While there are several ways of organizing them, perhaps one of the best ways is to use a ring binder since it offers a great deal of flexibility. As your collection grows, then additional pages can easily be added (or removed when not needed). It can work equally well for someone who is new to collecting as well as the extreme couponer.
A coupon binder can be as simplistic or as elaborate as you want it to be. There is no right or wrong way to put one together. What is best for you is the correct way. Having said that, here are some ideas to consider:
Choosing The Right Binder
Choose a 3-ring-binder. It should be sturdy enough to hold up under constant use; and one that is large enough to hold many pages. The binder rings should be quite big. Once you have all of the pages on them, you should be able to separate the rings without any pages coming off.
Start with one binder. If you find that you need more than one to hold all of your coupons, then you can get additional ones as needed.
Select one that can handle exposure to various weather conditions such as rain or snow. I recommend a zipper type of binder. This will protect the contents from weather; and it will prevent 52 pick up should you accidentally drop it.
It is convenient to have a binder that has at least one large pocket inside the cover (either at the front or back). Here, you can put shopping lists, flyers, printed store coupon policies, envelopes, etc.
Consider buying a binder that has a handle. This can make carrying it much easier. If you can’t find one with a handle; and you want a handle on it, then go ahead and add one. Some binders have an open ended pocket on the inside of the spine through which you can thread a handle. Adding a handle through the pocket spine of the binder does not prevent use of the zipper. A handle can be made from a piece of fabric, a long scarf, or even rope. Depending on your preference, make it long enough so that you can carry the binder with the handle in your hand, over your arm, or on your shoulder. It should be made so that it is removable.
Use 9” of self gripping fasteners (hook and loop) with self basting adhesive attached to overlapping ends of the handle then pull the handle so that the attached ends are within the spine pocket.
Some binders have various sized snap, hook and loop, or zipper closure pockets on the inside cover. Some have attached fabric or stretchable loops where you can insert items. You might even find one that has an attached calculator.
By comparing the overall design options of various binders, you will then be able to select one that is just right for you.
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Finding the Perfect Layout
Consider what your preferences are in regards to what layout you would like within the binder. There are pros and cons to each method of a binder layout, so which one you choose is up to you.
If you choose a category layout, then it can be easier to find a specific coupon since you only need to look in one particular category. For example, to find a diaper coupon, you only have to look in the baby category. The down side of this layout is that you will have coupons with various expiry dates in each category and it can be time consuming to track down and remove the expired ones. It can also be more difficult to remember to use coupons that are expiring soon.
Expiry Date Layout
You can choose to layout your binder by month. This allows you to sort coupons by their expiry date. The current month should be at the front of the binder with each subsequent month in order behind that one. With this method, you only need to review the current month to find out what coupons are going to expire within the month that you might want to use before they expire. The down side of this layout is that it makes finding a particular coupon harder since it could be anywhere in the binder depending on its expiry date.
Combination Category & Expiry Date Layout
You may want to use both category and expiry date layouts. Each coupon would be in a category, then within that category sorted by its expiry date. However, doing so can mean a fair bit of coupon shuffling within the category as you find new coupons that might then need to be inserted in between existing ones.
Another possible layout is to use an alphabetic layout in which you would sort coupons by brand name or by item. For example, soap in the “S” section. The down side of this layout is that you will have various expiry date coupons throughout the entire binder. If using this type of layout, it is suggested that you have a list at the front of the binder noting the product or brand name of the coupons that are in each lettered section. This list will help you to be consistent with coupon placement. Otherwise you could end up with laundry soap coupons both in the “L” section and the “S” section. Alphabetic layout, while it can be used, is probably the least used type of layout for coupons.
No matter which layout is used, you may want additional divided sections for coupons that have no expiry date (rare, but there are some), store specific, high value coupons, rain checks, mail in rebates, coupon policies, etc. Customization of the binder layout to suit your individual preferences can ultimately make it work better for you.
Some people take an optional extra step by making a list that is kept in the front of the binder that notes each coupon and exactly where it can be found in the binder. For example: Diapers/Baby/Page 5 or Diapers/July/Page 5. While this can make finding a specific thing within the binder quicker, it is an added task that takes time and effort both to create and maintain.
The nice thing about a coupon binder is that you can change the layout at any time if a particular layout doesn’t work out as well as you thought it would because pages are easy to insert, remove, and shuffle.
Related: Understanding Rewards Programs
What Supplies Do You Need?
So now that you have chosen a binder and a layout, next you need to decide which supplies you want in it to bring the coupon binder to life!
I like to keep supplies (such as scissors, pens, etc), all neatly organized within the binder. Then, when I want to do any coupon related activity, I already have everything that I might need within easy reach.
Below are my suggestions for what you will need to put together an organized coupon binder:
- Paper clips
- Bi-fold clips
- Magnifying glass
- Small stapler
- A few envelopes
- Address labels
- Address book
- Calendar or day planner
- Loyalty/reward/gift cards
- Small change purse
- Letter sized 3-ring-binder
- Letter sized sheet protector pages
- Tablet of construction paper
- Plastic pocket pages
- Plastic dividers
- Removable adhesive putty
- Pencil case and/or plastic pouch
- Small notepad or sticky notes
- Ruler and/or tape measure
2) Next, label the plastic dividers and put them into the binder. If you chose to separate sections by month (January to December), then you will have at least 12 dividers. If you chose to layout your binder by category, then you will have one divider per category (i.e. Health, Beauty, Laundry, Frozen Foods, Baby, Grocery, etc). If you chose to separate sections alphabetically, then you will have A to Z dividers. Most dividers come with customizable labels. Certain brands of dividers have online templates that you can use to design then print out labels. I suggest plastic dividers instead of using paper or cardboard only because they are more durable.
