How to Organize Coupons: My Coupon System

I shared with you earlier on How to Organize Coupons and the most common Coupon Organizing Methods. In this posting, I’ll be sharing how I arrange my own coupon organizer and what I bring with me to the store to help make things go a little smoother.

I have to start by saying that over time, I’ve tried each of the Coupon Organizing Methods. I started off with the Coupon Binder and quickly became frustrated with trying to fit my coupons into those baseball card sleeves. At the time, I was only able to find the 9 slot sleeves and I found it hard to fit a lot of the coupons in them. I was also getting more into finding printable coupons online and I didn’t like having to fold them over. You can now find various sized sleeves but in the meantime, I’ve downsized how many coupons I use. I also tried the Coupon Insert Method but found myself spending so much time searching for coupons and then my coupons got knocked over and that was the end of that method for me. LOL.

After couponing for a long period of time, you will start to notice which coupons that you clip that you end up using. At the end of each month, I started to take notice which expired coupons I was pulling out of my organizer that I hadn’t used–and also paying attention to which ones I found myself using a lot at the stores. I learned how long it took me through go through food and household items so I knew if I’d need a certain coupon that month, or if I could wait. I also switched my family over to more locally grown foods (or foods from our Organic Garden) and those sold by Organic Companies. Since Organic Coupons are still fairly rare, my coupons have become far less than what I used to keep.

I also started paying attention to items that I could get deals where I could get the items free or cheap after coupons. The stores typically have the same deals around the same time each year and over time, you’ll start to see the trends. I was beginning to see that just when my sensible stockpile would begin to deplete, a new hot sale and coupon would pop-up. This is your ultimate goal–to learn what you need to have on hand up to the next hot sale. It will keep your house from being taken over by an unnecessary stockpile but still keep your budget where it should be.

You see, when it comes to Couponing, the phrase you need to keep reminding yourself is Time (and Space) is Money. Each second you spend clipping a coupon, following blogs, dealing with a crazy stockpile or shopping adds up to lost money and time you could be spending with your families. You want to balance savings with smiles–the smiles that you get to see on your families’ faces when you are with them! While Couponing can be very fun, addicting and a money-saver, you have to be careful that it doesn’t consume or frustrate you.

So over time while I’ve tried all the Coupon Organizing Methods, I always come back to the Coupon Organizer. I like that it’s small, that I can fit it in my purse and that I limit myself of how many coupons I have. Sure, I miss out on some deals but in the end, I save money because I’m not buying unnecessary items that I won’t use. I’ve been asked by several of you on how many papers I get each week and the answer to that is two. We receive our local paper and the Chicago Tribune. I sometimes receive extra coupons from friends/family and on the rare occasion when there are four inserts and a lot of coupons I use in them, I’ll pick up an additional paper. I use a lot of printable coupons; in part because I print a lot to test links before I post things and also because there are a lot of high-value printable coupons these days.

When I go to the store, this is what I bring with me:

~My Coupon Organizer
~Big Chil Bag from Blue Avocado w/ other Reusable Bags and CVS Bag Tags attached
~Dave Ramsey Designer Envelope System-that fits into whatever purse I’m using
~Small Two-Sided Organizer for Pulled Coupons and Shopping List
~Purse

I’ve tried several Coupon Organizers but I always go back to and have finally stayed with those made by GlowGirl. She sends you the dividers and pre-made labels with them. She has also created the organizer so you can button it over the shopping seat. I have my kids with me most of the time, so I don’t use it that way. She recently added a Mega Large Coupon Organizer that holds a lot more and has a handle for carrying it.

These are the categories that I use in my organizer:
Produce/Deli Area
Baking Products
Beverages
Breakfast
Bread
Canned Foods
Condiments/Peanut Butter & Jelly
Cookies/Crackers/Snacks
Meat/Fish
Dairy
Frozen
Bags/Paper Goods
Household/Cleaning Products
Shampoos/Lotions/Body Wash/Soap
Personal Care/Razors/Deodorant
Oral Hygiene
Medicine
Misc.
Pet Foods
Baby Products
Other Retailers
Expiring Soon/Free Products
Using Today

I’ve pretty much figured out how to get everything to fit into those categories. Most of these are included in GlowGirl’s pre-made labels. I used to keep them alphabetized but now I have them arranged by store layout – Produce, Store’s Middle Aisles, Meat, Dairy, Frozen and Non-Food Items. So far, it’s working out well.

I keep my shopping list and coupons for what’s on my list in a little two-sided thing, which is actually Dave Ramsey’s Starter Envelope System with the envelopes pulled out. I keep coupons I plan on using on one side and then pull them out and put them on the other side when I find it in the store. Any coupons left get put back into the coupon organizer after my trip. I typically have the coupons paper-clipped by store if I am making several stops. I highly recommend that you keep your shopping list arranged by store aisles to save time in the stores. This little thing is all I have in my hands when I shop. If I see a clearance item or item that wasn’t on my list that’s on a great deal, I pull out my coupon organizer to find that coupon I need.

