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Ask DSM Readers: How Do You Organize Your Coupons?

by Tara Kuczykowski on October 2, 2009 · 137 comments

Coupon Organization
I've had a number of readers write to me lately asking how I organize my coupons. To be quite honest, I don't think I've found my perfect coupon organization method.

I currently use the insert method where I label each insert with the date and only clip as I need. However, I worry about missing out on extra savings when I'm at the store and find a great unadvertised sale or clearance deals. I also still have a large quantity of loose coupons that I receive in the mail and print online, so it's difficult to keep track of those. I've often thought about switching to a binder method, but I'm just not sure where to start.

So I thought I'd put the question to my dear readers!

How do you organize your coupons? Do you use the binder method? Are there any drawbacks to it?

Do you have a better way of utilizing the insert method? How do you ensure that you don't miss out on unadvertised/clearance deals?

If you have links to posts you've written, feel free to include them in your comments.

If you have a question you'd like to ask fellow Deal Seeking Mom readers, please feel free to email me! I think having a variety of perspectives is really valuable, and I thank you all for your input.

{ 137 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jenna October 7, 2009 at 1:59 am

Binder with baseball card plastic inserts organized into categories. Eeeeeeeasy.

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2 Nimish December 7, 2012 at 2:26 pm

True, Jenna. The binder always works. I use my business card binder.

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3 Deborah October 7, 2009 at 5:29 am

I use a combination of the binder and insert methods with a VERY important twist! I sort all my "loose" coupons (blinkies, from the mail, internet printables, etc.) in a binder with baseball card inserts. I use a Five Star Zipper Binder, I have tabbed dividers for the main sections, Frozen, Health & Beauty, etc. Within a section I further organize with a separate baseball card sheet for each type of items. For example in dairy, yoghurt usually has a page of its, but other dairy, milk, butter cheese might be combined, depending how many coupons I have. When I get the inserts on Sunday (I always buy 4 papers) I look through them and will clip the "I buy this item all the time and will use this coupon" items and file it in the binder. I cut the internet printables right up to the bar code and right below and date and fold them in half so they too will fit in the baseball inserts. All coupons for the same item will go in one slot even if they are for different amounts with the highest amount or the coupon that is expiring first on top. This binder came with three plastic pocket style dividers with little plastic envelopes attached to each divider--what could be more perfect. I pull all the coupons I will need for CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid and put them in the corresponding plastic envelopes. I can put the weekly flyer, ECB or RR rewards, Single Check Rebates, in the pockets of the dividers for each drugstore.

I label and date the inserts on the front cover and put in date order and file them in another zipper binder. When the matches for the drugstores and supermarkets come out, it is easy to find the coupons in the dated inserts and clip them as needed.

Now for the twist, and the answer to your question Tara, "How do you make sure you are not missing using a coupon on a sale item when it is filed in the inserts and not clipped yet". I carry my I-Phone with me when shopping. I usually bring both binders with me into the store. When I am shopping and spot a clearance rack or an item on sale that I don't already have a match-up for, I get out my I-Phone, pull up the DSM database, and do a search to see if and what types of coupons are available for the items that are on sale or clearance. If there is a coupon available, I can quickly locate it in my binder of inserts and clip with the scissors that are stored in the outside pocket.

This way, I don't spend all day Sunday clipping coupons, and I still don't miss out on items that I don't have a match up for when I walk into the store. I just make sure I don't miss a Sunday getting the paper, so I will have just about everything in the DSM database (minus maybe a few regional coupons).

This system has been working GREAT for me. I also make sure that I l all took through the inserts even if I am not clipping them so I will "sort of" be familar with the coupons, and if I see an item on sale, I can just search it in the DSM site. I'll give you an example, I was in CVS recently and they had the refills for the automatic shower cleaner on clearance for $2.00 each (a great find to start with), I vaguely remembered there being insert coupons for the refills so I did a search and it quickly led me to the $2.o0/2 coupon I needed from a previous insert. I can also use this "Twist" to see if there are coupons for items that are not on sale that I might HAVE to buy. For example, I was shopping and spotted Lithium disk batteries that I needed for a toy. I didn't have a coupon clipped but did a DSM database search and found a coupon for them, $1.50 saved in about a minute!

