Finding Free or Low Cost items to sell online through couponing

Hey everyone, today’s post will be a little bit different as it’s a guest post from Jim Hrbek.  Jim is using some very unique couponing strategies to source inventory to sell via amazon FBA, and I asked if he was willing to share a few of his strategies with us in a guest post.  In addition to selling on amazon, Jim is currently undertaking the task of teaching his children about entrepreneurship with his newest business venture, Nakked Soap.  A place where people can get handmade all natural soap, bath bombs, body butters, lip balm and much more.   Take it away Jim:

Hey Guys, the name is Jim Hrbek, after posting a few things in Ryan’s Facebook Group, he asked me to do a guest post here on the blog.  Since he helped me send in my first order, I felt honored to help.

A little about myself, I have been working for myself since 2007, a majority of the time just getting by.  That changed a few years ago, when my hard work started to pay off and I started making connections with some great entrepreneurs in the online marketing realm.

Earlier this year, while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn Episode # 99, he had on a couple that just blew my mind.  Of course those two were Jessica and Cliff Larrew.  While combing through information on FBA, this naturally led me to Ryan.

Like anything you do in life you bring in your life experiences.  For me, retail arbitrage seemed like the logical next step in the course of my life.  Back in 2010 my wife and stepdaughter moved in with me.  One moment I was living the stereotypical bachelor lifestyle, and the next I had to provide for two other human beings.  Through the course of about six months, my $150/month grocery budget grew to $750.  I knew in my head something had to be done.  This was the time that I found coupons and it changed my life forever.

Since that time I have been able to bring my monthly budget down to around $300-$350 but the kicker is that I am now bringing home $1500-$3000 of product home with me every month.  I also found that in addition to bringing down my monthly budget, there was the opportunity to use couponing to source products to sell on amazon.

The Secret to Couponing

There are many tips I can give you, but in this post I will give you two things that you must know before getting started.

  • It’s all about timing! You have to use your coupons at the right time.  In many cases the week the coupon comes out is not the best time to buy the product.  Yes, you might get pretty good savings, but many times the best sale might be a week or two down the road.

The perfect storm comes when you can combine your high value coupon with a great sale and find another stackable savings (whether that be from an app on your phone or a rebate, store coupon, catalina, etc.)

  • Not all coupons are created equal for everyone. Depending on where you buy your products or even where you live in the world a coupon can vary dramatically.  In many cases a $.50 off 1 product is not equal to a $1 off 2 products.  In some of the stores I visit frequently that $.50 coupon would double to $1 off 1 product, but not at other stores that would not be willing to double the $1 off 2 products coupon.

Amazon FBA

In my business I have found that I have made it my own.  Many experts say to do this business of retail arbitrage you should go wide and buy as many different products as you can get.  I don’t do this, and I actually go pretty deep with many of the products I buy.  For the last few months I have been grossing around $5K a month, with about five to seven hours of work a week.

Today I am going to give two examples of current sales going on at Rite Aid, you can do these deals yourself till November 1st.  Just so you can get into my head a little.

The first deal is

NatureMade VitaMelts Sleep, 100 ct $5.99, sale price through 11/1

Buy 1, Receive $4.00 Up Reward through 11/1, Limit 2

Use $3.00/1 Coupon – Nature Made Vitamelts (located on use zip code 77477)

And use $2.00/1 – Nature Made Sleep Vitamin Supplements, Rite Aid Coupon (go HERE and watch the video)

You will pay $0.99 out of pocket and receive $4 +Up Reward.  Meaning you make $3.01 from buying one.  But you notice that there is a limit of 2 per card.  Only bad thing is that the video coupon is only good for one purchase.  But you will still make $1.01 buying one.

Now let’s go to Amazon and see what the selling price is, HERE is the link.

At the time of writing this, the Amazon Best Sellers Rank is #28,932 in the Health & Personal Care category.  So you can be confident it will sell.  In many cases if I’m able to I would make these a multipack so I can sell them for a larger amount of money and pay less fees.  But as I can only get about 10 of this product at this price and this product isn’t an add-on product I will sell them individually and probably price them around $8.99.   Plus the individual one has a better sales rank.

