As with any project, the more organized you are, the more successful you’ll be. Such is especially true in the world of couponing, particularly if you expect to see any significant savings. Coupon clippers each have their own system and strategy, but we all have one important trait in common: Being organized. This skill is essential in navigating the aisles, literally and figuratively. Without a good system, the process can be overwhelming, laborious and time-consuming.
1. First, cut only the coupons for products you use (or would consider using.) I’ve seen beginners cut out every coupon from diapers to dog food, but, if you don’t have a baby or a dog, it’s wasted energy. It’s a simple concept — just ask yourself before you snip, “Do I use (or need) this product?” (Remember, you’re more likely to save the most money, if you’re not brand-loyal.)
2. Keep all like coupons in the same stack. Once you have your coupons properly stacked, you must categorize them. This is where you can do what works best for you. The most common form of categorization is by product category, such as frozen food, dairy, canned goods, cereal, personal hygiene, paper products, household cleaners, etc. However, I’ve seen systems organized alphabetically by brand. While others have gone so far as to order their coupons based on the aisle layout of their favorite grocery store. Just find an organizational system that works for you, however quirky it may be, and stick with it.
3. Keep all of your coupons in one spot. Here, you can use a coupon file, a binder with pockets or even a small bin. You simply need to find a storage system that is easy to maintain, as well as transport to and from the store. Unfortunately, I have lost my coupon file more than once, a heartbreaking experience for any true cheapskate. That’s why I suggest you choose a bright (even neon) color, so you’re not likely to leave it in the shopping cart or misplace it. Plus, it never hurts to place a “If found, please contact” sticker prominently on the front.
4. Once you have a working system, never leave home without it. The most common excuse I hear from family and friends as to why they don’t use coupons is “I always forget them.” It’s the reason I keep my file in the backseat or trunk of my car, so it’s with me at all times. You never know when you’ll find a great sale price and can save even more with a coupon — only to realize you’ve left them at home.
I bring it in the house once a week for maintenance (adding new coupons and trashing expired ones), but then it goes right back to the car. Don’t waste time and gas running back and forth because you forgot your file, as you’ll only defeat the purpose of clipping coupons in the first place — to save money.
The primary lesson is to not just toss your coupons in an envelope or pocketbook. Doing so will cost you valuable time searching (and searching) for a particular coupon. Without organization, it’s easy to claim you “don’t have enough time” and give up. With organization, you’ll soon realize that using coupons isn’t so troublesome after all, especially when you see the savings week after week.
You can always find a great source of manufacturer’s coupons right here on Living on the Cheap. Remember, manufacturers load new coupons at the beginning of the month, so grab your scissors, binder (or whatever you use) and get organized for more savings.