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Retail Arbitrage

From Zero To Hero: How to Earn Money Without Any Investment


I’ve read a lot of posts claiming to help people earn money without spending any money only to find that behind it all there is an offer that is required to take advantage of.   I’m not faulting those that do that as I understand that they need to make money.  Personally, I think they should be upfront about it.  So how can you earn money without any investment when in fact you have to spend money to get started?

So, I’ve done a bit of testing over the last month and have developed a solid plan that I believe anyone can implement.

You will need a couple of things to get started.

  1. Car or access to transportation
  2. A smart phone
  3. Access to a computer/laptop (not required, but useful)

Now starting out we are running under the assumption that there is no money to spend (outside of a few gallons of gas) which is all you need to get started.

Next let’s lay some ground rules. 

  1. You need to reinvest most of the money you make initially
  2. You need to acquire items that you can use or sell fairly quickly
  3. If you do spend money you need to make sure that you can at least get your money back when you sell it

Let’s get started

Your first step is to download the following apps on your smart phone,  letgo, offerup, facebook, ebay, and a craigslist app.

earn money without any investmentearn money without any investmentearn money without any investment

Look around your house to see if there is anything that you don’t use anymore that you might be able to sell.   If so, take a couple of pictures and list it on letgo, offerup and Facebook marketplace apps.  You may be wondering why you need to list it on all three and the answer is that not everyone uses all three apps.  Just copy and paste the description and title when listing on the others.  It doesn’t take long to list on all 3.

Now if you don’t have anything to sell that is perfectly fine.  Having something to sell helps initially because that will give you some extra gas money, so you can drive a little further.   All I initially had was a tony little gazelle that we no longer used so I listed it for $10 and it sold pretty quickly.

earn money without any investment

When listing items, you want to maximize the price you get and how quickly it sells.   I could have sold it for around $50-75 but it would have taken a couple of weeks instead of a couple of hours.  Also, you want to leave room for negotiation.  So, if you want to sell it for $10 list it for $15-20 so people can feel like they got a better deal.

A lot of people are simply looking to get rid of things which is where you come in.  You help the get rid of it and then you can turn around and sell it for a profit.  When you get an item for free it’s pretty much pure profit minus a couple bucks in gas.    You need to make it fun.  Unless you have a lot of extra room I would stay away from furniture as it’s harder to sell and takes up a lot of space.  In my case I decided to upgrade my furniture.  I threw out my couches, bookshelves that were falling apart and a make shift dresser.  Since I have a mini van and the seats come out I can easily load in most furniture.  A lot of people that are getting rid of multiple pieces of furniture are also getting rid of other valuable things as well.

On my third free trip this guy was trying to get rid of everything in this room.  His brother passed away and he needed it gone as he was trying to get the house ready to list.  Inside the room there was a personal sauna that goes for $2,000 new that was in awesome shape, 2 tennis tutors that go for $748 new, and a lot of other things that could be sold for $5-20.  He had a lot of people tell him they were going to show up and never did and since I was there, he was glad that I was ready to help him out.  I had to make 3 round trips to get everything.

Immediately took pictures of things before I loaded them up so I could list them quickly.  After the third trip I took the tennis tutors to play it again sports to check em out.  They weren’t in the best shape but he recommended to sell them for parts for around $75-150 each.   Music to my ears!   I also listed the sauna up for $250.    I was able to sell a tennis trainer thing to play it again sports for $2.

Since my total was up to $12 and decided to dive into the next phase!  As you can see the first phase is the key to earn money without any investment!

Second Phase

earn money without any investment

Now you want to keep picking up free stuff and selling it to grow your cash but as you have some cash you can move into the next phase which is my personal favorite:  Garage Sales!

There’s a couple of things you need to know about garage sales to have some success and save yourself some time.  Most people that put on garage sales are in the same boat as those giving stuff away for free.  They just want to get rid of it, however they want to make a little bit of cash while doing so.  If you come early in the day they are less willing to negotiate so the best time to stop by is between 12-2p or whenever the are closing up and you simply ask this magic question:

“Would you take X(amount) for everything?”

