How to Organize Your Coupon Shopping Trip

iStock_000016139594_SmallThis week’s tip is on how to organize your coupon shopping trip.  Staying organized is key to having a successful shopping trip.  Organizing your trip can be done in so many ways from using spreadsheets, printing out a shopping list from the Living Rich With Coupons coupon match ups, paper clipping your coupons together by aisle and so many more ways.  You need to do what is comfortable and works best for you.

Finding a process that works for you is key.  It may evolve over time as it did with me but eventually you will find a process that is easy for you and fits in with your lifestyle. My process, which I am sharing with you below, has changed quite a bit over the years.  The method I have settled in with has been a smooth and easy method for me.

As you read through my method, you may find ways you can tailor it to for you. There is no right way except the way that works best for you.

 

My Coupon Binder

Let’s start from the beginning… organizing the coupons themselves.  The method I use now, which is to organize my coupon inserts by date and uncut in a large file box has changed my couponing life.  It’s so simple and easy. Each week all that has to be done is to rotate out the files by taking the one from the back (oldest date), recycle those inserts, date them for the new week, add the new inserts and place the file in the front.

You Can View a Quick Video of My File System Here

couponfile

 

Preparing My Coupons

To prepare for my trip, I go through the store’s coupon match upsand make a list of the items I want to buy.

You Can View How to Make Multiple Shopping Lists with LRWC Plus

Once I have my list printed, I then gather all my coupons. On the shopping list I mark how many items I am planning to buy for each product. (update note: our shopping list now allows you to update it before you print!)

I then use a smaller sized storage clipcase to keep my coupons and shopping list organized.  My shopping list clips onto the front and the coupons go inside.

This case fits nicely into the front of the shopping cart and I am able to work off the list while I shop. If something changes on my shopping list, I make a note of it.  For instance, if I was only able to get 1 product instead of the 3 that I planned, I change the quantity of the item.

Once I’m done shopping, I open up my clipboard and take out my coupons.  At that point, I compare my coupons to the items I have in the cart by the updated shopping list.  I take out any coupons I will not be using and head to check out.


After I checkout, I place my receipt and any catalinas I receive into the clipboard to organize when I get home.

For me, this has worked like a charm and has make shopping super easy to prepare for and stay organized.  Again, the most important thing is to do what is right for you as there is no wrong or right way to do it.

Share your organizing tips below!

How to organize your coupon shopping trip

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  • Ramona

    Thanks for this idea, I am dreading cutting up all this coupons I have at home and I was just thinking about doing it the way u just did!!! I will try it out and see if it helps. Organization is key and on my last shoppin trip I had a list, my coupons organized and the subtotal of my sale plus the Catalina’s I would get and it went very smoothly!!

  • Kathrine

    Do you store internet coupons the same way?

    • Cindy

      I store my internet coupons in a much smaller binder. I just use a 3 hole punch and put them in. Now, I do print everything because I have to check out the coupons before I post. So, I have much more then most people. But, putting them in a binder has helped keep them organized and I can easily flip through them to find coupons.

      • Melinda

        This was helpful Cindy! Do you categorize the Internet coupons anyway once you hole punch them in put them in a binder? Also, when do you through out complete inserts? Do you just go through and when all of them are expired you throw 0ut the insert? How far back does your current binder go back in the picture above?

        • Cindy

          It goes back 3 months. I just rotate out. When a new date goes in, the oldest date comes out. I don’t organize the internet coupons only because I have so many of them. I print off a lot each day and just punch holes and put them in. But, if you can easily separate it by categories.

  • Lisa

    Hi Guys, So you don’t divide by category (dairy, frozen, snacks…..) but my circular date? What do you do with coupons printed online?

    • Michele Yurechko

      I organize by category. I try to only clip what I usually use or new products I would like to try. I still throw away many at the end of the month. So that is always a chsllenge to only clip what I will need not to extreme coupon.

