When I tell people I'm an avid coupon shopper, I think many of them immediately get a mental image of a harried mom shuffling through hundreds of loose bits of paper in the checkout lane.
Nothing could be further from the truth! My shopping trips are quite organized, because I take only the exact coupons I need for that shopping trip. No giant three-ring binder filled with pages of coupons. No expandable organizer bursting at the seams. No plastic bag, metal box or bulging pockets. Instead, I carry a small stack of coupons, each one corresponding to a product or item I intend to purchase.
I'm a "clipless" coupon user; I cut only the coupons I need, when I need them. Instead of spending hours on Sunday afternoons cutting every coupon that arrives in that week's newspaper, then sorting them by product and type, I keep the entire coupon insert, intact, each week. Then, with the help of a grocery-list matchup web site, I only cut coupons that correspond to this week's sales. It's a faster, easier way to organize and manage coupons.
Matchup web sites that track grocery sales at the supermarket match coupons to products on sale. In addition to highlighting the products on sale and the percentage of savings, the sites list the dates and names of the inserts in which the corresponding coupons appeared. For example, if the list calls for a coupon from the "10/24 RP," the coupon that matches that sale can be found in the RedPlum coupon insert of Oct. 24.
Keeping each week's inserts intact is the first step in organizing your coupons -- and it's also the easiest. There are weeks I don't even bother opening my inserts until I get ready to plan a shopping trip!
Keeping track of the dates coupons arrive is crucial. Coupon matchup web sites refer shoppers to dates specific coupons ran in the paper. Look at the spine along the left side of the next insert that arrives with your newspaper; you'll notice the date is printed there in very tiny print. I always write the date on the insert front with a marker, so it's much easier to grab from my files when I need it later.
I file each week's inserts by date. I use an accordion file, which can be found at any office supply store. I like to keep the most recent month's inserts in the front pocket, the previous month's inserts behind that, and so on.
When I'm ready to plan that week's shopping trips, I check the grocery matchup web site and then simply pull out the relevant insert the web site calls for. For example, say Raisin Bran is on sale this week. The matchup site refers to a coupon in "10/10 SS." I simply pull the SmartSource insert dated Oct. 10, cut just the Raisin Bran coupon from it and then put the coupon insert back into my accordion file.
The list might call for a printable coupon from the Internet. In that case, the listing includes a link to that coupon. I click the link, print the coupon and then add it to the rest of my coupons for the week.
Just as I don't waste time cutting coupons I don't intend to use immediately, I also don't waste ink printing Internet coupons that I'm not likely to use. I only print an Internet coupon, if it lines up to a great sale taking place the week of my shopping trip.
It doesn't take long to cut the coupons I need for my weekly trip. If I intend to buy 15 items this week, I only cut coupons for those products. There's no need for me to carry around every coupon I own, if I don't intend to purchase those items this week.
Learn more about grocery-list matchup web sites by clicking the "Getting Started" link at my web site, supercouponing.com.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.jillcataldo.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.