Thursday, May 6, 2010

Coupon Source - Buying coupons from eBay

We talk a lot on this blog about how to build a coupon stash. Let's talk about another coupon resource out there. eBay. Buying coupons online is one of my best money saving strategies to get multiple copies of awesome coupons. This, of course, allows me to get lots of groceries, health & beauty products and household items for super cheap or free.

Before we start, I want to clarify you are not purchasing coupons when you buy coupons on eBay. Selling coupons is clearly forbidden on every manufacturer's coupon out there and eBay wouldn't allow it. You are paying for the seller's time to obtain, organize, clip, and distribute coupons. You know how long it takes to organize your own coupons, now multiply that by hundreds of inserts. I think its completely feasible to pay a couple of dollars for their time.

There are tons of coupon clipping services out there, but I've only personally used eBay. I only purchase coupons on eBay because it works for me. If you are interested in other coupon clipping services, click here to visit My Southwest Savings for a list on the right side of her blog. Again, purchase at your own risk, I have no experience with any of these services.

There are a couple of different ways to buy coupons on eBay:
  1. You can buy "lots" of coupons which contain hundreds of random, different coupons. This might be a good option for a newbie looking to build their coupon stockpile quickly with a wide array of manufacturer's coupons.
  2. You can also buy a "lot" of coupons for the same item which are generally sold in packets of 10, 15 or 20. This is a great option if you are looking for a specific coupon where you KNOW you can gt a great deal. If you want a lot of that same coupon, you can buy multiple lots from the same buyer. For example,  if you wanted tons of free Hershey's Bliss chocolate bars, you could purchase two lots of 20 .50/1 Hershey's Bliss chocolate bars MQs for .99 each. You'll get 40 coupons for 1.98. These are on sale at Albie's for only $1 through 5/11, so that's 40 free chocolate bars and you're only out the 1.98 spent on the coupons.
  3. You can purchase full coupon inserts. This is the route I go most often. I have found it is WAY cheaper to buy a set of inserts from a seller than purchasing a Sunday paper off the shelf. I'd also rather have the full insert in my coupon files. Plus, I have a local eBay seller who sells 5 copies of each insert for 1.25 plus shipping. Way cheaper than paying $2 per paper. I buy inserts from this same person every week. The great deal is she lives about 2 miles from my office, so no shipping fees for me! She hasn't had listings posted for the past couple of weeks, but as soon as she does, I will post the links to her auction. You do have to take into consideration that coupon inserts vary wildly from region to region. And some papers have a condensed coupon insert. So, make sure you look closely at the coupon listing to ensure you are going to get what you want.
Why Buy Coupons Online?
Have you ever picked up the coupons in the Sunday paper and gotten really excited to see a great coupon for a product you love and buy all the time? And, it's a product you know goes on sale all the time? How great would it be to have a bunch of those coupons to score that deal multiple times! That's what buying coupons online can do. You can score that great deal 10, 15, even 20 times!

What Types of Coupons Can I Buy?
As you would expect, there is no shortage of coupons to buy on eBay. You can buy a set of 100 different coupons or a set of coupons for the same product. You can also buy BOGO coupons, or coupons for free items. I personally do not purchase internet printable coupons from anyone. If someone is going to make a fake coupon, its a lot easier to make a fake IPQ. So, just to be safe, I am happy printing my own coupons and buying insert coupons.

How Do I Search for Coupons?
If you simply type in the word "coupon", you'll get 99,000 unfiltered results. So, be as specific as possible. If you are looking for a general type of coupon, type in as much information as you have - like "ice cream coupon" or "Breyer's ice cream coupon". If you are searching for a specific coupon you saw in the Sunday paper or need for an upcoming sale, be very specific, for example ".50 off Hershey's Bliss chocolate."

How Much Do Coupons Cost?
eBay is an auction place and the price the market is willing to pay determines the price. High value coupons, like a BOGO, demand more money. Low value coupons are much cheaper - which is great for us Arizonians here in the land of doubles! A .50/1 coupon may not mean much to someone in Southern California where they don't double coupons, but here it is worth $1! I generally spend $2-$3 on a lot of 10, 15, or 20 coupons. That price typically includes shipping, although a lot of sellers are offering free shipping now.

