My Coupon Binder

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So you’ve decided to save your family money by using coupons.  And you’ve studied the methods used by those I-bought-100-things-for-only-$5! kind of websites (or tv shows).  And while those are entertaining and do probably give good pointers here and there, they are not realistic.  Sorry to break it to you like that, but they’re just not real.

Sure, you can probably have a shopping trip where you save 90%.  But will they happen every time?  Sorry, not happenin’.  Not even every other time.  But don’t be discouraged.  You can still save your family money by using coupons, especially if you follow the rules I talked about in my previous couponing post.

Once you get started couponing it won’t take you long to figure out you’re going to need some kind of storage system for your coupons.  You may find that the big binders with baseball card holders etc, etc is the way to go for you.  It didn’t work for me.  For one thing it’s too big and bulky.   When I’ve got a toddler, an infant in a carseat, diaper bag, wallet, and shopping bags the LAST thing I want to lug around is a big old three ring binder.  It’s just too much.

So when WalMart had it’s Back To School stuff on sale last year I found a small accordian type folder that really works for me.

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It has 12 dividers with tabs and also came with 12 inserts for the tabs.  They were labeled Jan – Dec but I turned them over and wrote on the back.  (Aren’t I clever? lol)  Of course you could be fancy-dancy and design something on the computer or with a label maker.  Whatever floats your boat.  I love to be creative too, but at the time I did this there was no time for creativity, only function.

I took the layout of the store I most often frequent (in my case it’s WalMart) and divided the store up into sections.  Then I labeled each tab to reflect the divisions of the store, in order, so that it’s really easy for me to find the coupon I am looking for.  For example, I always, always start on the right hand side of the store (health and beauty aids) and work my way around counter clockwise so I’ll end up in the freezer section and produce (I don’t want my produce squished under everything else — including the toddler).  So my second tab says “Health and Beauty Aids”.  It has all of my coupons for things you’d find in that department: shampoo, soap, razors, vitamins, feminine products… you get the idea.

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You’ll notice I said that I started with my second tab.  My first tab says “Current Use”.  That’s where I put the coupons that I’m using on my current shopping trip only so it saves time at the register.  We’ve all been behind the person in the check out lane who has 400 coupons and at least half of them don’t work.  So frustrating (for you, the cashier, and the couponer).  You know why they don’t work?  That couponer doesn’t have a good system in place.  She probably hasn’t read the coupon carefully to check for expiration date or if the coupon calls for a specific type, weight, or other exclusion.

I vowed before I started couponing to never be that couponer.  The kind that gives the rest of us a bad name.  That I would be kind to the people around me (and to myself).  To have my stuff together before I get to the checkout lane.

So that is why I have the “Current Use” tab.  Once I locate the coupon I want to use and put that product in my grocery cart (after double checking to make sure I have the correct item for that coupon) I immediately file the coupon behind that first tab.  So simple and saves so much time later when I’m trying to corral cranky kids, throw my groceries on the checkout table/belt, find my wallet, and use those coupons.   Right then is not the time to try and remember which products I put in my cart so I can try and find the corresponding coupon.  Right then I’m ready to get my groceries and get out.of.that.store before my child becomes unglued…. or I do.

Aaaaanyway, let me get back to the point.  🙂

You might find that you want to tweak things just a bit after a few weeks of using your couponing system.  I moved a few of my tabs around because the flow wasn’t quite right.  (Because I tried to remember every aisle from memory when I completed my couponing folder… and my memory isn’t too great.)  Just find something that works for YOU!

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{Pardon the crumbs on my placemat.  My daughter was eating lunch as I took these pictures. :)}

How do you organize your coupons behind each tab?

I’m so glad you asked!  At first I debated about grouping all of the toothpaste coupons together, then the shampoo coupons, etc, etc.  But then I realized that would be a lot of hassle and I’d probably forget something.

I decided on the obvious choice: organizing by expiration date, with the closest expiration date first.

That really works for me.  I usually do a quick glance in each tab to see which coupons are about to expire.  If it’s something I need (or will need before I think I’ll have another coupon for it) I’ll buy it then instead of waiting for the item to go on sale.  I’d rather use up the coupon without a sale than pay full price for something I need because I waited too long and the coupon expired.

How do you maintain your couponing folder?

Every Sunday night or Monday morning when I’m clipping coupons I use that time to cull through my folder and see if there are any coupons that have expired.  Since I don’t have hundreds of coupons anyway (because I only clip them for products I use or want to try) that process really doesn’t take long at all.  I also take that time to remind myself of the coupons I have so if I see it on sale I can snag it.

How much money do you save each week?

This is tough to say, actually.  Some shopping trips I save $20 in coupons alone and some trips it’s $2.  I also save in other ways.  I bake my own bread.  I usually buy store brands (unless name brands are cheaper with a coupon than their store brand counterpart).  We rarely use paper towels (preferring these purple rags instead) or store bought cleaners.  We don’t (usually) drink carbonated beverages.  I do “splurge” on disposable diapers for both children — I haven’t gotten into the cloth diapering thing — but I do plan to make my own baby food when he’s old enough.

I routinely save 40% – 50% each time I go to Brookshires.  But because Brookshires has generally higher prices than WalMart I tend to only buy the things on sale.  So even though my receipt says I saved 48% it’s probably only about a 10% – 20% savings from WalMart’s everyday lower prices on those items.  {But when you can catch things on sale, use store coupons AND manufacturer coupons… now that’s saving money, buddy.  I recently found Pull-Ups on sale there for $9.48 (usually $9.98).  Rewards members scored an additional $0.50 off the discounted price.  I had been online and loaded a store coupon to my rewards card to take $2 off that price.  AND I had a manufacturer coupon for $2 as well.  Those Pull-Ups cost me less than $5.  Score!}

All in all my family of four (that being two adults, a 2.5 year old and an infant) spend about $100 a week on groceries, toiletries, baby items, etc.  Whatever you can buy from Brookshires or WalMart (the only two places I shop) is accounted in that figure.

And I’m constantly looking for more ways to save.  What’s your best money saving secret?  I’d love to hear!

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