Saturday, January 30, 2010

Taming the Coupon Chaos

When I got serious about using coupons, I had to find a good way to organize them. My envelope system became tattered and confusing after a few months. So which method is best?

Consulting friends who have more experience in this than I, I heard from FOUR trustworthy sources, including Coupon Katie, to go with a binder. Clear baseball card sheets were a popular method for storing them by category. They'd put the older ones toward the back of each pocket and periodically check through them for those close to expiration. This method certainly has its pluses for versatility and expansion as your interests and ways to categorize coupons can change.

But since I usually shop with a 3 year old who can't sit still, even in the race car carts, and a nearly 1 year old who's becoming increasingly squirmy and inquisitive, I have to consider what system works with them as my co-pilots. If Brooke sits in the seat, where's my binder going to go? And do I really want to lug around a binder to every store? It just didn't give me the warm and fuzzies.

When I searched online for the typical alternative--accordion style organizers--I wasn't that impressed, and some of the customer feedback slammed them. Either they were too small, there were too few dividers or the dividers didn't make sense to many customers. Many complained that they were cheap and fell apart quickly. No thanks.

Then I ran across a one woman company called Glowgirl who sews an eco-friendly solution for $12 - $16.50. And had I waited just a few more weeks, I would have found her latest addition, the "mega coupon organizer" (room for 1,000+ coupons!). Here are the pluses of her product and company I like:
1. She's a female owned business who seems committed to excellent customer service.
2. Each organizer comes with 30 divider tabs and 80 peel and stick labels so that you can choose the labels that work best for you.
3. It closes with a button / elastic closure that secures to the grocery cart. It also sits up on its own.
4. The fabric is durable and attractive; it will hold up for years of weekly grocery trips.
5. She scours yard sales, estate sales, on-line sources, friends, family, remnant shops looking for great fabrics to use or "upcycle" from a previous use.
6. The peel and stick labels are 100% recycled paper and the index card stock is 15% recycled paper.
As much as I've enjoyed the organizer I got from her, I bought the smaller one that was the only one offered at the time. I've found it to be just a little too small in width and depth and have wished for something just a touch bigger. The mega organizer would be perfect for me.

I also learned a valuable lesson the hard way about where to hang my organizer on the shopping cart. Since Brooke was grabbing at it next to her, I moved it to the outside bar closest to me. That was just enough of an angle for Devin to swing it and send every coupon flying to the floor. Yes, I was practically in tears as I scrambled to gather hundreds of coupons. Thankfully I had most of the ones for that trip in my hand at the time and was able to reorganize the rest in a few minutes at home. I now attach it to the inside of the cart. Live and learn.

Now that I've had nearly a month to work with my organizer, I'd have to say overall I'm happy with my choice. It looks attractive, it fits well in one hand, and it keeps me organized. Mission accomplished.

So what's your vote: binder or purse style?

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