Here’s a screenshot from (click to enlarge, same goes for the remaining images): 
Nature Made

According to this I will make $5.07 on each product I sell.  Not bad when I spent no money on the product, and in fact that I actually made money buying this product.  Now I did not account what it cost to ship this product, but at .1lb do you think I am worried about that?  Plus if I am selling products that cost next to nothing cost do you think I am worried about how fast they sell?

Now let’s talk the next product.

Buy 2 OxiClean Dishwasher Detergent, 12.7 oz or 16 ct $4.00, when you 2, sale price through 11/1

Buy 2, Receive $2.00 Up Reward through 11/1, Limit 4

Buy 1, Receive $1.00 Up Reward through 11/29, Limit 4

Use two $1.00/1 – OxiClean Extreme Power Crystals Dishwasher Detergent from SmartSource 9/28

This is a little advanced but this is what is called a double dipper.  The buy 2 sale is the weekly advertised deal, but there is also a monthly $2 +Up Reward for each one purchased.

So after using the two coupons from the newspaper.  I will pay $6.00 out of pocket but will receive three $2.00 +Up Rewards.  Making my final price when I buy two become FREE.  Notice again there is a limit to this deal that is four.  I can do this deal twice on each card to get the full effect.  But I also can do this deal and get the two bags for $4 after those first two times, two more times.

Personally I wouldn’t do them a separate time, but I would use another one of my Rite Aid Cards and do the deal that way again.

Ok now onto Amazon…

Depending on what your store has it will all depend on where you go.  Here are two listings I am looking at to potentially sell this, depending on which item I buy with the coupon:

Option #1 


Option #2

The first one is the 12.7 oz. Fresh Clean, with a rank of #99,411. It is a Pack of Two.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 9.43.56 AM

The second one is the 16 ct. Fresh Clean, with a rank of #79,946.  Pack of one.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 9.48.04 AM

So based off just on the information I gave you here, I would personally choose to try to get the second one.  I would make more money per unit that I sold.  Usually this isn’t the case and the multipack usually does better per unit.  But just by looking at the info, I would choose the second one.  But if I dove deeper into the listing I actually prefer the first listing, as the one with better ranking has some confusion that I immediately note: Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 9.51.32 AM

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 9.52.26 AM

I definitely do not like this listing, so I would probably go with the easier option.  But everybody is different, so you might like this listing better.  You might only find the 16 ct. in your area.  Who knows…

So there you have it, two deals currently going on right now at Rite Aid.  There are many other deals right now at this store that can be had.  The beauty of this is that this is just one store.  Start with one store and work your way up to every store in your area.  My suggestion is start with one of the drug stores, as there is such huge savings.  I haven’t paid a single dollar at CVS this entire year, since I have been rolling their ECBs (Extra Care Bucks) that I received during Black Friday last year.  And I have gotten at least $10k of products this year.

Just for fun I wanted to throw something fun together for Ryan’s group.  The first person who can guess what I paid for one of my hauls this week will get a free 30 minute consultation with me about couponing.  To enter the contest, simply comment below with your guess.  If you like this post or have any questions, please comment down below.  I will answer all questions that you may have as best as I can.

Total Retail:  $463.46


Thank you very much to Jim for doing this post. You can follow Jim on Twitter: @JimHrbek.  If you want to see 2 more examples of couponing that Jim has done, join the Online Selling Experiment Facebook Group, which has 2 posts by Jim of specific examples.

Please leave your comments and guesses for Jim below!

54 thoughts on “Finding Free or Low Cost items to sell online through couponing”

  1. Hi Jim, thank you for your time, and openness, and sharing your knowledge. May I ask what you are going to do with all these lunchables, kitkats, butterfingers etc. – food items? Can they be sold too?

  2. This is a really interesting article and I can see how we can use this technique in my household to save money on our consumables. From the business and online selling standpoint I’m assuming this advice is mostly meant for people who are already approved to sell in these categories on Amazon? if not, what am I missing?

    1. Hi Eric,

      Yes this is for individuals who are approved in the categories discussed. Approvals are attainable though if you go through amazon’s process.

