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31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Finding a Coupon Organizational System Which Works for You

Missed the first posts in this series? Read them here.

Last week, I shared with you how I organize my coupons. My system has worked well for me for over 10 years. I’ve tried other systems and they never quite work as well so I always end up going back to the Coupon Box method of organization.

3 Tips for Choosing an Organizational System for Your Coupons

1) Start Small

If you’re new to couponing, don’t feel like you have to go get yourself some big honkin’ box or binder in order to use coupons correctly. It’s really perfectly okay to start out with a little index box or something like The Couponizer.

Get accustomed to something small. When you feel really comfortable with that and you want to move up, then it’s time to consider a box or a binder. But don’t overkill from the get-go and then burn yourself out. You can save plenty of money with a small coupon organizer, too.

2) Keep it Simple

The goal is to save money with coupons, not create some elaborate system. Don’t get hung up in all the details. Keep it simple — especially at first.

3) Do What Works for You

What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. I strongly encourage you to experiment with a few different methods and find what works best for you. And then stick with it, so long as it is working well for you!

::Coupon Organizational Methods::

photo from Coupon Magic Organizer

::The Binder Method::

This method of coupon organization is probably the most popular. There are many different ways to create a Coupon Binder, but they all usually involve a 3-ring zippered binder with baseball card holders. You file your coupons in the plastic sleeves of the baseball card holders.

Pinching Your Pennies has an excellent video here on How To Create a Coupon Binder. And Penny Pinching Diva has a great article on The Anatomy of a Coupon Binder which explains how to set up your own Coupon Binder.

Pros — You can easily see all coupons you have at a glance making it simple to locate coupons. Unlike the Coupon Box method, if you drop the Coupon Binder, you don’t have to worry about coupons scattering everywhere!

Cons — When I tried this method, I found it tedious to put all the coupons in the sleeves. If they didn’t fit, you’d have to fold them and stuff them in. It took quite a bit of time and effort compared to my Coupon Box method.

See more Pros and Cons on the Coupon Binder from Utah Deal Diva.

Pre-Made Coupon Binders

Don’t have the time to put together your own Coupon Binder? You can buy them already made up for you from Prospering Families or from Coupon Magic Organizer.

Want something more stylish than a plain old 3-ring binder? Order a Coupon Clutch!

::The Whole Insert Method::

This method of coupon organization is the least time-consuming. Instead of clipping coupons out, you file the inserts whole by date. See a video of how the Whole Insert Method works here.

Pros — It’s so simple and is perfect for a person who doesn’t have a lot of time to clip coupons. In addition, it’s easy to find your coupons when you’re planning your grocery shopping trip as you can search for coupon in our Coupon Database and then just pull the insert from the file and clip the coupon.

Cons — Since you don’t clip all your coupons, if you run into a great clearance or unadvertised deal, you won’t be able to search your coupons to see if you have some which you could use. This was the most frustrating aspect when I tried this method. I missed out on deal after deal because I didn’t have my whole Coupon Box with me and at my finger tips.

::The Coupon Box Method::

I shared how this method works for me here. You can watch a Video Tour of My Coupon Box to see how Carrie set her system up. Monica also has a great tutorial on her adorable coupon box.

Pros — You have every coupon at your finger tip. Plus, I found it much easier to file and find coupons than when using a Coupon Binder.

Cons — The box is a little bulky and might feel conspicuous to some of you to take into a store (doesn’t bother me, but I’m already weird!). In addition, if you drop the box, you may have Coupon Disorganization Disaster! 🙂 And finally, you have to keep up with cutting and filing coupons, otherwise the Coupon Box is not that beneficial.

Those are the three basic methods used by “super-couponers”. There are a thousand different variations on these methods and I encourage you to experiment and figure out what works for you!

I’m curious: If you clip coupons, do you clip all of them or just the ones you think you’ll use? I’ve actually been moving more towards what Carrie outlines here (a combination of the Coupon Box method and the Whole Insert method) in order to save time. So far, it seems to be working well!

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101 Comments

  • Angie says:

    I am actually giving away a cute coupon organizer the contest ends 5/16

  • Rae says:

    I didn’t read the article yet just had a horrible vision of what would happen if I used the coupon box method. My toddler sits in the front of the cart and drops my coupon holders all the time (so I have to shut them every time I put them down). I could just see him dropping the box and spilling my coupons everywhere and then me crying like a baby in the middle of the store. LOL not for me but maybe when I no longer have a cart rider it would work.

    • Jennifer says:

      @Rae,

      I’ve actually had that happen. I now have an infant and a toddler so I get the “CDL required Semi-cart” every time I go to the store. My coupon box rides in the cart with the groceries.

      • Andrea says:

        @Jennifer,

        I have the same exact type as Crystal (although, mine’s been around since I was 18…hehe!). It sits up front in the seat, and the 32 month old is strapped in up front in the car cart, with water and raisins, the baby is in the carseat, and the coupon box is next to her. So far, it works.

        Thank God for those car carts. Really, I PTL every day for them. 🙂

        • Rae says:

          @Andrea, You ladies are more woman than me lol. My older one used to beg to ride in those every time we went to the store but I’m just not strong enough to push them (well turning/steering was the worst) for more than about 5 minutes. Now he doesn’t even ask except for the rare occasion that daddy comes (yes daddy is thrilled haha!)

        • Andrea says:

          @Andrea,

          Haha, Rae! I’m only 5 feet tall, and 110 pounds. If I can do it, surely, others who are considered average height can do it. 😉

          And for the record, I love my husband, but I love him more when he stays home from the grocery store. 🙂

        • Rae says:

          @Andrea, Andrea I hope you didn’t think I mean size wise, I wasn’t implying that you must be bigger than me. I just meant strength and/or heart lol

  • Kara says:

    I started with the small accordian files, until I grew out of those, and then purchased a pre-made coupon binder from my local CouponSense instructor. I love it! I would try to spend about an hour a Sunday to clip my new coupons and organize my binder. The only bad part was if I got behind – which I’ve done a few times – it’s overwhelming to think of the PILE of inserts I needed to cut… So in that case I just file them by date and then try to pick up with the latest inserts. So in essence I use both methods! 🙂

  • Joy says:

    I use the binder method, but I don’t use baseball card sleeves! Instead, I used 3×5 photo pages. This method would be very similar to the Coupon Box method, but instead of filing in envelopes or behind a tab, you file them in the pockets. The pockets are large enough that you don’t have to fold coupons to make them fit like you do w/ the baseball card sleeves.