  • mimi

    Hi Cindy,
    I actually just changed from the “whole inserts” way to clipping the coupons and putting them in a zippered binder (I use the baseball card holders; I bought both the card holders (100-pack) and zippered binder from amazon.com for about $30 total plus free shipping). I have them organized by category (health and beauty, medicine, frozen foods, etc). After I watched your YouTube clip and seeing how other couponers from the show organize their coupons with the binder system, I was convinced this was the more efficient way to take advantage of both planned and unplanned deals. I’ve done this system now for about a month, and love it. It has helped me so much to have all my coupons on hand at all times. I did the “whole Insert” way for about 2 years, and found that I wasn’t getting the full benefit of all the coupons because I had to really plan the shopping trip ahead of time, and if I saw a deal while at the store, I would have to make another trip and hope the product was still there upon my return. It does take some work up front to pre-clip and organize, but for me, in the end, it is worth it!
    I follow several blogs, but you are by far my FAVORITE!
    Thanks for all that you do for us 🙂

    • Cindy

      That is the way that I started and it’s great.

    • Carolyn

      Hello Cindy,
      I use the whole insert method but I also print the coupon preview that I get and highlite what coupons I did get, this way if I am in a store and I see a produt that is on sale I just pull out the list and it tells me what coupon date the coupon is in and I can pull it from my binder and clip the coupons….

  • Keli

    Mimi, I’m just about to start my book and all the coupons I clipped….well, it’s just very overwhelming. Do you put in each pocket of the baseball holder all of the coupons for one specific item by category? Any information you can provide to help me get started on this project, I’d greatly appreciate. I have the binder, I have the baseball card holders and I even have the categories all set. Not sure where to put the store policies and the coupons or how exactly. Thanks so much.

    • mimi

      Hi Keli,
      I usually get about 5 inserts per week, and all the like clipped coupons in the same slot of the baseball card insert (there are 9 slots).
      For example, I put all 5 Crest coupons in the same slot, etc.
      My store policies are are in the same binder as well, in the back!
      I hope this helps! Please lemme know if you have any questions. I can email you a copy of my binder if that might help.

      • Keli

        Wow, thanks so much mimi. I’d love that. My email is keli@apollojets.com. Thanks again1

        • mimi

          No problem! As soon as I get home tonight I’ll take some photos for you!
          I usually have my binder with me at all times, but forgot it today when I left for work 🙁

          • Keli

            Thanks, Mimi. I look forward to seeing them. Have a great day!

  • Amanda

    I recently transitioned from the “cut every coupon and put in a binder” method to saving whole inserts like Cindy mentioned above. However, I go through my insert and take out the pages I need (it’s so full of ads!), and staple them together. Then I throw the circular in a file folder by date. When it comes time to cut, the stapling makes it super easy to flip through my circulars to find all the coupons i need!

  • Karina

    I am tempted to do the “no clip” way of organizing my coupons, especially since I throw out alot of expired coupons at the end of the month. The only thing that holds me back is, how do you know what coupons you have in the inserts if you use some for purchases, etc. Do you keep an inventory spreadsheet/list of the coupons that are in the inserts and cross out what you have used/no longer have?

    • Lori

      It’s really easyyyyyy. First, each week you get the inserts, write the code (RP=RedPlum, SS=Smartsource, PG=Proctor & Gamble…) and the date on the insert. Example is SS 4/17. File the inserts by date. Then use Cindy’s matchups. Pick whatever store you want to shop at and find the MATCHUP POST for that store. Check off the items you want to buy and use the print list feature. (Or you can just view the items on the screen) All the items state which insert to goto to find the coupon for the item. So it will list SS 4/17 which means the SmartSource insert from 4/17. Just go to your file and look for the date and insert type. It’s easy, try it.

    • Maan Jose

      since im the only one using the coupons. I tend to just remember I’ve already used it.

  • Milena

    Can you let me know where you got the smaller binder/clipboard (and possibly what it’s name is) you take with you into the store? I have the larger binder already and need something easier to carry while doing the actual shopping. Thank you for your awesome tips and website.

    Milena

    • Cindy

      The one I bought was from Staples. I tried to find it online but it’s not listed. It’s made by Dexas. It’s 9.5 x 13.5 and the UPC # on the back is 0 84297 20869 1.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you so much for providing the info. Have a great day.

