Part of my getting organized for 2013 includes a re-vamp of my coupon binder. It was already fairly organized but with the holidays it fell to pieces and wasn't updated so I decided it'd be best just to pull everything out and start over. I've re-done this binder a couple different times because I was always find ways to tweak it. I'll list the different sections/tabs below and explain a little bit more about them.
First off you'll see the picture above shows that I have a clear zipper pouch in the front. I found it in the clearance section at Wal-Mart during the after school started sales for like $.50 so I bought a couple of them I store the basics in here. I used to drag a calculator along with me but I've finally come to realize it's pointless because I always end up using the calculator in my phone if I need one. I always include a highlighter because later on you'll see how I separate my price matched items to make checkout a little less stressful. And some pencils and pens because you need to write down the original price to bring back into your excel program (if you decide to record prices etc). I also like to include at least one blank shopping list page in my book, I usually keep in on the back side of the "shopping list" page so if I'm out and about or not by my spreadsheet I still have a place I can write down info for my shopping list.
Shopping List: This section is where I keep an ongoing list of needed items and I pull the list we have on our fridge and shove it in here when I'm getting ready to make my excel worksheet of my shopping list. I know it takes a little more time to put it all into excel but I like tracking what I paid for specific items we typically buy often. Then I can compare when it's really a good deal and see what kind of sale prices I need to wait for. When I finalize my excel spreadsheet I gather all of the coupons I plan to use on my current trip and add them to the plastic cover sheet page as well. List and coupons go here for safe keeping until I get to the store.
Food Coupons: This section is dedicated to most of my coupons and the bulk of my binder is from here. I have my coupons split into categories. At first I was doing them by expiration date and month but have changed over to type of sorting because it's a little easier for me to find them while I'm shopping if I find something we need that I didn't have on my list. The other system worked great for me because I wasn't always using them up in time so instead of looking like a fool with an expired coup and check out I knew to pull those out that were in front. Also, when I did my online price matching (learn in another post) they'd give you the expiration date, so just flip to the month and find that coup in the right area. Worked like a gem! My categories they're now broken down into include: baking items, beverages, breads, canned goods, cereals/breakfast, condiments, dry goods, fresh produce, frozen foods, meats, pasta & rice, refrigerated, snacks & sauces. I choose to have my food coups in a separate section because sometimes I only go grocery shopping and not house shopping (cleaners, razors, office supplies and that type of junk) so that's the main reason I choose to make this a whole tab and not include household items into this tab section.
Other Coupons: Here, my dear buddies, is where the rest of the coups go (besides fast food, stay tuned you'll hear about that in a bit). I added categories of everything else here. The different categories in this area include: baby products, batteries, body wash/scrubs, cleaning supplies, facial care, feminine products, hair products, laundry, lotions, office supplies, oral care, otc meds, paper/plastic, pets, razors, seasonal, smelly goods. Of course you should make this fit for you, I really didn't need a baby section because I obviously don't have babies but I still get baby coups in the mail so I add them to this section and whenever I run into a friend that needs them I give them to her, or, if they're getting close to the expiration date I'll take them to the baby section and place them by the items as kind of a favor to mommies who will be buying dipes soon. Also, if you're into buying goodies for pets, you could always split that section up into "pet food, pet treats" and tabs like that. This is kind of the "catch all" section in my binder where all other coupons go. If it's not a food item or we do not consume it, more than likely you'll find it here.
Fast Food Coupons: Ah, the fast food section. I'll admit it, I'm guilty of going on to eat at least once a week if not more sometimes. I usually have friends that want to meet up for lunch so if we go out I try to go to places I've got gift cards or coupons too. Here's where all of my fast food coups are housed in hopes that I'll pick them next. As you can tell I've got a ton of BK coupons right now, we rarely eat there so I usually give them away to friends but at least these coups have their own section. I do have a giftcard for BK so perhaps I could stack a coupon and giftcard and eat there... I almost always have coups to Subway so you'll constantly find me getting a free 6" and usually we do the buddy system. I buy one week, they buy the next. Works like a gem.
Store Policies: I rarely need these but I do get the occasional new cashier or know-it-all cashier who tries telling me I don't know the policy. Here's where I pull it out and show them, that indeed, I do know the policies better than the employees. Granted I've only used it once or twice but it can be intimidating for them to realize I know my crap! Also, don't print out all of them, just print out the coupon policies to the stores you use the most.
Menu Plans: This section is where I break down future meal planning and what ideas we'll be using. I'll break this section down later to explain it a bit more but the main idea is that I plan out a weeks meals based on what the sale ads are. Then I write it all down and just flip to this section to figure out what needs to be made which day. Sometimes we don't always stick with the plans because we're busy or something comes up but for the most part we're getting better about sticking to this schedule. Makes supper prepping a lot easier knowing we've already got the goodies on hand to make meals! Also, if you're trying to figure out which days to pull out frozen meat or crock pot meals it gives you a little time to prep for it.
Coupons To Be Sorted: This is exactly what it sounds like. If I get in a hurry and don't sort coups they go into this section until I have more time to sort them out. Typically I throw the coupon inserts from the Sunday paper in here if I don't have time on Sunday's to sort them. Also, I do some coupon exchanging with a friend, if she gives me a bunch to go through I throw them in here until I have time to sit down and go through them.
New Recipes: Do you ever find yourself pinning recipes then printing them off saying I can't wait to take this home and try it? Well I do, this is where they're "housed" until I have time to transfer them into my recipe binder. Also, if we're trying a new recipe sometimes I'll leave it in this binder to see if we like it, if we do, transfer it to the recipe binder, if we don't, it gets tossed. Great system for needing to know ingredients to buy for specific new recipes since more than likely the binder is with me while I'm grocery shopping. And when a friend gives me one of her recipes I've got to have a place to stash it before I get it home and transferred to my book, here's the place!
So, there it is ladies and gents, my coupon binder and all of it's secrets. What other suggestions do you have for it or what do you have that I don't have? Would of course love to hear more on what yours includes! Sharing is the only way we can all improve our skills! Stay tuned and I'll post again more about how I go about couponing and more about my binder later.