Couponing may seem like a grocery-bill-saving chore from a generation ago, but there’s a thriving community of TikTok users dedicated to finding the best sales, deals and giveaways by using coupons.
Kayla Burk is one such TikToker. She started couponing 10 years ago as a teenager, but what started as a hobby grew and grew until it became her full-time job. Nowadays, she shares her discount tips and clearance hacks with her 2 million followers on TikTok and on her website.
She joined Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal to talk about her life of couponing. An edited transcript of their conversation is below.
Kai Ryssdal: I cannot possibly be the only person, No. 1, listening to this or, No. 2, that you have ever interacted with in your life who said, “Really? You’re a couponer? I thought that was, like, an older-person thing.”
Kayla Burk: Oh, yeah, it’s gotten a little bit more popular now. But when I first started, because I started in 2013, it definitely was not something that an 18- or 19-year-old would do at the time.
Ryssdal: OK, so wait, so how did 18-, 19-year-old Kayla Burk get into couponing?
Burk: I started because I was watching that extreme couponing show. And I was like, “I wonder if I can do this.” And I printed out a coupon, I went to Walmart and I got a loofah. They paid me, like, 5 to 10 cents to take it out of the store. And I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe this is real.” And I just started all of it.
Ryssdal: Let me ask you this. So I’ve watched some of your TikTok stuff where you have, by the way, like 2 million followers. This is not a simple process that this couponing thing is. I mean, it takes you time, coordination and energy. It’s a lot.
Burk: Yeah, that’s part of the reason why it’s my job, because other people don’t have the time to go out and make all the scenarios, do all the math and whatnot. So I kind of do the time-consuming part of it by looking everything up. And then from there, I just tell people, “Hey, this is exactly what you need to do. I already did all the hard stuff, you just go do the easy part of it.”
Ryssdal: Do you think companies make it hard on purpose? Actually, I wonder this all the time about couponing, right, because they’re basically giving money away and they’re making you jump through some hoops.
Burk: I think the main reason why it’s gotten harder is because, back when I first started, people would go in and see how many of something they could get for free. And I mean, I remember one time going to the store and coming home with, like, 30 bottles of laundry detergent because it was all free, right? And I think that the companies were probably getting tired of other couponers clearing the shelves and other people not being able to spend actual money on it. So they want to limit us. I think that’s what it is.
Ryssdal: Which makes sense. But back up to the 30 bottles of laundry detergent stuff. So that’s one example, and I’m sure you buy a lot of stuff in bulk because probably coupons apply that way. Do you have to, like, build a wing onto the house to hold all this stuff?
Burk: Oh, my God. So my house is pretty full of stuff, but a lot of stuff I do donate or give to my friends and family, so they don’t have to pay full price either. So over time, it kind of evens out. I get stuff and then it leaves, and I get more, and etc.
Ryssdal: That’s fair. You said that this is your job, you do this as a full-time job. So there is money coming into you other than just the couponing benefits, right? I mean, how do you get compensated for this?
Burk: The part that I get paid for is the online couponing. So when someone uses my link, I get a small commission out of that. And since I have so many followers, the commission adds up enough to pay my bills and whatnot.
Ryssdal: I guess you probably don’t ever walk into some kind of retail store without thinking about bargains and couponing and looking at price tags, do you?
Burk: Not really, no. I’m always trying to go to the clearance section. A lot of stores, whenever they get a new shipment in, they have to get rid of something else. And when they do that, it goes so cheap. So it’s really hard for me to spend full price on things knowing that pretty much everything will clearance out eventually.
Ryssdal: Do you think, on balance, in the 10 years you’ve been doing this, that you’ve saved more than you’ve spent? You’ve gotten more than your money’s worth you think?
Burk: Oh, most definitely. Especially once I started doing online stuff. Because every day, you can get stuff, like 80% off up to free online. You don’t even have to get out of the house. You just buy it and they ship it to you for free.
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