  • Jessica @ This Blessed Life says:

    I clip the coupons I know I will use, but I always save the entire insert. I mark the top with the date and put it into a folder. I keep a separate folder for each month, and I keep the past 6 months’ worth of coupons. It makes it really easy when I read about an upcoming store deal to go right to the week’s SmartSource or RedPlum to search for a coupon that will get me a great deal!

    (I use the flexible coupon holders – one contains all of my food items; the other contains all of my health/beauty/drugstore items. They are small enough to shove right in my purse.)

    • Jessica @ This Blessed Life says:

      @Jessica @ This Blessed Life, *by flexible I mean “accordion-style.” 🙂

    • Jenny @ thriftyjenny.com says:

      @Jessica @ This Blessed Life, This “combo method” is exactly what I do too! I clip all the coupons for products that I buy regularly or that I think will want to buy because it will be a good deal and I file it in a small expandable file folder that was meant to file checks. (I use that rather than the ones meant for coupons because it has more tabs and I can make my own category). I also keep any coupons that come in the mail, and any peelies or blinkies or otherwise “loose” coupons in there. This is what I bring with me to stores in addition to the coupons I have already pulled for my shopping trip. It fits perfectly in my purse too!

      I have a daytimer that I use as my organizer, wallet calendar ect. It also has little pockets in it and I have one for each store, that is where I keep my “store cash” like catalinas, ECBs or RRs.

      I also file all of my inserts by date in a large expandable file and I have settled on six months as a good about of time to keep them! This is especially useful for deals on products I that I would not normally buy but might turn out to be a money maker because they are free after ECB or RR! And it saves me time because I do not have to clip everything.

    • Marlene says:

      @Jessica @ This Blessed Life,

      This is such a great idea. I haul my big ol’ coupon box around but the expandable check file folder is totally genius. Just as good but more convenient!! I think you just revolutionized my couponing – thanks!!!

  • Anne Marie @ Married to the Empire says:

    I only clip the coupons I think I’ll use. I have no need of savings on diapers or cheap pet food or things we don’t eat or whatever.

    My filing system is pretty primitive. I have 5 envelopes that I’ve taped together. One is for cold item coupons, one is for dry/canned goods, one is for health and beauty, one is for cleaning, and one is for store-specific coupons. It fits easily in my purse, which is the only way I can be assured that I’ll have coupons with me. I’ve tried something bigger before that didn’t fit in my purse, and usually I forgot to bring it with me. A system is no good if I can’t remember to bring it.

  • Amber says:

    I use 2 large accordian style folders, one for food and one for everything not food. In each section I have envelopes breaking them down significantly so that I can easily find a coupon if I find good deals at the store that I didn’t know about before. I have colored reusable envelopes for each store that I put coupons in as a come across deals to be made before making my store run. Then when I get to the store, I pull out the one envelope to shop from. I have my files in my messenger style bag if I find I need something I wasn’t expecting. Right now I cut anything that I think that I would get if it was less than $0.50- so in general I cut most coupons 🙂

  • Ashlee says:

    I do something similar to the above person. I clip the coupons I know I use on a monthly basis and ones that I would be really upset if I missed out on a great clearance deal. I have two accordion file folders (one for health and beauty and one for everything else). I always have those coupons with me.

    Everything else I save in the insert method. I have a small folder organizer that has 7 pockets. The last three weeks get their own individual pockets, then I start grouping them by month. It works well for me. Saves me time. I get disappointed if I don’t have the perfect coupon to pair with clearance finds, but most of the time those aren’t essential items anyway, so not much of a loss. With an infant, I really cannot carry a whole box with me to every store.

  • Ashley says:

    I love that coupon clutch but it is so pricey! I went to go purchase it and changed my mind when I saw it was $30 and then an additional $10 for shipping and handling. I love to be fashionable and this would be perfect but I’m not quite there with paying that much just to make a fashion statement when carrying my coupons. Maybe I’ll put in on my birthday wish list…..

    • Joy says:

      @Ashley, If you sew, check out the pattern they have for sale! Only $7.95! I bought one as a gift for my friend for her birthday and then she turned around and bought the pattern and made one for me! I LOVE it!!!!

      • Laura D says:

        @Joy, I really liked the coupon clutch as well. Thanks for the idea of making one yourself at a much cheaper price! I may have to put that on my birthday wish list! How easy is it to wash?

        • Joy says:

          @Laura D, Well, I haven’t washed mine yet as my friend just made it about two weeks ago. I suppose you could wash it quite easily as long as you pre-shrunk your fabric. The pattern does have batting in it, so the potential to “clump” is there. I suggest picking out material that would hide dirt easily if you end up making one. btw, I have had my regular coupon binder (it is a zip-up canvas like material) for nearly 2 years and washing it has never been an issue. HTH

        • Laura D says:

          @Joy, The outside of my binder is looking quite dirty after carting it around for a year. So I’m curious how you washed yours.

  • Christine says:

    I also use a combination of methods. I’ve found that i’m much more organized if I ONLY clip the coupons I am sure I will use. I write the date really big on front of the inserts with a sharpie, then file them away. When you guys come up with a great deal, I can just pull that insert out and find the coupon. I keep the coupons I will use in the envelopes with labels similar to the coupon box, but they are in a very stiff-sided purse that my sister gave me (made from weaved juice box labels.) That way, I can drop my wallet, phone and keys in my super secret coupon bag!

  • Cyndee Wanyonyi says:

    A lot of coupon websites now have “coupon insert lists” – which is PERFECT for the file system (only inserts). You have an ongoing list of all coupons from the inserts. You can look up an item on this list without having to clip coupons 24/7. If your local coupon website does not have an ongoing list, recruit 4-6 friends and each of you take turns doing the lists.

    I run a successful business from home and this was the perfect way for me to save money while grocery shopping without taking a big chunk of business time.

