For a couple months now, I've been practicing what I've been calling "extreme-ish couponing." I told myself I wasn't a "real" extreme couponer because
A) I still have pretty high standards about what I will and won't buy (no artificial colors or MSG in foods, no artificial fragrances or nasty other chemicals in cleaning or hygiene products)
B) I've "only" been saving an average of 30-50% on my shopping orders (this week was 43%) and
C) I didn't have a coupon binder, just a little coupon wallet.
"C" is no longer true. This past weekend, I broke down and put together a coupon binder. It was just getting too much of a pain to flip through all ninety billion coupons to find one little coupon that I found I needed when I was in the store, like the pistachio coupon I needed a couple weeks ago that I spent about ten minutes searching for when I found an unadvertised sale.
One of the reasons I put it off so long was I was afraid it would cost a lot. I've seen coupon binders on sale on various tend to run about $30! No way was I paying that much for a coupon binder (even though that is about what I save with coupons every week now)! I knew I had unused binders laying around the house, so I just needed to put the right stuff in it to make it a "coupon binder". I bought some baseball card holder pages (regular price $5.99 for 35 sheets of nine slots, so space to hold 315 different products; you might want more than one set if you aren't as picky about what products you might buy) and two packs of 8 dividers (regular price $1.27 each). Then it was time to assemble it.
I used a 2 inch binder, since that seemed to be the smallest thickness I could get away with (since I'll be lugging it to stores every week). The binder I found has pockets inside so I figured I could use them to hold the coupons I'd be using the current week. If it didn't, I probably would have added a zippered pouch or a sheet protector to store my stack. I have some sheet protectors lying around the house (I use them a lot for my various binders), so I stuck one inside the front to hold my grocery list(s) for the week. Next comes the different sections for my coupons, with a few (or more) baseball card holders per section, depending on how many coupons I'm likely to have for that section. I divided my binder into produce/meats (lumped together because they are physically right next to each other in my most frequented store and the first section of the store I hit), dairy, canned fruits & veggies, baking supplies, food storage (anything from that horrible middle section of the store that I don't usually go in, but might wander into if the price is low enough to build up my 1 year + emergency food storage), snacks/crackers, breakfast aisle, beverages, frozen, bakery, pharmacy, paper products, batteries (so my husband doesn't have to dig through a bunch of other stuff when he gets the urge to buy batteries), toys, other non-food, and a section for blank pages that haven't been assigned to a section yet.
Then it was just a matter of sticking the coupons in the right section! Printable coupons are pretty big, so I folded them down (usually just in half) so I can see what the product listed is. Coupons for identical products all go in the same pouch, soonest to expire on top, regardless of whether they are store coupons or manufacturer coupons, so I don't miss anything. When I find a sale for that product, I can pull out that whole pouch to figure out which applies and which offers the best deals for the quantities I want.