  • Jamie

    I have found the easiest way for me to organize is to cut one whole insert & date the coupons on the back (i.e. SS 5/8) Then I have the other 4 matching inserts (I buy 5 papers) in a file folder dated SS 5/8. This way I carry all my clipped coupons in my binder into the store incase there is an unexpected sale. I can look at the back & know if I have more of these coupons in my binder that I left in the car. I also go in with a plan if I know an item is on sale I go ahead & cut it from the extra inserts from the file folder to take in with me in my envelope of coupons.

  • Jennifer C.

    I organize my inserts in a file box, with a separate folder for each month (I ususally have 2 of each insert) and this is about enough to hold about 6 months worth of inserts. I clip my internet coupons and put them in a small accordian binder that I keep in my purse. I sometimes clip coupons out of inserts that i KNOW I’ll use, like coffee creamer, for example, and put them in the accordian folder also. I print a list from LRWC, and clip my coupons and put them in an envelope. If there are a lot of items, I will re-write the list on the envelope, organizing by the order in which my store is setup. Because I shop with a 3 y/o, this helps me make sure I don’t forget any items! I have found that when I have a lot of coupons an envelope works better than a paperclip! Any clipped coupons that I don’t use get filed in my little accordian folder.

  • Jean

    Does anyone know where to get cheap baseball card holders from? I’ve been sorting by insert date for awhile now but I just feel overwhelmed and sometimes miss out on a good coupon because I didn’t realize I had it and flipping through 3 mos worth of inserts each week is kinda crazy. This site is a HUGE help, but i need to get more organized! Thanks!

  • Julie

    I LOVE the clipboard idea! I always have loose coupons and end up forgetting or loosing them at checkout or in my car!

  • cheryl manna

    I use a plastic storage shoe box to house all my coupons. I have envelopes titled with general headings of each type of item, for example, paper goods, dog food, shampoo, etc. I then file all the coupons both inserts and internet into their proper envelope. I find that this way I don’t forget where I might have tucked a coupon away, I can easily pull them out as I match the weekly sales to my coupon stash. I make out a shopping list with each week’s sale items by product name, price, number and value of coupons next to each item, and how many of each item to buy. So far I have not lost a coupon, missed a deal, or paid more for an item than expected. One thing I always do now is to read over the receipt before I leave the parking lot. If there are any errors or coupons that did not double, I go to customer service and have the error resolved. Makes for a good day! 🙂

  • Laura a

    I’ll have to look into the baseball card thing – but isn’t it aggravating to have to fold the coupons to fit? I have a plastic shoe box, cut up old file folders to fit in, & labeled them by categories: meds, personals, frozen, etc., cut all coupons ahead and file in appropriate mini folder – that way they r ready to use & with me at all times – just flip thru & get the ones I need. I put the ones I know I’ll use at the front Of each mini folder b 4 I go. As I shop, I put them in a folder in front just for checkout… Does anyone else do it this way?

  • Leila

    I am partial to the baseball card holder method…I LOVE to be able to flip through and see all my glorious money saving coupons 🙂 As for preparing for shopping, I got these great plastic zipper envelopes at Staples…when I’ve created my shopping list and gathered all my coupons, I clip everything together and put in the zippered envelope. It’s clear so I can see what’s in there and I don’t lose anything because the envelope zippers! Best part is they were in the dollar section!!! I keep going back for more…LOL I recently had an idea for my larger food shopping trips too…I bought a pencil case (you know, the plastic one that is “hinged”) so that I could start with my coupons all on one side and move them to the other side as I use them…gonna try it out soon and hoping it works out well!

    • JanetSacco

      The staples plastic zipper envelopes are great! I do exactly the same thing you do. I even have my store card in the envelope when I leave the house. That way, I don’t have to dig in my purse for anything. I think it works out well. I do have the binder with the baseball card holder, but I usually leave that home. I also have a small binder that I carry “important” coupons in and take that with me always.

  • jen

    Another thing that I do, is print my zavers list out!

