The Simple Coupon Binder

Did you know that if you google “The Binder Method” and “Coupon” that you get over 400,000 results!  There are blog posts, how to’s, pins, and youtube videos out there showing how to coupon using the Binder Method.   Four hundred THOUSAND ways to coupon with the binder method.  Makes your head spin a little right?

I think I read approximately 2.3 of these google search results before creating my binder.  This is what I learned.

  • Some couponers meticulously alphabetize and categorize their coupons down to the letter.  I don’t do that.
  • Some couponers fold and trim their coupons to fit into the various pockets of the binders.  I don’t do that either.
  • Some couponers recommend separating your printable coupons from your newspaper coupons.  I don’t do that.
  • Some couponers clip every single coupon out there and file it away in their, oh I don’t know, TWELVE INCH BINDERS.  I most assuredly do not do that.

I used to use the accordion file method of couponing back in the day.  Google that.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  But I switched to the binder method to SIMPLIFY and SAVE TIME in my couponing efforts.  That said, to me at least, clipping each and every coupon from every source possible and alphabetizing them into 47 different categories did not seem very simple or very time saving.

So I stopped reading the posts and I paused the youtube video, because holy crap learning how to make a binder was going to use up all the time I had allotted for a week’s worth of couponing.   I stopped and I thought about this for a moment.   I have a shining exampe of a simple couponer right here in front of me.

My dad is a vintage couponer.  I mean he was a couponer before couponing was cool.  He still has his old canvas coupon organizer where he organizes his coupons from the newspaper every week.  The category labels have long ago rubbed off, but he knows where everything goes.  Because he just knows.  He also has the uncanny ability to know which coupons are in the organizer at any given time.  What can I say, I guess that is what 30 years of practice will get you.  My dad’s coupon organizer has maybe 8 tabs.  He clips coupons for things he regularly uses only and he files them away.  So it makes sense that he knows what is in his organizer, since he has been clipping the same set of coupons for decades and he is an avid newpaper clipper so he pretty much always has the coupons he needs on hand.  This is my model.

IMG_0683

My coupon binder is 1.5″ wide and has 7 dividers.  They happen to be color coded because I happened to find this set of colored binder tabs on the clearance end cap at Target.  Frankly, I could care less that they are different colored or colored at all even.

Categories:

  1. Grocery – this is any food that is not refridgerated
  2. Dairy/Refriderated/Frozen – foods that are refriderated or frozen.
  3. Baby – diapers, wipes, babyfood, etc
  4. Medicine – this is for, um, medicine
  5. Household – cleaners, batteries, and paper goods
  6. Personal Care – shampoo, conditioner, makeup, etc
  7. Store coupons – store specific coupons from Target, Publix, and Kroger

How do I keep the coupons organized with such broad categories and without alphabetizing?

IMG_0685

It’s really quite groundbreaking, are you ready for this?

FullSizeRender (1)

I fold them so the pictures of the products show.  Yep.  That’s all.

If you haven’t heard, a picture is worth a thousand words, or in this case, categories.  When I get ready to go shopping I flip through the binder like a magazine.  My amazing, human brain, can quickly pick out photos of products we need and exclude those that are not.

That is my greatest couponing secret and I have just shared it with you all.  You’re welcome.   Don’t waste time reorganizing your coupons to be alphabetical every week, just read a picture book.  Or better yet, if you have a toddler, let him read it to you.

Happy Couponing!

 

Advertisements

Not so Extreme Couponing

Extreme couponing does exist.  Probably not the way it is portrayed on television, but it is possible to get so many things for pennies or even nothing with the right plan.  I used to be pretty close to “extreme” back in the day.  I would get multiple newpapers, I would pickup coupon inserts from break areas and Starbucks tables, I would print coupons from multiple printers… I would spend the better part of my weekend comparing prices/extracarebucks/rewards/fuelpoints diligently.  Then I would spend the week running around to eight different stores with my notebook AND coupon folder.

