How to Coupon

Ways to Organize Your Books

Posted on Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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LibraryDo you have books scattered all over your house? Many of us do. Ideally, you are going to want to fit all of your books on shelves. There are several ways to organize your books. Find one that works for you. After that, it is just a matter of maintenance.

Gather all the books.
The first step in organizing your books is to gather all of them together. Pick up the loose ones that are scattered around the house. Take all the books off the shelves. It is helpful to know what, exactly, you have before you begin trying to organize your books. Remove all the clutter that is not a book but has somehow found its way to a shelf. Give the shelves a good dusting.

Make a “donate” box.
Get a large cardboard box. This is where you will put books that you are going to donate. It is a good idea to periodically “weed” your collection of books. You will find, over time, that some of your books no longer interest you. Collect those books into a box, and donate it to a local library. Another option is to bring the books to a used book store for trade-in credit.

Organize the books.
There is more than one way to organize books. Pick the one that you feel works best for you. Ideally, you want to come up with a way that allows you to easily find the book you are seeking. Here are some options:

* Alphabetical by the first letter of the author’s last name – A great choice for readers who think of the author first and then the title. This method also works well if you like to keep all of the books by the same author together on the bookshelf.

* Sorted by category – Split the books into two groups “fiction and “non-fiction”. For some people, that is sufficient. Others will want to break up those two big categories into smaller ones. Separate your books based upon the categories you have selected. Place them on the shelves in groups. It may help to add labels to your shelves to mark where each category starts and stops.

* Arrange by color – This will result in a bookshelf that resembles a work of art. Some people will find it difficult to locate books that are organized in this way.

Ideas for when you run out of space.
Do you use an ebook reader? One way to make more space on your bookshelves is to donate the physical books that you have an electronic copy of. Read the electronic version. Another option is to add more shelves. If you have room, you could add another bookshelf. If not, consider putting up more shelves on your walls near the ceiling.

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Tips for Organizing Toys

Posted on Thursday, January 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Child Playing with Toys (1)Tired of tripping over the clutter of toys in your child’s room? One way to clear the clutter is to find ways to organize the toys. Here are some tips for organizing toys that will prevent pieces from getting lost, move things out of the way, and make it easy to put back after playtime is over.

Over the Door Shoe Organizer
Shoe organizers that hang over the back of a door, and that have many see-through pockets, are great for organizing toys. Your child can see everything that is in each pocket. He or she may need to ask for help in order to reach some of the pockets. This is where to organize action figures, fashion dolls, small stuffed animals, and medium sized cars and trains.

Toy Hammocks
Running out of floor space? Try using a toy hammock. It is basically a large, mesh, “bag” that can be attached to the ceiling. Choose a corner that isn’t directly over your child’s bed (in case it falls down). Stuffed animals and dolls look great in a toy hammock. Let your child select one of two stuffies to sleep with. The rest can spend the night in the toy hammock.

Kitchen Canisters with Lids
You can find clear plastic kitchen canisters (that have lids) at thrift stores. Or, you may be able to repurpose some that you already own but are no longer using. Each canister will hold one kind of small toy. One canister can hold crayons, another can store LEGO pieces. Use a canister to hold small action figures or “army men”. It will be easy for your child to put the toys back into the canister when he or she is done playing with them.

Soap Cases and Zippered Pencil Bags
Mesh zippered pencil bags are perfect for holding puzzle pieces. Remove all the pieces from the box and store them in the pouch instead. Take a photo of the picture that is on the front of the box the puzzle came from and store the photo with the pieces. A decorative storage bin can hold all of the bags of puzzles.

Plastic soap cases, like the kind you might use when you are on vacation, can be repurposed. They are just the right size to hold decks of playing cards. Put the directions into the case along with the cards.

Repurposed Plastic Dish Pan
Take the plastic dish pan that you are no longer using and repurpose it as storage for children’s books. Put each book into the pan in an upright position. Face all the covers in the same direction. Your child can flip through his or her books and easily find the one they are looking for. It will be very easy for your child to put the book back after the story is over.