3) Now, reinforce the sheet protector pages. Depending on the size of the construction paper, it may be necessary to cut pieces down to letter size so that they will fit into the protector pages. Slide one or two pages of construction paper into the top of each sheet protector page which makes them a little bit stiffer. Anything that will make them less flimsy will work. Sheet protector pages are handy because you can put various things inside them. For example: full page size items such as rebate forms (and the corresponding purchase receipt), calendar, store coupon policies, etc. You can also utilize both sides of the page by putting two print-out items back to back so that you can read them both.
4) Then, insert a few of the reinforced sheet protectors behind each divider in the binder. These are the pages for the binder to which you will attach your coupons. I find that these work well especially since coupons come in all shapes and sizes. The quantity you need will depend on how many pages you want in each section.
5) Optionally, add some plastic pocket pages. There are different sizes available ranging from 2 to 10 pockets on each page. This allows you to slide coupons directly into the pockets. I prefer the ones that have 10 pockets on each page since these are ideal for smaller coupons. You can also use only pocket pages instead of the sheet protector pages if you prefer. Choose the size and quantity that you want.
6) Gather up all of your coupons. Using scissors, clip those that need to be clipped from newspapers, magazines, etc. If you are using pocket pages, then you may need to test a few clipped coupons to make sure they will fit into the pocket. If not, make clipping adjustments now so you end up with the correct size.
7) Next, highlight the expiry date on all of your coupons. I have several different colors of highlighters; and I use the one that will be most visible on each coupon. This makes the expiry date stand out from the rest of the print on the coupon. Highlighting can be of great value since it helps you to quickly spot any expired coupons. Plus, the store cashiers really like it when expiry dates are highlighted since their eyes are immediately drawn to the one thing they must check on every coupon.
8) Take the paper clips and use them to clip duplicate coupons together. This will prevent a lot of wasted space in your coupon binder. I prefer the plastic coated paper clips since they stay in place better and they do not rust.
9) Sort your coupons by section. This means separating them according to what layout you chose either by expiry date or category. Doing so will allow you to place all of those coupons in a given section without having to flip back and forth between sections.
10) Put some adhesive putty on the back of your coupons. Open the package of removable adhesive putty and put a small bit on the two upper corners of each coupon (or to the last one in a set of paper clipped coupons), then attach them onto the sheet protectors and press down on the upper corners. Most coupons need less putty than you might think, so experiment until you find the right amount.
Keep in mind, the removable adhesive putty can be reused and, more importantly, if you drop your open binder, it prevents the coupons from falling out. Many people have had that “oh no” moment in stores; and it can take a fair bit of time to place them into the binder again. Be sure to avoid the adhesive putty from dollar stores since it is not sticky enough to hold everything firmly in place. Also, caution should be used when removing coupons from the pages so that you do not tear them.
If you are using pocket pages, then slide all your cutouts into the appropriate sized pockets. Some may need to be folded if they are too large to fit into the pockets.
12) Put all your couponing-related items into the pencil case or pouch. This could include such things as a small bag or box of paper clips, highlighter(s), scissors, putty, etc. If your binder has extra pockets to hold some items, then you can insert some things there as well.
13) Finally, insert into the large pocket of the binder anything that you want to put there. Such as printouts of store policies, a copy of the scanning code of practice, flyers, envelopes, etc.
Uses For Supply Items
- Pen/pencil: used for making shopping lists or circling items in flyers.
- Tape: used to repair any ripped coupons.
- Envelopes: used for temporary coupon storage, a make-shift shopping list that also holds coupons you plan to use for a particular shopping trip, mailing out coupons to others, or to hold receipts that are needed for mail in rebates.
- Address book: used for addresses of those with whom you trade with.
- Stamps: used to mail out coupons or for sending out mail in rebates.
- Scissors: used to clip coupons from everywhere you might find them.
- Calculator: used to calculate your savings or the total cost of your purchases which can be important when you need to spend a minimum amount to qualify for a special promotion or discount.
- Notepad or sticky notes: used to jot down reminders or to write a note on when exchanging with others by mail.
- Magnifying glass: used to read the fine print.
- Calendar or day planner: used to note dates of importance such as flyer release dates, double coupon days, special store sales or promotions, etc.
- Ruler and/or tape measure: Can be handy to have in your binder when you want to know the size of something when shopping.
Coupon Binder Tips
- Get into the habit of keeping your coupons all in one place…in your binder. This applies even if you don’t have time to clip them out and/or properly place them right away. You can always tuck them in the large pocket of the binder. At least then you won’t have to hunt for them later.
- Depending on which side of a coupon is face up once placed in the binder, you may or may not be able to see the expiry date. For any that have the expiry date on the face down side, you may find it helpful to write the expiry date on the face up side so that you do not have to remove it from the binder to see the date. This can be a valuable time saver when you want to find expired coupons for removal.
- Flip through the pages of your binder often so that you know what coupons you actually have. By doing this, you will find that your memory is triggered when you review sale flyers. It is easier to say from memory “yes I have a coupon for that product” than it is to physically have to go look in your binder to see if you have it or not.
- Always carry your binder with you when you are shopping. You never know when you will find items on sale or clearance for which you have a coupon. You can’t use what you don’t have with you. As an alternative, if you do not want to take it with you into the store, then consider leaving it in the car so that you can quickly retrieve it when needed.
- Do regular binder maintenance to remove any expired coupons. Having stuff in your binder that cannot be used is simply a waste of space. I suggest a minimum of weekly binder checks to do clean out unusable coupons.