Category Archives: Free Stuff

$5,000 in Free Menards Merchandise

One of the funnest value tactics I have tried out and reported on is the Menards free stuff tactic.  It’s hard to describe the amount of free-after-rebate (FAR) merchandise Menards puts in their ads each week.  Instead of trying to describe it, I’ll present here a visual record of two year’s worth of FAR merchandise that I acquired during my Menards free stuff experiment.  The total retail value of this collection is $4,946.46, but my total investment to acquire is was about $8 in postage stamps!  As you’ll see, “fun” isn’t the only word you could use to describe what I did; maybe “extreme” or “blown out” could also work 🙂

Click here for a full description of the tactic.
Click here to see my final analysis of my two year experiment.

Photos start with the first haul I came home with on July 7th, 2013, and progress chronologically to the last one in my 2 year marathon on July 5th, 2015.  Enjoy!



(No image for these items)


🙂   🙂   🙂

2015 AMEX Small Business Saturday Statement Credit

In the past, we’ve seen statement credits ranging from $10 to $30 (3x $10) for purchases made with an American Express card at small businesses the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  The purpose of Small Business Saturday is to promote smaller retailers in the community.  American Express had previously offered the statement credits as a way to expose their card users to said small retailers by offering this nice little incentive.

My 2014 Small Business Saturday haul: 5 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of rum, 6-pack of beer, some jerky and meat sticks, frozen brats and burgers, $50 in movie theater gift cards, and a kid's birthday gift (gift-wrapped, not pictured) ... all for about $11 in odd store totals.

My 2014 Small Business Saturday haul: 5 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of rum, 6-pack of beer, some jerky and meat sticks, frozen brats and burgers, $50 in movie theater gift cards, and a kid’s birthday gift (gift-wrapped, not pictured) … all for about $11 in odd store totals.

This year, however, the statement credit offered by Amex is NOTHING, $0.00, nada, zip, zilch, and zero.  Here’s the excerpt from the Small Business Saturday faq page:

What gives, Amex?

As to why American Express turned the faucet off, the explanation seems simple: it was very expensive for them.  Between Nicoleen’s and my Amex cards last year we got $150 in statement credits.  But like many corporate cost-saving decisions, the long term effects may prove detrimental, at least with the cohort of card users who are the type to read this blog post.  Insignificant as this Amex card perk seems, it could have been the benefit tipping the scales for many card holders to keep their Amex cards.  I personally always factored it into assessments of Amex cards.  In fact, my wife and I got Bluebird accounts last fall specifically to take advantage of the Small Business Saturday offer.  Some of these thoughts are echoed in the comments of this blog post by the points blog behemoth, ThePointsGuy.

There’s a lesson here

To frequenters of travel, deals, and points blogs this revelation is not news.  Similar blogs to mine all picked up on the story as soon as this year’s Small Business Saturday page went live a couple weeks ago.  I wanted to chime in though, and point out what I think it the take-away: Good deals are never permanent, so take advantage of them when they’re around.  Don’t wait!

I’ve made as many mistakes as smart moves in this game, but one accomplishment I am proud of is having a healthy dose of urgency when I recognize a valuable opportunity.  Note: I said “healthy dose” which doesn’t mean being desperate or frenzied.  It means prioritizing your efforts to favor exceptionally good deals or deals which are known to be temporary.

And most importantly, the elimination of the Small Business Saturday statement credits by American Express should serve as yet another reminder: don’t be surprised when a valuable situation goes away.  They all eventually do.  The key to capturing and creating value is to recognize and take advantage of good deals when they exist, and to move on and adapt when the current opportunities change or disappear.