For this particular garage sale I was on a mission to find more silverware and kitchen utensils as with 4 kids they always see to go missing.   Low and behold he had 2 big bins full of kitchen utensils that he was selling 2 for $1.  I asked him would you take $6 for all 3 bins.  He hesitated and I said I don’t want the knifes but the other 2 bins I’m willing to do $6.   He said yes.   Since I already got him to say yes once I noticed a nice circulon pan (goes for $40-70 new) and said would you take a $1 for the pan.  He said he paid $70 for it.  My response “that’s great, would you take $1 for it.  He said yes again.  So I spent $7 at a garage sale and got a bunch of stuff that I can use and sell.

I put up the pan for $20 and bunch of other things for $5-10 so I’ll definitely get my $7 back and have a fully stocked kitchen!  Well at least until the kids lose it all.

My personal favorite items to get are baby clothes are garage sales because they don’t take up a lot of space and you can sell them in lots of 3-5 on ebay for around $8-15 depending on the brand.  There was one time when I got around 300-400 pieces of little kids clothes for $10 asking the magic question during closing time.  Granted I actually needed those clothes for my 3 daughters at the time, however I would have turned that into 100 lots of 3 items for $8 and sold the on ebay for a total of $800.  After ebay fees and the $10 I spent I would have had a net profit of $680.

Some other things to look out for when doing garage sales (as long as they are in good condition)

  1. stuffed animals
  2. kids clothes
  3. small appliances
  4. dvds
  5. some books
  6. kids toys
  7. board games

Keep in mind if you can get a bunch of items for $5 you can very easily get your money back and make a profit only by selling a few.   So after the first phase of earning without any investment you can use that investment in second phase to start increasing your cash flow!

Third Phase

earn money without any investment

Now that you have some cash flow you can start to enter in the world of arbitrage.  This phase is a warm up to retail arbitrage as it’s relatively low risk and you will have a decent success rate.  I coined this as “library arbitrage”  Most libraries I know and I’ve been to quite a few as a kid and as a parent are just like any other business.   They have limited space.  So they have books they need to get rid of so they typically have a section toward the front that is a book store.  They sell books anywhere from $.05-$.5 each.  As a kid in southern California, I remember the Fullerton public library used to do a buck a bag sale.

So what you do is pull up the craigslist app and start scanning barcodes.  When you do a search, you need to filter for sold and completed listings and those in used condition.  This way you can actually see what’s selling.

In my research I spent about 10-20 minutes scanning books at a local library and found at least 5 books that were selling on ebay for $4-10 in used condition.  The books were only ten cents each!

So after you’ve hit up a couple of garage sales on a Saturday then head over to your local library and see if you can find some books to pick up and flip on ebay.

If you spend a couple hours a week doing all three phases then you should be able to generate an extra $100-300/month depending on the items you are able to acquire.   To make it easier I would recommend getting a free bookshelf and put it up in your house as your inventory rack.  You can have the different shelves be for the different amounts you spent or organized by product type.  This way you can easily store your items.

Once you hit the $500 mark meaning that you have an extra $500 in your account not total sales then you are ready to move into phase 4.  I would recommend to also have some inventory that hasn’t sold yet so you can still have some cash flow coming in.  The more successful you are in the first phase of getting free items to earn money without any investment will help you in this phase to really set yourself up for phase 4!

Fourth Phase

earn money without any investment

For this phase you are going to need some additional supplies to start out which is why you need to have an extra $500 to get started.

Here’s what you will need

  1. Printer
  2. Labels
  3. Boxes
  4. Bubble wrap
  5. Shrink wrap
  6. Tape

You are now ready to get started in the awesome world of retail arbitrage.  To get setup you simply need to register with Amazon FBA program.

earn money without any investment

You can start with a free account, but you are limited to 40 items and have higher FBA fees (usually $1 more/item) To get started that is perfectly fine as you can use what you make in the first month to upgrade to the $40/month option.  Once you get rolling the $40/month is not a big deal at all.   When you have a $1,000 day what does $40 matter?  ????

How this works is you simply send stuff to amazon and they will handle everything for you: shipping, customer service, returns, etc.  That is why there are fees associated.    The basic concept is you find stuff at stores that is cheap, scan it to see if you can make a profit after fees, and if you can buy it and get paid when it’s sold on amazon.

