There are two methods that you can implement; each is completely dependent on your personality, time, and mindset.
Cut and File (This is the method I use, and I LOVE it!)
You clip EVERY coupon EVERY time. I do not follow this strictly. There are some that I clip and save to give to others locally. Now that I am participating in the Coupons for Soldiers program, I send any extras to my soldier's family. Details on how to donate coupons (even expired ones) can be found at www.weareangelsinaction.blogspot.com I do keep coupons for items that I know I will not use if I think they will be FREE or almost free with the coupon. This allows me to help others without blowing my budget.
Pros - You always have your coupons with you, therefore you can snag all the last minute clearance items, manager’s specials or missed sale items. This is also an efficient way to jumpstart your stockpile while you are starting out.
Cons - It takes more time. To cut and organize hundreds of coupons takes lots of time and energy. It is also an ongoing project, you can’t get behind or you will never catch-up!
File by category, alphabetical or manufacturer name. It depends on how you think. Use what works for you.
I utilize clipping services to GREATLY cut down on the time involved with this method. I only buy two copies of the newspaper. I would rather pay the small handling fee for someone else to cut them than cut out family time.
Get people to help you! Once kids are old enough to safely handle scissors (and not cut off exp or bar code) they LOVE to help do this!
What I do - I have two 3-ring binders and use baseball card inserts to hold my coupons. They are durable and most coupons fit in them without folding. One binder has all of my food coupons. It is divided into three main categories: The Pantry, The Fridge, and The Freezer. The other binder contains: The Pets, Health & Beauty, and The Household. I divide each of these into smaller sections. I used card stock to make my dividers. It is much cheaper than buying premade dividers, and you are in complete control of how you want to set it up. Here are some ideas for categories, but you should use what works best for you!
Coupon Filing Categories:
Health & Beauty
Bug & Sun
Bathroom Paper/Cleaning Tools
A smaller version of the binder method can be done by using 4x6 photo albums or a small filing envelope. I started with this, but quickly realized it did not allow for the sub-dividing I find necessary. My goal is to find the coupon I want as quickly as possible!
File by Date Method
Each week when you get your Sunday coupon inserts, take a sharpie and write the date on the front. Then file them in a large folder by date. You can easily find the coupons you want by using an online coupon database.
Pros - Saves time - you only clip what you are going to use each trip to the store.
Cons - You don’t have the coupons with you at the store. So, if you find clearance, manager’s specials or missed sale items you won’t have them with you. Making your list for the store takes more time. If you pull coupons and the store does not have the item, you also have the added time to re-file them when you get home.