A friend of mine suggested that I use a large 3-ring binder with baseball card sized plastic sleeves divided by section. So, I tried that for about 4 months. This binder's big advantage is that you can easily flip back and forth and see the coupon you are hunting very quickly. It also has lots and lots of room to keep all coupons, ads, scissors, calculator and any other information you wish. It's big disadvantage for me was two-fold. It took me longer to clip coupons because I was trying to trim them down small enough to slide in the little baseball card pockets and it took me a long time to stuff them all too. Sometimes I needed to fold some coupons to get them to fit and sometimes when I did that I could no longer see when the coupon expired and had to take the time to write that down on the coupon where it would show through the sleeve. Likewise I needed to put a 'K' on the coupon for Kroger or a 'M' on the coupon for Meijer if it were a coupon from the catalina machine I got with my receipt so I'd know which store I was matching the coupon with.
For a while, I tried just saving up the inserts and dating them with a black sharpie on the fronts and then going back to find individual coupons when I needed them. Many sites list coupon matches so I'd know the coupon existed (from the Red Plum (RP) or Smart Source (SS) inserts and the date), but I was having trouble finding it this way. My inserts were getting mixed up. And sometimes I'd go back through my inserts and find a coupon I know I'd use but it wasn't matched with any deals on the sites and so I'd miss it. This happened a lot. Instead of using the sites, such as www.hotcouponworld.com, to find deals and matches to begin my shopping list I use them at the end of making my list to see if I've missed anything or to hopefully find a link to a coupon to something I really need to buy but do not already have a coupon for.
Finally, I decided to try giving the box method another try. Only, my box was bigger this time, and if I do say so "quite cute!" I picked it up on sale at Office Depot. It has an accordian style divider system already inside of it. I added labels with my categories for each pocket. The box method's advantage is that I can clip my coupons quickly without taking the time to trim down to the "itty bitty" edges. I can stack them by category as I cut them out and plop them all into their pocket in one swoop. The box method's disadvantage is that when it comes time to find an individual coupon I need to take out my whole stack within that pocket and start flipping through them. But sometimes I find it right away or I'll look for 2 or 3 at once in the same category. For me, flipping through them (and I do it like I'm counting dollar bills - faster that way) is faster and easier than trimming, labeling and stuffing baseball sleeves. And my box is easier to take into the store with me than the binder was. Plus I don't get as many weird looks from people looking through my box as my binder that took up the entire front seat. I guess I'm self-conscious that way. But you may prefer another option and that's good too. As you learn to coupon, you'll find your easiest storage method too.
Now... my binder is not sitting around collecting dust. There's still plenty of work for it to do. It holds a variety of information. It holds the complete list of everything I shop for for my family. (I downloaded this list and just highlighted what we use as well as wrote in a few extras.) It holds an inventory of my stockpile so that I can keep track of what I'm running low on and which deals I need to watch out for. It holds the weekly deals for my favorite stores. It holds past weeks' coupon inserts - just in case I decide I need that one or two coupon(s) I didn't clip earlier. It holds nutritional information for my family. (Yes, you can coupon and still feed your family high quality meals!) It holds menu ideas and recipes. It holds a list of meals that I have made in bulk and given in part to my aging in-laws who no longer cook much. I record what they liked and didn't like. It holds contests and sweepstakes I've entered. And for that I don't take the time to write them down; I just tape the ad for them right to a piece of paper already in the binder! Likewise, I list the free samples and coupon booklets I've requested. (It is so fun to get freebies in the mail!) The back pocket holds coupons for restaurants for any possible date nights with my husband. The front zippered pouches hold my scissors, calculator, pens, pencils, sharpie and paper clips as well as any special coupons or gift cards I might earn in my shopping to keep them separate and easily noticable so I remember to use them. An example might be a Meijer coupon I used a week ago, "save $7 on your next order of $60 or more". Another example might be, "Receive a $25 gift card free with any new or transferred prescription" from CVS. And my binder holds my e-coupons lists from www.shortcuts.com and www.p&gsaver.com (those are sites that allow you to upload coupons onto your shopping card electonically - no clipping). My binder is still very busy!!!
I will write more on other posts about menu planning, clipping coupons, and other related issues. I will see if my friend whom I learned much of this from will agree to have me list her blog address and a little about her on my blog. She's a seasoned pro at all of this! And she lists deal/coupon match ups each week for Kroger, Meijers, CVS and Walgreens. I certainly do not want to take away from anything she is doing in her efforts. I may end up posting some Rite Aid deals I see from time to time but my main love and time committment is for my God, my husband, and my kids right now. And they are the reason I coupon. See my welcome post. But maybe we can learn how to organize our coupons and our stockpiles together! And just maybe we can enjoy more time with our families and more money to spend on the important things in life.