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Great Ways to Organize Shoes

Posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Shoe RackIt is a good idea to take the time to organize your shoes. Doing so makes it a lot easier to find the pair you need. It also prevents damage being done to ones in the “shoe pile” that is cluttering up the bottom of your closet. Here are some great ways to organize your shoes.

Hang them on the Door
There is more than one type of shoe organizer that is designed to hang over the back of a door. That door could be the one for your closet or the one for your bedroom (depending on the space and type of closet door you have).

Shoe organizers that are consist of a series of pockets are an easy way to keep a pair of shoes together (and off the floor). There are also over the door racks that work well for shoes that have heels.

Make Storage into Art!
Do you have some very fancy high heeled shoes that you absolutely love? Why not display them in a way that makes them look like a work of art. Get some crown moulding and attach it to the wall over your closet door. (You may want to paint it first so it matches the room). Hang your favorite high heeled shoes over the crown moulding so that the toes hang down. Now, your best shoes are easy to find, off the floor, and displayed beautifully.

Repurpose a Bookshelf
Tired of the clutter of shoes that appear near your front door? Tuck them away in a small bookcase. Use an old, low to the ground, bookcase that has two shelves. Each pair of shoes can be placed on the shelf. This gets the shoes off the floor and prevents a “shoe pile”. It also makes them easy to grab before you dash out the door.

Use Clear Boxes
Clear, plastic, boxes are great for storing shoes. Put one pair of shoes into each box and close the lid. This prevents dust from gathering on the shoes. You can stack the boxes on top of each other, or place them in a row underneath your bed.

Take a photo of each pair of shoes before you store them away. Place the photo inside the front of the box. At a glance, you can find out which pair is in each box. You won’t even have to open the box to know what pair it holds.

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Back to Basics: Couponing for a Stockpile

Posted on Friday, January 24th, 2014 at 8:00 am
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Shopping List and Food PantryEven though the ultimate goal of couponing is to save money, another unexpected bonus is convenience! When couponing the main goal is to get the lowest price on whatever you need, however, sometimes this means buying more than what you need immediately to get the lowest price possible. This is where stockpiling comes in to play (if you’ve seen TLC’s Extreme Couponing you know what we’re talking about). Keeping multiple items of what you purchase can actually be a good thing! Having a closet full of household or food items that you use on a regular basis means going to the store less often and even spending less money in the long-run.

If you’re just starting out we recommend you allocating a specific spot for your stockpiled items; a basement or a closet would do just fine. Since you will have plenty of products be sure to install whatever shelving or organizing tools you deem necessary. Also, when selecting a spot, you’ll want to keep the items you’ll be storing in mind and if they will keep well in your chosen location .

Here are some general tips on how to get started with stockpiling:

1. Buy more than one of each item when using coupons

If you’re starting a stockpile you’ll want to have more than one product in your home at one time. This could mean you need to buy more than one Sunday newspaper (to get multiple of the same insert coupon) or printing out a coupon the maximum allowed number of times.

2. Wait for sales on items with coupons

If you plan on using a coupon your best bet at a lower price is to wait for a sale on that item. A typical sales cycle is anywhere between 8-12 weeks. So, if you’re seeing a huge sale on cereal this week there probably won’t be one like it for another 8-12 weeks. This means that if you have a coupon for a product your family uses, and it is on sale, we suggest you stock up with however many products your family needs to get through that 8-12 week sale period.

3. Be able to use your stockpiled products

When stockpiling for your family you want to be sure you will use the product or brand you bought. Stockpiling means buying a large quantity of an item so you should consider it an investment. If your family or you can’t stand a certain brand or product, don’t buy it!

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Organize Your Health Care Receipts

Posted on Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 at 7:00 am
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file folder with documents and papersDid you get a brand new health insurance plan at the start of 2014? Now is the time to get into the habit of organizing your health insurance receipts and other insurance related papers. Doing so makes the important stuff easy to locate, helps you remember to pay bills, and may even help save you money.

Get a binder.
An accordion binder is an excellent tool for organizing papers. The inside is separated into different folders which can be labeled to fit your needs. One folder could be for your health insurance receipts, another could be for your spouse’s. Bills could go in one folder, health insurance statements can go into another. This makes everything easy to find when you need it. It all stays in one place! The same function can be done with a three-ring binder and several pocket folders.