      Best Regards,

  3. So the funny thing is there were lots of you that were right in some aspect, so I will leave it up to all of you who you think should win. I paid $9.61 out of pocket. Got back $8 +UP Rewards and $25 in Target Gift Cards. So technically I made $23.39 off this trip.

    So let me know what person or people you all think should win this. Remember top person answered first!

    1. Hey Jim, thanks for lesson! One questions:

      You said “I haven’t paid a single dollar at CVS this entire year, since I have been rolling their ECBs (Extra Care Bucks) that I received during Black Friday last year.” As I know ECBs expire within 30 days from when they are printed. How could you use it entire the year?

      1. You are correct that they have an expiration date. But the idea of rolling them over every week is basically this. I received close to $100 ECB on Black Friday. Since that time I do all deals that gave me more ECBs and paid for them with ECBs. So there were times I used $10 ECBs, but I received another $10 ECB.

        Hope that makes sense Eugene.

  4. Hey Jim,

    I do couponing too! It’s one of my favorite ways to get cheap, cheap inventory. I have been sourcing from Walgreens since July 2013, but next year after 4th quarter is over I plan on working on figuring out CVS’s system.

    I took Brett Bartlett’s Coupon Engineering Course. I was able to talk to him at CES and he says hardly anybody he knows actually uses his coupon strategies for FBA. Amazing, because it’s so easy, it just takes some math and timing like you said.

    Happy sourcing!
    -Randy Carroll

    1. It’s so true Randy and the funny thing is most coupons are for products that have excellent ranks. I might have to look at Brett’s course, and see how different we do things.

      If it wasn’t already November I might beg you to learn CVS system earlier. Because Black Friday I am able to use the Extra Care Bucks for most of the year by rolling them. I rarely spend any money at CVS.

  5. You don’t really mention how to find coupons. What is the best way to get tons of the coupon inserts? Just buy a ton of sunday papers or is there an easier/cheaper way?

    1. Hi Carl,

      There are tons of ways to get coupons. As for coupon inserts, I actually deliver newspapers to supplement my income (in order to continue working for myself) before FBA came into the picture. So I personally get an unlimited supply of them. But for those that aren’t quite so lucky…

      1. Yes you can buy tons of newspapers, in fact if you call the newspaper they might be able to work out a good deal with you. I used to buy $20 worth of newspapers, mostly from papers that aren’t local, since they get other coupons than I do.

      2. You can ask friends and family to save their inserts for you.

      3. There are coupon clipping services online that allow you to order complete inserts or just individual coupons. Note you are paying for their time to collect and cut the coupons and not paying for the coupons themselves.

      4. I used to go to a gas station very late at night and they allowed me to take the inserts out of them.

      There are many other ways to get coupons, I find that it is harder to get printed coupons then it is to get the newspaper inserts.

  6. Thanks much for the article and tips. I’ve been lucky enough to get in on some great coupon deals randomly…just as a consumer, and those felt like wins. But being able to build on that and then make a big profit off selling those awesome deals is a great next step! Do you happen to have a blog at all Jim? Regardless, thanks for the info and inspiration!

    As for my guess, I say you continued to roll your credits and they PAID YOU $22.97 to help them clear their shelves ;).

    1. Haha thanks Ron.

      I have many blogs, but none of them that pertain to FBA. I did have two coupon sites, one that posted all about the deals out there, which I sold about a year ago for some good money. The other never really took off the way I wanted it to, plus the design is completely horrendous. But it does talk about more in depth about what couponing is really about. If you would like to check that out, it is

      You are very close to your guess, I will be announcing the winner or perhaps winners of this giveaway tomorrow.

  7. I am going to guess -$10. Seeing how well you are doing with the health/beauty items make me think I may need to work to become ungated for that category. Any tips with that?

    1. Hi Heather…

      The exact same tip I gave to Eileen, right above your comment. Episode 88 on the Thrifting For Profit Podcast.

      Good luck.

  8. This was great information! Thanks for sharing! I was going to guess FREE as well but you may have had to pay for tax? My second guess is $6.29. I am very inspired by your couponing story. When I first decided to try FBA I really wanted to get into grocery. (I am going to send in my first shipment this week.) I was bummed to find out that I need special permission to enter that category. Do either of you, Jim or Ryan, know the best way to gain entry to a restricted category on Amazon?

