27 April 2011

Organization Saves You Money

My mother has a very “sophisticated” system in place for organizing her coupons. It’s a blue folder and both sides of it hold a random, chaotic array of money-savers. I’ve gone through it a few times and found coupons that had expired three years earlier.
Everyone who uses coupons should have a way to organize them, because if you know where to find your deals you save time, money, energy and maybe even annoyed glares from fellow shoppers. (Remember that time when you kept apologizing but you just knew you had a coupon for something? It’s OK. It happens to all of us).
I organize coupons by keeping them in an accordion wallet; coupons that I want to take advantage of as soon as possible go on a magnetic board by my bathroom mirror. Needless to say, I’m just a bit more organized in this area than my mom is. With kids to take care of and a job on the side, life--not sorting coupons--is her priority.
But it doesn’t have to be a nightmare to organize your coupons, and for those of you who don’t have a touch of OCD like I do, these ideas will make the task all the easier.
1. Come up with a system
Don’t just cut out your coupons and stash them in a shoebox. If you do all of your coupon cutting at once, make an organization board so that you can cut and sort at the same time. Just get a poster board and use a yard stick and a marker to divide it into boxes about 4 inches by 6 inches.
Write a category name at the top of each box. As you clip out the coupons, place them in the appropriate box on your board, and when you’re done the only thing you’ll need to do is put all of your stacks in their appropriate holders.
2. Decide on a chest for your treasure trove
I chose an accordion wallet because it is small, portable, and has snazzy index tabs to fit labels into. My grandma drops her coupons into an envelope, and one of my friends sticks hers on the fridge. Other coupon clippers use index file boxes, Ziploc baggies, recipe boxes and Tupperware with cardstock dividers.
Storage should be sturdy and easy to move, since you probably don’t want to lug around a pile of flimsy envelopes that need to be replaced every few weeks. Do a little bit of research on the Internet or watch other people as they shop. Even I was surprised by the many different ways of organizing that I found; I was impressed with the ingenuity one woman showed in turning her son’s old trading card binder into an easy-access, organized coupon utopia.
3. Expiration dates.
Whether you use envelopes, an expanding file, or a photo album, create twelve different categories, one for each month of the year. You can stick this month’s stack of coupons in your purse or glove box and empty it out at the end of the month.
4. Products
This is great for those of us who are very picky about the coupons we clip. If you buy a limited number of things with coupons—such as Herbal Essences Shampoo and HP Ink—you can get away with having only those categories in your collection.
5. Stores
Some stores send out more coupons than others, and many of us shop at the same handful of stores every week. By organizing by store, you know exactly which products you’re looking for, and where.
6. Categories
To sort by category, just think of the layout of your store. Most grocery stores are set up the same way, with produce on one side, foodstuffs in the middle, and health & beauty and things for the home on the other end. Many stores and internet coupon websites already organize their coupons by category, so all you have to do is label your categories like they do. This also makes it easy to find coupons at the register.
7. Double Up
If using only one of these ideas isn’t enough for the amount of coupons you use, instigate more than one of them. You could store everything by category, then by product or by expiration date.

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