Monday, November 30, 2009

Coupons: Getting Started

Did you know that only 1% of printed coupons actually get used? I didn't know this until I heard it on the Rachel Ray show about a couple of months ago. That number seems incredible to me! Are we missing out on some savings or what? Before I started using coupons several months ago I had no idea what savings were out there to be had. As I am learning more and more about the value of using coupons and being frugal I have wanted to pass this information on to my friends and others. That is why I am beginning a series on "Coupons: Getting Started". I would like to cover several areas and questions, beginning simple, keeping it basic and going from there. Some of the topics will include: organization, utilizing multiple copies of inserts, collecting as well as a couple of others. This week I will start with introducing filing systems for all those great coupons we will be using in the future!

Coupon Organization
I feel like the way that was easiest for me to begin to organize was to get a simple expandable coupon/receipt folder but you could start just as easily with just an envelope to begin with. I started out in 1 expandable coupon folder then I grew out of that one and expanded to 3 of them and I just transitioned to a 1 1/2in. zippered notebook folder. The advantage to the zippered notebook is I can keep my scissors, calculator, uncut coupons and coupons that need to be filed in one location. I have a feeling though I may need to go bigger soon because even this is beginning to bulge. Another way of organizing them is in a box, shoebox,recipe box, or somthing of this similar size. I have not tried this method though I know many others have. As your coupon collection grows so will your need for more storage, but just start off simple in the beginning.


One of my first expandable coupon folders


Current zippered 3 ring binder



3 Ring Binders
In using a 3 ring binder whether zippered or not use plastic dividers(paper tears to easily) to divide sections and baseball card holders are the best for holding the coupons within the dividers. My dividers have pockets in them which are helpful if you have a few coupons that are too large for the baseball holders. You can purchase the dividers, notebook and baseball cards at Wal-Mart. I purchased 2 packages of 8 dividers and 2 packages of baseball card holders.

This is a small zippered folder that I file the coupons that I am going to use during the week. They are filed by store, usually along with the list of what I am going to get there. Again you can personalize this, my sister just used dividers within her zippered binder to seperate them.

In the past I have tried several ways to divide the coupons, by date, category by item and name brand. The easiest by far has been to divide by category, I have found. There are many ways to categorize out there by items but here is an example of how I have done it.

-Free Items
-Produce
-Beverages
-Condiments/Sauces
-Packaged/Canned Goods
-Baking
-Cereal/Breakfast
-Snacks/Candy
-Dairy
-Meat
-Frozen
-Cosmetics
-Oral Care
-Personal Care
-Cleaning/Laundry
-Paper Goods
-Medicine
-Children
-Misc./Store Coupons/Restraunt

This is merely my method but do what works best for you, less or more. I was categorizing alphabetically when I had my expandable folders, but after being influenced by Hiptosave I decided to try this which is categorized by the grocery store both have worked well for me.

So how do you get started filling these folders? The simple and short of it is to start collecting your Sunday newspaper coupon inserts. You can buy the Sunday paper once a week or most newspapers have a subscription for Sunday papers only or it may be to your advantage to subscribe for the whole weekly subscription if the paper is running a promotion. Just see which is less out of pocket for you. Another thing you can do is just see if your neighbor, friend, or family members don't use their coupon inserts and they could give them to you. This is obviously the best deal because they are FREE! In my next post we can talk about the advantage of getting multiple coupon inserts for you, different ways to get more inserts and what they are. Before wrapping up I wanted to mention the internet printable coupons that are out there to use as well. The most common is Coupons.com but there are more and we can cover them in the next post. Most stores are now accepting internet printable coupons and they tend to be higher in value too! Feel free to post any questions you might have and I would appreciate any feedback about your current coupon methods so we can learn together.

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