    I want you to know that I have been truly inspired by your story! Thanks for all of your transparent information. I think I would have been too overwhelmed to try FBA without reading your site:)

    1. Hi Eileen…

      In fact I have a great resource to get permission to get into any gated category. Charlene Anderson and Debra Conrad over at Thrifting For Profit have a podcast called the same name. But I believe they changed their name to the Streamer Show, but I was already subscribed to the podcast so I am not sure what name to search for. But you can find this podcast at and they do an amazing job on what exactly to do. It was episode 88.

      Good luck!

  9. 46.44 is my guess. I would like to point out though with couponing that there is A LOT of time involved. It takes a lot of time to search the internet for the right deals, go to the right stores at the right times and hope and pray that they still have stock of the hot items that are free or money makers. I’m not trying to be offensive but I really call into question the 7-10 hours a week number… Is that only what you spend for sourcing FBA with coupons? Or is that your total couponing time period? Also I’m really not trying to be a Debbie Downer but the whole using multiple cards thing is against CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens policies…

    1. Hi Tammy,

      I would disagree with this point you made. You can take as much time as you want. It all depends on what you want to get out of it. When I first started I got the coupon bug, and yes it did take a lot of time doing all the deals. But now a days, I rarely spend more than two to three hours doing everything that deals with shopping with coupons that deal with Amazon FBA.

      Many of the items that I go deep on, don’t have to deal with coupons that I need to clip. But with savings right at the register. Take for instance my very first shipment (the shipment Ryan helped me with) where I bought around 300 boxes of cereal. And no coupons are were used except for a catalina that printed up at the end of each transaction that I rolled with the next transaction.

      As for the use of multiple cards, I personally don’t have multiple cards, but that doesn’t mean I can not use my family’s cards.

  10. I’ll guess $46.35.

    I’d love to learn more about this topic. Do you offer (or do you know of) a crash course tutorial in extreme couponing for Amazon FBA?

    Thank you to Ryan and Jim for presenting this eye-opening concept.

  11. My guess is: absolutely free.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

    Can you list all the coupon websites you use? Do you order your items online or just in a retail store?

    1. Hi Bryan,

      Currently I look at sites like, for my national stores deals. And my regional stores (like the local grocery stores) I use (this might not be the same for you, I live in the NE of USA and they cover Giant PA, Redners, Weis Markets)

      I do have a few others that I personally follow, for what is on sale online. But you have to weary of these, because of the way they make their money (basically all affiliate sales) so they post up tons of deals where you might only save a few dollars. Plus watching too many is a time suck so don’t get pulled into it that much.

      One site I used to love to go to is a forum site called, in some of the subforums people post up exactly what they are going to do transaction wise. And it is a real big time saver.

      Have you heard of RSS feeds? Such as feedly? This helps A LOT! That way I can read just the titles and not have to go to their sites unless need be.


  12. Great post. I’d be very interested to learn more of the details.

    My guess was free too but since that’s taken I’ll say you made $10.00

  13. Very interesting post, Jim. Thanks for taking the time to help others!

    As for the contest, I was going to guess zero but I see I’ve been beat to the punch. So my wild guess is…$14.22.

  14. I have often thought about your approach as a way to build my FBA business faster. I currently have sales of $1,500/ mo. My budget and time have limited my growth. I would guess $42.00 for everything.

    1. Don,

      The approach can easily add to your sales, but it does take time to learn the process. After the learning curve it shouldn’t take you that long, if you don’t want it to.

  15. Thank you Jim for sharing! I love couponing but have struggled with strategies on how to consistently find high value inventory and not just the occasional home run of 100s of free items.

    I would love to hear more on how you do this consistently, week in and week out.

    My guess is $6.49. If I don’t win, I would love to pay you for 30 minutes of your time.


  16. Hey Jim,

    Great post, as someone who knows little to nothing about the coupon world this was a nice introduction to it.

    My guess is you after rewards your trip was 100% free.

  17. Wow, this was a great post. Thanks to both of you for doing this. There really is a science to couponing!

    My guess for your haul is that you spent $10 total.

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