Organization is crucial to successful couponing. Every time I go shopping, people stop me to comment on my system of organization. Sometimes, I get a joking "that's crazy!" Usually, I get comments along the lines of "No way! That is amazing!" Why? Because I have a pretty obvious system of organization...but it works!

I use a coupon binder. Coupon binders have become extremely popular with couponers because they are so helpful. A couponer will outgrow those little coupon organizers you can buy in the store in a hurry - there are just too many coupons out there for those :-) I know that for myself, I outgrew a "coupon organizer" from a craft store in about 4 weeks. By that point, I was spending more time looking for coupons that I already had, than I could finding new valuable coupons and match-ups.

When I came across the coupon binder system, it revolutionized the way I organize coupons and shop.

Here's how it works:

I have a 2 1/2" binder with pockets, that zips shut. On the front of it is a pull-out set of 5 file-folders in which I keep all my store ads and coupons that haven't been clipped yet. On the inside cover are some smaller pockets in which I keep scissors (I always need these handy - sometimes even in the store!), a pen, and coupons which are expiring in the next few days.

The binder is filled to the brim with baseball card holders that function perfectly as little coupon holders. I fold each coupon, as necessary, to fit so that the offer and expiration date are always visible (from either front or back). This enables me to easily see what I have available when looking for a particular coupon, and makes it faster to thumb through to pull expired coupons (which I do about once a month).

The coupons are organized by category. I found a free template online that I felt suited me best. Some people organize their coupons alphabetically, instead of categorically. I didn't feel it would work as well for me to alphabetize them, because when I think of my shopping list, I think through categories: what do I need in my fridge? in my pantry? in my bathroom cupboard? etc. I think the key is to think through what would work best for you when it comes to dividing your coupons, then do so accordingly.

Is my binder a little bulky? Yes. Does it stand out when I walk through a store? Absolutely! But, I've found that I always miss out when I don't have it with me. I never know what I'll find in a clearance section, or "manager's markdown," and it's so nice to be able to check my coupon database on the spot and take advantage of deals right then and there - not to mention, double-check other store's ads for price comparisons in-store. I just set my binder up on the front of the shopping cart and thumb through it as I shop. When people ask me about it, I gladly tell them about how much God has provided for me through couponing!

Finally, it can take a while to get organized, but it's vitally important to keep up with whatever system of organization you land on. Staying organized is about working smarter, not harder. If you keep a routine in your organization, you'll find that you can focus your thoughts and energies on the more important stuff - like getting good deals! ;-)