When couponing, organizing is key!
There are many systems and everyone's minds work in different ways. Some can control an organized mess and know where everything is even though they are everywhere. It is your own system so try different methods until you are comfortable with your own.
Baseball card sleeves
Some couponers like to use baseball sleeves for those loose coupons. Sometime you are forced to cut Qs and they become loose. Using the sleeves you can organize the loose coupons in order by name brand, department or store. The options are endless but try to stick to a certain system so it doesn't get too confusing. The idea is to get to a coupon fast without the hassle of the search.
Organize by Insert
Often you will see some people ask on Instagram or FB "what insert?". What this means is every week inserts of coupons are included in bags, newspapers or where ever you can find qs. They are dated on these inserts so to make it easier to look for a particular coupon they ask for the insert. There are 3 major companies that do the inserts: SmartSource (SS), RedPlum (RP), and Procter and Gamble(P&G). P&G usually comes out once a month. SS are weekly except the weeks that P&G comes out, RP can be found in neighborhood bags and newspapers. This past 1/5/2014 there were 5 inserts, 3 SS and 2 RP. Insert dates are usually the Sunday dates since the usually come out with the Sunday paper.
I organize my inserts by date and company. I will put them into a file folder (manila) or hanging folder and label them SS or RP and the date. This allows me to look and pick them out. If I have time, I will also create spreadsheets that list brand name, item, amount on q, and expiration date. This way instead of looking through the insert every time I'm looking for something I can just glance at the front. I can also cross out those expired coupons and see if I can through the whole insert away.
Coupon Accordion Files
Target THE SPOT (the dollar deal section) often sells coupon accordion files. They are plastic and are travel size. They have dividers and tabs that can be labeled. People have used these to organize deals, keep CVS cards separated with ECBs, extra Target GCs (gift cards) and specific store coupons. They also separate by department within stores (housewares, clothes, medicine). These are great when you run into that unexpected sale.These are for your trips out and about.
For the beginner I suggest not to overwhelm yourself by cutting and printing every coupon you see. Many websites have coupon databases so you can always look for specific coupons that coordinate with certain deals. RedPlum and SS have databases also online to print coupons. Not all coupons are available all the time but a lot are.
I would also make lists of what deal your are going for. Many prices that are listed by couponers in different regions are not always the price we have here in Columbus, so be prepared for price differences. It may mean you may have to pay a little more and that's when you decide if its worth it.Sometimes its not worth the extra money to pay out so just let it go. There's always the next big deal around the corner. With lists you are in and out and on to the next. Try not to linger and stay focus. I am guilty of walking away because of all the sales going on and checking prices for deals not listed. Its good but sometimes you find yourself walking around the store in circles! lol
Write down the price that the deal lists so you can compare and look for it. Deals aren't always advertised at all the stores. It may be marked at some and not at others. If you see it in the ad, do price checks. Carry flyers and ads with you to verify prices because you may need them to modify to the advertisement price. Make sure it is the correct item. Write down the original price, the sale price, subtract the discounts and qs you will use and get an idea of how much you are supposed to pay. Keep in mind sales tax because that always throws me off. If you have the price of the item, it is always easier to look for the item by price to the item instead of scanning the shelves for the item itself.
I carry a tote just for my coupons. I organize my personal stash in my bag in envelopes by store in preparation for visits. I haven't went out to get my coupon filer at Target yet. I also sort the envelopes by departments or items. Oral care, shampoo, soap, laundry... it's a mess of organization but it works for me. Sometimes I am in a frenzy looking for qs that seem to be everywhere from my wallet, side pockets, jacket pockets, all over my car and in my office. I admit to losing them when I need them but that just teaches me that I have to take time and reorganize the ones I didn't use on my trips and put them away.
Hope this help you get on your way to couponing! Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!
- Bay N