Amazon FBA is pretty big subject, so I’ll keep it high level.  If you have any questions on it you can drop it in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer it for you.

Stores need to clear items out to make room for new items coming in which is why they discount products aka “clearance”.   Basically, you start scanning away and find ones where you can make a profit.  Personally, I like to make sure it will sell quickly (lower sales rank) and I’ll make at least $3.  Ideally there’s multiple items so I can buy a bunch and make a lot of $3+ profits in one shot.  For example, Walmart is currently doing Christmas clearance so while I was there,

I came across this scrapbooking girl’s set discounted to $10.


earn money online without any investmentIt’s been selling on Amazon for $28 and after the $14 FBA fees, shipping costs, and my $10 cost to purchase I’ll make a net profit of $2.90.

earn money online without any investment

Granted this is below the $3 mark but only .1 and there were 15 available.  That means I’ll have a $43.50 profit in one shot.   That’s a no brainer.

Retail arbitrage works in pretty much any store, TJ Max, Dollar Tree, Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and even thrift stores.  The key is that you need to get to know the stores and their schedule.  Also get to know the managers and introduce yourself.  They will give you a call when they need stuff cleared.  In a lot of cases they will typically mark down the clearance to what you need to make a profit.  Remember you are doing them a valuable service by clearing out space.  Just remember you aren’t going to find products are every store you visit.  You will be scanning a lot of products.  In fact I would recommend either a Bluetooth scanner as well as an external charge for your smart phone.

Fifth Phase

earn money without any investment

Basically, the goal is to use the first four phases to funnel in as much as possible into capital for retail arbitrage.  This way you can have a steady flow of sales.  Eventually you will be making enough with retail arbitrage so all you will need to focus on is retail arbitrage.   Just set a goal of what you want to make each month and figure out how many items it will take to get there.

For example, let’s say you wanted to make an extra $3,000/month.   That means you would need to send amazon at least 1,000 items (assuming a minimum profit of $3).   You would need to get 250 items each week or 35 items a day.  Assuming that each item has an average purchase price of $10 that means you would need to have a bankroll of $2,500 each week to purchase the items.  It will take a little time to build up to it but the good news is that you most certainly can do it!

Hope this helps empowers you with the knowledge to earn money without any investment.  As you can see all it takes is a little drive, desire and hustling!

If these five phases do not seem like your cup of tea and you are looking for a way to get started making money online you can check out a great place to learn called Wealthy Affiliate.  Although there is a premium membership that does cost money there is a lot of value in the free membership.  You can learn a lot as well as get 2 websites!

Go here to get started with your first website

earn money without any investment




  1. Rob S.

    These are pretty neat ways to make money. I never heard of the app Letgo before.

    I never sold on Ebay but your information and tips seem logical in making money.Going to garage sales and libraries are a good idea too.

    And I have a lot of stuff in my house I could sell since retiring and moving.With Craigslist and Amazon it seems that you can’t go wrong!With Amazon FBA, is it really feasible to sell your products and make money?

    • Dan Shea

      absolutely Rob.

  2. Lars

    I love the spirit you bring across in the article Dan. From nothing to something. I think like you do. A little creativity and a decent portion of hard work will bring you far and as soon as money starts flowing, you shift your way of income. Good idea. This a game anyone can play. 

    • Dan Shea

      Thank you Lars!

  3. Joe Handigr

    I’ve always thought of doing this but I just didn’t know if it would of been successful.
    Taking something I didn’t want anymore and then selling it to get more things to sell, it seems somewhat to easy, and now with this information it sounds even easier!

    Those techniques for getting things at a garage sale are stupendous!
    I did not take into account that if you came in later they would be more willing to sell for less, genius!I like the way you hassled that pan, legendary man.

    I’m definitely going to give this a try on my spare time. I don’t see a reason not to.
    There’s just so much stuff that people don’t want and DO want.

    How long do you think this will take to snowball?
    And how would I even manage it?
    It seems like it could get pretty big. Might have to hire some people lol

    • Dan Shea

      Hi Joe,  Thank you.   I would start off slow and build.  It can snow ball quickly with the right items, however in most cases you will probably end up selling a bunch of things for $5-$10.  Don’t worry as nickels and dimes add up!