That was then.  And this is now.

coupons

Why I don’t extreme coupon anymore

Mostly because I don’t have the time.  I also got a little wrapped up in the “deals” part of it and I ended up with all these items and stockpiles of things I didn’t even use.  Mens razors, dog food, 20 pounds of granulated sugar.  I was all a bit much for my single, cat-owning, Weight-Watcher self.

How I’ve scaled back

  • I only shop at one drug store and two grocery stores.
  • I made a stockpile list and wait for what I need to get low enough at one of my preferred stores and I stock up.
  • I switched from the accordion file method to the binder method of coupon organizing (more on that another time).  The accordion method really tempted me to buy things that were “like free” but that I did not need or even want.  The binder method forces me to only clip coupons for things that we actually use.  “Like free” Depends underwear at Rite Aid with coupon?  Oh nope, sorry threw that coupon out… and also NO ONE HERE NEEDS DEPENDS UNDERWEAR!

Coupon Binder

How I do it now

  • I use Southern Savers for my coupon matchup and list making and links to online coupons.  Yes there are any number of really good couponing sites out there to help us all out, but simplicity is key here.  Pick one and roll with it, I don’t recommend bouncing around, it’s a serious time sink and it’ll stress you out trying to compare them.
  • I shop at CVS, Publix, and Kroger.  And sometimes Target.
  • I clip coupons from my double edition Sunday paper and I print some from: Swagbucks, southernsavers, and Save in Store.  I store my coupons using a binder with baseball cards inserts.
  • I use smartphone apps like MobiSave and Ibotta for cashback when applicable (I also try really hard not to lose my receipt on the way home from the store because these apps require that you upload a receipt as proof of purchase).

I honestly spend about 30 minutes on Sundays clipping, printing and filling coupons.  I save my lists to my southern savers app whenever I have a spare minute to scroll through the deals.  I shop with Ike after school, usually on our way home with one major grocery trip on either Saturday or Sunday.  I still purchase most of our meat and seafood from Costco because they have better organic/sustainable selections.  I still save a lot of money for much less time!

How to spot a GREAT realtor

While Isaac and I once loved our current house, it was so convenient to work at less than 8 miles, there was never any traffic.  It is near enough to downtown Atlanta to have plenty of restaurant and entertainment options within a 15-20 minute drive.  Linda and Mei were about the same distance away.  The house was plenty large enough for the two of us.

Well, two years and two kids, and two more extended family members later, the house has shrunk considerably.  We could use an extra bathroom, a larger kitchen, and a little more space for everyone to spread out.  Ike needs a yard, since he is shaping up to be quite an outdoorsman.  Isaac needs a man cave since we women out-number him 4:1 at present and Ike generally takes mommy’s side.  My baby sister Ivanal needs a place to get out from under our mother.  Gabby needs a place to park her car out of the street.  Isaac and I want to be in a better public school district when Ike goes to kindergarten.  In short, we needed to move.

Ivanal will be starting high school this Fall and Gabby will be moving into the dorms, so this summer is our optimal time to move.  This sounded like a reasonable timeline when Isaac and I decided on it back in December.

We started out with a realtor from in-town Atlanta.  Although we decided a while ago that the ‘burbs were best for our family.  The southern ‘burbs ultimately.  The schools are excellent, the commute is reasonable, the towns are safer, and the property is much more reasonable than Atlanta proper.

We dawdled around with our first realtor for several months, not exceptionally happy, but also not really upset by anything in particular.  He didn’t really know the area, he rarely sent us places to look at, he gave very little input on maximizing our current home’s curb appeal.  He just sort of took cues from us.  He did refer us to a lender, which was a clear disappointment, but that is a story for another time.

At the end of April we met with a different realtor, this one was referred to us by someone who lives in the area we are looking at, because well duh.  We don’t live in the area and while we love it, we really don’t know much about it other than what we can read online and glean from friends who live there.