  • Erin says:

    I’m actually somewhere in between. I clip coupons for products that I need or will soon need, products that I regularly use, high-value coupons for products I’d like to try, and coupons that I know regularly result in freebies. Then I file the insert by date and refer back to it when a good deal pops up.

    I use two accordion-style coupon holders. The bigger, ridiculously overflowing one is divided by product type. The smaller, wallet-sized one is divided by store. This is where I keep store-specific Catalinas, ECBs, store coupons, as well as manufacturer coupons that I know I will use at a specific store (e.g., .50 off Tabasco, Suave deodorant, or McCormick spices go in the Kroger section, since these regularly go on sale for $1 and will be free after coupon).

    I don’t consider myself a super couponer by any means, but I really don’t feel that I’m missing any deals by not clipping all my coupons.

    • Sherri says:

      @Erin, I do the exact same thing as you. I’ve used a binder before, but found myself without it for unplanned stops at the store. My little coupon files fit in my purse (with my grocery envelope right inside), so I always have what I need. The rest of the inserts get stashed in a cabinet.

  • Haila says:

    I do the whole insert method – saves time clipping, and makes it really easy to find coupons using the online database.

    Do I miss out on deals? Yes, I do. But that’s OK, because I think I get enough of them. (And if it really is a super fantastic deal, I’ll make another trip!) I think limiting myself to not chasing every deal is a good thing, actually. 🙂

    • Misty says:

      @Haila, I totally agree! With you and Erin actually. I do the same thing Erin does (“I clip coupons for products that I need or will soon need, products that I regularly use, high-value coupons for products I’d like to try, and coupons that I know regularly result in freebies.”), but on a slightly smaller level. I just have one accordion folder. For the most part, I don’t even spend time looking for deals I might be “missing” at the store. I’m in and out….only buying what is on my list / what I’d planned to buy. I think it is important to place limits on ourselves when shopping this way: not bringing every coupon to the store with me is my way of doing that. I really don’t feel like I miss out either, I’m still only spending about $50 a week for our family of 5 (with 3 in diapers). I’d rather spend a little extra time planning at home than trying to figure out a deal right there in the store.

      • Amber says:

        @Misty, I’m with you and Haila.

        I have a small accordion file for coupons that don’t come from an insert such as printables, home mailers, and the stuff I clip from All You.

        Since I’ve gotten a smart phone, I’ve thought that I could check the coupon database via my phone and then clip in the store, but the reality is that I haven’t done it. I’m usually at the store with a 6 year old and a 3 year old so taking the time to stand there and search for coupons and clip them is not really an option!

        I think it comes down to be satisfied with the ratio of money saved to the time and effort I’m able to put into it. Missing those unadvertised or clearance deals is my compromise.

    • Shelly says:

      @Haila, Yup, same here! I tried the box filing thing – made cute little separators and everything! – and then promptly forgot about anything that I’d filed. I’m not in stores enough that I see/miss a lot of clearance deals. I mostly shop the sales and have everything planned out. I file my inserts by month and type (i.e. RedPlum, SmartSource). For internet printables, I clip them and keep them loose in a plastic shoebox. It may not be the best system for tracking down every deal, but it works perfectly for me!

  • karen says:

    I clip most coupons (just what I think I will actually use or items that I’m sure I can get for free with a sale) and put them in a photo album–the kind that holds two 4×6, about 10″ square. I’ve found cute albums in Target clearance for $3 or less. The album falls apart in 8 to 10 months so I’m forced to organize and purge.

  • mrs spock says:

    I use three 12-month binders a small coupon carrier I bring to the store. I use the binders for Smartsource, Redplum, and in the third binder, I organize internet printed coupon by the month they expire. I do keep my son’s almond milk coupons separate in my store carrier, as I use them frequently.

  • Nony (A Slob Comes Clean) says:

    I am also leaning toward a combination whole insert/coupon box method, because I’m finding that lately I’ve fallen behind on clipping. I generally attempt to clip and file every coupon, because it never fails that if I don’t clip something, it’s a moneymaker soon.

    I use the coupon box, which works sooooo much better for me than the binder, for the same reasons that you mentioned. The difference with my coupon box is that I file alphabetically, by brand name. It’s so much easier because the filing process is brain-work free, as I don’t have to think at all about what category something fits into. Also, since I pretty much just shop sales, I’m looking for specific brands that are on sale. For example, I rarely say “I need bacon.” Instead, I buy bacon when a specific brand is on sale, and then I go to the first letter of that brand to see if I have a coupon.

  • Tara says:

    When I am on top of my game (which is rare) I clip them all and use a binder. Before I had kids I bought this binder as part of my sales job and was so thrilled to find that I could repurpose it to use for my coupons. It was a nice leather zip-up binder that I hated to have sitting in my closet collecting dust. It was perfect for my coupons! I only had to buy trading card sleeves and I was in business! I tried only clipping what I needed for a while, but decided that I spend way too much time trying to find certain coupons. I never could remember what was in each circular.

  • Kayla Wiseman says:

    I cut out what I know I will use and file the whole insert by week at home. I use a 3″ coupon and love it!!!

    I also wanted to comment on a quick way to cut out coupons from multiple inserts. I get 4 sets of inserts a week. When I get ready to cut them out I lay them all out and open them to the first page. I then stack like pages together and staple through the picture on the coupon. Then I cut out the coupons. I only have to cut once instead of cutting 4 times. It saves me a lot of time and makes my binder a lot neater.

  • Toni :O) says:

    I clip only coupons I will most likely if not for sure use. Also, I use a recipe box and I ALWAYS put a rubberband around when I close it so in case it falls to the ground, it will stay intact and closed. I’m VERY careful when I have it open in my cart…cause you’re right, it drops and it’s a hot mess!

  • Amber Pena says:

    I also use a combination method. I have a huge coupon bunder, but found that each month I was tossing a lot of the coupons I clipped. So, now, I clip and sort the coupons that I will likely use (which is a lot of them). The dividers I have in my coupon binder have pockets on both sides. I place the insert sheets that have coupons I’m not likely to use in those pockets. That way, they are still sorted by catergory and I still have them with me at the store. But, I don’t waste time clipping and putting them into the baseball card holders.

