For those of you that read my post on How Wizard Michele Organizes Her Coupons, this article breaks down my spreadsheet a little more in depth for you. My hybrid method is very similar to some of the other ones out there, but in some ways, it’s a bit different. Rather than repeating a lot of what was said in my previous post, in order to understand this one a bit more, I suggest you go back and read it first, then head back over here to find out exactly how I use the spreadsheet part of my hybrid method.
As I said in my prior post on the subject, I am an OLF. I Organize, Label and File everything! A big part of my “OLFness” is putting everything on a spreadsheet too! So here it is, step by step, what I do each week there is an insert.
Step 1 – I Copy the Recap
Every week Wizard David gives us a preview of the upcoming inserts in the Sunday paper. If you get your inserts from Insert Insanity, this list will be close to what you will get, but there are always some variances. That is why I pretty much ignore the preview. I might take a glance at it, just to see what may be coming, but it really doesn’t matter. I will get the inserts whether I think I’ll use some of those coupons or not. Truth be told, you just never know what deals are going to come up with those coupons. You may not use that product, but if it’s going to generate some overage, and it’s something that could be donated or given away, tell me you would NOT want to go for it! Exactly why I get inserts each and every week! Not sure what I mean? Last year there was a coupon for Polident, I think. It was one of those denture creams and it gave overage. I don’t use denture cream but my mom does, $0.20 in overage to me for each one, free denture cream for my mom.
Getting back to the preview, after I glance at it, I close it out and wait for the recap. Each week after receiving the coupons, Wizard David writes up a recap of what we actually did end up receiving. It’s the recap that I use. I simply highlight each section, if it’s broken up by ads, or the entire thing if it’s not. I right click (or CTRL C) on what I’ve highlighted and I copy. I head over to my Coupon Spreadsheet and I right click and paste (or CTRL V) it into Excel. If you look at my spreadsheet, or (Pic 1) above, you see that I have assorted columns set up; Category, Source, Insert Date, TMP, FTL, Coupon and Exp. I’ll explain what each of those are for in a bit, but I paste the recap under the Coupon category here underneath in Pic 2.
Step 2 – Data Manipulation
After everything is copied over, I manipulate the data. Remember, I’m an OLF and my OLFness tendencies tell me that each spreadsheet needs to look a particular way. This next step may or may not be important to you, but here’s what I do. After I’ve copied the coupon list, I put the coupons in alphabetical order if they’re not already. It just makes it easier to find the coupons as I’m logging each in. Then I make a separate column for the expiration date, which you’ll see why in a minute, and I like the price at the beginning, all proper names capitalized, the source and date under their columns by each coupon, etc. etc. (see Pic 3 below). Again, totally anal on my part, but it’s what I do! Some of my columns are very important, I promise.
- Category Column – This column is mostly used for my binder. After all coupons are logged and accounted for, my Category column will tell me where I can find that coupon once I’ve determined whether it’s clipped or filed. If you read my previous post, you know that I file & binder. You also know that I get 4 papers every week here in Ft Lauderdale and I get 10 inserts from Insert Insanity, or Tampa, each week as well. The Ft Laud ones I binder, the Tampa ones I file. As you can see here in Pic 4, I have 2 different permanent tabs; Coupons Still in Flyers and Coupon Book. The other tabs are just holding tabs for inserts I haven’t completely gone through yet. Under the category tab, I have coding set up to tell me which binder I will find a particular coupon I’m looking for in. Also in Pic 4, you can see at the top I have a key. If I forget what one of the codes are, I can just refer to my key.
- Source Column – This column is simply telling me where the coupon came from; Red Plum, Smart Source, a printable, came in the mail, etc. Yes, not only do I use this spreadsheet for my inserts, but I use it for all coupons I come across (see Pic 5 for some of the various sources). Remember, I also binder so not only do I need to keep track of inserts, but I must keep track of all loose coupons too!
- Insert Date Column – Yes, as mentioned above, I keep track of all coupons, so this really should just say Date. Don’t ask me why I haven’t changed it, but it is what it is. This column just tells me the date the insert came out, the day I printed it, the date of the magazine it came from, etc.
- FTL & TMP Columns – These columns are only temporary and are only on the tabs of copied recaps. This is where I check off each coupon I receive in my inserts and will be explained in more detail in Step 3.
- Coupon Column – As explained above, this is where I copy the recap of coupons each week.
- Exp. Column – This column just tells me the date the coupon expires. The reason I separate out the expiration date into its own column is at least once a month I sort out the expired coupons. If I left the expiration date in the coupon description, I would have to look at each and every coupon every month to figure out which ones I can delete. By having its own column, all I have to do is sort my spreadsheet by expiration date and delete the rows of the expired ones.
Step 3 – Log All Incoming Coupons
Next I take my inserts and one by one check off each coupon that came in, according to the recap that I copied into my spreadsheet. For example, just this morning I took my Red Plum I received Wednesday from Insert Insanity, and one by one I went through each page, putting an “x” in the TMP column by each coupon I received. Remember when I said I like them in alphabetical order? This is why. It just makes it easier to find each coupon on my spreadsheet. I know I sound very anal-retentive, but each thing I do really does have a reason! I do this for my Tampa inserts and my Ft Lauderdale ones. As I’m logging each in, I add any coupons that are not on the list already and any Xs that are missing by coupons at the end, I know I didn’t get those and I can just delete those rows.