What a difference a good realtor makes!  Ten days after meeting her we had:

  • Made an offer on a new house at an unbelievable deal
  • Listed our home
  • Juggled multiple offers and accepted one on our current place

Realtor

These are some tips for spotting a really good realtor:

  1. They know the area that you are shopping in. They can tell you about the schools, the nearby entertainment options, the age of the neighborhood, the market climate in the area.
  2. They ask you your price range and they stay within it. We gave our realtor a price range and a short wish list of amenities that we wanted.  She sent us 10 properties and every single one was within the range or negotiable to our range.  They all had everything we asked for.
  3. They know how to do market research. Our home is not in the area that our realtor typically works.  But she took only two days to provide us helpful comparable sales and gave us good advice on what is and isn’t worth putting into the home before we list it.  She priced it spot on and it had offers within 48hours.  Offers with an S.
  4. They make time for you. Both our realtors really met this, but it’s important.  We called the new realtor on a Saturday morning about a property that had just listed the night before.  I was leaving town that afternoon but we really wanted to visit the home before I left.  She squeezed us between her two existing appointments and although late and a bit disheveled, she was there and able to give us some very good advice on the home.  We made an offer that evening.
  5. They help you with an offer. This one is key.  We found a property with our first realtor that we wanted to make an offer on.  But we felt that the ask was way high.  He pulled comps in the area, but he gave us no advice or opinion about the real value of the home or any indication that we should offer more or less than our very uneducated guess.  We didn’t make the offer because we felt too uninformed.  The new realtor provided comps and information for the neighborhood and the area just a few hours after we visited the house.  She called us and gave us an actual number for our offer.  She talked to the listing agent and told us what she could about the probability of acceptance and negotiation.  Isaac turned in the letter as I boarded my flight.

We are currently under contract on both homes and are busily making plans for the big Moving Day.  I am so happy that we chose to go with the new realtor.  She really made all the difference in the world.  If you happen to be shopping for a home in the south atlanta suburbs, I have a phenomenal realtor for you!

Frugal Easter Basket Ideas

Have you ever noticed that nearly every major holiday has special candies dedicated to it?  That candy is the center of so many holidays throughout the year?  The Chocolate Heart boxes at Valentines, the Peeps and Chocolate bunnies at Easter, the candy filled Christmas stockings.  I could go on and on!

I am not anti-candy or anti-fun or anything.  But I would like some balance since we do have quite a laundry list of holidays to celebrate throughout the year.  There will be some candy in the Easter Baskets, but my goal is to have mostly non-candy items creatively chosen to be somewhat useful after Easter is over.  I would also very much like to keep this to a moderate sized budget.  No, nobody is getting a new bicycle or new shoes for Easter, sorry, we are buying a house soon.

PicMonkey Collage

For my Toddler

1.  Bunny Ears – because ADORABLE!  Here’s Ike’s from last year.

IMG_4975

2.  Bubbles – we need more bubbles because EVENTUALLY it will be warm enough to play outside again.  Dollar Tree and Dollar General are great places to find cheap bubbles.

3.  Sealed plastic eggs filled with corn, rice, or whatever we already have in the pantry – for shaking and music-making

4.  A Stash Bank – for his cash stash.  This is from my gift collection, things I randomly purchase when they are great deals throughout

the year.

610_5317

 For my Teens

1. Nail Polish – this set was free from Julep

610_5314

2. Hair accessories – I can usually find these at the Dollar Store in nice bright spring colors.

3. Stationary – These are from the OneSpot at Target.

610_5304

4. Pens – Also from the OneSpot.  I love Target.

610_5306

For all of them

Socks.  I swear we consume socks around my house at an alarming rate.  Everyone could always use more socks.  And they should be whimsical and pastel because it’s spring!    These are pretty much everywhere, and the closer you get to Easter the greater chance they will be marked down.  Finally, a benefit for procrastinating!

610_5311

I fully intend to recycle Ike’s basket from last year, I don’t think he’ll notice.  I found the girls’ baskets for $1.50 with my cartwheel deal at Target.

Christmas Budget Wrap Up

I had a budget, I had a plan, and I had all the tools for success.  How’d I do with Christmas shopping?  Let’s see.

