Learn to Coupon | How to Organize Coupons Part I

learn to coupon

So now that you know what coupons are and where to find them, what should you do with all the coupons that you have gathered.  In my opinion, lack of organization is one of the main reasons new couponers fail.  Let’s face it, it can be very overwhelming, even for experienced couponers.

I really want to emphasize that there is not one perfect way to organize your coupons. Most people try one or more methods to find which works for them.   Do not get discourage if you are not successful on your first try.

When you are deciding which method you will use, think about how you shop:

:: Do you stick to a planned list?

:: Does your store have frequent clearance or unadvertised sales?

:: Do you have a strict budget that you must stick to?

:: How much time do you have to commit to organizing your coupons?

:: How many coupon inserts do you get each week?

Click below to read the entire post.

Method A – Accordion File

If you are just starting out with coupons, you may want to give the accordion file method a try. This is a simple method to get started. You can find a cheap accordion file, under $10 to get started. This method is great for the beginning couponer. You won’t have many coupons and you won’t feel overwhelmed. Simply set up tabs dividing the file by product type and sort your coupons.  You may want to use your accordion file in conjunction with another method.


:: You will have all of your coupons with you at all times.

:: You will be able to take advantage of unadvertised store deals.

:: You “get to know” what coupons you have.

:: Easy to organize.

:: Small and easy to fit in purse.


:: It can hold only a few coupons.

::  Not easy to flip thru and see your coupons.

:: May take more time in stores to find the coupon.

:: May outgrow it quickly.

Method B – Coupon Binder

Photo Credit

The Coupon Binder Method is a very common method.

Here is how it works:

The idea behind this method is that you will always have all of your coupons with you.   Each week you cut your coupons out of the inserts. You will then organize your coupons by either item, section, store aisle, expiration date or by product type.

1. You will need to start with a 3 ring binder. I recommend using a zip binder, so that your coupons do not fall out. I recommend something like the Case-it Large Binder . I highly suggest buying a decent binder. They become quite heavy and can fall apart easily.

Baseball Inserts

2.  You will also want to pick up Baseball Card Inserts for smaller coupons and 3 Pocket Binders. You will also need tabs and dividers.  You will also need to cut paper inserts the size of of the baseball tab inserts. Recommendation: Choose a good divider.  You will be flipping thru these tabs on a regular basis. You will want to make sure they are large enough to write on.

3. Make your dividers based on how you shop, whether it be by category, alphabetical order or so forth.

4. You will put each coupon in a individual baseball tab. If you would like, you can put a colored piece of paper to fit behind it to act as a divider.

There are some variations on the coupon binder method:

Reader Chris D.’s Binder Method

Chris D uses little tabs to put the expiration date on the side of the pockets to easily tell when they expire.

Stephanie’s Coupon Binder

Stephanie uses a 3 ring photo book to organize hers.

To organize coupons in a photo binder:

photo album

Divide the photo album into sections using labels.



The coupons fit perfectly into the slots.



If you are looking for an easy way to get started – some extra help, you can check out the Loaded Coupon Book.


The Loaded Coupon Book provides you with the guts of the binder.


:: You will have all of your coupons with you at all times.

:: You will be able to take advantage of unadvertised store deals.

:: It is easy to remove expired coupons.

:: You “get to know” what coupons you have.


:: Can be bulky and awkward

:: Can be time consuming.

::  Have to pull out individual coupons when they expire.

::  Can be expensive to start – the cost of binders/inserts can run upwards of $35.00.

::  All coupons may not fit into one size pocket.


Tomorrow we will be discussing more ways to organize your coupons.
Till Tomorrow.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here
  • Rubi Blu

    thank you so much been looking for someone to explain just how to get started ThankYou

  • Marcia

    Okay. I saw, on 2 different occasions, couponers with the old sticky-type photo binders.[ You just peel back the clear page, place your coupon on the page and then let the clear page fall back over the coupons…] Without even thinking it through, I searched and finally found one. Now, I see most suggest the photo pocket type. Any suggestions/comments for the type I purchased? Thanks

  • Nicole

    Just wanted to say I am starting my binder today and I was at Walmart to get my FREE Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet one step cleaning system and I wandered over to the Binder area where I was expecting to pay at least $15 for a decent binder….and then low and behold mixed in with the five star binders was ONE Case it large binder(which you suggested were best)…BEST Part was it was the last one left because they were on clearance( which I didn’t know until I got to a price scanner) It was $7.00!!!! I was sooo excited. And might I add very nice!
    Thanks for the suggestion!

