Organizing Coupons

If you don’t have a good way to organize your coupons, you’ll probably give up on using them to save money.  A good system is critical to success!

There isn’t only one way to set up a good coupon organization system.  The bottom line is that you need a system that works for you.  After trial and error over a couple decades, I am going to share what I’ve settled on, with some options along the way, to tailor it to your needs.

To update my ancient envelopes, I recently bought this set on Amazon.  It’s a 4-pk, so you can really break things down and get organized.  To me, that’s key.  Too much in one category drives me nuts, and I end up spending too much time digging to find coupons.  These each have 12 dividers, up to 13 slots, if you use the very back.

Sometimes, you can find similar envelopes in the dollar section at Target or somewhere else, but I didn’t want to hunt all over town.  I also liked the four different colors, which can’t always be found.  I can quickly figure out which folder is which, just by seeing the color.  Make sure you get one with 12 dividers, not fewer.  Many of the cheaper ones only have about 6 dividers.

The rubber closure will probably lose its elasticity.  You may be able to wrap it around the entire envelope, at some point.  If that doesn’t work or it snaps, you can cut it off and attach a piece of Velcro/fasteners to each corner.  Other holders also end up failing in some way, even more expensive ones.  This is a cheap/simple option, if the holders are still in good shape.

I don’t bother putting the provided stickers on the tabs.  They don’t stay attached for long.  Use a permanent marker and write directly onto the plastic tabs.  You may need to re-write them later, but it’s easier than fighting labels that continually fall off.  I’ll warn you that it’s a challenge to write neatly.  If you’re a perfectionist, breathe deeply and press on!  Mine look like a first grader wrote the back row, but that’s okay.

Put your name and phone number on each holder.  I used to tape a nicely written and cut paper on the inside, but it will probably fall off, eventually.   I’ve resorted to a permanent marker.  It does the job.  There is a good chance that you will leave them somewhere.  Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience.

Here’s how you can set up your coupons, if you have four envelopes.  If you want to use fewer, you can combine categories and just use this as a guideline.


Envelope #1 ~ Dining, Retail & Fun

I always have one organizer for coupons like restaurants, department stores, & entertainment.  I leave them in my car, so I always have them handy when I’m out, unless I’m in the wrong vehicle.  Ughhh!  Plan ahead, if you ever switch vehicles.

Combine or expand categories, to tailor it to your needs.  If you always eat at Culver’s, have a separate category for those coupons.  If you don’t have many movie related items, put them in with “Fun”.  If you have a bunch of Bed, Bath, & Beyond coupons, make a category just for them.

Here are some suggested slots, with room for you to add in something that works for you . . .

I put food first.  I prefer it being separated from non-food vs having it all alphabetical.

Casual (Dining)
Sweet (ice cream/yogurt places, doughnuts…)
Fast (Food)
Formal (Dining)
Fun (bowling, skating, zoo…)
(can grab out coupons for all stores, if I am going)
Movies (tickets, popcorn vouchers)
Service (car wash, haircuts…)
Parenthesis are for your clarification; bold/shorter is used for tabs

Envelope #2 ~ Non-Chilled Food

Beverages (non-chilled)
Breakfast (cereal, bars, syrup, pancake mix; fruit snacks — because they’re stocked here, not because they’re breakfast)
  — Can break down into “Cereal” & “Bars/Snacks” if use a lot.  Put syrup or pancakes in either, or make another general “Breakfast” (not much left or common; maybe add peanut butter, if it’s usually in this aisle at your store.)  Personally, I did “Cereal” and “Bars” — knowing all but cereal, if it’s in the breakfast aisle, goes in “Bars.”
Canned & Packaged
Rice/Pasta (includes sauce)
Snacks (chips, crackers, cookies, peanuts; not candy/gum)
** For space issues, I only write the first listed, on the tab, when two are listed above.  It’s not 100% descriptive, but I know what goes there.

Envelope #3 ~ Cold Food & Store Slots

Dairy (+ misc. refrigerated)
Dessert (frozen sweets; ice cream, novelties, pies)
~~ I label this “Dessert” so it fits better, but only frozen items go here, not candy or other sweets.
Frozen (non-sweet)
Meat (bacon, lunch meat, hot dogs, seafood)
Produce (refrigerated dressing, Driscoll’s coupons)
Specific Store(s) (***see note below)
~~ Albertsons, Bashas’, Fry’s, Safeway, Sprouts (add, subtract or combine based on where you shop)

In the very back of this envelope (with grocery stores in it), I have a reminder for myself.  “Get Raincheck!” is written on a piece of cardstock.  Before this, I can’t tell you how many times I left a store without a raincheck.  When I find the shelf bare, I pull that out and put it with my pile of other coupons.  When I hand the stack to the cashier, I’m reminded to ask for a raincheck.  Or, they can discover it and look at my funny, if I bury it and forget.  Both methods mean I don’t forget to ask for one!

