How to organize your coupons (Whole Insert Filing Method)

by Angela Davis on February 22, 2013

How To Organize Your Coupons

Looking for a way to efficiently organize your Sunday newspaper coupon inserts? File your inserts whole and only cut the coupons when you actually plan to use them!

The Whole Insert Filing Method takes minimal time and investment to set up and can be maintained in under 5 minutes per week! Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  • File folders (20-ish)
  • Hanging file folders (10-ish)
  • Permanent marker
  • File crate, file box, or space in an existing file cabinet

All of these items can be used. You will reuse the file folders when you no longer need that particular date, so some return address labels or masking tape will be helpful to cover up the old date.

Gather this week's inserts

The first step is to just grab all the manufacturer’s coupon inserts in the Sunday paper.

Write the Date on the Cover

Next, write the date on the cover of each insert with your permanent marker. If you are unsure of which Sunday an insert was released, look for the date on the insert’s spine.

Put Inserts in a Dated Folder

Date a folder with the insert’s release date (the year is not necessary) and stick all the inserts inside the folder.

Put folder in hanging folders

Next, label a hanging file folder by month and stick all that month’s folders inside.

Hang folders in a crate

Stick the folders in a crate, file box, or a file cabinet.

Pull your inserts

Now your inserts are organized by date and can be easily located when you’re ready to do a deal. Every single deal we post on FrugalLivingNW.com tells you were the manufacturer’s coupon lives. All you have to do is find the coupon’s release dated folder, pull the indicated inserts, cut the coupon(s), and head off to do your deal!

Inserts are labeled by name:

  • SS = SmartSource
  • RP = Red Plum
  • P&G = Proctor & Gamble

You can label your folders by date AND insert name to take your organization one step further. This is especially helpful when 3-5 inserts are released on a particular Sunday.

Once you have cut your coupons, you’ll need to organize them and other coupons you collect (internet printable coupons, coupons from the store, etc) in a small coupon organizer.

Organize your cut coupons

I found this organizer in Walmart’s office supply section for less than $10. I love that it zips up and also has a small notepad tucked in the back. You could also use a check organizer or a small accordion folder from an office supply store, Target, or the Dollar Tree. The key is to select one that fits in your handbag or in a compartment in your car.

Try to find an organizer that has 13+ divided sections so you can have general coupon categories as well as tabs devoted to the stores you shop. Cut the coupons for the deals you’re planning to do, then slip them in that store’s section. Now you’re totally organized for that particular shopping trip!

Here are the sections I suggest you start with (you’ll inevitably re-do them as you become more experienced as a couponer):

  1. Dairy & Refrigerated
  2. Frozen
  3. Grocery (canned, boxed)
  4. Snacks
  5. Beverages
  6. Meat & Produce
  7. Breakfast
  8. Household (general)
  9. Paper Products
  10. Personal/Toiletries
  11. Store #1
  12. Store #2
  13. Store #3

couponizer

I’ve also used the Couponizer coupon organizer (Amazon) and found it to be useful, especially for beginners.

Organizing your coupons doesn’t need to become a part-time job. It also doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg to get started. The Whole Insert Filing Method takes just minutes to maintain every week and allows quick access your coupons when you need them!

If you’re new to couponing, be sure to attend an upcoming beginning couponing web class. Participants in the Portland Metroa area will also be eligible to get an exclusive deal on multiple Sunday Oregonians subscriptions at a substantial discount! Find more details and how to register for an upcoming web class here.

This post may contain affiliate links. See the disclosure policy for more information.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

malisa February 10, 2014 at 10:53 pm

new at this just started today don”t know anything about it watching tlc any advice i apreciate it.Malisa

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Brittnee May 30, 2013 at 3:38 pm

I really love your black coupon organizer with the notepad. You mentioned getting it at walmart. Do you happen to know the name of the product? I would like to find one exactly like this. Thank you in advance!

New couponer trying to get organized,

Brittnee

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Angela May 31, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I found it in the office supply section, but that was well over a year ago. It’s just their generic office supply brand.

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Sherry February 27, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I take advantage of many deals at stores “on the fly,” usually with clearance items. How can I adapt this method so I can easily find coupons to match with clearance items I didn’t know existed when I set out for the store? Any ideas would be appreciated. I currently cut out EVERYTHING and file in categorized envelopes in two picture file boxes. I’d love to cut down on the time I spend cutting, but I don’t want to give up the ability to be spontaneous.

