Getting Organized to Save Money – Boot Camp Episode #3
Part 1 – Coupons
It’s time to talk about getting organized to save money. The most important tip I can give you to succeed in coupon shopping, is to find a system of organization that works for you. I started out with a small coupon file, the size of an envelope, that I got for under $1 at Walmart. This was years ago and it obviously did not work, because I soon gave up.
I purchased my 3 ring binder at Target. It zips closed so nothing falls out. The outside has a vertical file pocket. This is where I place store inserts, printable coupons I haven’t cut out yet and store coupon policies.
I highly recommend printing store coupon policies, so that if there is ever a question, you have it with you to show the cashier. (Links to store policies will be posted in a future boot camp) There is an outside zippered mesh pocket that I place my receipts in when done shopping, then they go into my monthly envelope.
I purchased this zippered pencil pouch separately, for under $2. It has 2 pockets. I use one to place my coupons in that I plan on using for that particular shopping trip. While I’m shopping, and I pick up an item, I move that corresponding coupon into the other pocket. Even though I planned to use all the coupons I set aside, sometimes I get to the store, and they are out of a product or it’s not as good of a deal as I was expecting. By moving the coupons over as I shop, then I can hand them directly over to the cashier, knowing I have an item to match each coupon.
Behind that I have a notepad. This is where I make my list and plan my coupons. I would have taken a picture, with my list on it, so you can see, but my handwriting is scary.
Column 1 is the item and quantity. Column 2 is where I list the coupons I have for that item. Column 3 is the price before coupons and then column 4 is the final price. I like to write down the price before coupons in case, for example, I’m using a $5 off $30 purchase. This way I know if I’m going to met that minimum and if I cross something off while I’m shopping, it’s easy to add my total. I like knowing the final price, so while I’m at the register, I can recognize quickly if the total is over what I planned, and if there is a problem.
I have my categories separated with see through pocket dividers. This is where I throw coupons, that I pick up while shopping, which makes it easier to file later.
Behind the pockets are baseball card holders. I got this idea while researching other coupon blogs. They are the perfect size, see through and easy to organize. This makes it easy to find a coupon, if I’m in a store and see something on clearance or sale, that I hadn’t planned on. I have also added 4×6 picture pages. These are clear just like the baseball holders, and they hold 3 per page, but the pockets are bigger for those larger coupons. You can find these at the office supply stores. I got mine at Office Max.
UPDATE: I now have the Samsonite 3-Ring Organizer and it comes with a shoulder strap. This one has lasted me for several years and I love how it acts as a desk on my shopping cart. There is a similar 3-ring organizer on Amazon for a bit less.
I have a filing cabinet where I place coupon inserts, in case I need to refer back to them for additional coupons. These are filed by the Sunday date they came out. This might be a good way for you to get started. If you don’t have time to clip coupons every Sunday, you can just store them for a few months.
Often times you will see deals posted like this:
Cover Girl Foundation Buy 1 get 1 Free
– $2.00 off Coupon from the P&G 12/27 insert
You can then refer back to your files and clip the coupons you need. There are people who keep them all in a coupon binder, I just don’t have the room, nor do I want to lug all of that around.
What system are you using to organize your coupons? I’d love to hear any ideas you may have as well as answer and questions you have.
Part 2 – Receipts
Do you keep your receipts? I recommend keeping them all for at least a year. Get manilla envelopes and label each with a month and you can file all of that months receipts in it. How many times have you been to the store and noticed an item you just bought has been reduced? Many stores will do a price adjustment for you. If you keep the current months envelope in your car, you can easily do this. You can also put receipts quickly in after you go shopping. At the end of the month you can go through and see where you are spending your money. Create a separate envelope for large purchases, like a dryer or electronics. You can quickly access them if something breaks or needs to be returned for any reason. I’m going to start keeping the envelope in my coupon binder.
Part 3 – Bills
Paying bills on time is an easy way to avoid late fees. Many of my bills are the same amount every month. Review the budgeting post for more info on how to do this and get your free budget worksheet. The reaccuring bills are set up to automatically be paid through my online banking. I still file all incoming bills in my inbox and double check them. You can also mark the due dates on your calendar. I recommend marking it a week before it’s due so it gets there on time. After a bill has been paid, I file them by month. You never know when you will need to refer back to them. When you clean these out, make sure you shred them, or put them in the burn pile. This time of year we like to have a fire pit and it’s an easy way to dispose of personal information.
Part 4 – Lists
There are several lists you can create to help you stay organized. Here are a few:
Gifts – Keep a list of all of the items in your gift closet. When you need to get a gift it will be easily accessible. You can keep track of gifts for kids, adults or unisex gifts.
Food Storage – Keep a list of what food items you use on a regular basis and what you currently have on hand so you know what needs to be restocked. This can also help you with menu planning. You can easily see what you need and food won’t be wasted. (This list is one I need to work on)
Shopping list – Make a list before you go shopping and stick to it. It’s easier to avoid impulse items if you have a list.
Price list – Create a price comparison for items you buy on a regular basis. When I first started couponing, I did this to help me memorize prices and confirm what stores had the best price on items.
Do you have any organizational tips? We’d love to hear them.