Envelope #4 ~ Non-Food

I can grab just this one, when I know I’m going into a drugstore or somewhere else and won’t be buying food.

Baby/Pet (also include food, though this is in “Non-Food”; can put in misc. or skip, if not needed)
Cleaning (laundry, dishwashing, bathroom, fresheners)
Healthcare (medicine, vitamins, Band-aids)
Paper & Plastics (tp, Kleenex, paper towels, food storage)
Personal Care (feminine products, make-up, lotion, razors, oral care)
~~ If you leave out Baby/Pet (or put those in Misc) & don’t use all specific stores, break down this category more and put remaining in “Personal Care” (if don’t use all listed).
~~~ Body (lotion, deodorant, razors)
~~~ Face (make-up, facial cleanser/moisturizer)
~~~ Feminine
~~~ Hair
~~~ Oral Care

Specific Store(s)
(***see note below)
~~ Target, CVS, Walgreens (if you shop these stores)
~~ One can be put in the very back, without a tab or left open for un-filed coupons or whatever/nothing.

I don’t have a baby anymore, but have a dog.  Here’s what I did (alphabetical, except end):
Body, Cleaning, Face, Feminine, Hair, Health, Oral, Paper (plastics), Pet, Misc, CVS, Target

** “Specific Store” is where I put rainchecks, store coupons, and coupons I know I’ll want to use at that store and not forget.  I always look there, before I shop.  I like having a slot for most stores, but you can conserve space.  If you have a favorite store, make one for that and combine the rest, or put them all together.  It’s very flexible!

** For space issues, I only write the first listed, on the tab, when two are listed above.  It’s not 100% descriptive, but I know what goes there.

Just to touch on other systems … some like a binder with baseball card sleeves.  I had a similar pre-made (smaller) system that required me to slide things into plastic and I hated it.  Getting the coupons in and out slowed me down too much.  Some people love binders, but I don’t like the large size or pain of stuffing coupons into the right slot.  It’s very flexible, since you can take pages in and out, so there is an advantage to that.  Minimally, you’ll look pretty serious and official!

There are also many more expensive coupon systems (like above) you can purchase, but I have never found one I thought was worth the money.  Most of them have either too many or too few dividers/pre-made tabs; are too big or too small; are too hard to get coupons in and out; not sturdy enough …  nothing has made me more happy than making my own.  However, I’m sure Google or Amazon can come to the rescue if you want to go one of those routes.  You’ll definitely look more stylish with some, and you’ll save enough to pay for it soon, right?

Hope you get set up and give couponing a try!  You’ll save a bunch!  If you’re in Arizona, use our shopping lists each week and your life will be much easier.

Note:  I also keep my “leftover” coupons filed, as part of whole inserts.  More on that here.  I use a combo method, and give reasoning and more here.

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Reader Feedback

2 Responses to “Organizing Coupons”

  • eunice says:

    hello im new at this and need help. i live in hidden valley and have four girls and would appriciate it sooooo much if you had a class on how to and if you need more people to go i will get more and help you with anything you need help with. i hope this goes thru and gets to you.

    • Juli says:

      It got to me. That’s the good news. The bad new is that I don’t have a coupon class planned. :( I used to do them, but I just had to cut something from my life and that’s one thing that had to go. I may do it again, but I don’t have any planned now. Life is still much too full and I just can’t give up other priorities I have in life, as much as I’m tempted sometimes. I love teaching and helping people learn to save.

      Thankfully, I can do it with this website. We try to make everything we post as user friendly as possible, but there are some basics you’ll need to learn. If you read the top menu bar of the website and the bottom of each list (including some links that lead you to more information), you will learn most everything.

      We’re also here to help. We answer all emails that come through to us and try to watch the Facebook page carefully, and do the same. Plus, there are other readers over on Facebook who jump in and help also.

      So, ask any questions you have, under the appropriate list or place you’re confused .. either on the website or on the Facebook page. We’ll help you figure it out.

      Hope you learn quickly and can start saving a bunch soon!

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