I’m sure you may be asking yourself, “Why would there be any discrepancies, if you’ve copied the list Wizard David made of coupons actually received?” The reason for that is two-fold. Remember, I said I get 4 inserts from Ft Lauderdale. Even though my inserts are very similar to those in Tampa, there are some differences that I need to make sure I account for each week. Sometimes I won’t get a coupon that Tampa does and visa versa, or Ft Laud may get .75 off a product, and Tampa got .50. There’s nothing worse than planning a shopping trip based on a certain coupon you thought you had. The second reason is, and don’t tell David I said this, but even the head Wizard can make a mistake. Shhhh, that’s just between you and me but we all know how easy it is to make a typo or miss something all together! So I go through each coupon, one by one. It really doesn’t take that long once you get going.
Step 4 – Everything is Logged so Now What?
This next step is sort of hard to explain and may sound confusing, but like I said before, there’s always a method to my madness. Once all the coupons are logged in, I take the entire list of coupons and temporarily copy & paste them over under one of the tabs; either the “Coupon Book” or the “In Flyers” tab, it doesn’t matter. I’m only doing this to fill in the different categories. If I were to fill in the categories over on that tab where I just log in coupons, I would have to fill in all the categories by hand. However, since I already have a huge ongoing list of coupons with their categories over on one of the other tabs, when I go to categorize these new ones, it will autofill for me once I start typing the name. For instance, I have a lot of coupons to go under the Pharmacy category. By doing this over on one of the ongoing coupon tabs, all I have to do is type Ph and Pharmacy (SH) will automatically pop up because I have a bunch of coupons with the Pharmacy (SH) category already filled in. If I didn’t do what I do, I’d have to go look up and type by hand, the category for each one. Big deal you say? Well yah, I guess, but when I’d have to do this for over 200 coupons, it just saves a bit of time. Once all the categories are filled in, I just cut it and paste it back over to where it was.
Final Step – Completing My “In Flyer” and “Coupon Book” Tabs
Now that I have a correct listing of every coupon received, both in Tampa and Ft Laud., and I have my categories all filled in, I next sort my listing by the two different cities. It doesn’t matter what order I do this in, and once they’re sorted I can get rid of the TMP & FTL columns, but I’ll sort it by Tampa and then by source. I’ll copy the list of Tampa only, and paste it over on the “Coupons Still in Flyers” tab. This tells me that each of those coupons will be found still intact w/in the inserts, filed in my drawer, by date. Then I’ll sort it by Ft. Laud. and then by source, and I paste those into the “Coupon Book” tab. That will tell me which binder and under which tab, I will find each of those coupons. See Pic 7 below for a screenshot of what it looks like in its finality, or head here to download a copy. If you download mine, it will say “Read Only” so just save it to another name, take out what’s there, and start creating your own. Once I’m finished with all of this, I can just delete that tab where I was manipulating them, and wait for next Sunday to do it all over again!
After all that rigmarole up above, you may be asking yourself, “Why on Earth does she do all that?” Besides the fact that I’m an OLF, I also like to know what I have at all times. I use my personal coupon database for many things. When I’m looking for a certain coupon, sure I could go check our database on The Coupon Wizards website. That will tell me that the coupon exists, and where, but what it doesn’t tell me is if I have it. For example, there’s a $1 of All coupon I’m looking for. It came in the 1/1 SS, but did it come in the Tampa or Ft Laud SS? Was it just in the Midwest? That it doesn’t tell me so I look at my database instead. Yup, I have 10 of those still in inserts in my file drawer and I have 4 cut in my binder. Knowing how many I have of which ones is for another post, but as far as this post is concerned? I know I have it because I logged it in. If I didn’t happen to have it on my spreadsheet, I know we didn’t get it in our region.
I also use my database to keep track of the ones I print. I remember printing one for .50 off All a couple weeks ago. Do I still have it? I check my database and it shows that I still have 4 left from when I printed them. Or, maybe I used them. It will tell me that too because once I use up a coupon, I delete it from my database. Works the same for ones I get in the mail too. There aren’t a lot of databases out there that are up on every single coupon mailed out by companies, directly to consumers, in fact I know of none. What about coupons I get for reaching out to a company to give feedback? Will those be in a database somewhere? Not likely, but they will be on my database.
I could go on and on but the above are just some of the reasons why I do what I do. I suppose I could go flipping through all my inserts or scan through all three of my binders in search of a coupon, but who has the time & patience for that? Not me! I know what I do sounds like a lot of work, but once you get in the groove, it’s really not that bad. And it’s a damn site better than searching through everything I keep coupons in looking for the ones I need. Heck, by the time I found what I was looking for, the sale could be over! So just try it if you’re so inclined. I’m here to help you with any questions you have or give you any guidance you need to get started. I love my database and as long as I keep up with it, it will serve me on my couponing journey for as long as I’m on it. Best of Luck! ~ Michele