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Angela March 14, 2013 at 8:37 pm

If you want your coupons with you at all times, the only option is to cut all of them as you’re doing now.

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Shelly February 23, 2013 at 7:25 pm

I love using the whole insert method. I do try to remember to clip the coupons for products I buy on a regular basis so I can carry them with me in my price book. But I really like the zippered organizer for the coupons that I do clip to make them easier to sort through at the store. Right now I have just two zipper pouches in my price book, one for food items and one for non food items.

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Abby February 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I used to clip all coupons that I thought that I would use and put them in a binder in baseball card sleeves. It became a very tedious job that took way too long. Then I couldn’t find the coupons that I wanted quickly when doing the match ups. I switched over to colating and stapling the inserts and filing them in my binder by date. I also put a printout that lists all of the coupons and their values of that particular insert at the front of the insert. That way I can find the coupon that I want quickly and it only takes a minute to clip if I find a deal at the store that I was not planning on.

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Judith February 23, 2013 at 8:19 am

I’ve been using this method for a few years and it works great for me. one more thing I do is, I usually have 4-6 of the same insert, so I take the inserts apart and staple the same pages together so when I need to cut a coupon, i only have to cut once and not 6 different times… :-)

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Angela February 23, 2013 at 9:55 am

Yes! I love this step. I’ve been *planning* to add that to my routine for say, 3 years?

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Lyn February 22, 2013 at 9:41 pm

I have the same set up as Deanna! I have been couponing for about 3 years and have found it to be the most efficient! I cut all my inserts except for anything I know that I will not use and then organize into sections (Baby..Frozen..Dairy/Meat..)It is great having every coupon with me, especially with clearance deals!

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DEANNA February 22, 2013 at 9:16 pm

I have a quick and efficient system to cut all my inserts minus anything I know for SURE that I wont be using. Then, I have a rack system to organize the remaining in each insert.

I would miss out on great clearance and mark down opportunities if I wasnt prepared with my coupons cut and ready to go. I have couponed for 20 years and this, along with a well organized binder have always been my way to stay prepared.

The extra 15 min to cut them is far better than the sick feeling to miss out on a great markdown deal!

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charolyn February 22, 2013 at 9:31 pm

When I have time, I too cut some I am pretty sure I will use.
And strongly recommend still saving the rest-as especially at Rite Aid, you never know when a money making item will come up and you will want that coupon :-)

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DEANNA February 22, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Carolyn, exactly! Its worth the time investment to be prepared for anything!

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Howard February 23, 2013 at 12:30 am

I get two papers each Sunday and I do cut out all of the ones that I have the highest likelihood of using. I keep them in a shoebox by category, and once or twice a month, I go through them quickly and throw out the ones that have expired, and temporarily save the ones that are about to expire that same week. The downside is that I sometimes have to look in 2 places for a matchup cpn–the shoebox and the pile of circulars saved by date.

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Jennifer February 22, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Thank you so much for posting this !!! I so needed this right now ! You should see my piles of coupon inserts! I was trying to figure out how to organize them , now I know ! :) thank you for all the work you do to help us coupon !

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Michelle February 22, 2013 at 8:22 pm

This is EXACTLY my method. One more suggestion. Before I file the inserts, I look through for the latest expiration date and also write that on the front of the insert like this: x 4/30. Then each month I toss (recycle) all the inserts that are expired.

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Angela February 22, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Brilliant.

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charolyn February 22, 2013 at 9:28 pm

That is a good suggestion Michelle-I use this method too and laboriously have to look through them periodically to see when they have expired (and a couple last possibly a year).
My storage method is even simpler-I stack them up by dates & put them under the couch :-)

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Howard February 23, 2013 at 12:21 am

Hi, I pretty much do what you do–except mine are stored latest on top in a pile NEXT to the couch. About 2-3X a year, I pull several months’ worth of circulars off the bottom, give them a quick look and recycle them.

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marie February 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm

yep, me too, except for the next to the couch. Mine are in a plastic crate.

Mandy February 23, 2013 at 8:33 am

Simple but great idea for finding latest expiration date. I’m stealing this!

I file similarly, but use a binder instead. I use full page sleeves (similar to baseball card sleeves I use for cut coupons) for each date.

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Mary February 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I use the binder and sheet protectors as well. But I go one step further.

I have a spreadsheet that lists every coupon, the value, the insert that it is located in and the expiration date. I then print my spreadsheet and include it in the binder. It is portable and very effective.

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Mary February 23, 2013 at 3:15 pm

And of course, I sort it alpha by product.

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