Resident’s super couponing skills aid local nonprofits
By Monroe Roark
It started out as an interesting hobby and has become a ministry.
And while she’s not feeding the 5,000, Joanie Scott has certainly figured out how to make the groceries multiply.
L. to r.: Praying for Paws director Carol Kelly accepts dog food donations from Joanie Scott. Photo by Kay Harrah
The McDonough woman has applied her research ability and meticulous nature to what some call “extreme couponing.” She has honed that skill to a level that we might see on a reality television show. But the reality for some local nonprofits is a series of extra blessings that allow those organizations to stretch their dollars farther.
“I just created this system about two and a half years ago,” she said. “It’s research. Putting a coupon trip together is a lot like putting a puzzle together. I compare it to when I used to be an air traffic controller - a lot of moving parts and having to think three-dimensionally.”
The planning pays off. On four trips to the grocery store last week, she spent a total of $76.12 and saved a whopping $356.09 on a wide variety of items. That is a typical week.
“It’s all stuff I use,” she said. “It’s not stuff that will just sit in the pantry.”
But it’s a lot more than what she needs. When she started couponing and was unsure what to do with her surplus, her good friend, Vicki Temple, suggested the Pregnancy Resource Center. Her first visit was joyously received by the leaders of that organization, and she still takes baby items there whenever they pile up.
Diapers and other related items can be expensive, but Scott has found accessories like wipes to sometimes be “moneymakers.” That is a term used to describe an item that might only cost $1.89 but for which you can get $2 in coupon savings due to stores’ and manufacturers’ double coupon policies.
The dog food donated by Joanie Scott (above) will help feed rescued dogs at Praying for Paws for two and a half weeks. Photo by Kay Harrah
“When I found those I just bought the eight-item limit on every trip to the store,” she said. “The first time I went [to the PRC], I took about ten bags full of baby wipes.”
The leadership at the center was so impressed that they asked Scott if she could share her knowledge with their clients. There is a small warehouse at the center filled with donated items, and new moms or moms-to-be earn points to shop there when they complete classes at the center. Scott spends a couple of hours one day a month teaching them what she has learned mostly through trial and error.
“You have to work up to it,” she said. “There is a time investment in it. I always tell beginners to start small.”
She started out by just cutting out every coupon in every circular in the Sunday paper. As she waded through the process over time she realized that was far too time-consuming for a smaller payoff. Now she follows a few blogs, websites and Facebook groups to get extra information, and she knows the lingo those sources use to identify coupons with code numbers and letters based on when they are issued and their source.
“You have to learn to stack the coupons,” she said. “It’s not about the coupons themselves; it’s about the sales, and matching your coupons to what is on sale.”
Now she spends an estimated 15-20 hours a week in all, from researching the sales to the actual shopping. That sounds like a lot of time for some people, but the savings outlined earlier in this story make it look like a pretty good investment.
And there’s this: When you donate goods to a nonprofit like this, even it you bought it all at five cents on the dollar, you can take a tax deduction for the full retail amount.
A couple of times a month Scott takes a load to the Christian Women’s Center in Sunnyside, just south of Hampton near the Spalding County line. These donations include food and other goods.
“I love getting calls from Joanie because I know she’s used her amazing couponing skills to help fill our pantry,” said Becky Smith, executive director of the Christian Women’s Center. “And, I can tell that she takes great joy in helping us and others. It’s always a treat to our ladies because she often brings “luxury” items which is always an extra blessing. I’ve always thought couponing would be great for ministry, but Joanie put that into action and we are so thankful for her.”
Sometimes Scott finds herself with a stockpile of pet food, in which case she is off to Praying for Paws, a McDonough nonprofit that finds homes for homeless dogs.
Just last weekend she delivered a few hundred pounds of dog food after a recent trip to a grocery store that showed a grand total of $6.99 paid at the register and $99.90 in savings. She ultimately acquired 32 seven-pound bags of dog food completely free using Publix buy-one-get-one-free coupons combined with matching manufacturer BOGO coupons, she said.
“She is a blessing,” Praying for Paws director Carol Kelly said of Scott. “She uses her own time, money and talents to work this mission of help to nonprofit organizations.”
Kelly’s organization has a few dozen dogs in its care at any given time, and that requires hundreds of pounds of food. Scott will bring up to 200 pounds of dog food in the back of her SUV on a single trip, which allows Praying for Paws to stretch its own dollars farther.
“My stockpile is massive sometimes but my goal is for my shelves to be empty,” said Scott. “Vicki is the one who said that it’s become a ministry for me, and it’s stuck.”
Having so much on hand allows her to help out when unexpected events put people in need. She contributed a considerable amount last month to the efforts by various Henry County groups to assist Louisiana flood victims. In 2015 she gave groceries to the employees of Seasons Bistro in McDonough and Smokin’ Swine in Hampton when those restaurants were forced to close for several months due to fire.
Every once in a while she will see a Facebook post about a family whose house burned to the ground, and she has usually gotten groceries to those families within a day.
“I always try to keep enough stuff that, if a tragedy happens to someone, I can help,” she said.
For more information on how to help Christian Women’s Center, the Pregnancy Resource Center of Henry County, or Praying for Paws, visit www.cwcga.org, www.prchc.org, or www.prayingforpaws.com.