Saturday, May 18, 2013

My Couponing Binder

I did a lot of research on how to get coupons, how to organize coupons, and how to stack them, etc.
There are many different ways people organize their coupons.  Some people file the inserts without clipping the coupons, some people clip their coupons and store them in boxes with dividers, some store them in accordian-style packets or boxes, and some (like me) use a coupon binder.

I'm a very visual person, so I want to be able to see at a glance by flipping pages what coupons I have. I think it would be too tedious to dig through multiple coupons in a box whether they are filed by category or not.  Also, I plan to send my expired coupons to a group that collects them and then ships them to our troops overseas.  The military can use manufacturers coupons up to 6 months after they are expired, so whatever coupons I don't use by their expiration dates will be sent over there to help out our troops (another post on that to come).

So I'm going to post pictures of the various parts of my coupon binder as I had a few questions from a few Facebook friends and this will help them and my blog readers as well.  My system may change down the road but this is working great for me so far:


This is a picture of my binder.  You can read more about it HERE on Amazon.
It's made by CASE IT and it's a dual 3-ring binder.  The rings are "D" rings in 2 sections.  I use the left side for food only coupons and the right side for non-food coupons.



At first glance, you'd think the rings were round, but as you can see in this picture, they are D-shaped:


Here is the packaging info:




I bought this one at OFFICE MAX because I wanted it right then, but I see it's about $5 cheaper on Amazon.


It has a small handle and also a long shoulder strap (which I LOVE).  You can attach the shoulder strap or leave it off, it's up to you.  It has one outer zipper pocket and I use this to put my bank card and/or cash and my driver's license in it while I'm in the store so I don't have to carry my purse with me and have that to tote with me as well.

Ok, next is the most important part of the binder.  The baseball card pages!


I got these at Target.  You can find them in that wall of trading cards and accessories that is located parallel to the checkouts.  This is a pack of 35 and it costs about $4.99.  Make sure you get these because if you go to the office or stationary area at somewhere like Walmart you're going to pay a lot more and the quality won't be as good (I got some a while back for a scrapbook album and so that's how I know).  These are really sturdy and I haven't ripped one yet.

They are already 3-hole punched and fit in the binder (any binder) well.  
What you'll do is put your coupons in the square areas normally used to put baseball cards in.   I often have to fold many of mine to get them to fit, but that's not a problem.  If you have to fold them and not see the expiration date, you can just flip the page over and see it from the opposite side.

So, here's how I have my binder set up from front to back:


This binder has lots of pockets and elastic and zippered sections.  On the inside front I store envelopes I can use over and over with the names of the stores I frequent written on the fronts.   I use these to store the coupons I intend to use at the designated stores so when I get to the store, I can pull out the envelope and access it in the store. I keep a pad of paper there for note too (just isn't in it in the picture...oops). The reason I take the whole binder into the store with me is that often you will come cross an un-advertised sale or see an item you want and you can check for coupons in your binder.

There's a zippered pouch I can store scissors, calculator, pen, etc in too.


Next I have a clear zippered plastic pocket page.  Once I have the product in my cart, I put the coupon in this pocket, then when I'm ready to check out, the coupons I'm definitely using are all there ready to pull out and give to the cashier:


So what about the coupons you intended to use at the store, but once in the store you decide not to use it?  Maybe the store was out of the item or you decided it was too expensive even with the coupon.  I have a 3/4- high, clear pocket page I put those coupons in. I had to re-punch it so it fits the 3 rings, but that's not a problem. Then when I'm home and settled, I can refile those coupons.

These pages are really 8x8 scrapbook page protectors. They're the perfect size to use for this because they only go 3/4 or so in height and are easy to access quickly as you stuff the coupons in for temporary storage after I re-punch them to fit the 3-ring binder.  Remember these because I have one more use for them a little later on!


Next is an info section.  Anything you want to remember, you keep here.  I have some information about shelf life and how much of what items are recommended for a stockpile:


Next is a page with information about (and the addresses for) how to collect expired coupons to send to our troops overseas.  They can use manufacturers' coupons that are expired up to 6 months.  For instance, I can mail mine to an organization in Indiana and they will in turn send them to a base overseas.  More on that in an upcoming post.  Then comes the all-important store policy section.