5929475379_413be83a77_q

After careful consideration, I have chosen not to repost the original spreadsheet, as so protect those who may feel short changed or overly gifted the way that the numbers fell out.  Nobody was I promise, I was just a better shopper for some items.  Anyway, I’ll speak in mostly general terms here.

Total Budget. $1100

Actual Amount Spent. $1,136

Extra Gifts Purchased (unplanned). 6

Total Cost of Extra Gifts. $89

Total number of gifts under budget. 13

Total number of gifts exceeding budget. 7

Lessons Learned:

  1. Factor in Tax – DUH.  Of the 7 items over budget, 5 of them are tax/shipping costs, because I didn’t account for either of these.
  2. Plan for a few extras for floating present people and kids we may have forgotten overlooked.
  3. Try to have some of the list ready for black Friday and Cyber Monday.  I got my best deals during cyber week, but I was unprepared for several people so I missed quite a few good bargains.
  4. Start early for stocking stuffers.  I got lucky this year, finding the bag of stuffers in the coat closet which saved me about 10% on each stocking.  That will not be the case next year.  Unless there’s a forgotten bag hanging out in the garage somewhere.
  5. Do NOT buy any more wrapping paper.  I purchased a wrapping paper organizer bag last New year.  And I pulled it out to pack up the wrapping stuff this year.  I have so much paper!  I must hoard it before and after the holidays.  I do not need anymore until Ike is old enough to remember that it was the same wrap as last year.
  6. Make extra room for more Christmas wine.  I didn’t have nearly enough this year.

*Linked at Thrifty Thursday.

A Conscious Christmas

Happy first day of Advent! Check out our cute new Advent calendar.

610_4031

Since Ike’s too small still for candy (yes he is!) Let the fight over the tiny piece of chocolate commence as if there is not 24 other pieces left!

I love Christmas.  Christmas is MY holiday.  You can keep Valentine’s Day, Easter, New Years, even Thanksgiving, just give me Christmas and I’ll be fine.  I love everything about it.  The smells of cinnamon and pine, the fresh baked cookies everywhere, the twinkling lights, Christmas Carols, Christmas trees and ornaments galore.  My favorite though, by a mile, is buying all of my loved ones thoughtful gifts.

There’s a song from New Orleans (by Benny Grunch) called, “I bought presents”.  This song embodies me and my Christmas spirit.

I went on down to Macy’s, and every time I tried to leave, I got caught in the revolving door…so I bought presents… I bought presents and a bottle of Christmas wine.

I just love shopping for presents.  I think about people’s reactions when the open them.  I think about the smiles, and the thank yous, and the “oh this is just what I wanteds!”  They are the best.  And I think about people thinking of Christmas when they pull out the presents throughout the year.

The down side to this love of presents (and Christmas wine)? I tend to get a little carried away buying them (and drinking them?).  I never have really made a true list, I scribble notes here and there when people mention things, but then I go shopping and buy all of everything plus stocking stuffers.  I have no idea even how much I end up spending, because I just get caught up in the season.

Since we are planning to start shopping for a new house early next year, I think it would be a good idea to get a handle on my holiday spending habit.  I don’t want to take away any of the gift giving spirit, but perhaps curtail some of the impulse “junk” purchases.  And at the very least, understand what I am spending and how much so that I don’t pass out when the credit card bill arrives.

I have talked about my new love of printable here before.  And the internet is so full of helpful folks who want to help in every aspect of organization and budgeting.  So finding some Christmas gift printable planning tools was not difficult at all.  I chose to make my own, naturally.  Because you know, I have all the time in the world for piddling around on the computer.  What? Oh the family wants dinner? And clean underwear? oh.  Okay I’ll put that on your Christmas list I have to go buy presents now!

Oh I’m makin a list.  And checkin it twice.  And comparing the price(s).

Here’s my list, with the actual present ideas conveniently omitted, because, duh IT IS A SURPRISE FROM SANTA!

page0001

So in total, my target for Christmas shopping is $1100 (because I need $20 for wiggle room and also Christmas wine).   I think this is a very reasonable amount for NINE people.

I’ll fill in a column for the actual amounts and re-post this list after I purchase everything (as of today I have purchased NOTHING save for the Yats xmas CD which arrived this afternoon).