  • Sara Conley says:

    Hi! I use a form of the box method. However, I keep the actual coupons in organized envelopes within the box, so if I drop the box, it’s not SUCH a disaster! 🙂 I just clip for specific brands we use. For products we use, that I don’t care about the brand, I clip any brands for those products. I don’t clip for anything else. Even if I could score it for a great deal (or free), I don’t have the time to figure that out. I just put my time into watching for deals on things we use.

  • Mommy Kennedy says:

    I use December212012’s coupon box method (Thanks Crystal) because I out grew all the other ways I was trying to organize.

    It did feel a little odd at first lugging a box into the store; however, I just kept telling myself that I would rather save the money than not! I’ve gotten used to it and don’t think twice now.

    The other down side to it is that it does take up a lot of space in my cart, leaving less space for all the groceries!

    However, clipping and organizing coupons is more my style than the “insert” method. Plus, I like to donate my unused and expired ones at the end of the month anyway so I would have clipped them just the same.

  • Kirsten says:

    I too use a hybrid of clipping and whole inserts. I find that at the grocery store, I am almost always following a list of deals I have planned out ahead of time, so I only clip most grocery coupons right before I plan to use them. However, for food items I do clip cereal coupons (because it is often hard to know what cereal will be in stock when my store has a big cereal sale), coupons for items that might be free-after-doubling even if the item is not on sale, and other high-value coupons that might make for nice “filler” items in a double coupon order.

    I have found, though, that for household, paper products, baby items, etc I would often miss deals because I would run to Target to buy an item I was running out of, and I wouldn’t always have a chance to check which brand was on sale. So I try and keep up with clipping any of those type of coupons that are for types of items my family can use.

    Everything I clip goes into a small “check organizer” type of accordion file, and all the inserts go into a massive accordion file.

  • Laura says:

    I do a combo of both. I clip the ones from my local paper I know I will use or coupons that I know usually have a sale attached and file those in my coupon binder. I also order inserts and when those come in, I place the inserts into a white mailing enevelope (8.5×11). On the outside, I print out a list of every coupon in alphabetical order (from where I get the inserts from) and tape it to the front of the envelope. If there is a smokin’ hot deal, I can quickly scan the outside of my enevelopes and grab those coupons. THe list has the coupon, for how much its worth and the exp date. It’s a great system. Con is that a unadvertised deal means I have to hurry up and turn around to go back home and grab the coupons 🙂

  • Chiara Ko says:

    I started with small accordion file too and continued with it. I got mine at Office Depot for about $5 and 2 years later, it’s still going strong despite almost daily use 🙂

    I clip all coupons but sort them by need. The ones I know for sure I won’t use goes in an envelope to be mailed to Army families. Then, twice a month I check the expiration dates on the coupons and take the expired ones out, and they also get mailed to Army families (most commissaries accept expire coupons). This way, my coupon pile is relatively controllable and I have them all with me in case I see a great unadvertised deal at the store 🙂 Plus, the file fits in my bag!

  • Hattie says:

    I use the coupon box system, and I clip almost every coupon. I only file coupons for products that I know we could use. Any products that I know we won’t use (ie, cat food coupons, since we have a dog; formula coupons, since I breastfeed; etc) I give to friends who I know can use them. For example, a friend of mine is a fellow couponer and has two cats. She also supplements with formula for her baby. So, I give her my cat food and formula coupons, and she gives me her diaper coupons, since she uses cloth diapers for her baby, and her dog food coupons. It’s a nice set-up!

    I also have dividers in my coupon box for each grocery store that I shop at–I can keep store coupons in these dividers, and after I make my list each week, I drop all of the coupons that I know I will be using at that particular store into its divider for quick access. I also have a divider for department store coupons such as “take 20% off your entire order at Kohl’s” etc. And lastly, I have a A-M and N-Z divider for restaurant coupons. I never leave the house without my coupon box, so it’s nice to never forget a restaurant coupon on the fridge or counter anymore because those coupons are always in my box, with me!

    And all of that fits in a Rubbermaid box about 6x8x6 inches, without crowding!:)

  • Teresa says:

    I am using the box method however I didn’t think of the using the envelopes just the index cards. Thank you for showing me how to improve my partial success. Now for those of you worried about dropping them. I have found that if you use the size box that Crystal does (and I do too), it fit perfectly in the reusable bags that Walgreens sells (on sale a lot for 3/$1). Easier to carry and because you can keep the top on the box – no coupon disaster.

    I do pull my coupons before I go into the stores and bring the box in case of unadvertised specials or as I am wont to do.. . .whim shopping.

  • MaryEllen says:

    I use the whole insert method, and carry a phone everywhere! My poor mom gets all the calls from me asking her to look up a coupon in the database! This method is perfect for me, though. I don’t have to clip, and I don’t miss out on unadvertised deals either! Not sure how crazy my mom is about this method, but she cooperates with me. 🙂

  • Alexis says:

    My mom was a coupon cutter & I never really appreciated it until I had to start budgeting for groceries. I haven’t started couponing yet either because I mainly shop at Walmart – thats the closest biggest thing to where I live, but I would be compelled to start if something new opened up close that did coupons…and I wouldn’t do a coupon box =)

    • Jennifer says:

      @Alexis,

      Wal-Mart does accept coupons.

      • Sharon says:

        @Jennifer,

        The Walmarts near me have gotten so nasty about accepting coupons that I no longer shop at Walmart. Which is a shame since there is one two blocks from where I work. They treat me like I’m a thief, refuse to accept 90% of my coupons (and they aren’t even internet ones) and then laugh as I walk away. Never again.

      • Rae says:

        @Jennifer,
        Yes Walmart definitely does coupons. I don’t go there often since I usually do better buying the loss leader meat/produce at the grocery chain and with double coupons w/ sales at Kroger. But every few months I do a big trip at Walmart getting a lot for free or super cheap 🙂

  • Amy @ Gospel Homemaking says:

    I use a combo-coupon-clipping method. When I get my inserts, I write the date on the front (this is important, especially if I don’t have time to clip them yet). Next, I cut out the coupons for items that I often find on sale (like yogurt or cereal) and for items that I regularly need to buy even when the sales aren’t great (like milk or toilet paper). These get filed in my coupon binder. Since I’ve clipped the coupons for the products I purchase most, I’m ready if I come across an unexpected sale or suddenly remember that I need plastic wrap when I’m standing in the grocery store.