Use full-size plastic page protectors to store the coupon policies for your favorite stores here.  This way you have it handy to refer to for yourself and also for a cashier who may be unaware of the policy of her own employer (it happens!)  Different stores have different policies, so this helps you stay abreadst of what to expect.  I'll provide links to the major chains in another post  so you can just print them out.

The heart of the coupon binder.  The coupons!!

 

You can organize it as you wish and use the categories that make the best sense to you.  I will update this post to include the categories I use later today.

An essential part of the organization aspect is tabbed dividers so you can label the various categories.  As you can see, I started out using just ordinary dividers, but they don't stick out to the side away from the baseball sheets so I plan on redoing the food side using these dividers once I get more.  

I had these on hand at home and used them on the non-food side of my binder and they DO stick out farther than the baseball card sheets do.  I'm told they can be found at Staples and I plan to get some more and switch my food side to those:



Here is how mine was packaged.  I've had them awhile, so it may be packaged differently now:

I started out dividing my sections into two other sections.  First the coupons that expire within a month followed by a section for coupons that expire after that.  I STOPPED THIS.   After a few trips to the store it became obvious that it was too confusing and tedious flipping back and forth :


So this is what I came up with instead.  I removed the "expired later" divider and merged the like-categories together.  This time I have all the coupons divided by months and separated by only one blank baseball card page:


Then as I'm browsing through coupons and come across the blank page, I'll know those coupons expire the following month.  I do this in between all months I have coupons for and in each category (within the tabbed dividers).  
For example:  The category BAKING.  The first pages will be the ones that expire in May.  Then there's a blank page, then pages for coupons that expire in June, then a blank page, and so on. Each category gets this treatment.  This way I'm not fumbling through coupons to try to find ones that aren't expired yet, and when the first section expires, I can just take those pages out, remove the coupons, and put the blank pages at the end awaiting the next month of coupons.  They just keep rotating that way.


At the very end of the left-side (food section) rings I used my craft skills and made store coupon pockets.  Remember those 8 x 8 scrapbook page protectors I mentioned earlier...the ones that go only about 3/4 of the way to the top?  I used those here for store coupons:


I took a needle and thread and stitched up the middle separating the page protector into two pockets then used my label maker to label them. This worked out great :) You don't want to mix your store coupons with all your other coupons because you want to be able to locate them easily as most stores will take one store coupon and one manufacturer's coupon for one item.  For example, you want to buy a package of toilet paper rolls.  They cost $8.  You have a manufacturer's coupon for $2.  You also have a store coupon for $1.  You can use them together to save $3 on that package of toilet paper.  You can't use two manufacturer's coupons for one item, or two store coupons, but you can use one of each most places.  So you don't want your store coupons mixed in with all your manufacturer's coupons.

That reminds me...you know when you receive your register receipt and they have those coupons that print either on the back of the receipt or on  whole different tape?  Those are called Catalinas.  You can store the catalinas in these store coupon pockets too, as they are often good only at the store you get them from (not always, but usually).


Ok...one more thing, but an important thing!
This may change eventually, but for now, this is working well for me.  All those store sales ads  (at least at MY house) used to get laid around the house and I'd find them in the bathroom, kitchen...you name it.
I got a binder and put pockets inside and store my store ad in there.  Then when they expire I can throw them away and replace it with the new one:

I got this particular binder at Walmart.  I like it because it has an accordian file section on the outside front:



On the inside front cover is a pocket, and I store my notebook there where I take notes as I'm going through the sales ad (I need to learn all the couponing abbreviations so I can make shorter and better notes!)



I got these tabbed pocket dividers at Walmart too.  I need to pick up a few more.



And there you have it.  My coupon binder.
I'll be posting more as I go along, but this shows you the overall organization of my binder.  Remember too, that I'm just starting out as a serious couponer, so I'll no doubt be adjusting things and making changes along the way.   Check back for updates!


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