  4. Henry

    Hello Dan! I greatly appreciate this way of truly making money without investment. As you have stated at the beginning, so many offer this and they don’t honor their promises.

    But you have stated it accurately, what you have explained here doesn’t require any investment. And that’s not very common to find online, people who really deliver what they promise. And it makes perfect sense to go from stage 1 to 5 and end up with our own business! I also appreciate the way you take us by the hand in each stage and gradually make us grow. Thank you very much!

    • Dan Shea

      Thank you Henry!

  5. Tim Bennett

    Hey Dan,

    I think what you have done is outstanding!

    I love the fact that you had a very unique strategy to get your self started.

    More than that I really like (and appreciate) that you are sharing this with other people without any agenda.

    It is rare to see someone sharing genuine information that actually works without some underlying agenda.

    Congrats to you.

    You have a wonderful mindset, very creative and very inspiring!

    Excellent job and I will certainly read this again

    Thank you for inspiring the community.


    • Dan Shea

      Thank you Tim!

  6. Kira Price

    I have used all of the above for selling and buying things. I earned money and saved money at the same time! I love Offer up it has been a real life saver. You really did your research on people because we hate spending money even though we need to spend to make money.

    It is a slow process investing in yourself without that big cash flow to start. Did you have expendable money in the beginning to invest? If so how much more easier is it to move money wise? 

    • Dan Shea

      I could have used money to start, however I wanted to start with 0 for my research so i only started with the first $10 i made from selling the gazelle.

  7. lilchefchic

    Hi Dan! 

    What would you say has brought in more money for you? The selling on ebay or selling locally? I did a test run with retail arbitrage a couple months back and would’ve done o.k. with the items bought but after I had to pay for shipping and sellers feesI think I made….. a dollar? My family laughed at me. But it was an experiment so I laughed along with them. But seriously, what are your thoughts? The rocket at the end (phase 5) made me literally laugh at loud. I’d love to get to that point. I’d try it again but I’m just leery of all the shipping/seller fees at the end of the day. 

    • Dan Shea

      Phase 4 and 5 take a little bit more time and grinding.  You need to scan the item to make sure a couple things are in place.  #1 is that you make a decent profit % or amount.  I usually make sure it’s $3 min.   #2 is that it will sell fairly quickly.  Anything with a sales rank under 1,000 will sell pretty quick.  #3 is you put in all the calculations.  Estimate around $0.60/lb for shipping.

      Most items you scan won’t meet the criteria especially with the fees the FBA has.  You could also self fulfill as well to save a little money.

      To do a proper test I would recommend doing around 10-20 items with the minimum standards above and then see.  You don’t hit a home run every time but it all adds up.

  8. alexandra

    I love how you set up this post. I can relate to this with every step. I have started out this way. I am still selling a lot online via marketplace etc and I have just created my first WA account and I have recently just started my first amazon account. I love how you have created it at a level where I would say we all start. Wanting a change and then we end up here for whatever reason.

  9. AV 2001

    Hey Dan, 

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this article as you’ve provided us with tonnes of valuable information on “How to earn money without any investment”. I’ve been using eBay and letgo for a while and I can guarantee that you’ll be able to make a hundreds of dollars of you’ve got good stuff to sell. I can’t wait to try using the the apps that you’ve mentioned. 

    Thank you for taking your precious time in writing this post. Keep up the good work Dan! 

    • Dan Shea

      entirely my pleasure!

  10. Dave M.

    Great article! I am really excited to try some of these ideas! I really like the garage sale part. I have had some garage sales myself and I know that at 2PM I am ready to pay someone to take away the whole pile! Have you made much from the stuff you purchased at garage sales? I live in PA so garage sales only happen in the spring and summer.

    • Dan Shea

      Hi Dave,  I have made a decent amount.  Most of the time my wife ends up wanting to keep the items for the household though 🙂

  11. Christine

    Thank you for sharing your ideas on making money without any investment.

    I have not sold anything on Ebay or Amazon. But, I have sold some of my household stuffs on craiglist.

    It is a good idea getting bargain items from garage sale and make a profit from them.

    Is there any requirement in applying for Amazon FBA program?

