Michelle Jones, Frugal Mom of 4 and Founder of BetterBudgeting
Michelle Jones, Founder
of BetterBudgeting

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Living a Better Life
(featured column... from the editor's desk)

Photo Copyright 2004 by BetterBudgeting.com
Coupon Queen Savings: Get Your Grocery Coupons Organized! 
by Michelle Jones, Author of 101 Coupon Tips

Learn how to organize your grocery coupons for Coupon Queen savings!  And it doesn't have to cost you a penny!

When our children were very young and we were often short on cash, I regularly saved 50-60% off of our food bill by using free grocery coupons each week.  (Easily totaling more than $100 in savings every month!)  Let's just say I was known by some of our closest friends and family as a 'Coupon Queen,' and was proud of the title.

Over the last twenty years I've learned many additional ways to save money on groceries (even without using coupons) and regularly add more of my tips to our grocery site at GrocerySavingTips.com.  However, I still use coupons to slash our food bill as often as possible, saving an additional $50-$200 a month!  

A reader recently asked me what I do with my expired coupons.  And I have to admit (as a busy working mom of 4), there are times when I fail to even clip them out of the newspaper--as you may notice the stack of crumpled expired coupons at the very top of the photo above, which I wanted to share with you while I was creating a new coupon file this past summer.  

NOTE: This was the LAST TIME I had to toss out my expired coupons!  Now they all go to our Military Family Coupon Project! (Get more info on this great project at GrocerySavingTips.com)

To me, tossing out a pile of expired coupons like that (many were coupons we could have really used) is just like throwing money down the drain.  But instead of getting upset over the money lost, I decided to just move on and try to not do that again!    

Sounds similar to a diet doesn't it?  Actually, budgeting and saving money are very much like dieting indeed... if you make a slip or have a bad week (or as in this case, a bad month), you just have to pick yourself up and get right back on track!  

So, I crumpled up every expired coupon one by one as I discovered them in my old coupon file (a great stress reliever by the way!), took a picture so I could share this lovely blunder with you in a future column, and then proceeded to reorganize my coupons so I could keep track of them more easily.

Photo Copyright 2004 by BetterBudgeting.comIf you're new to coupon clipping or just need a fresh start, here's a few of my tips to help get your coupons more organized so they can be extra cash in your wallet; instead of a crumpled pile of trash, which may look something like this...

Clipping Coupons

Timing - Try to choose the same day and time to clip your grocery coupons each week.  This will help you establish a routine.  I like to do mine at the beginning of the week, either on Sundays or Mondays.

Method - Now when it comes to clipping your free grocery coupons (which you can find in many forms, including the Sunday newspaper, magazines, weekly mailers, etc.), you have several methods to choose from...

* Clip them all out:  This is a quick way to clip the grocery coupons and is also an easy job you can assign to an older child.  Later, you can sort out which coupons you need to keep and which coupons you can share with a friend.

* Clip out only the coupons you know you will use:  This might take a little more time as you will need to look at (and think about) each individual coupon as you cut them out, but will save time later when filing them away and when going through them for use each week.

* Don't clip out any of the coupons, but save them in their whole page form:  I don't recommend this method, but it will do when you're really pressed for time.  I've been known to have a month's worth of coupon flyers to go through before leaving for the grocery store, not very fun!  

Storing Coupons

Inexpensive Containers - There are plenty of coupon organizers on the market today but all you really need is a simple basket or box with some index cards for dividers.  Here are a few of my favorite ideas for inexpensive containers to store your coupons in…

* Gallon size plastic zip bags: I like using these because they’re clear and you can see your coupons at all times – sometimes out of sight means out of mind!

* Recycled envelopes: FREE! Instead of tossing out all those crisp clean reply envelopes (others may think of as junk mail), tuck the flap inside and use to store your coupons.  This is great if you don’t have many coupons to store.

* Small baskets:  I like to use pretty wicker baskets all over our home for various storage purposes (I started collecting them at yard sales many years ago), and they are great for coupons too!

* 4x6 file boxes:  This is my latest storage container of choice and after looking for file boxes at several stores around town I finally came across just what I was looking for, at our grocery store!

* Recycled shoeboxes, diaper wipe containers or empty food boxes: FREE! These are great because they won’t cost you a penny and have plenty of room to store hundreds of coupons.

Index Dividers – You can either purchase index dividers from an office supply or discount store, or make your own, as I did.

* Store bought dividers:  Alphabetical and numerical index card dividers can be purchased and either used as is or adapted for coupon categories.

* Making your own dividers: FREE! Just about any type of large index cards or heavy cardstock paper will do.  You can even cut out cereal boxes and make your own sturdy dividers completely for free. 

* Labeling your dividers: FREE! Make a list of the coupon categories you’d like to have in your coupon file, such as Breakfast Items, Coffee & Tea, Frozen Foods, etc… in alphabetical order.  Then either label or print your dividers with these categories.

Initially, organizing your coupons may take a few hours, but it will help you save precious time (and money) each week.  And by getting your coupons organized and ready to use, you’ll be on your way to Coupon Queen Savings in no time!!!

*  *  *

Copyright © 2004 by Michelle Jones, Author of 101 Coupon Tips, available at GrocerySavingTips.com

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