Off I go to cyber Monday shop, ta ta HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Can I order wine on the internet?  Is it on sale today?

Humms maniacally to self while searching for a wine coupon code “on the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a crawfish they caught in Arabi…”

September Savings Challenge Week 3

This week’s challenge was to trim the grocery shopping budget.  I used to be (pre-baby Ike) pretty good at going to several stores to catch the sales on items.  We have fallen into a sort of slump where I go do major shopping once a week at where ever is close by, then hitting Publix on the way home 2-3 times a week.

Average grocery bill:  $200 a week!

Average amount of food wasted:  Way too much!

I’ve been practicing for this week’s challenge since the beginning of the month, since to me, this one has been the most difficult behavior to change.  We aren’t great at planning, and sometimes we have extras at the house, and sometimes we just want to go out.  So and so is in town, the food trucks are here and it’s beautiful, OMG I want pizza!  Things come up.  I don’t know who is going to be all about the watermelon or salad, and who is going to be on a straight carb loading diet lest all the produce will go to waste.

Anyway, blah blah blah Woe is me.  Boo hoo.  To the plan! My goal is to cut the weekly bill in half.  Which seems extreme, but I mean $200 a week in groceries for a family of 3.25 is a bit excessive.  $100 should more than cover it.

I pulled the sale ads for both Kroger and Publix via Southernsavers.com and used the handy coupon matchup tool.  Then I did some research on Costco pricing.  I go back and forth on warehouse club shopping.  It seems like everything is a great deal, until I have a doubled coupon with a B1G1 sale and then I end up with free things.  But, research has shown (both mine and around the web) that organic meat and produce from Costco is usually the best deal, provided you can eat all of it.

That said, I found this out about a week and half ago and rushed over to Costco to buy organic chicken breasts and some organic blueberries.  $142 later, I had a watermelon, chicken, mexican coke, a pallet of LaCroix, prepared chicken wings, and wine and I don’t even remember what else.  So yes, I had saved about $4 on the chicken and $1 on the watermelon.  Then then spent another $100 so my net savings for that visit was -$95.

Take 2 this weekend.

Costco Visit Saturday

Spent $48

Bought:

  • 4 lbs Organic Ground Beef
  • 4 lbs kiwifruit
  • 2 lbs strawberries
  • gogo squeeze organic applesauces
  • dozen 15 oz cans of organic tomato sauce

The strawberries are already gone.  I used 1lb of beef to make chili, and froze the rest.  We use tomato sauce in Spanish rice, soups, spaghetti, et al so 12 cans will be used pretty quickly.  The cost worked out to be $0.56 per can.  For some perspective, Walgreens is running a special this week with an in-ad coupon for 2/$1 8oz cans of tomato sauce.  I think Costco is winning.

Then there was our regular grocery shopping.  I made a list, I clipped, printed, and electronically added coupons.  I made careful notes on what size of what to buy.  Here’s how we did. (Ike helped of course, by taking a nap in the carrier so I could focus).

Publix Visit Sunday

Spent: $54

Bought:

  • beans – pinto, kidney, and refried
  • hominy
  • onions
  • taco seasoning – three packages with a coupon
  • gallon of organic milk
  • ranch mix
  • herbs – mint and cilantro
  • Super Puffs – Ike’s favorite snack with B1G1 coupon
  • lemons
  • yogurt
  • cantaloupe
  • canned tomatoes
  • dish soap

With all of that, I made:

Chicken Tikka Masala via Skinny Taste

We had – rice, chicken, spices, sour cream on hand

Chili via an old Weight Watchers book

We had – nothing on hand but I really wanted chili and canned beans and tomatoes are pretty inexpensive

Will make later this week:

Salmon and roasted vegetables

We have – Salmon, Potatoes, Vegetables on hand already

Three multiple serving meals plus a little stock piling and fresh produce for snacking.  Our grocery total for the week was $103.  Pretty close to my target!  We are still eating leftovers and I will make fish tomorrow to switch things up.