Don’t shred the receipts!
Hang on to all of your health care related receipts. This includes the receipts on medication that you bought at the pharmacy (including over the counter medication). Are you using an alternative form of health care that your insurance doesn’t cover? Keep those receipts, too. Save the mail you receive that says that you have paid your premium. Don’t forget to save receipts from doctors, dentists, eye doctors, and other health practitioners.

Why save them? There is potential that you may be able to deduct your out of pocket medical expenses from what you owe in taxes. Bring the receipts with you when you are having your taxes done.

How close are you to paying down this year’s deductible? Your receipts can help you figure that out. Add everything up. Compare that number to the amount of your deductible.

Keep the information packet.
One of the most important things you should keep is the packet of information that comes with your health insurance plan. This is where to find out how much your co-pay is, the amount of your deductible, and what the plan actually covers.

Put the packet into its own folder in the accordion binder. This folder should also include mail that gives details about “updates” or changes to your health plan. Keeping all this in one folder makes it easier to find when you have questions.

Stick with one pharmacy.
Can’t find the receipt for a prescription? Sometimes, the pharmacy you purchased it from will be able to supply you with a copy of the receipt. Sticking with one pharmacy makes it easy to remember where you bought the medication from.

Another good reason to stick with one pharmacy is because doing so can save you money. Use the store’s loyalty card when you pay for medication. This could lower the price a little bit. Using a store coupon may make things even more affordable.

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Ways to Organize Computer Cables

Posted on Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Using laptopAre you troubled by the sight of all those computer cables that are behind your desk? Many view the jumble of cables as clutter. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to organize your computer cables. Here are some tips to help you cut down on cord clutter.

Which cable is which?
Having trouble trying to figure out what each cable is attached to? The way to prevent this problem is to label your cables. Add an identifying label to each one and you will never have to guess what they are connected to.

Save the plastic thing that closes up a package of sliced bread. It’s the perfect size for many cables and has just enough room for you to write on it. Or, you could wrap a piece of masking tape around a cable and use that as the label. There are also some products that you can purchase that are designed to be used as a label for your cables.

Under the desk basket
Lifehacker has a step-by-step guide, complete with photos, that will show you how to use an under the desk basket to clean up the clutter of cables that is behind your desk. Start by carefully plugging in all of your cables to your computer, hubs, external drives, and whatever else you have. Make sure no cables overlap.

Attach the under the desk basket to the back of your desk. Place your power strip in the basket, and plug it in. Once that is in place, you are ready to carefully plug in all of your cables. The basket will “catch” all the cords and keep them nice and neat.

Mount them under the desk
Instructables has another great way to reduce cable clutter. Mount them underneath your desk! This method requires a bit of skill and a desk that is strong enough to hold up all the cables and power strips. Follow the step-by-step directions on their website, or view their photos for more details.

A few simple methods
Unclutterer has a more simplistic solution. You will need some pipe insulation (which can be purchased from a hardware store). Make a slit across one length of it.

Plug a cord into your computer. Push the other end of the cord through that slit. Wind up the cord and tuck it inside the insulation. Push the unattached end of the cord through a small hole in the back of the insulation so you can plug the cord into a power strip. The clutter stays hidden away. Some suggest substituting a hollow “pool noodle” for the pipe insulation.

Others have attached a plastic rain gutter (like you would use on your roof) to the back of their desk. It catches all of the cords and prevents the jumble of wires from getting tangled.

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Back to Basics: Using Apps to Save

Posted on Friday, January 17th, 2014 at 8:00 am
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Phone AppsRepeat after us, “Apps are friends, not foes”. If you’re smartphone savvy using apps should be easy for you. And, as it turns out, using them in conjunction with your coupons can save you more money than using just one or the other! When shopping with coupons and apps it’s important to know which applications are trustworthy, effective, and easy to use, so we’ve come up with our favorites:

1. Checkout 51

Checkout 51 is a relatively new app to US consumers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. Until fairly recently Checkout 51 was only available to users in Canada, the app and it’s founders are based out of Toronto, and it was originally launched in December of 2012. The Checkout 51 app is a receipt scanning program that gives you cash back when you buy certain items or fulfill particular requirements (such as having a grocery receipt over $60). Every week new offers are uploaded at 12:00 am on Thursday and then taken down the following Wednesday at 11:59 pm. For that time period you can buy the listed offers and submit your receipt to get cash back for your purchase. For example, say this week has an offer of $0.50 cash back for a dozen of eggs (any brand). You have to submit a picture of your receipt before the offer expires on Wednesday at 11:59 pm. The good news is that you can still use coupons when you fulfill offers, so your money will be even better spent!

