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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Start Saving Part 3: Stay Organized

In this Start Saving series, I'm trying to share some of my experiences and advice with people who are new to the couponing world. If you missed the first two parts of this series, you can catch up HERE and HERE.

There's nothing more frustrating than knowing that you have a great coupon for something but not being able to find it. I know this because I've done it once a few times more than I'd like to admit! But now I've worked very hard to come up with a coupon management system that seems to work for me. I'll share it with you, and maybe you can share your ideas in the comments section.

Coupons Everywhere = Money Lost

Your coupons need a home. This home looks different for everyone. Some people use shoe boxes. Others use Trapper Keeper-style binders. Still others use envelopes for individual coupon categories. My coupon binder is an ugly 8x8 scrapbook with scrapbook page protectors inside. I'm actually planning to change to something different in the VERY near future. Not only is the thing so ugly I hide it behind my purse whenever I take it somewhere, but the page protectors inside are all open on the top. That means that one wrong drop, and my coupons are scattered everywhere! You can do a search for "coupon organizers" and find as many ways to organize them as there are ways to use them. Just find something that works for you. That's all that matters!

I have my coupons organized by category. Here's my category list:

  • CVS coupons (from previous receipts)

  • air fresheners

  • baby/child

  • baking

  • beverages

  • bread/crackers

  • canned goods

  • cereal/breakfast

  • cleaning

  • dairy

  • granola bars

  • HBA - deodorant

  • HBA – feminine

  • HBA - hair care

  • HBA - makeup

  • HBA - medicine

  • HBA - shaving

  • HBA - skincare

  • HBA - tooth care

  • laundry

  • meat/produce

  • office supplies/batteries

  • paper products

  • pasta/rice

  • peanut butter/jelly

  • pets

  • sauces/dressings

  • snacks-salty

  • snacks-sweet

  • store specific/restaurant

In a perfect world, coupons would get filed in coupon binders as soon as they are cut out. But in reality, coupons end up in every room of the house! I've started a new system that might be helpful. I've been using business-size (#10) envelopes as temporary holding zones for coupons. When I clip the Sunday ones, they go into one envelope. The coupons I know I'll never use go into another envelope to be mailed to a military family who can use them. Expired coupons go into another envelope for another military family. Coupons that I print get cut right away and put into the to-be-filed envelope. When I have a few minutes, I deal with each envelope, filing the coupons into my binder or getting them mailed off to the military families. So far this seems to be working!

Patience Pays Off

Once you have your coupons organized, you're going to want to use all of them. BUT WAIT! You have to be patient. You may run out and use that $2 off coupon today and get an okay deal. But, if you hold onto it, you may be able to match it up with a great sale and get an out-of-this-world-have-to-start-a-blog-just-to-tell-about-this-deal kind of deal! If you're patient, you may be able to get the item free or almost-free. It's SOOOO hard to hold onto the high-value coupons, but you'll be glad you did.

If you're really worried that you're going to miss an opportunity to use some of your high-value coupons, make a list of the coupons and their expiration dates. That way, you can keep an eye on the deals and use the coupons before they expire.

Organizing Your Online Deal-Hunting

Now that you've found some blog sites that you frequently visit, how do you keep them organized? I've tried two things so far, and both work pretty well. The first thing I did was make a Blog Sites folder in my favorites list. That way, when I launch my Internet browser, I can click Favorites and choose a blog to read.

I recently started using my Blogger Reading List for reading. I signed up to "follow" some of my favorite blogs. To do this, log into your Blogger account (or start one if you don't have one). Go to your Dashboard. There you'll find a heading called "Reading List". You can click the Add button, and enter the URL of your favorite blog site. Click Next, and then decide if you want to remain anonymous or if you want to be known. Then, when you log into your Blogger account, you'll see all the newest posts from your favorite blogs all in one location. This keeps you from having to click all of your favorites links. Just click the posts you want to read.

There are lots of other readers available. The key is having a system that works for you! If you have any other organizational tips to share, please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section of this post. We learn so much from each other!

Stop back tomorrow for money-saving tips to use when you're shopping at the grocery store.


Rachel said...

It seems so obvious to put your favorite blogs in their own bookmark folder. Why didn't I think of that!?! Thanks for the tip.

By the way, I love my coupon binder. I have my coupons in categories (similar to what you listed above) but they are in baseball card holders, so they're a bit easier to sort through in-store. Best of all, the binder zips shut, so I don't have to worry about anything falling out or blowing away!

Jennifer said...

I've been leaning towards the zipped binder type of organizer. I'm just not sure about the baseball card holders. Do you have to fold your coupons? Do you put more than one type of coupon in each holder? (Different brands, etc.) I think I'd like to be able to see everything at one glance, so maybe I'll go this route.