So there you have it, my system in a nutshell, One coupon-sorted zipper binder with baseball inserts, One binder with dated inserts in order, and a I-phone (and of course the DSM coupon database) and I am all set--I don't spend too much time clipping and I never miss using a coupon that I need.

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4 Sharon October 7, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I have tried MANY systems for organizing my coupons.
They have ALL failed me in one way or another.
The one I use has failed me the least…so, that is why I use it.

It is the BINDER/BASEBALL CARD HOLDERS System.

The “down side” to this system is time consuming to set up,
though, once it is set up, it doesn’t take long to maintain.

I separate the coupons by CATAGORIES, SUB-CATAGORIES,
and ALPABETICAL ORDER (by brands).

BOTTOM LINE-
When I am in the store and something I use all the time
is on an “unadvertised special”,
I can quickly flip through the binder and find a coupon
that makes it “FREE or NEARLY FREE”,
IT IS WORTH EVERY MINUTE I SPEND ORGANIZING!!!!

I just posted about this. For more go HERE...
http://avisitwithgrammy.blogspot.com/2009/10/organizing-coupons.html

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5 Corrie @ "Cents"able Momma October 9, 2009 at 10:42 am

I keep all my inserts together and just cut out coupons when I need them. I also keep all my loose coupons in a Couponizer that I bring to the store with me.

Here's a post I wrote about my coupon organization system with pictures - http://www.centsablemomma.com/2008/09/how-i-organize-my-coupons.html

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6 Denise October 11, 2009 at 3:01 am

I'm guessing someone has already answered this question but-- where do you find baseball card sheets? I looked at walmart a couple of times and couldn't find them. My little accordian thing is just too small.

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7 Rob August 18, 2011 at 10:27 pm

You can find baseball card inserts in the sporting goods section of Walmart...weird place for it I know

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8 Kim January 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Our Walmart has the baseball cards and pages up by the registers in an aisle.

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9 Sharon October 11, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Denise,
I got some of mine at Walmart and some at Kmart. Both places, I found them up close to the check-out lanes. Hope that helps.

Sharon

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10 olivia June 24, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Rummage sales believe it or not. People or kids getting rid of their sports stuff. Or at the dollar stores. I was lucky and got my kids binder with 100 sheets, he was cleaning out his closet and I happened to walk in as he was getting ready to throw it in the trash. Good Luck!

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11 Sherrie Umphrey April 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Do you have a picture of it, how do we go about
to purchase one? Please email me Lynshar22@aol.com
Thank you
Sherrie

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12 roxanne hooper January 6, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I have come up with an awesome organizer which I have made, nd gave my daughter in law one for X-mas and she loves it!!!!!!! I am now selling them for $20.00 each. There are a hundred clear dividers, so that coupons can go into every page. There is a catagory for everything, includding free items, restaurant coupons. I have a notebook on the inside cover, so you can make your grocerey list, pen inside and an envelope to put coupons that you are using at the store so that when you get to checkout, everything is there. We Love it!!!

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13 Jodi February 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I love couponing but don't have time to run to different stores. So I just have an envelope and organize them by how things are layed out in the store, I only got to 2 or 3 stores so the food goes in front and other stuff in the back.

