastic baggies or envelopes to help sort your categories (recycle return envelopes from junk mail – save your new ones for real mail!). Some coupon shoppers use an index card file (recipe box). Maybe some of your kids old school supplies are still in good shape? Give it some thought before spending money and accumulating more unnecessary stuff.
Do you have a creative solution for organization that utilizes items you already have on hand (for coupons, or anything else)? I’d love to hear about it!