{organizing with style} Keeping Track of Coupons & Gift Cards

I pride myself on generally being pretty organized and having a designated place for things, but there can be a big difference between "organized" and "functional."  This was the case with the way I had been “organizing” all of my coupons and gift cards. I had an expandable file organizer in one of the kitchen cabinets where I had been storing restaurant menus and loose recipes, as well as coupons and gift cards.

For a while now I’ve been needing to revamp this filing system, so I’ve considering what options might work better for us. The main problem I encounter with my coupons and gift cards is that, while I always know where they are, I don’t always have them with me when I need them. I have good intentions of grabbing the coupons or gift cards I need before leaving the house on any shopping trip, but inevitably I end up making an unexpected stop at another store, or more frequently, shopping on my way home from work when it's not convenient to stop at home to get coupons or gift cards out of the file before I go.

Then, on a recent shopping trip in search of pretty file folders to organize my kitchen paper pile, I found the new line of See Jane Work products at Office Depot. After picking up some pretty teal herringbone folders, it dawned on me that the matching expanding receipt organizer could be the perfect solution to organize my coupons and gift cards in a portable manner.

First, I emptied all of my gift cards from the existing file and removed them from their paper folders. I used a black Sharpie on the back of each gift card to note its value before discarding the excess paper. I was amazed at how much less room my gift cards took up when all this unnecessary paper was removed for recycling.

Then I sorted all of my gift cards into four categories - restaurants and food; shopping; online (for stores that only exist online - like iTunes); and other (for example, gift certificates to spas, theaters and the aquarium).

I know, I know ... we have a lot of gift cards! Maybe that means we are hard to shop for - or maybe just that we have very generous friends and family! :)

Then I culled through all of my coupons (recycling all that had previously expired) and sorted them into similar categories - groceries, eating out, shopping, services, etc. Here are all of the piles of sorted coupons and gift cards:

The expanding receipt organizer came with pre-printed alphabetical and monthly divider tabs - but these obviously didn’t fit my needs. Fortunately, the tabs were blank on the back, so I just flipped them over and wrote in my own categories.

I slipped the tabs in place...

...filled it with my gift cards and coupons, and TaDa!

This portable little case even solved the biggest challenge I had, which was finding a place for my annual EatDenver dining deck. Each year the EatDenver Independent Restaurant Network sells a deck of 52 gift cards, each worth $10 at 52 different locally owned restaurants. And each year, I am lucky enough that someone always puts this deck of gift cards in my Christmas stocking. Trust me people - if you have foodie friends who live in Denver, this is the perfect gift!

But it’s always a challenge for me to remember to carry the EatDenver deck with me so that I can use the cards throughout the year as I go out for work lunches and dinners with friends. Luckily, the expanding folder had a spot right in the front (intended for a check book, I think) that was the perfect size for this deck of cards.

Now all of my coupons and gift cards are not only organized, they are in a nice compact and portable case that I can easily carry with me in my purse. No more running errands only to discover the one gift card I need is the one I left at home!

I know it seems like a pretty simple and obvious solution - but sometimes it’s taking the time to switch to the obvious solution that makes all the difference in the long run! And it doesn’t hurt that the herringbone pattern on this little filer is so darn cute!

As you can probably tell from the photos of my gift cards piles compared to my coupon piles, I am not really a big couponer. I actually tend to have a lot more gift cards at any given time than I do coupons, and the coupons I do keep and organize tend to be more for clothing, home goods and baby supplies, and less for groceries. This solution works for me, but I realize it may not be the ideal solution for those who do big time grocery couponing. Here are some great ideas I’ve come across online for those that have more demanding coupon organizing needs: Fabric Coupon Organizer Bag on Etsy; Three Coupon Organizing Methods from Coupon Loving Chicks; and Color Coded Coupon Binder from SaraDear.

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