Do you love to shop and love a bargain? Or maybe shopping’s not your favorite thing, but you’re the main shopper in your family and you never miss a turn down the clearance aisle just to see what deals you can score for the fam. Whether you’re a shopping-savvy 9-to-5er or a stay-at-home mom, what if I told you that you can turn your shopping trips into additional cash? No bull. If you don’t mind browsing through the bargain bin or checking the clearance racks, you can make a pretty penny through buying cheap locally and selling high online.
Prepare to Flip
One of the first steps in any flipping process is deciding where you’ll be selling the bargains you find. Some of the most popular online forums for buying low and selling higher are on Amazon, on eBay, and even on Etsy (for some types of product). Amazon is an attractive choice because their program, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), allows you to ship your items to them – then they take care of storing and shipping your item along with any necessary customer service or return processing (for a fee). However, some types of products are restricted on Amazon and require approval before you can sell – which may make eBay a better choice, even if you do have to handle all your own shipping. If you’re dealing in vintage items or crafting supplies, Etsy is a platform you might want to consider.
Now, before you head out to the bargain bins, you need to have the right tools on you. These tools should ensure that you’re selecting those clearance or bargain items that will actually net you a profit when you sell them online. Depending on where you prefer to sell your goods – whether that’s on Amazon’s FBA or through eBay or somewhere else – you’ll want to install a few apps on your smartphone for price and popularity (saleability, really) checking on the go. The most useful apps include Amazon Seller, the eBay app, and Profit Bandit.
Shop to Flip
There’s hardly a shop out there that doesn’t have a bargain bin or clearance rack at some point – and becoming familiar with their seasons of clearance and overstock flushing are your bread and butter. Keep an eye out for any liquidation sales or going-out-of-business sales happening locally, and be sure to check them out. Always scan through the weekly sales papers for promising leads, and don’t forget to look for library sales, rummage sales, garage sales, and flea markets in your area. Know which times of year are best for clearance as well – for example, Christmas clearance starts mid-December, while swimsuit clearance tends to start once summer’s in full swing.
It also helps to know which types of stores are likely to have the best deals: drugstores often discount quickly to move stock out of the way, mass retailers like Walmart and Target have serious clearance areas, and toy stores like to dump unpopular items quickly. Estate sales or thrift stores can yield treasures at surprisingly low prices, while the free section on Craigslist might have some worthy items if you’re willing to put the Internet time in. I’ve got even more suggestions over on “45 Ways to Buy Low & Sell High with Retail Arbitrage,” so check out that resource next.
Maximize the Flip
While putting so much time and effort into tracking down great deals to turn into even more cash, you should make sure the effort is worth it. To achieve this, make sure you only pick up those items that will make your money back, pay for your selling fees, and provide a profit on top of all that. In general, many people say that the best way to achieve this is by only picking up an item that you can sell for three times its cost. So only pick up a $5 appliance if it’s going for at least $15 according to your seller apps. Once you become more experience, you may find another ratio works for you, but the 3X rule is a pretty good standard to start with.
Here’s another clever tactic to maximize the flip: don’t just profit off the sale, profit off the purchase. You may already be a big coupon-clipper and cashback app user – so keep applying all those little cash-generating tricks on your flipping shopping trips as well! While you’re buying clearance items online, you could be earning gift cards from Ebates or MyPoints; in some cases, you can even earn Ebates rewards in-store. Check and see if your credit cards have any cashback programs you could be taking advantage of: this is especially worth your time if you have department-specific credit cards which often have points reward programs for shopping in their stores. If there’s any opportunity to make a shopping trip work for you, follow up and follow through.
Follow Through on the Flip
Following through is the most important step – you’ve scored a great deal, profited on the purchase, and now you’re ready to profit off your work. If you’re doing FBA, you’ll need to list your items in your Amazon Seller account and send the items off to them for storage and shipping once they sell. If you’re selling anywhere else, you’ll still need to take photos and make an attractive listing for your product, but you’ll also have to handle figuring out the shipping your product will require, safely storing your items, and handling any customer service correspondence required.
Putting the extra cash you’ve scored into your pocket is perfectly fine at this point – or you can use your profits to invest in more merchandise that you continue to flip for even greater profit. You can break through into the restricted categories on Amazon, grow your business, and maybe one day move flipping from being a side hustle to being one of your central money-makers. It can happen – you just need the correct mixture of persistence, thoroughness, and savviness for those items that are hot sellers of the moment.
Are you ready to give flipping the bargain bin a try? It’s easy to start in your spare time, and there are tons of tools out there to help you. And if flipping bargain items for a profit catches fire for you, I’d love to hear your success story!