Menards Free Stuff – The Verdict

Over the course of a 2-year experiment, I “bought” almost $5000 in free-after-rebate merchandise from Menards.  Two garage sales and a flea market later, it’s time to analyze the data: Does it really work?  Was it worth it?  How much did I make?  Read on to find my answers…

The Menards rebate system has been one of the major tactics I have posted about on this site.  As you can read on the About Me page, a few years ago I was unemployed and looking for creative ways to make money and/or get free stuff.  I stumbled upon the Menards mail-in rebate program that frequently features free-after-rebate (FAR) items in their weekly ads.
Through some testing I found that you can use the in-store rebate checks to buy more FAR items, effectively recycling the original money over and over.  When you want to end the chain reaction, just use the remainder of the rebate checks on purchases you would have made anyway, and voila!  You just got all that stuff for free.  A more detailed overview of the tactic can be found here.

Many times ad flyers overlap, making for pretty decent hauls.

Many times ad flyers overlap, making for pretty decent hauls.


As soon as I confirmed some basic plausibility (e.g the checks can be used on anything; even new FAR items) of the system I decided to run it like an experiment.  I love quantifying value (hence this website!) and I wanted to see how much one could actually make by getting this free stuff and hopefully selling it secondhand (or using it).  Here were my parameters:

  • Get only and all items where the rebate amount matches or exceeds the purchase amount.*
  • Get the max quantity of items eligible for the rebate offer.**
  • Sell items at 50-75% discounts from retail (to move product fast).

*There were some exceptions, as discussed here.
**In rare cases there were not enough items in stock.  Also in rare cases, there were FAR items with no limit.  In this case I would get as many as I presently had rebate checks to cover.

And some assumptions:

  • Stamps for sending in rebates, garage sale signage, and flea market fees are counted as expenses.
  • Travel costs to and from the store do not count as expenses as these cost were negligible in my situation.


Acquiring stuff
After 2 years (July 7th, 2013 – July 5th, 2015) the total retail value of the FAR items I purchased was $4946.46.  Without the few restrictions I put on my purchasing, this figure would have easily been over $5000.  This puts the total amount of stuff you could acquire for free at around $2500/year.

The furthest “in the hole” I was (i.e. the most spending done before getting some rebates back) was $1039.04.  However, I happened to start during a long rebate delay period, which seems to happen in the middle of every summer.  Once I got the ball rolling and got some rebates in the mail, it seemed like around $400 was all that was needed to perpetually re-use the rebates.  I have since used about $850 in rebates for non-experiment purchases at Menards, leaving only $185 to be paid back (by using rebates to make personal/family purchases I would have made anyway).

Selling stuff
In August of 2013 we had a garage sale.  I only had about $350 in product at the time, and selling it around 50-75% off retail price I made around $50.  We had a second garage sale a year later and I made closer to $155.  My big plan to liquidate a lot of inventory came in June 2015 when I got a booth at a flea market in my area.  A full report of that event can be found here.  At the flea market my Menards stuff netted $201.81.
When anyone in my house would take any product out of inventory for personal use, I would charge the family my sale price for the item  (No, I didn’t actually demand $1.50 cash from my wife when she took a spray bottle of carpet cleaner!  This was just done on my tracking spreadsheet.)

Between both sales, the flea market, and the few self-purchases, my total revenue to date is $405.31.    I estimate I still have 70-75% of my total inventory from the 2 years, which would suggest I have the potential to make another $945-1215 in revenue.


My data lends itself to two main conclusions:

  1. The system works.  You can make money doing this.
  2. It’s probably not worth it.

The system works
You can make money doing this.  All of the details of the rebate system work out so that you can perpetually buy more and more free stuff with the store’s own rebate checks.  Since Menards has a lot of generally needed products, it’s not hard to “pay yourself back” when you’re ready to stop the rebate churning.  The rebate program is very forgiving about mail-by dates and the ad flyers are online, making it easy to find the deals.  If you have a Menards close to where you live or if you frequently drive past one, getting the merchandise and sending in rebate forms can be accomplished without much extra time or hassle.

Selling the items also works.  A lot of the products are cheap, expendable items that people generally use: paint brushes, cleaning supplies, gloves, hand tools, kitchen gadgets, etc.  Of course some items sell better than others but in general, the stuff goes.  I tried putting a few of the higher volume items on craigslist, but never got any bites.  Impulse buys at garage sales and flea markets seems to be the best bet to offload your free stuff.