    The rest of the insert gets placed in page protectors, one for each week, in a separate binder. Then, when I read on Moneysavingmom about a good deal, I can go right to the flyer to cut out the coupon. About once a month I sort my clipped coupons and toss any outdated inserts from the front of the notebook. For me, it’s the best of both worlds!

  • Ericka Lewis says:

    I use the box method similar to the one pictured, but a bit less specific. I don’t have envelopes, just cards separating them right now. I then pick out all the coupons for the specific stores I’m going to and use an envelope for each store. Usually I don’t bring the box with me (sometimes it’s in the car, but not usually). If there’s something that amazing I missed, usually at Kroger, I can always go back another time in the week as I’m passing which is nearly every day. I tried the binder method with baseball card sleeves and it just didn’t work for me–I hated having to stuff all the coupons in. I clip most things and diapers and pet stuff coupons I usually give to friends who I know will use them as I have no need of them myself.

  • Melissa says:

    I just clip what I think we’ll use, but I save the rest to send to a military base (because they can use expired coupons) – so I generally have them all at home, just not well organized, but if a great deal appears then I can go back & look through the old inserts.

  • Lisa says:

    I bought a big zipper binder that I put protection sheets in and in those I put my inserts. I first serparte all the insert pages then write the date on the top and paper clip them together. I do take the whole thing with me when I shop. Every week I go to sunday coupon preview select the week I need highligt the whole thing then print what I have selected and carry that around. This way if you see a great sale instead of having to go through all your coupons you only have to look at maybe 40 pages but it is alphatized and tells me what insert that coupon is in so I find it easily in my binder and then pull the coupon.

  • Deb H. in Wisconsin says:

    I use a coupon box (about the same size as Crystal’s). It is fun to have people gasp and/or do a double-take on the amount of coupons I have. The FAQ? “Where do you get all your coupons?” 🙂 Which q’s do I cut? Most of them. If it is a product I would never ever use or give as a present, I don’t cut it. If it is a product I might use, but I NEVER see it go on sale, I don’t cut it. If it is for a product my area does not carry, I don’t cut it. There aren’t many I don’t cut out. I give the pet product coupons to friends with pets and baby item coupons to friends with small children.

  • melissa says:

    Thanks for this article! I have only been couponing for 3 weeks (yes, since your article on why everyone should coupon) and am starting to see a need for some system! I really like the hybrid ideas of clipping most likely to use & saving inserts.

  • cheryl says:

    I too use both the clipping system (I use a diaper wipe box) and the filing system. I clip the coupons that I assume I’ll be using and then I file the inserts by date I also have separate files for Red Plum, Smart Source and P&G. For me this is the most time efficient way to coupon but I’m sure it’s not for everyone. By the way, I’ve couponed for 20 years and got serious about it two years ago. I never realized those inserts might come in handy two months down the road. I just clipped what I saw on sale, saved a few choice coupons and I tossed the rest! Now it is a challenge to me to see how much money I can save my family with savvy shopping.

  • Sharon says:

    I use the box method. I purchased a photo storage box from Hobby Lobby when they had them on sale for $.99 – wild animal print :). Then I went to Office Max and got 2 of their plastic coupon/check organizers with the fold-over flap (used a coupon AND MaxPerks rewards to get these free). I cut the flaps off and they fit down in the photo box perfectly. I use 2 of the big rubber bands that come on the newspaper to hold the lid on tight. With the plastic dividers being so tall, the coupons never spill out of the dividers, even when it gets turned upside-down! I used to use a rubbermaid box with a lid that snapped on, but the lid always popped off easily and I would have a mess.

  • Jenn says:

    I made a coupon binder by cutting down some baseball card inserts and using a small binder (I thinks it 8in x 6in) and the inserts are 2 x 2 per page. It fits in a big purse which is handy because I like to bring it in every store! I use a photo page insert in the front for each store to store the coupons I plan on using at that store. I do clip and file what I think I will use and store the inserts in a large zipper binder organized by date.

  • Jennifer says:

    I just outgrew my small file box (a recipe card holder) so I’ve been looking to find something better. I use a combo method with a coupon box and a file box to save whole inserts.

    I also keep my store fliers, store maps, rebate files (completed and to complete), and weekly meal plan in the file box.

  • Ellen says:

    This must be the ‘in’ topic to discuss recently. I just read on Sharpen Your Scissors about her coupon method. Up to this point, I’ve clipped everything & use a box AND binder. But I really hate the binder & prefer the box, but there are too many coupons to fit in the box (and I haven’t found a big enough box that also fits in the top of a shopping cart) so… I’m leaning towards clipping some (stuff we definitely use & I think we might use) & keeping whole inserts for the products that I might only use if paired with a great sale. Does that make sense? I tried it for the 1st time this week and I’ve already cut down on cutting & filing time. So far so good.

  • Lori @ Couponomic Stimulus Package says:

    I talked about this recently on my blog! I use a variation of the Insert System, but I’ve changed it to work for me so that it’s much more organized and easy to find coupons I’m looking for. I’d love it if you’d check it out. I linked directly to it in my name!

  • Lori @ Couponomic Stimulus Package says:

    I recently did a post on this too! Mine I call The Simple System. It’s a variation on the Insert System, only I’ve organized it much more so I can find what I’m looking for! I’d love it you’d check it out at: http://www.couponomicstimuluspackage.com/2010/04/simple-coupon-system-in-5-easy-steps.html

  • Lynn says:

    I outgrew my accordion file and switched to the binder method but use photo pages with 4×6 inserts rather than the baseball card pages. I very seldom have to fold a coupon. I cut out the coupons I think I might use and then save the rest of the inserts so I can go back and cut them out if I find a good deal on a blog.

  • Amanda says:

    I use a coupon box method but I use a baby wipe box. It’s a little smaller, so I can put it in my diaper bag (my diaper bag is big). It also has a hinged lid so when I have dropped it, the lid shut and *most* of the coupons stayed in the box.

    A baby wipe box is an easy way to start. It’s cheap and easy to come by. If it doesn’t work for you, no big loss!