  • Nicole

    I do the base-ball card thing, but I also have small plastic envelopes that have a snap on the front and a pocket in the back. I got them at Office Depot for $1 each. I have different colors for each store (Shop Rite is Orange, Stop & Shop is Purple, Rite Aid is Blue, Target is Red, etc.). I store all of the coupons/catalinas for a specific folder in the snap portion of the envelope. I make my list and match up the coupons. I created a list that I use that has 7 columns (Quantity, Item, Price, Mfg Coupon, Store Coupon, Return Coupon and Notes) so when making my list I can write down how many I want to get, which coupon I need to pull and what coupon I may be getting in return (ie cat’s, Up Rewards, etc.). Then I put the list, the coupons and any cats/Up Rewards, etc. all together in the back pouch. When I am done shopping any return coupons, unused coupons and the receipt all go in the snap part to reorganize later.

  • jessica

    I found the baseball card holders at Dollar Tree. I only switched to this method last week. It was very time consuming but I’m hoping it will be worth it in the.long run.

  • anonymous

    Just wondering, where do I get the best ink deals for printing coupons?

  • I like inkgrabber.com. Great prices for ink

  • Sue M

    I cut my coupons out each week a I share the ones I wont need with friends an family members. It is easier for me to have them all cut then seperted into my holder. Makes it quicker for me to find the coupons I need. Just my way, I know it wont work for everyone..

  • Kuka

    Love the Clipboard with case idea!!!! I am using a ziploc bag for each store now with the coupons for my trip, list and flyer. I already have a one of those clipboards at home, so I am defiitely going to use it from now on! Thanks!

  • Jamie

    I use the binder with the baseball card holders as well. To make it less “embarssing” although i have no shame, you can put the binder in the bigger portion of the cart and sort through it that way (hunched over in secret lol) . I go isle by isle and if i see anything i need i’ll look to see what coupons I have in that catagory and then pick them accordingly and put then in my “checkout” envelope. It is a lot of work to get your book started but once it is done, maintaining it is simple. Once a week or every other week i will go through the whole thing and pull expired coupons. But nothing is better than seeing an item that you have 20 coupons for go onsale and be practically free!

  • Lauren

    I use the binder system, I like this way because it makes it easy to scoop up unadvertised or clearance finds! Putting the coupons in the binder helps me to remmeber what coupons I have, I would never be able to remember if I left them as whole inserts! I bring my binder with me always, but I have an envelope for each store with the coupons and catalinas I plan on using and my master list. Anytime I have left the whole binder at home I have regretted it as I find something on clearance or a surprise deal that I know I have a great coupon for.

    • Maan Jose

      I suggest that you print the summaries they have for the coupon inserts, so as to avoid flipping through dozens of pages. Add whatever is not in the list and cross out those used.

  • Ashley

    Question for those using the method of only separating by insert/date… How do you organize the printable coupons??

    • Jodi

      I have an accordion-style binder for my inserts that I separate by date and then I have a separate little accordion-style coupon keeper for printables. I put all printables in the first section when I print them out. The rest of the sections are devoted to individual stores (SR, Rite Aid, etc). When I make up my shopping list, I’ll move whatever printables to whichever store I’m using them in and also put my clipped insert coupons in each store section also. This allows me to leave my binder in the car, but I can always run out to get it if need be!

  • Amber

    I used the baseball card sleeves in the past and found it to be waaaayyy too time consuming and annoying when I had to cleanout my expired coupons. I have switched to the whole insert method, separated by date and type. I get extra inserts from my local gas station on Mon morning and have noticed that every paper seems to have a different insert (although they look similar). So, I have to be extra diligent in separating them, to make finding the coupons easier when I know I need them, from the match-ups. As far as internet coupons, I only print what I know I’m going to use for a trip or products I typically buy on a routine basis. I found that I was printing a lot of coupons and not using them. The amount that I miss out on is minimal. And I cut them and separate them by category, and put them in sheet protectors. I print out my list, write how many I’m getting and put my coupons into a baggie. Before check-out, I go to an aisle no one is in and reorganize my coupons in case I have any coupons for items they didn’t have in stock. But I say, there is no tried and true method, it’s whatever works for the individual. Give it a try!