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14 TERRY February 26, 2010 at 10:08 am

I HAVE A PLASTIC SHOE BOX WHICH I USE WITH DIVIDERS BROKEN DOWNUCH AS POSSIBLE, COFFEE , TEAS , OTHER BEVERAGES, JUICE , MAKE-UP, END OF MONTH MID MONTH EXPIRING, BREAKING DOWN FROZEN LIKE FROZEN MEATS, FROZEN POTOES, FROZEN FRUITS AND VEGIES, FROZEN MISC FOR REST ETC. OTHER SIDE IF NOT NEEDED HOLDS PEN, NOTEBOOKS ETC , WHEN I PULL WHAT USEING THE GO STRAIGHT OUT FRONT OF DIVIDERS STORE ADS FIT ON TOP INSIDE, I DECOUPAGE OUTSIDE GREAT METHOD AND HAVE EVERYTHING I NEEED RIGHGT THERE, JUST MAKE SURE YOU GET A SNAP TIGHT LID ,FOR 10.00 WOULD LOVE TO MAKE YOU ONE , BECAUSE SUPPLIES GOTTA CONSIDER SHIPPING .TERRY PANDA19571@AOL.COM

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15 DMollaun February 15, 2012 at 9:53 am

I used a long photo box with dividers. Main Categories (the way stores are laid out) with Sub Categories.
Example:
FROZEN
-Appetizers/Snacks
-Desserts
-Dinners
-Fruit
-Meat, Fish, Poultry
-Pizza
-Sides
-Vegetables
-Other

If there are a lot of coupons of the same item w/ the same deal, I staple them together on the edges away from the UPC.

There's a section for expired coupons that are sent to the military, and a section for RRs, gift cards, etc. There's a smaller box inside the photo box for store receipts.

There are restaurant, auto and store categories in the box. The bagged box rides in the car with me wherever I go -- just in case.

The box fits nicely in the cart seat and I carry it in a handled canvass bag with a calculator and shopping list of match ups and/or best deals for the week in the bag. The bag folds down once it's in the cart seat.

All coupons are pulled before I reach the register and placed in an envelope -- also in the canvass bag. That way, I'm not scrambling at the cash register while people are behind me.

I cut all coupons and file them in case someone else wants what I don't use.

I tried the binder method. It seemed slower to me, but maybe that works better for other people.

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16 DMollaun February 15, 2012 at 9:56 am

*use

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17 TERRY March 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I USE A PLASTIC SHHOE BOX DIVIVED IN HALFDOWN MIDDLE FOR TWO EQUAL SIDES USE INDEX CARDS FOR DIVIDERSANY CATAGORY I USE PLUS STORE NSECTIONS, END OF MONTH MID MONTH, FREEBIES KEEP AS MANY FILED AS POSSSIBLE IF NOT ALL ANY QUESTIONS FEEL FREE TO ASK OH YEAH MAKE SURE LID IS A SNAP SEAL . PANDA19571@AOL.COM

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18 Stacey April 19, 2010 at 8:31 pm

you can also sometimes find the baseball card sheet inserts at the dollar store...not all the time but sometimes...Gotta love the dollar store

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19 olivia June 24, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I too use the binder method, it is soooooo much easier. My Mom and Sister still use the overloaded envelopes or shoebox method -ugggggh. My grocery stores are all within a 2 mile radius and they pretty much have the grocery section set up the same way, so I categorized my binder to the set up. Yes I get plenty of stares from people when they see me going through my binder and then I get some people who actually take the time to check out my binder. I usually get men who ask me for coupons - women act too embarrassed/shy to ask, hey if I have extra coupons I'll let you have them. I am glad to see more men using coupons. I encourage all serious coupons shoppers to start using the binder - trust me it is really so much easier. I found my binder in my kids closet, he was done using it and wanted to throw it away.

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20 Tasha Brickhouse February 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm

I've always been concerned that if I didn't cut my coupons, that I would not know what I had if I came upon an unadvertised deal, and It would truly frustrate me to know that I could have taken advantage of something but wasn't prepared. With that being said, the file method is not my thing, instead I created a pretty organized and streamlined method of cutting and sorting that always proves to be worth the time each week. You can take a look at it here http://www.thebrickhouseblog.com/2011/01/brick-house-coupon-binder-system.html . I chose to use cd holders instead of baseball card inserts so I don't have to spend so much time folding perfectly. These are for sale through my blog and on Ebay. I hope this helps!