2. Ibotta 

The Ibotta app offers you money when you buy any products currently included in their offers. When you see a product you need to buy, simply tap it and finish one of the tasks. Some ask you to take a poll or watch a video. Once finished, the offer is added to a list along with any other offers you’ve completed. When you are done picking out all of your offers, you then choose which store you’ll be shopping at. Ibotta works with several stores nationwide including Target, CVS Pharmacy, Bi-Lo, Fred Meyer, Kroger, Winn-Dixie,  and many more.  After you bring all of your groceries home, you snap a photo of your receipt and scan the barcodes on all qualifying products purchased. Once your receipt and barcodes have been verified Ibotta will either put the rewards into your PayPal account or donate the funds to a school of your choice!

3. Shopkick 

The Shopkick app rewards you for not only shopping, but it also rewards you for just walking into a store. Shopkick rewards its users with “kicks” when they open up their app (unfortunately this  happens only once a day), walk into a store, scan an item, or purchase what you need anyways! Your “kicks” can be redeemed for gift cards or certain items from your favorite retailers like Starbucks, Macy’s, etc.! Keep in mind this app was designed with the thought that if a shopper were in a store or had an item in their hands they’d be more likely to buy it. When you’re using  this app be careful to not buy what you don’t need!

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How to Organize your Makeup

Posted on Thursday, January 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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Decorative cosmetics and perfume.How many eye shadows do you own? Not sure? Now is a great time to organize your makeup. Doing so will help prevent unnecessary spending on products that you already have plenty of. Organizing your makeup can also lengthen the life of your brushes. Here are some simple tips that will make it really simple to organize all of your makeup and tools.

Gather it all together
Collect up all of your makeup and put it in one place. Grab the products and tools that are in your bathroom. Empty all your makeup bags. Fish all the products out of your purse. Seek out the makeup that is in your car. Bring all of it to one spot so you can really see what you have.

Has anything expired?
Look for an expiration date on each and every product. Throw away the ones that are expired. Toss out the ones that smell bad or that have separated. Expired makeup can make you sick from the bacteria that has gathered in it. There is no good reason to keep them!

Vases for brushes
Good makeup brushes can be expensive. Cleaning them, regularly, can extend their life. Ideally, brushes should be set upright as they are drying. Find a small vase that you like the look of. Store your makeup brushes in them. Use the brush, wash the brush, put it back in the vase. The collection of brushes in a vase mimics flowers and adds a decorative touch.

You can also use a cute vase (or empty candle holder) as storage for other makeup tools. Put your tweezers, eyebrow curler, and all other tools into a vase. Set it next to the one that holds your brushes.

Easy Organizers
Do you love the way your makeup looks when it sits on the counter in your bathroom? Use a tiered cupcake server to store your makeup. Your hairdryer, brushes, curling iron, and combs can go on the bottom tier. Line up concealers, eye shadows, and blushes in the second tier. Put the vases that hold brushes and tools on the top tier. Instant organization!

Does clutter bother you? Try a tackle-box (or makeup storage case that functions like a tackle-box). Each compartment can hold one type of makeup (like lipsticks or eye shadow). Open the box, and you can quickly find the makeup you need. When you are done, close the box and store it under the sink. Instant organization without the clutter!

Repeat the process
Sort through your makeup every month and throw away the expired products. Take a moment to put back anything that got out of place. It will only take a few minutes to keep organized if you repeatedly devote a small amount of time to keep up with it.

