Organizing, Redesign & Staging

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Got Coupons?

Coupons can be frustrating. Not only storing and organizing, but remembering to use. I was recently at a dinner with friends and one woman pulled out a coupon to put towards our collective bill, when the waiter told her it had expired. You go to the trouble to bring the coupon just to have it rejected -- AARGH! When I talk to clients or students about whether they "do" coupons or not, I usually get varying answers: sometimes, most of the times, never, always.

It's almost a matter of benefit vs. effort -- does the coupon-cutting, storing, etc. pay off in $$?

Personally, I tend to only use coupons at retail, restaurant and service establishments. I get coupons online via e-mail for places like Borders, Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse, and Carter's. These soften the blow when we go out for dinner or are buying kids' clothes, so I am happy to keep them. We don't get the newspaper, so we don't have a weekly influx of coupon flyers which is one of the main reasons I don't do grocery coupons. But as I said, everyone is different with their level of commitment to coupons.

Whatever you choose, I thought some suggestions regarding coupons might be in order. I love saving money (who doesn't?) so whatever makes that happen, I'm a big fan! Below you'll find some quick ideas for storing and managing your coupon cache. Hope they're helpful...

· Cancelled Check Organizer - a plastic organizer with 12 pockets where each pocket has a tab with the month on it. Go through those coupons first, then the next months and so on. At the end of each month, give a quick look through that month for any that aren't expiring until the next year and toss the rest.
· 3-ring Binder with clear plastic baseball card organizer pages - these have more spaces and it is easier to see and sort the coupons.
· Gallon size plastic zip bags - they’re clear and you can see your coupons at all times
· Index card file box with Index Dividers – you can either purchase index dividers from an office supply or discount store, or make your own.
· Envelope – plastic zip or plain heavy-duty paper

· Special Categories for Expiring Coupons - create a separate section for "coupons expiring within the next 30 days" and also for "free" items. At the beginning of every month, go through the card file to see which coupons need to be moved to the 30-day section. Also, when adding new coupons to the box, put the new coupons in their category in the back of the section so that the oldest ones are last.
· Highlight the Date – circle or use a highlighter on the expiration dates on coupons.
· Organize Using the Store Layout – place tab dividers in order of the store layout
· Sort by Category, Date and then Amount - In each category, sort coupons by expiration date first (those which expire first in front). Then, sort within in each expiration period by amount, with the larger amount in front. This way, the coupons due to expire are in front of each category, and the most valuable coupons are in front.
· Keep coupons for dining out, stores, services, etc. in a container in your car – most likely the only time you’d go to those restaurants/stores/services would be by car so you’ll have them
· Only clip or save coupons you realistically think you’re going to use
· Don’t save coupons for brand names that you know with the coupon are still more expensive than the store or generic brand