I struggled for years to come up with a way to store coupons. They are small and flimsy and challenging to keep together. Since they proved to be such a pain, I pretty much gave up on couponing. But, as our two-person family will become a three-person family in short order, I figured it was high time to find a way to keep all those valuable diapers, wipes, and formula coupons in some sort of order.
So, of course, I Googled to try to find a solution. There are all sorts of way to keep coupons organized, but what I think will work the best for me is a binder system. The supply list for the binder system is as follows: binder; tabs (I am using eight); pen or pencil; small calculator; loose leaf paper; and baseball card page protectors.
Before I assembled my coupon book, I needed to come up with sections. This was challenging because I needed to fill eight sections, and I did not want to have more than eight. Any more, and I thought it would be too much. Of course, if you want to divide into smaller categories, that is up to you. For me, eight is the magic number. I divided my eight tabs into the following sections:
-paper products/cleaning supplies
-other foodstuff (dairy, grains; produce)
-other retailers (includes all those Bed, Bath, and Beyond and Babies R Us coupons that require me to use coupons at certain stores)
Once I set up my tabs, I organized my coupons into their sections, placing coupons into the baseball card dividers. I organized my coupons by expiration date, with the nearest approaching expiration date at the top of the page.
Now that one has this fancy and organized coupon book, how do you work the system? Well, I will share my mom’s trick. Go through the ads for the grocery and match up coupons with that goods are on sale. That way, it is like you are saving double. Sometimes the coupons for the week match up perfectly with the store sales, but sometimes there is a two to four week lag time. But, the coupon expiration dates are such that if you hold on to them, a sale will come up shortly. Use your loose leaf paper to write up a grocery list and meal plan for the week with your on-sale and coupon items.
As Dan and I start to plan for our family expansion, budgeting has taken on a whole new meaning for us. Especially since all things baby related are quite costly. So, I have been researching best practices in family budgeting, and I ran across the website, The Simple Dollar. I highly recommend checking out that site because the author provides easy to understand information that does not require an Economics PhD. There is a lot of information out there and distilling all the coupons and strategies can be challenging. But, one other plan I hope to enact is creating a price book (click here for a post about price books from Simple Dollar). I think knowing where to find the cheapest goods would prove invaluable. True, this is super time consuming, but coming up, I will have some time to explore this issue. And after I map out my price book, I will be sure to share. So, stay tuned, as this local government budget analyst becomes a home budget analyst.