The Coupon Kid
Published: Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 30, 2014 at 2:59 p.m.
Salad dressing and vitamins are not typically considered valuable commodities. But for Michael Nash, a seventh-grader at The Rock School, these household goods are exactly what he needed to achieve his goal: a new Apple iPhone 5.
And the way he accomplished it was completely legal.
“I bought about 200 single-serve salad dressings at Publix. It was $2.50 off two, according to the manufacturer’s coupon,” he says.
This particular manufacturer’s coupon featured a slight misprint — it should have excluded single-serve dressings, which cost only 33 cents each. That allowed Michael to purchase them at a rate at which Publix was actually paying him.
His next Publix purchase, vitamins, followed in a similar fashion.
“When you buy an item [at Publix] you can use a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon,” he explains. “The vitamins [ranged in price] from $4 to $8. I had a $5 off manufacturer’s coupon and a ‘$6 off two’ Publix coupon.” He was able to combine those savings to the point at which Publix again paid him to purchase the vitamins.
Over a three-week period, Michael made five transactions like this — netting himself $300.
“As a result, he bought the new iPhone 5,” his mother, Jill, says.
The 13-year-old isn’t old enough to drive himself during these coupon outings, so he often has to persuade one of his family members to take him. Those include his parents, Jill, president and owner of Advantage Media Promotions, and Pete Nash, owner of Pete Nash Insurance Agency, and his two older sisters, Jennifer, 18, and Julie, 15, both of whom attend The Rock School.
“He knows what everyone likes, so he convinces them to take him,” Jill, his mother, explains.
For his sisters, Jennifer and Julie, that might be a makeup sale at CVS; for Jill, it might be a chance to stock up on shampoo or paper towels.
“I haven’t had to pay much for toilet paper or shampoo,” Jill admits.
The coupon craze started last year when Michael was 12 years old.
“I overheard her saying we needed to save money,” he says, referring to his mom’s desire to spend less and save more. “So I started saving coupons and figuring it out.”
That meant dedicating much of his free time to researching “extreme couponing” as it is known. The TLC show, “Extreme Couponing” is a scripted reality TV series dedicated to the trend; however, Michael also used Google to find videos and websites that taught him many of the techniques he uses today.
“At the beginning, it was probably 10 hours a week,” Michael says of his time spent learning about couponing.
“He did it from when he got home from school until bedtime, around 11 p.m.,” Jill adds, mentioning that he’s had a “laser focus” since he was young.
Now he’s the one dispensing coupon and savings advice on the photo-sharing website, Instagram. To date, he has 2,467 Instagram followers. His username is @Michaelcancoupon.
One of his tips is staying loyal to certain stores, such as Publix.
“I prefer Publix because it’s not a hassle [to use coupons]. In fact, they welcome it,” Michael says.
Aside from being a regular at the Market Square Publix in Haile Plantation, where everyone from cashiers to managers seems to know him, Michael also shops at CVS and Walgreens. Both stores have customer loyalty programs that allow him to earn “Extra Bucks” at CVS or “Balance Rewards” from Walgreens.
“Usually he knows the coupon policies better than the stores,” his sister Jennifer says. “He even brings [the store policy printouts] with him.”
The first time he tried couponing, Michael admits it wasn’t very successful.
“I wasn’t really organized, so it didn’t really work,” he says. “What I did wrong was that I didn’t plan it in advance.”
Now he is armed with a coupon binder and a strategy. One of his techniques is using separate transactions to make sure he squeezes as much savings as possible out of his coupons and his dollars.
“Most of the time, I save about $100 per trip,” he says. Compared to the show “Extreme Couponing,” Michael’s savings are modest (their subjects sometimes save $1,000 or more per shopping trip).
Still, Michael’s persistence has paid off for himself and the community.
His extreme couponing and the excess products that come with it — everything from food and vitamins to shampoo and toiletries — have allowed him to nurture his philanthropic side, as well.
“I donated [toiletries and vitamins] to the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank and the Early Learning Coalition Center,” he says modestly.
His mother explains exactly what that included: for the Bread of the Mighty, it was salad dressing and vitamins worth approximately $1,900; for the Early Learning Coalition Center it was a variety of products including pasta, spaghetti sauce, toilet paper, dish soap, dog food, baby wipes and baby food.
Though he’s not sure what career he wants to pursue in the future — something in sales or law is what he’s leaning toward — Michael, who earned a 3.5 GPA last semester, is sure of one thing: acting. It is a passion that he and his sisters share.
“He attended Rising Star Performing Arts Academy when he was 9 years old,” Jill says.
Though it was just a two-week summer program, put on by event planner and designer Keith Watson, it made a significant impression.
“It made a lasting impact on him, and his passion for acting began there,” Jill adds.
As for his commercial career, it was, appropriately a radio commercial that launched him.
“My mom and I were in the car listening to the radio when we heard [the ad],” Michael explains.
That was how they learned about the open (and free) auditions held by international talent scout Kim Myers. Michael, his sisters and parents signed up to attend her showcase called The ARTS, which stands for Artists Rising Talent Showcase.
“Michael, at the time, was too shy to try out,” Jill says.
His sisters participated in their showcase and signed with Ashley Luxenberg, owner of Integrity Model Management in Jacksonville.
“Michael went to another meeting and wanted to participate [this time],” Jill says.
The meeting was a success when Michael signed with Ashley as his agent and booked his first role: an extra in a Universal Studios commercial.
These days, Michael has five commercials under his belt: three Disney commercials, one Universal Studios commercial and a Shands commercial.
“There’s this one commercial I did for Disney Channel 365 ... I actually found it on YouTube [first],” he says. At the time, he didn’t realize it was also playing on television — it was only after seeing it on YouTube that it registered.
“It’s been a dream to see myself on TV,” he says.
Even though he’s already been on television and met stars from the Disney Channel, such as Bradley Steven Perry from the show “Good Luck Charlie,” Michael looks forward to creating more acting opportunities for himself.
When asked why he likes it, he adopts a teenager-like response.
“It’s fun,” he says with a shrug.
“He would do it for free ... he really does enjoy it,” Jill adds.