November 17th, 2008
With the retail season looking rather dismal, there are tons of coupons out there, flooding our email addresses, our mailboxes, and buried in our newspapers. And of course, we want to save money, so we end up with all of these little pieces of paper in our kitchens, in our coat pockets, shoved between the seats of our cars, etc. And of course, when you are ready to use that coupon, sometimes you find it just expired!
So how do we keep them all straight? It’s tough because traditional “coupon organizers” costing anywhere from $5 to $20 allow spaces for dairy, bakery, fruits, vegetables, etc. But there is no tag for “department stores” nor “home improvement” nor “salon services”. And it is near impossible to keep all of the expiration dates straight.
If you are like me and have gotten tired of wasted, expired coupons as well as the mess of little pieces of paper everywhere, try this:
- Get a check organizer from somewhere like Walmart (approx. cost: $4) that will fit in your purse or at least in the door of your car.
- Instead of organizing coupons by category, try organizing them by month. It’s much easier to vaguely remember that you have a coupon for Macy’s as well as some pasta sauce rather than to try to keep all of the items and expiration dates straight. At the beginning of the month, flip through your coupons and see what is going to expire so that you can use them up.
- Only clip the coupons you really have a chance of using. Remember, coupons are always marketing tools first. If a brand or store can convince you to try something “new” or spend $50 to save $10, you could be spending a lot more money than you were planning to.
- When manufacturers’ coupons do expire, consider sending them to www.ocpnet.org. This is a non-profit that helps military families living overseas by getting folks to send them coupons. Manufacturers will accept coupons on a military base up to 6 months after the expiration date.
Copyright 2008-2009 Kristin Delfau, author of Turbo-Mom's Guide to Saving Money Without Wasting Time a womens' personal finance book, and Aji Publishing.