How I Coupon and My Advice for Starting Out

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I recently received this email from a reader about how I coupon and wanted to address it on the blog, as I thought there might be others out there wondering similar things:

My name is Laura and I want to start to save money thru couponing. Do you use the cut and notebook method or keep the circular intact method?  How often do you purge your coupons?  Do you do something with the expired coupons or just recycle them?
Thanks!

First, welcome to the wonderful world of couponing Laura!

There are a handful of ways to organize all of those coupons you quickly accumulate and really you just have to find which method is right for you. 

You will either spend time upfront clipping and organizing or later when you are looking for the coupons to use, as with the circular intact method. 

The circular intact method is where you’d just collect the weekly inserts, leaving them whole, and file by date. The date is located on the spine of the inserts in super tiny print.

Then as you create your shopping lists, you can go through your whole inserts to clip the coupons as you need them. This is where using a coupon database and following “matchups” as they are called by deal blogs, will help you quickly find a specific coupon you need.

Whenever I reference coupons on the blog, I post the date of the insert you can find the coupon in. For instance, when you see that a coupon is in the 9/18 SS, that means you will find it in the September 18th SmartSource insert.

How I Coupon and My Advice For Starting Out

How I Organize My Coupons

The way I use to organize my coupons is called the envelope method. Basically I store all of my clipped coupons by categories written on the envelopes. Then I store my envelopes in an accordion file that almost looks like a purse. 

Here is the picture of the accordion organizer I am using. I found this particular style at Office Depot.

The file purse I am using is actually big enough to hold the inserts intact.  However, for me, I found that I liked not having to clip and organize so much upfront with the intact method. However, later I was more stressed looking for the coupons at the time I needed them.  

I also prefer to keep my coupons with me, either in-store or in the car, at all times.  I’ve come across too many deals that just by chance were on clearance or something I missed in the ad.  Sure enough, I had a great coupon to get it cheap or even free! 

With the intact method, I wouldn’t know where to begin to find it without checking a coupon database and honestly, most times I wouldn’t bother looking!

Therefore, I personally like to clip all of my coupons, file them in the envelopes, then carry them with me at all times.  Sometimes I even grab just one envelope from my stash, like the one labeled “Tops” if that’s where I’m shopping, and leave the file purse in the car. 

Using The Envelope Method

I tend to have a lot of envelopes as I like to break up my categories by shopping aisle or department of the store. Doing this gives me more envelopes to carry, however, I have found it to be easier finding what I am looking for at the time. 

I use the larger sized 6″ x 9″ envelopes, which fit the bigger coupons better. They are also roomy enough so I can get the coupons in and out of the envelope faster.

Each week I go through the inserts and clip out what coupons I think will be used, by me or friends and family. Then I recycle all of the scraps and other pieces of the newspaper, especially if I buy extra papers!  Lastly, I organize my coupons in the following categories:

  • Produce
  • Bread/Spreads (like PB, jellies, jams)
  • Beverages
  • Snacks
  • Cereal/Breakfast
  • Baking
  • Pasta/Rice/Sauces
  • Soup/Canned Goods
  • Haircare
  • Soap/Lotions/Deodorant
  • Make-up/Facial/Eyecare
  • Oral care
  • Baby
  • Feminine
  • Meats
  • Frozen/Dairy
  • Restaurants
  • Retail Shopping (like Old Navy, Jo-ann’s, Kohl’s, Office Depot, etc.)
  • Tops (because I shop there the most – I keep coupons for that week’s sales and also lower value coupons under $1.00 because this is where they’d get doubled)
  • Rite-Aid
  • CVS
  • Walgreens

Some of the coupons fit into multiple categories, such as milk could be a beverage or frozen/dairy. When sorting my coupons I just decide at the time where I think I will look first.

Once a month,  I go through the coupons to get rid of any expired savings. At times I will purge the expired coupons when I come across them while looking through my envelopes.

All in all, it should only take an hour or so each week for you to do, especially taking it slow.  You only need to go through the inserts and clip out those coupons that you think your family will use.  Then either recycle the leftovers or save the unclipped coupons to clip later for a “just in case” deal that might pop up. 

So my advice to those new to couponing:

  1. Get a small coupon organizer at The Dollar Tree or in the dollar bins at Target. This is the method I started with many years ago, but as I bought more papers I needed something bigger!  You could even use envelopes you have around the house and file them in a box.  A wipes container with the top removed would even do (yeah I did this at one point too ?)!
  2. Label your envelopes or coupon organizer with how you think you will be able to find your coupons best.
  3. Start with the coupons you have and file those away.  Then each Sunday look through the inserts and clip those that you think you would use if the right deal came along. 
  4. On the first Sunday of the month, consider buying an extra paper or two.  You will find the first week of the new month usually has a lot more and overall better value coupons.
  5. Most of all, just take things slow. If you get too caught up with keeping every single coupon or trying to grab extreme deals, then you are more likely to get burned out or discouraged.

I hope this information helps and thank you so much for your question, Laura! 

And remember, even using just a small amount of coupons can add up to GREAT SAVINGS!!!

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