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Organization Tip: Everything Needs a Home

Posted on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am
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The keys of successThis one, simple, tip can change your life! Often, we find the idea of organizing our home to be quite overwhelming. Countless decisions must be made about what to get rid of, what to keep, and where to put it. Keep in mind that everything needs a home. Give all your items a specific place where they are supposed to be. This will save you so much time!

Your home is the place where you live. It is where you belong. Your friends and family members know that if they want to find you a good place to start looking is at your home.

Each item in your house needs it own “home”. It is the place where it belongs. Return it to that spot immediately after you are done using it. When you need it again, the first place to look is the “home” for that item. This will save you the time that otherwise would be spent searching around for it.

Here are some simple suggestions of where each items “home” should be:

* Keys – Place a decorative bowl on a table or counter near your door. This is the home for your house keys, car keys, keys for the shed and/or garage, and keys for your Post Office Box. Grab the keys you need before you head out the door. Put them back when you return.

* Mail – Start sorting it immediately. The recycle bin is the home for all junk mail. The desk that your computer sits on (or the one you balance your checkbook at) is the home for all bills. Choose a specific place that can be the home for things like birthday cards and postcard from friends. For many people, the refrigerator door is a good home for them!

* Shoes – Place a small throw rug, or mat, near your front door. This is the home for the shoes that you, and your family, wear daily. Bedroom closets are the home for the shoes that you don’t wear all the time (such as fancy high heels or rain boots).

Got a lot of shoes? Each pair will need its own home. Hang a plastic organizer, that has lots of pockets, over the door of your closet. Each pocket is the home for one pair of shoes.

* Charger Cables – Pick an outlet that isn’t being used right now. Place a box or large bowl near that outlet. This is the home for all the charger cables for the phones and other devices that you use.

The next time your phone is about to run out of juice, you will be able to easily locate its charger cable. Plug the cable into the phone and into the outlet near its home. Put the cable back in its home after use.

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Back to Basics: Coupon Organization Techniques

Posted on Friday, January 10th, 2014 at 8:00 am
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Using coupons can stretch your budget

Since we covered the basics of what types of coupons exist and where to get them, which can be found in our posts Welcome to the World of Couponing!, the next step for novice couponers is to learn how to  organize your stash. Coupon organization may seem like a pretty basic concept, but it key to not getting frazzled at the store and is incredibly important when using all your coupons before their expiration dates. There are numerous organization methods, but the following three are our favorites.  Also, don’t be afraid to try each out to see which one fits your couponing style.

1. The Binder Method

The binder method allows for you to organize your coupons in a manageable way that is easy to carry with you into the store. You’re essentially using a school binder, dividers, and plastic sleeves to organize your coupons. Depending on your commitment to coupons, you can use two binders to separate your coupons into food and non-food deals. Once you’ve done this you’ll want to label your dividers with your coupon categories; for example: shampoo, conditioner, cereal, etc. Next you’ll want to decide whether to use a regular plastic sleeve or baseball card sleeves. We recommend baseball card sleeves especially for beginners. Each plastic slot will allow you to see what the coupon is for and when you need to use it by.

The only downside to this method is the amount of prep time it takes. You will have to clip each individual coupon and place them in the proper slots, but this extra legwork will make it easier to redeem offers when shopping.

2. Accordion File Folder Method

This method is definitely easier and more time friendly than using the binder system, but it is also less precise. With an accordion file folder you are still using a transportable carrier for your coupons, but this method is sacrificing visibility. Because you are slipping coupons into a folder you won’t be able to see their expiration dates. Plus, depending on your style,  you won’t have to cut each individual coupon out; instead you can slip an entire insert into your accordion file.

3. Box Method

The box method is perfect for those who don’t want to invest in a binder or accordion file folder right off the bat. This organization strategy is very similar to the previous two methods in the sense you are dividing your coupons into categories and separating them with dividers. First you’ll want to select an empty box that you feel would be an appropriate size for your coupons. Having a lid to this box is important especially if you live somewhere with lots of rain or snow; no one likes soggy paper.  Next you’ll want to create appropriate sized dividers for your selected box and label them with coupon categories. Because the size of your box is up to you, feel free to cut coupons individually or leave entire pages in appropriate sections.

 

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