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21 Julie June 27, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I LOVE what I use: a simple, clear, recipe card box. Tabbed cards, in different colors, that come with the box mark categories. I do clip the coupons for everything I might (and do) use and bring them all, each trip, to the stores. When there is a deal I know I am going to get, I put those coupons at the very front of the category where they are stored so its quick to locate them at the store. I tend to carry a roomy purse so my box fits right inside of it - NO lugging binders, pages, ad, shopping list, all along with kids. I can't handle the awkwardness of all that 'stuff'. Its small, very inexpensive and discrete. :)

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22 Jenny D. July 13, 2011 at 9:07 am

At Staples I found a bill organizer that has 19 slots. It's made of heavy-duty cardboard and has a handle on top. The accordian-style slots are protected by the cardboard frame. I labelled the sections. The size is 9 1/2 x 7 x 4 1/2 inches. I don't have to fold coupons. I bought mine in a nice green print. It was around $8.00 and I used a Staples coupon for extra savings. It's roomy enough to put my shopping lists in, too.

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23 Angie July 29, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Wow . . . I'm a coupon cave woman. I have mine in an envelope! LOL

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24 nicole October 3, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I use a big plastic storage box. I then use those hanging file folder organizers to divide the coupons. I then label each file folder by date. For instance last sunday was October 2. I will label that file as October 2 and then put all of the coupon inserts from that sunday's newspaper(s) into the folder labled as october 2 in my box. This way you can save on clipping coupons. And you will never wonderf if you are missing a coupon. Its alot easier this way.

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25 cheryl October 7, 2011 at 3:13 am

HELP!!! I am so discouraged! I use the binder method for my coupons, and love it. Except for one major problem...my rings somehow keep letting the pages escape. I am forever re-hooking the pages in the rings. I think the rings are too small for my many pages. I have the deluxe binder, "case it" that I bought at WM for $14.97. I have seen binders on web sites with extreme large rings. Does anyone know where I can purchase this type of blinder and what size Or does anyone have a suggestion??!!
Many thanks!

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26 Donna October 10, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Why is it that when I click on certain links for coupons via the DSM Weekly Coupon email I get, the coupons are not there? In the 10/6 email, there was a link for $1 off Foxy romaine lettuce. When I clicked on the link, the coupon was not there. This has happened a few times.

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27 Tara Kuczykowski October 10, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Donna, the best coupons often reach their print limit quickly and may no longer be available. There is a bit of a lag time in the emails since they are only sent once a day and include everything that's been posted in the past 24 hours since the previous newsletter, so it's possible some things may have already been on the site for nearly a full day, so your best bet is to check the site directly frequently if possible.

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28 MaryLena Anderegga November 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I bought an album with lift pages at a thrift shop for $1. I then separated it into categories that conform to my shopping scheme. On Sunday, I cut the coupons I use and fit them into the pages. Where there are duplications, I stack them with the most distant expiration on bottom. I then take the rest of the coupon inserts to church to put into the coupon bank some of us have started. The other participants know which are the most expensive items I buy the most of and I know theirs. We clip for each other.
I keep my store flyers in an accordian style folder.

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29 Simone March 28, 2012 at 5:00 pm

I use the binder method and it's super easy to maintain. Like someone said earlier once you set it up it's well worth the time. It's also easy to keep up. Good luck.

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30 Leona April 28, 2012 at 8:43 am

I use used envelopes and mark them. I have cereal, drinks, Target, soap, paper products and so forth. I also have an envelope for the current month because I have missed using some because of an expired coupon. This has always worked for me.

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31 Hotrodroxie May 2, 2012 at 12:40 am