How Much Should I Bid?
How bad do you want the coupons? Honestly, I never bid. I don't have that kind of time. I'm usually buying coupons for a sale that will be ending within a week. I search for the "Buy Now" option. In my experience, they almost always sell for the "Buy Now" price so why mess with the bidding process?

Where Do Sellers Get the Coupons?
They come from the Sunday Smart Source, Red Plum, and Proctor & Gamble inserts. Where these people get all the inserts, I don't know. Maybe they're dumpster divers who go after recycled inserts. Maybe they work for a newspaper and get the leftovers. Either way, SmartSource and Red Plum, along with the manufacturers, issue a finite set of coupons that they expect to be redeemed. The percentage of coupons actually ever redeemed is still very, very low.

What Should I Look Out For When Buying Coupons?
Make sure you understand exactly the product for which the coupon is valid. Is it valid for ANY Orville Redenbacher Popcorn, or just the "Natural" Popcorn? Is it good for ANY Breyer's Ice Cream, or just Breyer's Frozen Yogurt?

Be sure you are going to have time to use the coupons. And the closer the expiration date, the cheaper the coupons.

This is a big one for me. If it is a coupon that says, "DO NOT DOUBLE," I don't want it. The seller is usually very explicit about this. If in doubt, do not buy or confirm with the seller prior to purchase.

A seller on eBay is only as good as his/her feedback rating. Make sure you are buying from only highly rated sellers. I only buy from Top Rated Sellers who have a feeback rating in the high 90th percentile. Why risk it?

Make sure you know how many you are buying! Is it 10, 15 or 20?

Make sure you know the exact value of the coupon. Is it 1.00 off 1 or 1.00 off 2? Is it .35/1 or .35/3? Don't make the mistake of thinking you're buying a $1.00/1 and then have it turn out to be $1.00/2. That would be a bummer.

Make sure you are clear on whether shipping is extra or included in the price of the coupons. So many sellers offer free shipping now which is fantastic, but be aware of overall pricing too. It may not be as great a deal if they just upped the price to cover shipping.

How Long Does It Take to Get the Coupons?
The quicker you pay, the quicker your coupons will be shipped. I always pay at the time of purchase. My coupons typically arrive in 3-4 days. Obviously, it depends on from where they are being shipped.

How Do You Know What Coupons to Buy?
When I'm looking to buy coupons on eBay, I'm thinking about several things:

1. Where do I need to stock up?
Right now, I'm looking to stock up on juice pouches so I'm checking eBay and prices at different stores to see where I can score the best deal. For example, I know Capri Sun pouches are $1.49 at Safeway when you buy 5 this week. So, if I move quickly and can score $1.00/1 coupons on eBay, I'd pay only .49 each for a ton of Capri Suns.

2. What great coupons have I seen in the Sunday paper?
If a coupon has been in the Sunday paper, someone is selling it on eBay.

3. What grocery items are on sale at my local grocery stores and where can I score a deal with a coupon?
I always get the sale ads ahead of time, lately its been Monday. So there is some lead time before the weekly sales start on Wednesday. I'm usually buying coupons on Thursday or Friday, and they have always arrived in plenty of time to hit the sales.

4. Is there is a good Catalina (CAT) deal going on?
If so, I am buying coupons on eBay. So is everyone else so I try to buy my coupons as quickly as possible.

5. Is there a great deal somewhere where I can get a free or close to free item after coupon? These are the best. The Hershey's Bliss chocolate deal I mentioned is a perfect example. They are on sale for 80 cents through this week and with the .50/1 coupon (doubled) they are free! Those are the coupons I want to buy.

6. Most important - am I getting a DEAL?
It's always about the per unit cost, including the cost of the coupons. I always do the math. Sometimes the deal ain't that great so I pass. I zero in on the really good deals that are worth my time.
In general, be cautious and be alert. Most of the sellers are honest people, who ship the coupons quickly. But, like anything else in life, there are always a few bad apples out there. If you follow the guidelines I've laid out, you will be a happy eBay shopper and your stockpile will grow quickly! Get out there and build up those coupon stashes!


  1. Great article!
    When buying inserts on eBay, how do you know if you'll be getting the hot regional coupons or the crummy condensed ones?

  2. Anon- Most sellers will list all coupons included in the insert, so you know exactly what you're getting. I match the list up with the coupon preview sites out there to make sure I'm not missing any coupons I really want. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Thank you for this information. I am sick of buying the Sunday paper and this looks like a better option.


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