  • Allison says:

    My box is smaller than Crystal’s, and I just carry it into the store with my reusable bags. If I have the kids with me, it has to go into the cart, or even underneath! Since I have a good stockpile my shopping trips are smaller these days, so it can usually stay in the basket. I hate the car carts because they are so hard to steer, so I just use a regular cart. The best scenario is just leaving the kids at home!

    I tried saving the inserts, but they all expired with me never touching them. I clip anything I might use and put it in the box. I know what I have, so it’s easier. I usually bring the whole box with me, but I have the coupons sorted by store from my “master list.”

  • Beth says:

    I too am a whole-insert girl. 🙂 I used to clip each and every coupon and file it in my little self-made coupon box, but ever since baby #3 arrived I find it difficult to keep up with all of the clipping! I found myself just tossing all of the coupons from the paper into a big basket in the bottom shelf of my pantry … and that was pure madness. An hour of searching for a particular coupon (because i KNEW I’d seen it in there somewhere!) got old really fast, so now I file the whole inserts, with the date marked on the front, in my portable file cabinet. Love it. I have a redplum, smartsource, p&g, printables, and store coupon file folder. I also have a file for the current store weekly adds. I find it so much easier to just look up my store’s current deals, and then go directly to the insert and cut coupons as needed.
    Yes – I, too, have missed out on deals because of my new couponing organization method, but find that it doesn’t bother me in the least. If the deal is really THAT good, I’ll make another special trip out for it…. and if it’s not, no big deal. I’m still saving a ton of money and also saving precious time to work on other things and spend time with my babies.

  • Crystal says:

    I use the whole insert method. It is by far the easiest/best for me. Each week, I print out the coupon list from the coupon preview. I format it to fit on the front of one 8.5 x 11″ sheet of paper. I then go through my insert and highlight every coupon that I got, and black out every one I didn’t get (since I ethically don’t purchase coupons). I file the inserts by date, with this little cheat sheet at the front, so I can easily find coupons either by using match-ups created by others, coupon databases, or if I find an unexpected sale or clearance I can go through all my cheat-sheets, which are listed alphabetically and quickly see if I have a coupon for something.

    For me, this was faster, and way more convenient when it comes to finding coupons I need. I tried the binder method first and for me it just took way too much time to cut, sort, and then search for the coupons I needed. Since most couponing blogs list coupons by insert, it was so much easier for me to have mine filed that way.

  • Sara Childs says:

    I have a coupon binder and an accordian file folder for inserts. I only clip coupons I think I’m going to use, and file the rest. That way, if someone I know buys a certain item, I can cut it out later, or if there is a great deal on an item I don’t normally use, I can find it in the file. Also, if I’m pressed for time, I can simply file the Sunday inserts and work on them later.

  • Jan says:

    Years ago I tried couponing and couldn’t get into it using a box. I tried again beginning a couple of years ago after finding this wonderful web site. I decided to try the binder method this time and it works wonderfully for me. I ripped the inserts so that I have three long ones across on each page and my coupons fit! The down side is once I was in a CVS parking lot in Buda, Texas and tripped. My coupons went flying all over and it took my husband and myself fifteen minutes running frantically to pick them up. I apologized to the CVS employees and they were very nice.

    • Kelly says:

      @Jan,

      I too use the binder method. The solution to the spilling coupons is to use a ZIPPERED binder. I love that I can throw my coupons around without having to worry about spilling them.

  • Brandy says:

    Just a thought: I’ve tried all 3 ways and here is one thing I noticed about the binder/box methods. When I did the box method I spent extra time going through the envelopes to pull out the coupons I needed or finding expired coupons. When I did the binder I spent the extra time to fold and put into a baseball card holder. These are really the only differences between the two. Both have that extra time…you just have to figure out which one you’d rather do. And for those that use the whole insert method: One thing I found that I did not like was that if I was looking for a coupon, I’d have to search through all 3 copies of the insert to clip all 3 coupons. So I started separating the inserts and stapling like pages together. Then when I needed that coupon I could clip all 3 at once. However, I’m back to the binder method now. Although, it’s definitely my version and not like any others I’ve read about or seen.

    • Brandy says:

      Oh and I only clip what I know I will use. I don’t care if I miss a deal or a moneymaker. I get what I need and that’s it. I realized after the first month of couponing that I was doing a lot of the deals for the thrill of it (kind of like a high) (especially moneymakers) and getting quite greedy or put off if I wasn’t able to get a deal. And the time I was taking away from other responsibilities was terrible (it does take time to try to get every deal and it takes space to keep all of the stuff in) . I felt like my children were living in the stores for that month because I was trying to do too much. Thankfully, I got a hold of myself, took a good long look in the mirror, and was able to reel myself in. It was very freeing!!!

  • jan says:

    I don’t clip- I keep the whole inserts- since I often have more than one copy of each insert it’s way too time consuming to clip. Also once you clip you have no idea what insert that coupon came from. It’s much easier to keep whole inserts in a folder and write the date on the front of each one. Each week on Thursday night I plan my grocery shopping list and pull all the coupons I will need. I only shop from my list. I have never seen any unadvertised deals in the store so I never need all my coupons.

  • Jessica says:

    For the most part, I only clip the coupons when I am going to use them (right before my grocery trip, or even in the store sometimes!). However, I don’t use the whole insert method. I go through the inserts and clip what I think I might end up using, then ditch the rest. I print off the internet coupons I think I might use, but I don’t clip them right away. All my coupons are just in a manila folder, which I keep in my coupon bag (which holds my reusable bags, calculator, scissors, etc). You can see more here:
    http://momforhim.blogspot.com/2010/02/coupon-disorganization.html

  • Erica says:

    I use four small accordian files- one for groceries, one for cleaning supplies and household items, one for health and beauty items and one for store specific coupons. It works great for me because depending what kind of store I am goin to I can leave one or more of the files in the car they fit in my purse so I don’t have to lug a binder along with my 2 kids.

