So many people have been asking me if I have any ideas on the best ways to sort, organize and store their Canadian coupons. So this blog post will be dedicated to just that.
When I first started collecting coupons I simply kept them in my wallet. That only lasted a couple of weeks and I soon upgraded to a postage envelope. Again that was very short lived. Since I caught the couponing bug and jumped right in with both feet, I soon found I had coupons everywhere in my house. They were sitting on my office desk, they were on the kitchen counter, some were still sitting with the mail and then other lucky ones that actually made it into the “coupon envelope”.
I had to create a system and fast. I was disorganized and because of this, I never had my coupons in one place. I would see something on sale and have no idea where I had left that particular coupon. When I did locate some coupons I was disappointed to find that they had already expired. This forced me to explore a new way of organize and store my precious coupons.
Since my daughter had also caught the coupon craze with me, she discovered we could buy an accordion style holder at our local dollar store. She came home the next evening and presented me with one.
This is a great idea for people who are just starting out and trying to get into the whole couponing thing. I suggest dedicating a plastic bin or nice basket to collect all your coupons. I have one that I picked up at the dollar store that sits on my desk. As the mail comes in or I print out coupons, I just simply throw them into the basket. Once a week, usually Saturday or Sunday morning, depending of which day I have off work, I grab my basket and sit down with a nice hot cup of coffee and go through the coupons. I sit on my living room floor and cut them all out. I then make piles, putting them into categories. My original accordion style folder had little tabs at the top and I created categories to sort them. Food, Beauty, Household, Pets, Medical, etc.. Just take your little sorted piles of coupons and plunk them into your folder. The folder goes in your purse and then you have them no matter where you go. It is simple, easy and takes very little time to organize.
If you are already to the point of using an accordion style folder and it is no longer working for you than it is time to take it to the next level. A little more than a year ago I found that my accordion style booklet was breaking at the seams and hated the fact that while in the grocery/department store I had to pull out a wad of beauty coupons and stand there in the aisle going through them like a large deck of cards looking for the one particular coupon I knew I had. The coupons were multiplying day by day and I just simply had no more room - there had to be a better way.
One day when I was cleaning up my home office I picked up a photo album that was left out. The light bulb went off. Could I use a photo album? I went online and started looking around for ideas. I discovered that lots of people were using binders to sort and store their coupons. I was so excited.
My daughter jumped right in and started pulling pictures out of the photo album. The photo sleeves where the 4×6 size and were perfect for some of my coupons. She then ran to her bedroom and retrieved some full sized clear plastic sleeves. I took them and decided these would be wonderful for holding full page coupons and mail-in rebates that I had printed out from on line. This system was a little better but not all coupons fit and some slipped and fell out. This was all happening just before Mother’s Day and my wonderful and ever resourceful daughter came up with the perfect gift for me. She again went to the dollar store and purchased for me a large three ring binder. She also found clear plastic baseball card sleeves that fit perfectly into the binder. These card size sheets are perfect for save.ca, brandsaver.ca and websaver.ca sized coupons. I continued to use the 4 x6 photo sleeve inserts and the full page sheets. We also found sheets that were divided in half horizontally. These also were great for larger manufacture and store coupons.
She also presented me with a set of classic school binder subject dividers. I labelled them with food, household, beauty, pets and medical. This time I also added a section for FPC (Free Product Coupons) and kept those right in the front of the binder. At the back I created and extra section for mail in rebates. I was finally starting to feel organized.
With time and lots of practical use we refined and altered the book to suit us. I added a grocery list (just a small pad of paper where I could jot down items I needed or little reminders of sales for that week). I added a calculator to the inside pocket so I could easily make calculations while in the store. This is very useful when trying to figure out unit pricing.
This system was definitely better than my old method but I was still having one big problem. Every once and a while I would sit down to re-load my book with new coupons from the “coupon basket” and I would discover a whole slew of coupons that had expired. It broke my heart every time I did a book cleanout and ended up throwing out tons of valuable coupons. It almost made me want to cry.
It was time to re-assess and find a better way. Again I went online and surfed around for new ideas. I found one lady that organized all her coupons into categories and then re-sorted them by expiry date. The faster expiring coupons to the front. This is great in a perfect world and if you have nothing else in your life to do but sort coupons. I, on the other hand, work a full time job, post and blog on here and well, have a “life”. I finally discovered a technique that would work perfectly for me and take very little time.
All you have to do is buy a cheap set of highlighters and decide what colour will represent each month. Make up a little table on a post-it note and stick it to the inside of your coupon binder. Then the next time you sit down to cut out and sort your coupons just simply highlight the expiry date with the co-ordinating colour for that month. For any coupons that expire in January, highlight it with green, February expiry dates get a splash of yellow colour and so on. With this method you can easy colour code all your coupons and can pick out at a glance which ones expire this month. January is a green month so just look for “green” coupons. It is super easy and just one simple step that you have to add to your weekly sorting. The bonus to using this method is the expiry date is still very visible and some cashiers have even commented that it is easier for them to find the expiry date when checking my coupons. I don’t believe that this process will harm or make the coupons invalid in any way. I have done it for quite some time now with out any problems.
As time goes on the Coupon Binder has become even more advanced. I now have a really nice plaid material binder that has a full zipper. This keeps everything contained and nice and neat. This latest binder is equipped with a pull out accordion file on the inside cover. This is great for quickly picking up coupons while in the store and sorting them as I go. Once I do my weekly sit down I just simply highlight and transfer the coupons to the appropriate pages. The outside front cover has a nice Velcro pocket where I keep all my weekly flyers. This is crucial if you want to take advantage of price matching (you have to present the cashier with the flyer before they will price match).
I also now carry a small pair of scissors. Believe it or not I have actually cut coupons off boxes of items I am buying right at the check out (of course after I scan them.) I know what you are thinking -”crazy coupon lady!”. I also have incorporated a price book. This is simply a ruled notebook cut in half and placed in the front of the three ring binder. This way I can easily check my pricing and see if I am getting a good deal or not.
I also keep a pen in the front of my binder, that way if I see any special offers, contests or rebates listed on products I can write them down until I get home and check them out on the net. You can also update your price book if needed. One of the check out clerks at my local grocery store has asked me to write in the price of particular product that I have FPC for. That way it makes it easier for her to take it off my bill without searching through the scanned items (only do this if asked).
Now when I know I am going shopping I grab my binder and throw it into the car with my shopping green bin and bags. I carry the bin into the store and I am all set. I have my bin, my re-useable bags and my binder. I simply put the binder in the child’s carry seat and can easily flip through the pages. Because the pocket sleeves are clear plastic you can easily see the coupon and flip the page to check the highlighted expiry date.
I will admit that not many people at my local grocery store use coupons and when they see me going up and down the isles with my coupon binder I do get some odd looks. It used to bother me at first, but not any more. Now that I am super organized I am saving even more, so who cares. If fact it has become a vehicle for people to strike up a conversations with me. You hear comment like “omg, now she is serious about her coupons” and “wow, look at the coupons she has”. I have even handed out some coupons to young moms that are buying baby products and I have extra coupons for. It is like being a coupon fairy. Lol
I hope this will help inspire some of you to get more organized and develop some sort of system for storing your Canadian coupons.
Do you want a sneak peep at my coupon book?
Well ok, I will share.
Enjoy, and Happy Shopping Everyone.
THIS IS JUST ONE ARTICLE OUT OF A SERIES OF EIGHT.
Also known as the Coupon Queen. Part of the wonderful staff here on Canadian Free Stuff, Moderator, Blogger and Product Reviewer. Also you can check out my posts on the Canadian Freebie Forum.