With a growing coupon collection and a need to be able to find specific coupons, you need a way to sort and organize your little slips of paper. Some people put all their coupons in a file folder and sort through them each week when it’s time to plan a shopping trip. While this is one way to go, you’ll spend a lot of time each week looking at the same coupons over and over while you hunt for a particular one. A better approach is to categorize your coupons by type of product or use, so you can more quickly zero in on the one you want. The quick-and-easy solution is to purchase a pre-made coupon organizer that is already labeled with categories and has built-in pockets. You can even find these handy organizers at the Dollar Tree.The binder method Many extreme couponers use coupon organizers consisting of a massive three-ring binder filled with clear sheets of trading card holders. The plastic sheets of nine baseball or trading card pockets are effective because the size of trading cards often matches that of printed coupons. By placing coupons in the clear plastic sleeves, you can see your coupons and access them quickly. To make it even easier to find particular types of coupons in a flash, adding a tab with the name of the product category is smart. If you can picture a file folder tab, which sticks up above the pages, you can understand what a tab would look like sticking out above the plastic pages. Each tab would be labeled with categories like “Pet,” “Haircut coupons” or “Frozen Foods.” And then, behind the tab, you would find any coupons fitting that description.
Storage by date Another organizing tactic that is growing in popularity involves filing complete coupon inserts. Rather than clipping out every coupon and sorting it by category, some coupon users label their whole coupon insert by date and file it away chronologically in a hanging file. The coupons within those inserts expire on differing dates, so remain aware of that. However, if you are cross-referencing coupons using one of the subscription savings services you may find it much handier to be able to track down coupons by insert date. This can be effective because many coupon services will note where to find a certain coupon. They’ll tell you which insert, such as SmartSource (noted as SS in the system) or Red Plum (RP) or Procter & Gamble (PG), for example, as well as the date. But if you’ve already torn apart your inserts and scattered the coupons into categories, that information is of no use. There is no one best way-the best way for you to organize your coupons is whatever system will help you find what you need in the least amount of time.
Go Shopping Now, armed with your tools, you’re ready to hit the stores. You should be sure to bring these items with you: - Your store sales flyer, for reference - Your list of items you plan to purchase - The coupons you intend to use this trip - Any rebate forms - Your coupon organizer with all your coupons, in case you run across some unadvertised specials or clearance for which you have coupons - A calculator to track your total due as you shop For simplicity’s sake, it can help to sort your planned purchases, and matching coupons, by aisle. So as you travel the aisles, you can pick up each product in the order it appears on your list.
Before you pull up to a checkout aisle and start unloading your grocery cart, review your list. Check for products that have:
- Rebate offers
- Try Me Free (TMF) offers
Any products that are covered by any of these deals-meaning you will ultimately get them for free--you’ll want to check out separately from other freebies. You don’t need to have them on a receipt by themselves, but you can’t have more than one rebate item on a single receipt because you will be allowed to submit only one rebate per receipt. So put a little bar down on the conveyor belt in between your various rebate or TMF items to ensure you get a separate receipt for each. Another consideration as you check out is whether your store has any promotional offers running. Some stores may offer you a coupon at checkout on your next purchase if you buy a minimum amount, say, $50. If that is the case and you are permitted to divide your order into $50 blocks, do that. That way, instead of getting only one coupon print-out, you’ll receive a coupon for each set of $50 purchases. (This is where a calculator can come in handy, as you try to separate your order). Some stores won’t allow you to divide your order into separate transactions in order to maximize the number of promotional coupons you receive, but check to see if your cashier is willing.
The printouts most cash registers produce are called Catalina coupons because Catalina is the company that manufactures the little printers that sit next to the cash register. At Walgreens, the Catalina coupons that are generated with specific purchases are called Register Rewards-that is the store’s name for the coupons. The benefit of Catalina coupons is that they are like cash. You can use them on your next shopping trip in addition to store and manufacturer coupons. However, they typically have a very short expiration date, so don’t hold onto your Catalinas too long. When I find expired Catalinas from Walgreens or Tops Friendly Markets in my purse a week or two too late, it makes me sad to have wasted that money.