I keep any ECBs, RRs or Store Catalinas in the zippered area of my Dave Ramsey Deluxe Envelope System. I also throw any coupons that I find while I shop in the wallet so I can organize them later and they won’t get mixed up in my little two-sided divider. I also keep my receipts in the back compartment until I am done shopping for the day.

Lastly, I carry a Blue Avocado Big Chil Bag that I also stuff a few reusable bags into. I’ve tried so many bags and this one is by far my favorite. I keep my purse and coupon organizer in there until I’m at the checkout when they need it to put in my dairy/frozen items. It has slots all around the outside for holding water bottles, etc. I usually put coupons I find while shopping in one area until I can transfer them into my wallet, and then organizer.

I try to take a minute in between stores on multiple-stop trips so I can put away my receipts, coupons, ECBs/RRs, Catalinas, etc. It’s so easy to lose one of these if you don’t take a minute to safely put them away.

This is just a peek at my coupon organizer, how I keep it organized and what I bring with me to the stores to stay organized. I’d love to hear what you have found that works for you!

Coming Later This Week: A peek into my “Sensible Stockpile” and how to start your own!

How to Organize Coupons: Coupon Organizers

I know several of you are fairly new to couponing and have been wondering how to organize the new coupons that you are starting to collect. Here are a few of the common coupon organizing methods. Each of them has their own advantages and disadvantages. I’ve tried all of them and I’ll share with you in another posting some pictures of the method that I currently use and how I keep it organized. I’m hoping that you’ll find one that best suits your couponing needs.


Photo Courtesy of Super Jenn

1) Coupon Binder – This is a common method used among couponers that have a LOT of coupons. This is typically a zippered binder that is organized with something similar to Baseball Card Sleeves. Coupons are “clipped” and slid into each of the slots in the sleeves.

Advantages – You are able to carry a lot of coupons with you when you shop. You can easily flip through the pages to find the coupons that you may need. You can also easily pull out expired coupons.

Disadvantages – It takes time and patience to clip and slide the coupons into the sleeves. A lot of binders can end up weighing several pounds and are real bulky for carrying into the stores. The size of these makes it hard to carry with you wherever you may go. Most couponers that use this method will leave these in their vehicles so they can have them with them when they go out. Couponers that have a lot of coupons tend to have more than one binder, often split between food and non-food items.

If you use this method, I cannot stress enough to buy a zippered binder. You’ll know why the first time you drop it! You can typically find the baseball card sleeves at Walmart, in hobby stores or online.

2) Coupon Organizer/Box – This method can be any organizer system that uses dividers for the coupon categories. They can be as simple and inexpensive as an accordion style one that you can typically find in dollar bins to as elaborate as a specially made one that you’ll often find sold online such as Etsy. Some also use a plastic box with a lid for their coupons with dividers they’ve custom made from a thicker material, like card stock.

Advantages – These tend to be small and can usually be slid into a purse/bag and transported anywhere. There are so many varieties that you can often find one to fit your style/fashion tastes. These are typically used by couponers that know their coupon patterns and have a smaller amount of coupons or who pull coupons according to their shopping lists ahead of time. These are especially nice if you make unexpected trips or frequent clearance areas as you’ll have all your coupons with you.

Disadvantages – You’ll need to clip all of your coupons. Some of these aren’t very secure and if dropped, you’ll have a mess. You need to go through tab by tab to find any expired coupons–or coupons that you didn’t pull out when creating your shopping lists. They only hold a small amount of coupons.

3) Coupon Insert Method – This method is where you don’t clip your coupons but file them by date and only clip the coupons when you need them. You label the front cover by date and insert, such as 8/21/11 SS for this last week’s Smart Source Insert. Couponers will use Coupon Databases to see what insert has the coupon needed and then pull them out and clip just what they need.

Advantages – There is minimal coupon clipping involved and you’ll always have coupons for deals you may not have normally clipped the coupons for.

Disadvantages – Drop your filing method and you’ll see one of the biggest disadvantages! Once they are out of order and messed up, it’s next to impossible to reorganize them. They can sometimes take up a lot of storage room. You will never have them on hand when you shop. While this may help prevent impulse buys, it may also make you miss out on some great deals.

If you use this method, I recommend that you take an extra minute and flip through the insert and find the oldest expiration date and write it on the outside of the insert. This will help make it easier to know when you can remove that insert.