    • Shannon

      Nice, I love when you score a deal!

      • chantal

        no longer available at amazon

    • im just starting out do u have any good tips on were to get your coupons or how to get started and any good sites to get coupons to print out that is safe

  • Melissa

    Chris—great idea to share expired coupons with military families. Do you know where we could send them or know a family who wants mine? I’d love to share!

  • Chris

    GREAT Ideas from everyone! I wanted to let you know that if you know someone in the military – they can use your expired coupons up to 6 months after the expiration date. Save your coupons and share them with the military families. God Bless the USA! :)

  • brandi

    Awesome ideas from everyone!!! here’s mine, i grocery shop weekly, so i sort coupons by exp. date, then find the ones i know i’ll need quickly/weekly that are within my budget and sort accordingly, then the remaining get throwned into the remaining weeks to keep up with the needs. Seems to be working as a kick start since i am still a newbie!!! I am, though, trying to find the time to go to all of the awesome websites out there and print out MORE coupons, outside of my sunday paper. IN DUE TIME!!!!! :)

  • Valerie

    I am curious, does anyone use a phone app to keep track of what coupons you have? if so what app do you use? i’m trying to find a better way to get to know what coupons i have when i find clearance or an unadvertised special.

  • Terri Kent

    Thank you for all your hard work on this topic. I have been couponing only since May 1, 2011. I have to say I am still unsure how to obtain mass savings on grocery items vs. health/beauty items. I set up my coupon binder with the zip case and baseball cards organizing them by category. I pitch expired coupons weekly. I do two methods actually and maybe that is the problem. I also keep a file cabinet with the different inserts sorted by post it’s by Sunday date.

    Is this wrong? Any suggestions?

    • Shannon

      There is no “wrong” method. Where are you shopping? Are you using a list of matchups?

  • Janice

    I use a “hybrid” method. I usually purchase 4 newspapers. I cut out coupons that I will probably use from one set of inserts and put them in the baseball card holders in my binder. If there is a coupon for a product that our family uses a lot, I clip it from all 4 inserts. I take the remaining inserts and file them by date in a file drawer right next to my computer. That way, when I check the match-ups on Saturday, I can pull the inserts and clip the coupons I need while sitting at my computer. I would like to thank Shannon and other bloggers for helping me save so much money. It took me about a year to get a system going, but now I usually save 45-60% on my weekly grocery bill and I save a TON at the drug stores.

    • Terri Kent

      I do the same thing! Whew good to know I’m not nuts. However, I am not figuring out how to get the savings on FOOD vs health/beauty goods. I save a few bucks here and there but with me being unemployed/full time student I need help drastically. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance

      • sam james

        Hello. I was having the same problem. Just can’t seem to save at the grocery store, but I think I figured it out. Stock piling & no not like those crazy people on TV. Like this. I know my frozen chicken is normally priced @ $8.99 , but I found it on sale for $ 5.99 I bought an extra bag. My spaghetti sauce in normally priced @ $1.25 – $1.50 a can. Found it on sale for $1 I bought 4. Etc etc. Now when I shop I’m buying only sales with coupons to stock up my stock pile. I have shaved about half off our bill. Hope this helps.

        • Shannon

          Sam, excellent advice :)

      • Josi

        The best way I have found to save on food is this: my publix usually has dozens of items b1g1 free. Since that automatically makes the product 50% off if you buy 2, paired with 2 coupons it makes them very cheap. Example cereal bars reg $2.50, b1g1 makes the cost $1.25 each, plus $.75 coupons make them $.75/box. So I guess I do kind of “stock up” but reasonably. With meats, I only buy what’s on sale, and freeze a package or two. The biggest problem is produce – but I just count on spending a set amount for things that can’t coupon well.