  • Lynn

    Since I’m so intimidated by the whole binder thing, I cut my inserts and use an old fashioned coupon holder. When I put the coupons in each section(ex.-Dairy), I put all like coupons together,eggs,milks,etc. I also have a seperate coupon holder that is divided by CVS,Riteaid,Walgreens,Target,and then an envelope containing stores I frequent such as Hallmark,ACMoore,Bath&Body and then some food coupons such as IHOP,Olive Garden,Burger King,etc. This one stays in my purse and it’s easier for me to keep my ecbs,RRs,etc. since I sometimes stop on the spur of the moment,I always have them handy! On Sundays, I make my drug store lists,Target,and Grocery and get out my coupons for each store.The coupons go in the right stores slot(except Grocery which goes in the front of the coupon holder with the shopping list) and I’m good to go all week.I have a small tote bag with my coupon holder,bottle of water, and my cvs tote with the bagtag all packed & ready to go.

  • Mary Grieder

    I use a 5×7 photo album with top opening pocket pages at the store. This holds mu coupons by category so that I can pull extra coupons if I find a great deal while I’m shopping.

  • Pamela

    I have my coupons in the baseball pockets (I also purchased a few of the Large pockets) in my binder at home, I then print out and match up the sales and pull and match my coupons from my binder. I found at the local dollar store a small hard plastic green expandable folder which has dividers inside. Ive labeled the store in each slot and then I put the matching coupons in the correct slot. Sales ads and list get attached to a clip board then I’m off. I found that if I take my big binder I will have a tendency to overspend on my grocery budget. That’s a No No 🙁

  • courtney

    how do you start a grocery list , i have my coupons but now what do i do

    • Laura D.

      Hi Courtney, go to the top of this page and use the drop down menu that’s titled “Find MY Store Match-ups” use your cursor to pick the letter of the store you shop at then click on your store. The store you picked will then load with all of the matchups for this week. You can click on the boxes to make a list of the items you have coupons for which are on sale. Print your list, gather your coupons and you are ready to go shopping! It’s that simple, Good Luck! 🙂

  • Luann Hancock Huntsberry

    I just switched from the binder to the box method. Much easier and lighter to carry ~ it fits perfectly into the shopping cart. I also have a small zippered cosmetic case inside to carry my calculator, scissors, pens and highlighters. It’s easier to purge when the coupons expire.

  • Stephanie

    Don’t throw out your expired coupons!! Send them to overseas military families who can use them for 6-months past their printed expiration date!!!

  • Denise

    You actually do it a lot like I do. I don’t ever bring my binder with me though.

  • Diana

    I also use the binder method. My sister uses the file by date method but she agreed that I save more money and get better deals because I have all my coupons with me when I go shopping. How many times have we been at Target or CVS and we check out the clearance only to find items that we have coupons for at home? So that takes a second trip to the store and then there is no guarantee that those items will still be there when make the trip back. It might take a little more time to do the binder method but if you want to be able to take advantage to all the sales and clearance it is well worth it.

    • Maan Jose

      indeed! or at least leave them in the car.

  • Shelly

    I do the ‘don’t cut inserts’ method, but I find that since I live in a different area than Cindy that I don’t always have the same coupons she gets, so I invested in the ‘coupon keeper’ app. It costs me $12.99 for the full version, but it has been a god sent. It allows you to scan each coupon and it keeps a database of the coupon with the insert it was in…and you can then search for your coupon, or search the whole insert from the app. And the nice thing is it automatically removes the expired coupons from your list, and you can also email yourself a hard copy if you prefer that. I then have little plastic boxes that I have each stores name on it…so when I see deals through out the week, I can just put the coupons in the specific stores box, and when I am ready to go shopping, I just grab my boxes, and my list. Although I do like the idea of removing and stapling all the same pages of the insert together for easier cutting later… I may add this to my method.

  • Maan Jose

    I always have a very small notebook/pad to place my coupons in, instead of the clip alone, since the coupons have very different sizes. And the small coupon binders never work, because the sides are of specific size. So a small notebook to slip them in is perfect for me 🙂
    Then I keep all my already printed and cut out coupons that are unused in a binder, filled with dividers stapled together, to make a coupon binder ( i dont ever want to spend money on a coupon binder)
    In the very rare cases that I buy coupons from the news paper, they are kept in that binder as well