Don’t feel that if you start off with one couponing method that you are locked in. I’ve switched back and forth between them all depending on what is going on in my life at the time. Times when I was super busy, I used the Coupon Insert Method. When I was keeping mass amounts of coupons, I used the Coupon Binder Method. And when I learned more about couponing, switched to more Organic and locally bought foods and learned more about what coupons made for great deals, I switched to the Coupon Organizer Method. This is the one I have been using for some time. While the clipping can take some time, I love having it with me wherever I go. I keep it organized and fairly small so it will fit in my purse.

I’m hoping this has helped some of you learn more about How to Organize Coupons! I’d love to hear about what method you are currently using–along with some thoughts on other methods you’ve tried that didn’t work out.

Coming Next: My Coupon/Shopping Organizing System –a detailed look at my coupon organizer and what I bring to the store. Stay tuned!

Checking Clearance Areas at Target

Any time you are at Target, you may want to take an extra minute and check out their clearance area by their food/groceries section. Several times now, I’ve found items on clearance that I’ve had a coupon to match up with. My latest find? Betty Crocker Warm Delights Minis.

These were marked down to just $.98. Well, I had a couple $.50 Off Warm Delights Coupons from Target’s site (still available) and some $.75 Off ones from when they were on Coupons.com just this last week. (not available now)

So if you printed those, you may want to see if your Target has any clearanced, too. I was able to get four boxes for $1.42 total. (About $.36 each.) So we have little cakes ready to add some ice cream to for some quick ice cream ala mode! The kids just love these!

I typically use the whole insert couponing method, but I’m starting to clip more items that I think I’ll use before I file them.

Matching coupons with clearance sales is a great way to stretch your money even farther. Were you able to find anything great at any store’s clearance section? I love hearing about your finds, so feel free to leave a comment with your stories.

How to Roll ECBs at CVS – Part II


In case you missed it, I posted on How to Roll ECBs at CVS. Well, after that transaction, I had $4 in ECBs that I could use on a future order. Here’s how I used those ECBs to roll into another order.

The first thing you should always do is stop at the CVS Scanner Machine located inside most stores.


Photo Credit: Coupon Geek

Now, I had luck on my side as when I scanned my CVS card, I received a coupon for $2 off any $10 baby purchase. Well, I was there to grab the deal they had on Huggies. How about that for timing? :)

So I picked up two packs of Huggies Pull-ups, which were on sale for $8.99 each. If you bought 2, you earned $5 in ECBs. I also had two $3 off Huggies Diapers Coupons. I was out of black olives and picked up 4 cans of the Lindsay olives that were on sale for $.88 a can. (The cheapest I’ve seen anywhere in awhile!) Here’s what my order looked like:

Here’s how my receipt looked:


Photo Credit: Coupon Geek

I ended up paying $10.70 out-of-pocket after taxes were added. That’s a good deal considering the Pull-ups are usually $11.99 each when not on sale. I also earned one of these:


Photo Credit: Coupon Geek

So I now have $5 to use on another purchase. I just wanted to show you this illustration because you don’t always need to have your out-of-pocket expenses end up real small, as long as you still got a great deal. While I could have split my order in two, paying for the olives and some filler items with my $5 in ECBs, I might have just been adding items to my cart that I didn’t truly need.  Also, I would have had nothing to use on good deals in the upcoming weeks. After awhile, those filler items, while they may be somewhat “useful” filler items, can end up eating into your savings. So always use your best judgment on when to roll another time and use them all up in one day’s shopping trip or when to pay a little extra and hold onto them for another day.

If there are times where you can’t find a good deal on a “filler item,” then just pay a little more out-of-pocket and save those ECBs for your next purchase.

Blog Post: Rolling Catalinas and Stockpiling


I shared with you the other day on how to roll ECBs at CVS. Well, I am so excited that my friend, Christy, was able to do an excellent example on how to roll Catalinas at a grocery store.

If you are wondering what a catalina is, it’s just a coupon that prints out after you check-out at a store that can be used on your next purchase. See her picture on her posting for an example.

In her posting, she spends $5 for 15 boxes of fruit snacks, but still has $3.50 in catalinas to use on another order–$.10 a box! Talk about a great way to stockpile.

So if you want to see a little insight into rolling catalinas and stockpiling, check out Coupon Gal’s posting.

Great write-up, Christy!

How To Roll ECBs at CVS


Several of you have asked me in the past on How to Roll ECBs at CVS and I promised you a step-by-step walk through. Well, I finally made it to CVS on one of the weeks where there was a good “rolling scenario” to show you how to do this. If you have the right coupons and stock in the store, you can do this same transaction through Saturday, March 13th, 2010.

First of all, if you haven’t already, make sure that you sign-up for a CVS card. It’s your key to savings. You can sign-up online but I usually recommend that people do it in store as you get your cards instantly. The thing to know about CVS is the term “ECB” which stands for “Extra Care Bucks.” These are what I like to call “paper cash” that you can use in your store on your next purchase after you earn them. So while some things may say “Free after ECBs,” you must remember that the initial money will come out of your pocket. Eventually you’ll have some ECBs to “roll” and that out-of-pocket expense will become less if you keep rolling them.