  • MJ says:

    I’ve experimented with a variety of different coupon organization tools and methods. I’ve finally settled on what works best for me. I have a coupon box, (I found this really pretty “scrapbooking” carryall that fits my coupons perfectly, closes up securely and has pockets for scissors and such – it was clearanced down to just a few dollars) I also have one of the traditional 13 pocket small organizers. I keep all my coupons in the coupon box – but I don’t carry my coupon box everytime. My small 13 pocket one – I used the tabs to create a different tab for different stores that I frequent and a couple of pouches for “free” items or “look for trial size” coupons, which I might use in any store. When I plan my shopping trip, I will usually pull coupons from the big coupon box and transfer them to the smaller one that can go in my purse – it’s basically the same thing as carrying an individual envelope, but it’s a little more durable. When I have more time for shopping, I carry the full coupon box in, so I can look for clearances and unadvertised deals.

    Whether or not I clip just what I need or the whole insert usually depends on how hectic things are. When I get coupons – I flip through them and clip the ones that I know I really want to use. If I have time, I’ll go ahead and clip most of the coupons, but if I don’t have time, I just tuck those inserts in the bottom of my coupon box. That way, I can either go back to them at a later time or pull the insert if someone mentions a good deal… and sometimes, when life is really hectic, I forgo extra clipping and just clip what I know I’ll use – then pass on the rest. I’ve found that flexibility is key… otherwise, I just get frustrated and chuck the whole process.

  • Teresa says:

    I saw your video on coupon organization.. I have a clear vinyl cosmetic bag with a handle that I have organized my coupons into. It is deep enough, wide enough and long enough to hold all mine. My printable c oupons also fit without folding. I got my bag at Rite Aid Drugstore. It is perfect. fits in the cart perfectly, facing me. I do use a binder clip to hold the zippered lid open. I also discovered that if I bring along an envelope and another binder clip that I could clip it to the cart and put the coupons that I will use in the checkout in it. NO MORE dropped coupons throughout the store!!!!!

  • DOROTHY FISHER says:

    IF THE COMOANY WHO MAKES THE COUPON CLUTCH COULD RUNA SPECIAL I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE ONE OF THOSE. CUTTING COUPONS FOR EVERYTHING ELSE, THEN SPENDING $30 ON THE HOLDER DOESNT SEEM RIGHT. THEY LOOK NICE AND FUNCTIONABLE THOUGH.

  • Courtney Holcomb says:

    I really like how I do it.

    I have four 4×6 accordion organizers. Three have seven pockets and I labeled them what I wanted, one is labeled by STORE. My fourth organizer is the same, it’s from the dollar store and has a lot of prelabeled pockets. I so I have approx two dozen catagories and seven stores to file coupons under. They go in “store” when I plan my week’s outings.

    Four accordion files fit nicely in my purse and I’m organized, know I won’t miss a deal, I won’t loose my coupons, and my kids won’t sabotage it!

  • Jennifer @ Saving and Giving says:

    I used to keep my coupons in a small scrapbook, organized by category. But it did get to be tedious to flip through all of my cereal coupons in search of that one Rice Krispies coupon.

    I’ve now opted for the binder/baseball card sleeves. I wasn’t sure I would like it, because I’m a little OCD about folding my coupons. 🙂 But now I fold like a pro, and it is SO much easier to find coupons when I’m in the store. I carry my binder up on its end like a file, and just flip through it to find exactly what I’m looking for. It’s saved me time, frustration, and money!

    Here’s a picture of my (oh-so-hot-pink) binder: http://www.savingandgiving.net/works-for-me-wednesday/my-new-coupon-binder/

  • Courtney says:

    Here is my own testimony called “The Disorganized Person’s Guide to Coupon Organization” http://centsablelady.com/?p=748

  • Aimee says:

    I used to save the inserts and file them away according to date (filed by Red Plum,etc…and then date), but I ended up missing out on so many deals so I quit doing that method and went back to my old method. I cut all of the coupons and it does take forever (especially when I get behind) and I file according to date and category. I file in a large accordian file. I have a category for food, restaurants, pets, heath/beauty, household and retail. I also have a small accordian file that I put all coupons that will expire that month (eg. I put all May’s in the file). I put all later date coupons in the bigger accordian file. If I see a deal, I usually go through my coupons to find it. If I see a store coupon, competitor coupon and manufacture coupon, I staple them together when filing. If I have more than one of a coupon (which I usually do b/c I always buy 2 papers each Sunday), I staple them together. I know my method sounds crazy, but it mostly works for me. I just need to get it to where it’s not quite so time consuming!

  • Aubrie Williams says:

    I combine the binder and whole insert method with the DuoBinder. It’s a binder on one side and a file folder on the other. It’s really cute too. I’m actually giving one away on my blog. It ends tomorrow so there’s still time to enter.

    http://www.thebuzz4moms.com/2010/04/duo-binder-review-and-giveaway-ends-may.html

    This method works great for me. And I use photo album pages instead of baseball cards. The sleeves are bigger and not as big of a pain to file.

  • Lee Anne says:

    I only clip the ones that I think I will use, but I love the idea of keeping the inserts. There were a couple of times in the last few months that I had thrown them out and then a “smokin’ hot deal” showed up and I missed out. 🙁 I recently went to the coupon box method and I love it. Lots of room and a lot more organization than my original, throw everything in a ziploc bag and then search through it right before shopping technique.

  • Kelly says:

    I have found that the coupon box works for me. The coupons are sorted by brand name. I know that seems very detailed and was it kinda to start. It is so nice to go the grocery store and see something on sale and can go look for the coupons by brand name and know right then if I have a coupon or not.

  • Whitney says:

    I’ve been doing a combo of the whole insert method and coupon “box” method for over a year. I take each insert and glean it for coupons I already know are good or are for things likely to be on sale and also clip out all that are for perishables. Clipping the perishable coupons has been the key to this method for me. Yogurt, meat, juice, etc. If I’ve ever seen it on manager markdown then I’m likely to again and this way I have the coupon with me. Then I file all my coupons in a small coupon binder with about 10 sections that fits in my purse.

    Before I go to the store I check coupon matchups and go through my filed inserts by date and clip the ones I plan on using. Then I add these to the last section of my coupon binder in the order in which I will encounter the item in the store. If I run into that great deal I had a hunch about, I also have those coupons I clipped earlier.