It took an entire afternoon to cut and stack into catagories the inserts I had been trying to collect and save for 2mos or so... Then most of a day setting up my binder with 100 full sheet inserts which I taped small cuts of labelled paper. I went by catagories as I remembered them in my main store(there are very few items I et elsewhere) I labelled all the inserts first, then started arranging them in binder as I thought the store was payed out and what made sense together. When I finally took it into the store I realized I was off and re arranged accordingly...I did this for 3-4trips, and adding sub catagories (and xtra pgs) till I got it right. :)
IDEALLY* I would have HALF pages that were 2pockets horizontally across the page...I had the full pages already so spent nothing. When I can afford to I may go with the cd insert idea since idt they have 'half' pages :/
I keep all MEDS together since I don't buy them much but acquire the most coupons4them. I do keep a second page that I put the ones I MAY actually use in(vitamins, cough drops...for u it may be contact solution&allergy stuff)
DAILY NEEDS is separate; includes all my favored regular brands that I WILL be buying on a reg. basis. there's also a KITCHEN NEEDS for my reg. kitchen brand buys-soap, paper towels, foil, ziplocks trash bags etc.-these r ur GOTO catagories.
Hair color, pet supplies, meds, shower stuff(shampoo, razors etc), men's grooming stuff, canned food, soup, salty dry snacks,(u may add crackers) candy&cookies, snack cups, cereal, paper goods, juice/drinks(I don't do soda), frozen food(3pgs)in order of actual use/date-frozen subs r fruit&veggies, sweets. meat, dairy, yogurt, baking isle, boxed food, CLEANING-subs r:laundry, usual brand buys, air fresheners, &any others separate. ....these r ALL separate PAGES/catagories. Then there's: "hygiene"/subs are TEETH, FEMININE NEEDS(I put tampons,pads,deodorant&extra razor coupons,etc here), BABY, SHOWER STUFF....in front i have 2-3pgs of MISC stuff(frm batteries to odd coupons this is all I remember right now! :) hope it helps someone

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32 kodachrome June 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I too use a binder that is seperated by tabbed dividers, I do 90% of my shopping at Kroger because thats where i do best so i set my binder up according to the store. If I go somewhere else its no big deal I shop the ad and pull out what I need, with the exception of Target I keep my Target store coupons in a seperate envelope and match them up with manuf. q's when i use them. I use currency sleeves in my binder because they are a good size that I dont have to fold my coupons, Im very ocd about folding them, (Its just a personal thing) I am also fortunate enough to have 4 days off a week because i work 3 12hr days, so i cut everything at one time and put them away. I go through the binder once a week just before shopping day and get rid of everything thats expired. Sometimes its a big pain and its always quite time consuming, but i save so much money that i really dont mind. its not perfect but it works for me.

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33 kelly bradshaw September 2, 2012 at 2:24 am

where do i send all my expired coupons... someone mentioned something bout the military? please help ...krayb450@yahoo.com thnaks

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34 Camilla N. September 12, 2012 at 6:24 pm

I was interested in this thread because my 8-year-old accidentally left my coupon box in the cart at the grocery store recently. I like the setup I had. I used a 4x6 index card box, with tabs for letters of the alphabet, and I filed the coupons by brand alphabetically with the most recent expiration date and/or highest amount in front. I did take it a step farther and create a spreadsheet with all my coupons. This makes it really easy to sit down with the grocery ads and match coupons. It also makes me more familiar with what coupons I have. It does take time, but I found it makes couponing much easier for me. Since I will have to recreate my coupon setup, I think I will probably do it the same, but it's been interesting to see how others have done it!

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35 Lisa November 15, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I was lucky enough to have a heat sealer at my disposal. However, I do have a solution for those who have FoodSaver machines. Take a regular plastic sheet protector and cut the right or left edge. Then use the heat sealing portion of the FoodSaver to seal two creases horizontally (or more or less) per page. I end up with two seals for three sections per page. The only thing you need to be careful of is to not let the binder's opening face down or your coupons will fall out. I found it impossible to find coupons that were folded, and this way you can custom make your own without paying a lot of money. Feel free to message me if you need further clarification. It seems very strange I am sure, but it is the best method for those who like using a binder. lisabruce84@gmail.com

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36 Lisa November 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm

One more seal needed across the top portion where the page normally goes into as well.

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37 Cassie October 12, 2013 at 7:57 pm

I had two old photo albums lying around unused, they each hold 4x6 photos. I separated these into section labeling each new one with an index card. These work great and you can find old photo albums really cheap.

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