It’s probably not worth it
I just explained how the system works and that you can make money.  So why do I say it’s probably not worth it?  The answer is simple: efficiency.  No one part of the process is overly onerous but looking at it as a whole, it is just too much work for the return.

But it’s close.  In fact, until I packed it all up and brought it to the flea market, it still felt like it was worth my while.  But once the volume of stuff became hard to physically manage, getting it moved and set up properly to sell became a big project.  If one half of the program -getting the stuff or selling the stuff- could be cut out of the equation I would probably say it was worth the effort.  But as it stands, for me it is not.

That’s not to say it isn’t worth it for everyone.  For someone who spends their summers hanging out at flea markets anyway, or someone who lives on a busy intersection, the selling part might be a lot less trouble than it was for me.  In this case the scales could be tipped enough that the value exceeds the costs.

Another idea would be to limit purchases to only very small items like drill bit sets, paint brushes, saw blades, etc. and to avoid the gallon jugs of cleaning supplies and mini blinds, for example.  Doing this would cut way down on the hassle of storing and transporting the stuff.  It would also reduce the total number of trips to the store.


I have forced myself to take a break from Menards free stuff.  It can be pretty addicting to walk out of a home improvement store every week or two with 5 full bags of free stuff.  I quit cold turkey and knowingly missed some good deals. I need to liquidate more inventory before I even think about getting more free stuff.  I might give craigslist a second try or put a few items on amazon.  If nothing else I will do another flea market early next summer.

When I am ready to start churning rebates at Menards again I will change my tactics.  I now know which items sell the best and which ones are a pain to store and transport.  I think a smaller, leaner rebate churning program at Menards could make almost as much profit as my experiment did, but with a fraction of the hassle.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to leave Menards Free Stuff as a featured value tactic on the site.  Maybe some reader will be in a better position to sell the product, and would therefore find the tactic valuable.  Maybe someone will find a different retailer or website where the same tactic could be applied.

Buying almost $5000 of merchandise for free was sure fun It’s time to ease up for now, but something tells me I haven’t sent in my last pile of rebate forms…

Weekly Review (July 6, 2015)

(This is a data recovered post, originally published on July 7th, 2015.)

This review actually covers a two week period, and there won’t be another one until the end of the month.  Nicoleen and I left for our anniversary trip this morning so I won’t have the usual activity to report for the next two weeks.

I cashed in another 8750 My SA Rewards points last Tuesday and got the $25 free gas coupon. That marks the halfway point in 2015, and so far I’ve pumped $333.47 in free gas!  That puts me on track to almost $700 in free gas this year.  To date 18.05% of my commuting gas has been free.

Big Menards News
When I started my experiment with free stuff from Menards, I wanted to know how much stuff I could get if I maxed the quantity of every item that was free after rebate. I have run the experiment for 2 years and as of Sunday, it’s over. That’s right, I’m all done getting every free with rebate item every week from Menards. But that doesn’t mean I’m done with Menards free stuff. It just means the experiment is done. Now it’s time to analyze the data 🙂

This last Sunday there were about 7 concurrently running sale ads. Here’s what I ended up with for my last official Menards haul:
menards final haul redo

  • 4x  heavy duty sponge
  • 2x  car visor tissue holder
  • 4x  2″ angle paint brush
  • 2x  23×42″ vinyl miniblinds
  • 4x  hose sprayer nozzle
  • 2x  Menards baseball hat
  • 2x  Menards t-shirt
  • 2x  6″ putty knife

This last haul with a retail value of $104.94 brings the 2-year total to over $5000!

New Posts this Week
Wedding Anniversary Trip – The Final Clue
ended the suspense and revealed that Europe is the destination for Nicoleen’s and my 10th anniversary vacation.
Timberlake Lodge, Grand Rapids MN is a review of my favorite hotel in Grand Rapids.  If you’re heading up there for the fishing or the other area attractions this summer, check out the Timberlake Lodge.  You won’t be disappointed.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: Versatility Matters! explains what the big deal is about Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  Their value of their ability to transfer to partner programs can’t be overstated.  Read the post to find out why.

