Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
There is no doubt about it: using coupons can save a lot of money. Yet many people give up on coupons because they are so hard to manage. And if you aren’t careful, coupons can also turn into clutter.
A reader was kind enough to ask if I could tackle this subject, so here it is: my take on organizing coupons.
Deal with the Backlog
If you’ve never clipped coupons, go ahead and skip this section. If you have a pile somewhere, you will need to start with a purge. Sit down with your pile of coupons, a highlighter and a recycle bin. Go through each one, and if it is expired, toss it. If not, highlight the expiration date.
Next you will sort the coupons into areas that make sense to you. Canned goods, cereals, paper products, dairy case, dry goods are some possible categories. The goal is to make it easy to find the coupons you want to use. So there is no right way – just find the way that makes sense to you.
You will want to store the coupons. It can be whatever you prefer, from a card file box to a binder to an envelope. I found that having dividers in the coupons according to the grouping helped me find things quickly. I used a card file, and inside each category, I kept a brightly colored index card. I stored my no-expiration date coupons behind there as a means to keep them from getting mixed in with the coupons that would expire.
Effective Coupon Clipping
Coupons can pile up quickly and turn into an awful pile of clutter. Using a few rules will help keep this at bay.
- Don’t clip what you won’t use. If you don’t normally use the product, don’t clip the coupon. This can only lead to spending extra on products you wouldn’t normally buy.
- Skip coupons if you’re brand-loyal. If you are brand loyal on a type of product, don’t bother clipping coupons for a competitor. This can lead to wasted purchases.
- Pay attention to quantities. If your coupon requires you to buy more than you can possibly use, pass on it.
- Don’t cut out things that will expire before you can use them. If you shop every two weeks and the coupon will expire before then, skip it. Don’t bog down the system with wasted material and effort.
- File as soon as you clip. Don’t leave a pile of coupons waiting to be filed. It won’t happen.
I’ll be honest: I haven’t used newspaper coupons in a couple of years. I got out of the habit when I had a personal shopper, and I find that it causes me more frustration than it is worth to keep up with them.
Sales and Flyers
That’s not to say that I pay full price, though. I regularly buy things that are on sale, and I keep an eye on the grocery flyer to see what can be stocked up on any given week. My grocery store also has a “shoppers card” where I can get even deeper discounts on items.
Coupons on My Store Card
There are a couple of other things I have found for using coupons that does not require me to clip and sort. The first is coupons on my shoppers card. I found this service through Cellfire.com (no affiliation). I entered my store card number, then I choose my coupons. When my card is accessed, the coupons are automatically available for use. No paper and no hassle wondering if I have bought the right size in the right quantity.
The second way is printable coupons. CouponMom.com (no affiliation) allows you to select printable coupons and then print them out for use at the store. I like this because I can always print just what I need and not have to hunt around.
Coupons are a great way of saving money, but they only work well if they’re used. A few simple organizational methods or alternate coupon methods, and you can save money too!
Photo by MissMessie