Now the first thing you are going to do is check out your newspaper to see what you have that’s a good deal that week. The big thing to look for is FREE after ECBs in the ad. Those are the ones that not only can you get for FREE but are potential “money-makers” if you happen to have a coupon that you can use on it.


I see right away in my ad this week that the Oral B Cross Action Toothbrushes are on sale for $4 with $4 ECBs. At this point, I can search my coupons to see if I have one, if I clip them or I can also check a blog, such as Common Sense with Money, that types up the weekly deals. When I do check Mercedes’ site, I find out that there’s one for $.75 off in the 2/21PG.

OK, now you are saying, what is a 2/21PG? Well this is how you read those: In the February 21st newspaper, there was a Procter and Gamble insert. That’s where you’ll find it. Now if you haven’t grabbed that paper in the past for those inserts, you are either out of luck or you’ll have to find somewhere that has the coupon, such as eBay or Collectable Coupons where you can pay for their coupon clipping service. I took a picture of the insert and the coupon for you to see:

Now comes a little planning and a little luck that they’ll be in stock at the store! If you are just going to pick up the toothbrush, there’s no planning there aside from clipping your coupon. But if you want to “roll” your ECBs while you are there, here’s where you need to think for a minute.

The first transaction is easy. I’m going to just buy the toothbrush which is $4. It will take off $.75 for the coupon, costing me just $3.25 plus tax. My total ends up being $3.53 for my area. This is what my receipt looked like:

At the very bottom of that receipt were my ECBs for $4. I quickly ripped those off and did a second transaction to “roll them.” I got lucky and the store was empty so I just checked out twice in a row.

Here where the “rolling” gets tricky. I can’t just go and buy another toothbrush because my coupon will take off the $.75 leaving my total below $4 and the ECBs are for $4. So I must find a “filler item.” This just has to be something small. I recommend picking something you actually need–or have been wanting. I saw earlier in the morning that I still had a $1 Off Starbucks Frappuccino Printable Coupon. When I checked in the store, they were $1.99, making them only $.99 after coupon. This was exactly what I need as a filler. This is what my receipt looked like:

The toothbrush was $4, minus another $.75 off coupon. The Starbucks was $1.99, minus my $1 off Starbucks Frappuccino printable coupon. Both items came to $4.24 plus tax making it $4.55. Now don’t forget, I earned $4 ECBs from my first purchase that I used. So my end total? $.55 out-of-pocket. And I earned these:

Yes, another $4 in ECBs. Now this particular deal has a limit of 2 per card, so I can’t do this same transaction again. But I do have $4 in ECBs to spend on another trip, which I’ll save for next week.

So, let’s review what my expenses looked like. In my first transaction, I paid $3.53 and in my second transaction, I paid $.55. This makes my total out-of-pocket expenses as $4.08. But I also have $4 in ECBs for another purchase. Isn’t that amazing? This is when you’ll hear bloggers say “It’s like spending $.08 for two toothbrushes and a StarBucks Frappuccino!” :)

This is the key to really keeping to your budget and getting the household items that you need. Anyone who has been a “CVSer” for any time at all will give you this advice—never pay cash for a toothbrush! And from the transactions above, you can see why! There are several deals throughout the year where they are either free or $.99 after ECBs. And there is almost always a coupon available that will either turn it into a “money-maker” or help you get it for free. (So definitely save those toothbrush coupons!)

Now since I already have a plethora of toothbrushes, I am going to donate these—and then treat myself to a Starbucks Frappuccino for my good deed. Sound like a good deal for $.08 doesn’t it? :)

I hope this has helped illustrate to some of you how to “roll” ECBs. Happy Shopping!

Disclaimer: These transaction pictures and posting are copyrighted and cannot be shared without written permission from Coupon Geek.

Video: Rolling ECBs and RRs


I know that when you first start off shopping at CVS and Walgreens, learning how to “roll” Extra Care Bucks (ECBs) and Register Rewards (RRs) can get kind of confusing.

My sister-in-law sent me this great little video clip from a local Chicago station here where a reporter did a small “rolling” shopping trip series. I thought it might help you see a little on how it all works.

I’m hoping to get in a series here soon explaining it all and showing you a few trips I’ll make on how to start out. I’ve been waiting for the weather to warm up some because let me tell you, it’s not fun to shop when it’s 12 degrees and it’s almost considered a “heat wave.” :) But I promise I’ll get one going here soon. So stay tuned and check out the video for a little help in the meantime.

Also, I wrote up a posting on Register Rewards, Extra Care Bucks and Stacking Coupons. I’m hoping that will offer a little more help, as well.

Thanks for sharing the video, Jodi!