    • Dan Shea

      there is no requirement Christine but i do believe you have to be at least 18 years old

  12. Myles

    Great post Dan. A complete business model and plan in one blog post. I have heard tell of some folks doing very well using the techniques you described. Personally I’m more drawn to the online marketing business model so I’m going to throw my favour to the Wealthy Affiliate program you mentioned. It’s especially good to be able to start working it at no cost, similar to the finding free items and reselling but you don’t have be out and about looking for stuff. All in all, great post, much appreciated!   

  13. zuchii

    Thanks for this article about making money online, it’s quite educative and filled with lots of legitimate ideas for willing minds. These are obviously not get rich schemes and would require consistency to pull through; Nothing good comes easy. The wealthy affiliate is a sure banker for anyone interested in earning passive income online. Get started!!

  14. Lady Esther

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you for sharing this great information and your creativity truly shows. It sounds easy but I know it took hard work, coordination and focus. Can be said that this exchange of product can certainly provide funds and have fun at the same time. This is a very good idea.  I like that the investment funds is very little and sometimes as a newbie you just don’t have funds. Some  of the apps you mention I have hear of and know that they are use for selling and purchasing.

    Do you keep track of items purchase and items sold? Can you suggest an app for tracking or go with pen and paper?

    I appreciate you walk through instructions. Showing an out come and moving forward.

    Thank you for sharing and best on your online business endeavors.


    • Dan Shea

      Hey Lady Esther,

      Personally i just use a google spreadsheet.  I have one tab for local sales (Craigslist, offerup, letgo, FB marketplace)  I have another Tab for Ebay,  another Tab for Amazon FBA.   This way i track all my sales so i can track what is selling and where it is selling as well as what it typically sells for.   I also have a tab for acquistion cost to track what i spent, where, and on what.

      I don’t really track the mileage as i typically stay in a 5-10 mile radius so it’s not an incredible amount of gas.   I also use some of the cash i make to fill up the gas tank so it’s already paying for the gas anyway.

  15. Telma

    Hey Dan, Happy New Year. How wonderful and amazing way to teaching us how to make money and fast. I have so many itens that I could start right now. The 4th and 5th way is even more interested. For sure invest about $500 to a $1000 can help me increase the money at my house. What make mw like most is you have fases for all needs, so no scuses to start making money right away. I try sell some shoes at Ebay, but I did not have much success there; now I see with your estrategy I was asking for too much money, so now I will change the approte and asking for less so I can sale those shoes.

    Thank you so much for such good and powerful information, you rock.

    Cheer to your success,

    • Dan Shea

      My pleasure Telma.  It’s always a balancing act between the sale price and how quickly it will sell.  I always try to lean on the side of selling things quicker while still making a profit.  On the free items i get in phase 1 that’s not a problem since it only cost a couple miles in gas.

      For shoes you could also check your local area for consigment shops that can sell it for you in exchange for around 50%.  The upside is that they can typically sell it for higher than what you would get online.  The downside is it make take longer to sell.  Either way it won’t be taking up space in your house!

  16. Bushra

    Hi Dan, Thank you so much for sharing this helpful post. I think with your plan anybody can start an online business. I never heard about these apps except eBay.  It’s so easy and convenient way to get rid of your old stuff and it’s a great way to make money as well.

    Very informative post about Amazon FBA. I actually wanted to know, how it works and you explained it very well so thanks a lot for sharing this informative post. I have one question, so for starting Amazon FBA business do we need to sign up a contract with them and have to pay fees in advance?

    • Dan Shea

      You need to sign up.  With the free account you only pay the fees when it sells.   If you sign up for the $40/month option for unlimited items you would need to pay the $40 upfront.  I would recommend starting with the free plan and doing like 10-15 items to get a feel for it.

  17. Phil Lancaster

    Well, Dan, you’ve blown me away with this concept.

    Not just the concept, of course, but the detailed breakdown you’ve provided.

    I love the way you start out with no bankroll and the show how you can progress through the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Phases, with detailed instructions and examples for each.

    I can see how retail arbitrage could actually bring in a quite reasonable income, especially once everything becomes second nature and you can do it almost without thinking.

    But, you’ve got to have the funds to do it and that’s where the earlier phases come in.

    I’m already looking at stuff I can sell to kick start my working capital.

