One of the things that I find was the most challenging in the beginning, is organizing your coupons. Depending on your level of dedication (or your "crazy level"), organizing them could be as simple as a multi-pocket accordion organizer, to as complicated as an elaborate filing system.
I started out with just a 5-pocket accordion thing I got at the dollar store. I separated the coupons into five basic groups - Food, Personal items (medicine and personal care), Household stuff, Pets, Baby, and Misc. (for store coupons and oddball things).
After a couple of weeks, I had trouble sorting and finding the coupons I need, so I opted for the most popular method - coupon binder. The inserts for baseball cards provide a perfect little pocket for your coupon friends. You can also buy Couponing-specific inserts from places like Hobby Lobby, which have plastic pockets of various sizes. I really like them, but they are pricier than the baseball card inserts. So it's just a matter of what works best for you.
Places like KCL have whole sections devoted on their tips for coupon organizing, and which categories you will need. I haven't really read through them, as what I have now works for me. After a while, you will start remembering what coupons you have where, so looking for the right one will get easy.
If you are like me, and buy more than one Sunday paper - individually clipping each insert booklet takes a lot of time. Overtime I have learned to sort my inserts by stacking the same pages together, and cutting the coupons from more than one page at the time. You gotta be careful though, so you are not over-cutting, and accidentally cutting off the scan bars or the expiration date.
I am actually planning to buy an actual paper-cutter, one of those guillotine-style things that just slices the paper with one slice - neat and precise. I actually got some Office Max coupons to cash-in for that.
If you are just starting out, then good old scissors and a cup of tea will do the trick. Coupons in the inserts are arranged in a way so that cutting out one, does not ruin the coupon on the other side. So that's a good thing.
Shopping with your coupons, the mechanics of.
That is something that actually comes with time. In my first few trips, I found the experience confusing, bulky, awkward, and LONG. I brought my whole binder with me, and realized very quickly that it takes a long time to look for deals while at the store. Carrying a heavy binder AND my purse just doesn't work for me.
What I do, is basically research for the sales before going shopping, prep my coupons, binding them all with a paperclip, along with the print-out of the shopping list. I don't take my binder with me anymore - if I miss the sale, I miss the sale. That's not as bad as loosing your binder at the store, or worse, get it stolen. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but I have that fear.
I make sure that I have an easily accessible pocket on my purse (I use over the shoulder messenger-bags, so that i have free hands), and this way I can ditch the coupons I don't need, or don't have the chance to use - into the pocket. Once home, I unload my unused coupons back into the binder.
Coupons expire, and that makes me sad. Especially when they are really good ones. What I make sure to do every few days, or at least once a week, is to go through my binder. I look for the coupons that are nearing their expiration date and see if there are any specific deals I can cash them in for before they are no good. Of course, that does not mean that you have to go out and get crap stuff you don't want or need.
On the contrary - if I find that I can use more dish washing liquid, and the Palmolive coupon has only a week left on it - I am not waiting for the "GREAT SALE". I will use it on my next trip before expiration.
It is better, in my opinion, to miss out on the deal of the life time, than to miss a chance on saving on something you would buy anyway two weeks later.
Another thing, you will find yourself running out of space quickly. That's why its important to make sure that the expired coupons are not taking up the space for fresh ones. What to do with the expired precious coupons?
You can actually donate them to the US military overseas, as they can used them for 6 months after the coupon expiration. KCL ladies have a whole system set up for that, and will tell you exactly how to sort and donate them.