        • Anonymous

          I get my produce at the local farmer’s market.. If you go frequently, the farmers get to know you and they give you cheaper prices or extra veggies. The other day I got cucumbers for 25 cents a piece because it was the end of the day and they only had 4 left.

  • Bethanie

    I started a few weeks ago and have went with the binder method. I found a pack of 100 page baseball card holders on Amazon for around $18, they have been a God send. I too have extra pocket inserts in the front that I put sale ads and coupons for a specific shop such as Walgreens or Rite Aid. Found it easiest to paper clip the coupons I am going to use on the pocket and pull out my list of match ups and just go for it. When my trip is over I toss my list and the pocket is all clean for the next shop. If I see other things on clearance or offer that were not listed, I find it easy enough to flip to the tab containing that item.

  • I love my binder. I’ve been using a binder with baseball card pages for years now and I find it works best for me. No one touches the binder but me. :) I use binder clips to attach my grocery list to the front and mark things off as I go. I need to upgrade my binder (bigger) and add some pockets for frequently referenced weekly ads. I find it helpful to take the ad to the store.

    Like you said in your post, it’s most important to find what works for you.

  • flutemom

    my coupons are organized similarly to linda’s (above). i have a small accordion file for my coupons. i file alphabetically, so my tabs are (for now) a-c, d-h, i-m, n-r, s-z (originally based on dividing my coupon pile into fifths). i also have a section for ‘use this month’. at the beginning of the month, i go through all my sections and pull out the ones that will expire that month; i put them in alphabetical order in my ‘use this month’ section. each week as i clip coupons, i try to get them filed in their proper alphabetical sections so i can stay organized. i also just recently added envelopes in the front for cvs, walgreens, rite aid, target, and my local grocery stores. that is where i keep rainchecks and ecb/register reward/ up reward slips, so i don’t lose them or forget about them.

  • Jennifer

    I’ve used method A before I started couponing a whole lot. Then I tried method B and felt like I was spending so much time clipping coupons that i didn’t use that I don’t use that anymore. So now, what i’ve been doing for the last 2 years, is just saving each insert with the date on the top written on a post-it. I know i miss out on deals that come up in the store while shopping, but that really doesn’t happen that often and this way keeps me sane. I do my coupon matchups using the database on LRWC or hotcouponworld, which tells you what insert that coupon you need is in, so it’s pretty easy to find. Plus this site, and the other blogs I read all post what circular the coupon came from that I need so it makes it pretty simple to find what i’m looking for.

  • Linda

    I love my coupon wallet. I have envelopes in the front of my wallet for Wags, CVS, Grocery Store, and other stores. Then I have coupons that I may use which I have clipped organized by date of expiration. If I encounter a great deal, I can go home and clip coupons from my circulars and then go back and score the deal.

    Being only one person, I can only use so many razors, health and beauty products, etc., so I end up giving a lot of that type of stuff away to a local food bank. Food stamps can only buy food, so people who have a tough time making ends meet may have to use their actual income on toothbrushes and razors. I bought 40 toothbrushes last week at Wags for -$20 when factoring in all of my coupons. :)

  • J

    Some realistic advice for the beginner couponer living the real life…no matter which plan you use, it doesn’t always work perfectly. I can’t tell you how often I am at the store with my coupon binder (accordion, but that’s what I call it) AND a pile of unorganized coupons that I printed off before leaving or ripped out of the paper in the car on the way to the store. This especially tends to happen when I shop Sundays after church but before other activities for the day and am rushed. These are the same days when my “list” is the weekly ad with items circled and others written at the top margin. So if you find yourself in a similar situation, remember this: Find all your coupons before you get in line and don’t get upset if you missed a deal. It happens. There’s always next week to get free toothpaste.

  • Dianne

    This is exactly what I have needed to get started. Thanks so much for offering this to us “newbies”.

  • Paula Santiago

    Thank you, since I am new to trying all this out I am trying to figure out how to get organized so I can get these great deals like all you bloggers, and hopefully cut my current grocery bill in half if possible

  • Jennifer

    Thank you so much! Looking forward to the rest of the 30 days!!!