    Thanks again, Dan, for this eye-opening information.

  18. Cory Haasnoot

    Great article. I have been selling online like this for quite a while and yes you do make some good money fast if you don’t sell the items at crazy high prices. One thing I like to do is check the curbs around my town. Sometimes people leave some pretty good items out and if they are on the curb they are considered in the public domain free!

    • Dan Shea

      Absolutely Cory!  The curbs are an awesome source but I didn’t include that as that can be a little more of a grind.   When curb surfing make sure you check out the wealthy neighborhoods!  🙂

  19. Israel

    Thanks for the highly-informative post! Much grateful! I’ve been on the lookout for such money making opportunities for some time now as I found that building a website to a successful stage takes some months or even years and no one can earn a penny from a personal website without investing energy, time, and lots of money from the onset.

    Thanks for introducing an opportunity to earn without investing which starts with downloading some apps! I just have a question or two to ask about this revenue opportunity – Does my location impact my success in this business? If yes, what can I do to still make money despite the location issue? Thanks for your response in anticipation!

    Israel Olatunji

    • Dan Shea

      Hi Israel,  I can say with certainty, however people are relatively the same everywhere in the world with different customs but follow the same general pattern.  Why not give it a shot.  What’s the worst that happens besides losing a couple of gallons of gas? 

  20. Linda

    I love the clear explanation of all the phases from not using your own money to actually getting an income. Sadly where I am from every sales app we have is people not willing to pay much for a product and people not willing to sell for a low price. So I don’t really see I could make a profit there.

    But if I were in the States, I would jump on this in a heart beat. It’s a great way to get a feel for what sells. I know I have seen Gary Vaynerchuck talk about garage sale flipping and he is really good at it, because he knows exactly what sells. I reckon it would take some time to learn that, but once you do, you’re golden.

    Great idea and great write up, thanks.

  21. GVporras

    Thank you for sharing this great ideas on how to make money.

    I personally used before you phase 2 which are going to garage sales and look for item to sell on amazon and on eBay where I was doing really good especially on eBay, you mentioned to go on bookstore and stores, and scan items that are cheap but are selling on eBay and Amazon for better price. What you use to scan this items?

    • Dan Shea

      I used the amazon sellers app and ebay app.

  22. Zayn Hiew

    Hello Dan! I greatly appreciate your 5 phases of  making money without investment. And it make sense to go from stage 1 to 5 and end up with our own web business. 

    FYI, l used to get rid of my old electronic items through one of our Bidding Site name – MyMudah – and it’s free of charge. The best part of this platform, you just need to sign up as member with your contact details. Upload few images of the item you to sell and set a max price. People will pouring in to ask is our best offer for the said item and normally we give them 5 to 10% of price. They will advertise your advertisement for 14 days, after that you need to submit again if the nobody take up the offer.

    I appreciate the way you take us by the hand in each stage and gradually make us grow. Thank you very much!

  23. mzakapon

    Hi Dan Shea,

    I have read your article fully and found that this is an another perfect guideline to fulfill my target. I am going to bookmark your site for my future reading and I believe I will follow you soon. I already joined in your best recommendation of wealthy affiliate program as a premium member and also purchased new domain there. Your step by step guideline gives me inspiration to do more work and I hope I will be successful one day. Thanks for sharing this informative article.

  24. Paul

    Dear Dan,

    Wow amazing post, instead of saying it a post I would say its a guide and blueprint for making money online without spending a dime.

    Being a full-time blogger you post gave me a lot of valuable information.You have given me a lot to think via your post. This post is so thorough and helpful it opened my eyes to all sorts of information that I wasn’t aware of!

    As we all know… Thousands of people searching in Google to earn money online without investment and your post is going to be very helpful for many.

    I am going to try few of your methods and implement what I learned from your article in my online business.

    Great Success!


  25. jessie palaypay

    This sounds a lot like something Gary Vaynerchuk does considering he talks about it a lot on his Youtube Channel. Especially flipping stuff from garage sales. 

    I am curious if you every do something similar at a Goodwill store or a Dollar Tree store as well and if you are successful with it?

    • Dan Shea

      I do at thrift stores as I find it better to find values that i can flip.


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