Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How To Create A Cleaning Schedule That Works For You

One of the first things on my journey to a cleaner, more organized home, was to create a cleaning schedule. This way, not only do I stay on track each day, but I no longer have to try and remember when I last cleaned the bathroom, mopped the floors, etc. It also gave me another excuse to make a list. I LOVE to make lists, just so I can check things off. It gives me a bigger sense of accomplishment. Plus it allows me to focus more on things that I have actually finished (positive), instead of just the things that I still need to do (negative).

First, I made a list of all cleaning tasks that need to be done on a daily basis. For me this is loading/unloading the dishwasher, sweeping the floors, wiping off counters, etc.

I next listed those chores I wanted to complete on a weekly basis: Cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the floors, etc. My last list were chores that need done on a monthly or as needed basis, such as cleaning baseboards, cleaning carpets/upholstery or dusting ceiling fans and blinds. I then compiled these lists into checklists and printed them.

I keep these in my Household Management Binder and check off the tasks as I complete them. The Monthly Cleaning Checklist I only need to print once per year. I check off each task as I complete it each month and I have space at the bottom to add additional tasks if needed. The Weekly Cleaning Checklist has my daily tasks for the week at the top (broken down by morning, afternoon and evening) and my once per week tasks are at the bottom. It's simple and it's specific to my needs and keeps me focused on a routine.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Coupon Binder: Sorting and Organzing

Determining how to organize and sort your coupons is all about personal preference and may take a little trial and error to figure out what works for you. When I first started couponing, I only had one copy of the Sunday paper and clipped only the coupons that I knew I would use. Against the advice of pro couponers, I am very brand loyal. I can't help it, I find something I like, I stick with it. My first coupon organizer was not a binder, but a wallet that I purchased from Sophisticated Shoppers, Inc. I purchased their basic organizer, which came with laminated, pre-printed dividers, extra blank labels, a shopping pad and these awesome scissors that I ALWAYS use when clipping my coupons. This was perfect for me, as I didn't clip a ton of coupons at a time and it organized them all by category.

As I started getting multiple inserts, I quickly outgrew this and had to upgrade to a binder. However, I highly recommend purchasing this product if you are just starting out. I still use it on my shopping trips to hold my shopping list and the coupons for the items that I am purchasing. It fits perfectly in my purse and still organizes the coupons by category. This way I don't have to drag a bulky binder with me to the store or dig around the bottom of my purse looking for stray coupons. Plus they come in a huge variety of colors and patterns!

Now for my binder... I went to WalMart and purchased a sturdy 2" 3-ring binder. To hold the coupons themselves, baseball card sleeves were recommended by several "how to coupon" sites, but I couldn't find them anywhere. I did a quick Google search, and found several sites where you can purchase an entire organizer, binder included. Some were a little pricey but I came across Coupon Organizer Pro. Since I already had the binder, I didn't purchase the entire system. I ended up ordering the do-it-yourself package, which includes (20) 9-pocket pages, (5) 3-pocket pages, (5) 4-pocket pages and (1) set of dividers (total of 16 dividers). The sleeves allow for different sized pockets which are wonderful since not all coupons are the same size/shape.

 Do-It-Yourself Package

What I love about this site is that you can also order additional page inserts (which I have had to do). They are perfect for holding different sized coupons and you can purchase the size and quantity that you need. Once you have your binder all set up, it's time to start filling it. Happy Couponing!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Coupon Binder: Getting Started

After having my second son, it didn't make sense financially for me to return to work. With a toddler and a newborn and only my husband's income to pay the bills, I started looking for ways we could save money. The first thing was to cut back on "want" items and focus only on the items that we needed. The second was to start using coupons. I did some online research on how to coupon, and was instantly overwhelmed. With so much "extreme couponing" going on, it seemed like everyone had the hang of it. Everyone but me, that is. I obviously knew how to clip coupons and use them at the store, but it boggled my mind how extremers could go into a store, buy hundreds of dollars worth of items and pay almost nothing. I have by no means mastered that talent and probably never will, but I have been able to save money on groceries and baby items during our weekly shopping trips. Here is a look at how I organized my coupon binder:

The first step is to obtain some coupons, right? Coupons are EVERYWHERE! The Sunday newspaper has coupon inserts from Red Plum, Smart Source and P&G Brand Saver (my personal favorite since I have a slight obsession with cleaning products). You can find out which inserts will be in your Sunday paper  by looking at a weekly insert schedule. I use one from Coupon Mom, which can be found here. I suggest getting your hands on at least two of each insert. That way you will have two copies of each coupon in case your store is having a Buy 1 Get 1 Fee sale. You can use a coupon even on the free item! My family saves their inserts for me, and I will sometimes buy an additional paper, usually when the P&G Brand Saver comes out.

You can also find digital coupons online at a particular store's website. They download to your store's member card and will be applied when the cashier scans your card at checkout. These are typically manufacturer's coupons, and cannot be combined with any other coupon. Some stores, like Target, Kmart, Lowe's Food, etc. have their own store coupon which can be combined with a manufacturer's coupon which will really help maximize your savings. (More on this later.)

Thanks to the couponing frenzy, coupons are also available all over the Internet. Most stores accept printed coupons, but some do not. Always make sure to check the latest coupon policy from your store website or manager. If I have something on my shopping list that I don't have a coupon for, I always do a Google search to see if I can find one. Why pay full price if you don't have to? There are almost always printable coupons out there for diapers and baby wipes, a must for any mom with little ones!

Now that you know how to find coupons, the next step is getting them in order. The next post will discuss different options for sorting and organizing your coupons.