    The other part of my system that gives me a little edge is that my mother mails me her coupons already clipped and I just file them. This way I have at least one copy of every coupon from the Sunday inserts with me. If I find a great deal but can’t find a coupon for it in my binder, I know that the coupon doesn’t exist and I don’t wrack my brain trying to remember if I have a copy of it at home. If she stopped sending me coupons this way then I would probably take the time to cut out one copy of each coupon from each insert and file them. If I do find a fantastic coupon to match with a deal, then I know I can go home and clip 6 or 7 more from the whole inserts I have filed at home.

  • Laura Walker says:

    Hi,
    I have used several methods, and I always come back to the binder method. I have a 3 inch binder with baseball card holder, and dividers. I LOOOOVE my method because I am a student and the binder method seems more comfortable for me. I strive for organization, and I like to keep printed lists of deals, (EX: the ones usually found on this website) On Saturdays I just come and print my CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens Deals. Or I jot it on a piece of paper. The binder method allows me to store everything , coupons, printed lists of deals, and even inserts that I haven’t clipped. Walmart has these awesome dividers that hold stuff on frnt and back. The colors are cool, since I’m a visual person, and then I also have Sub dividers. all bought at walmart, they are small round shaped, or round edge type dividers. My binder has a strap, so I feel that I can have it all in one place.

    I pull out the coupons I know I need or the trip, and carry my binder in the cart, just in case I see a deal, Or sometimes I leave it in my trunk , wherever I go. Yes , because You never know, i have restaurant coupons in there, even ones i use at the mall. Its safe, convenient, and to me I enjoy clipping them an organizing them, It doesn’t take too much time for me, since its an art for me , I feel.!

  • Randee C. says:

    I usually only clip coupons I know I will use and put them in a small photo album I found at a thrift store that fits easily in my purse. I’ve found this works best for me since I don’t have a lot of coupons yet, I can easily see and find the coupon I want to use, and I can keep it out of my 14 month old daughter’s little hands! : ) She loves to hold the circular and babble while we shop…I love my little helper.

  • Heidi says:

    I used the insert method for a while but then found I was constantly going back through the inserts over and over again looking for the coupons that went with the deals that I heard about.

    I now use the binder method. I just clip the coupons I know I will use and still save the inserts in case a freebie comes up. It’s a bit of a chore to clip and sort and put in the pockets but it’s my little mindless therapy on Sunday afternoons sometimes.

    I know the box method wouldn’t work for me because I would drop it and have coupons all over the place. Plus I would constantly be flipping through each category trying to find the coupons I was looking for. I think I would invariably miss some because the same kind wouldn’t be together.

    That’s just my .02. I love to hear how others handle all this too.

  • Amy says:

    I use the binder method, but buy the medium quality page protectors from Office Max and sew them myself. I put 6 slots per page, but I make half of them tall enough to hold the size of the internet printable coupons and then the other half will hold the smaller coupons. However after seeing the Coupon Magic Organizer I think I am also going to sew some 3 slot horizontal sheets as well. The system works great, but I just need to find the time to sew some more page….it is a little tedious!

  • Kimberly C says:

    Not sure (since I wasn’t able to go through all the comments) if anyone has seen Mrs. A’s Coupon Organizer. I have done some research and this will be the one I’ll be trying for my fledgling coupon collection. The website says the complete kit with their binder isn’t available but you can purchase the kit that goes inside your own binder (in small or large). Please check them out 🙂

  • Hannah says:

    I am just getting started couponing and am having great success so far (though not as good as those of you with experience!). I’m usually able to come out of the store having paid half or less than half of the total amount my groceries are worth. I’m trying to decide what method to use. I LOVE the box idea with all its super broken down, detailed categories. However, I also like to take my Price Book sheets (thanks Crystal and Joy!), my list, sometimes my menu with me to the store, so the binder sounds like a great way to keep it all together, even at home for planning. I was also thinking the inserts could be kept in the binder and a pair of sewing scissors brought along for those unexpected deals. Or do you all just tear the coupons out when you find something unexpected? On the other hand I don’t usually have much time in the store to browse for those deals; I usually just get what I came for and that’s it. So is the insert method worth it? Just musing here, I guess.

  • Katie says:

    I just made my own coupon binder for about $18.00 and love it! It really helps me keep my coupons and grocery lists/ inserts so organized. Makes it so much easier to shop to, especially when I have my 3 yr. old with me! 🙂 I buy two newspapers as well to get twice the coupons! 🙂

  • GFauci says:

    I cut every coupon I can get my hands on! I don’t have any babies anymore, but if you can get something for free – why not? I have friends with babies and grandchildren. I love being able to give them something that they can use! I do the same for pets. I only have one dog, but if cat food is free with a coupon, I pick it up and give it to my neighbor for her cat. Denture cleaner? Sure! I have all of my real teeth, but denture cleansing tablets are great for cleaning out vases, coffee pots, or any other glass containers with “hard to reach” bottoms. Mineral deposits – gone! Free = good, I don’t care what the product is!

    I also use the box method. It looks very similiar to the one in your picture. I use 3X5 index cards to separate the categories with stick-on labels at the top. I belong to “The Grocery Game”, so when I print my list each Tuesday, all I have to do is go through and pull out the coupons that I will use at the store. I transfer them into one envelope. I put a 3×5 index card behind the coupons inside the envelope. When I find the item and place it in my cart, I then move the coupon behind the index card so that it is separated from the “to be used”. By the time I reach the checkout counter, all of my coupons are behind the index card and stacked for the cashier. This keeps me from having to bring the entire box of coupons to the store and risking a catestrophic drop. And, if an item is sold out the coupon remains in front and ultimately gets filed back in the box in the same place I originally pulled it from.

    I tried the method of keeping the entire insert in a file and then only cutting the coupons on the day I shopped. The problem is that I would cut coupons when it was time to use them, but if the store was out of or did not have the item on the coupon, I would get back home and forget which date I cut it from. I ended up with a huge pile of “misc” dates to be checked every single time I made my list.

  • Erin says:

    I use a coupon folder – it’s not nearly as big as a box but it can still fit a lot! I don’t clip every coupon, that would take me forever. I’m on a schedule, so I clip coupons only for products we typically use or I think we would use. That way I have them when I need them and I’m not tempted to buy things I normally wouldn’t just because it’s a “good deal”.

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