Travel News
Our anniversary trip is currently underway!  In fact, I’m writing this post from a computer work station in the American Flagship Lounge at ORD.
computer-station redo
Stay tuned to ValueTactics on Facebook for photos and real time news on our vacation!

Credit Card News
Apparently Delta is once again sending targeted offers for the 50k bonus on the Amex Delta Gold card.  The public offers for the United MileagePlus Explorer and the Citi AAdvantage card are both down below 40k once again.

I was once again impressed by Chase customer service on Wednesday.  I called to ask for replacements for my old chip-less Sapphire Preferred.  The new cards come with chip and signature technology, which is required for most merchants in Europe.  I was instantly connected to a native English speaker and the whole conversation took about 45 seconds.  23 hours later a UPS overnight package arrived at my door with the two new cards!

Now you’re updated. Go employ some Value Tactics!

Latest Load of Free Menards Stuff

(This is a data recovered post, originally published on June 14th, 2015.)

Here is the last load of Menards stuff I picked up before the big flea market.  Unfortunately I forgot to bring this box of stuff with.  The flea market, Swappers’ Meet, was yesterday, and it was fairly successful.  I’ll give a full report, including stats, in an upcoming post.


What you’re looking at:

  • 4x rain poncho
  • 4x oven drip sheet
  • 10x 20-pack touchscreen electronics wipes
  • 6x long stick lighter
  • 2x 100-piece picture hanging kit
  • 1x 26-in-1 screwdriver

The total retail value of this free haul is $94.63.

Limiting Myself on Free Menards Stuff

(This is a data recovered post, originally published on June 10th, 2015.)

As some of you may know, I am in the midst of a value tactics experiment.  For almost two years now I have been buying free-after-rebate (FAR) items from Menards on a semi-weekly basis.  (Details of the system can be found on my Menards Free Stuff tactical page.)  I don’t just buy some of the items; I buy all the items.  And not just one or two of each; I max out the quantity limit for a given rebate offer.  But… and here’s what this post is about… that’s not entirely true.  Allow me to explain:

There are several reasons why my experimental data is slightly tainted.  I haven’t always bought absolutely all of the current rebate items.  There are a few scenarios where my purchases were either limited or self-limited:

  1. I got there too late and the items were sold out.
  2. There was a ‘no quantity limit’ rebate offer and I either didn’t have enough rebate checks to cover say, 450 three-piece caulking tool sets, or I simply didn’t want to store 150 of xyz item.
  3. There are a few items which routinely appear on a free-after-rebate sale that I simply don’t buy anymore, per my personal policy.

My personal policy regarding the items from reason #3 came about for practical reasons.  Sometimes 10-foot sections of vinyl rain gutters are offered FAR.  Storing a 10 foot long stack of items that I would probably sell for $1 each is simply not worth the hassle for me.  Another example are the 1-gallon jugs of driveway degreaser, deck wash, and non-tintable latex paint which seem to go up on a FAR offer several times a year.
At my first two garage sales where I had Menards stuff these were not good sellers.  Besides, they are so frequently on sale that if I ever sold out of them I could quickly replenish my stock.  It’s another case where the work of lugging around large, heavy items is not worth what I could sell them for.  So as a personal policy I decided to stop buying all one-gallon FAR items about 9 months ago.

Sure, it would be nice to have a 100% accurate picture of how much free stuff one could possibly acquire from Menards over a certain period of time.  But what good is data that represents an unrealistic situation?  I’m taking this project to an extreme that has probably never been matched, and I still haven’t completely maxed out the opportunity.

My advice is to use my results as a general guideline to see whether or not this type of tactic is worth it for you.  If you decide to try something like this and make some extra money, conserve some of your garage space and your wife’s good graces, and don’t overdo it … too much 🙂

Menards Haul – Spring 2015

Here’s my Menards haul from the last month. It totals $203.25.  I somehow managed to get to Menards and max my limit on all the sale items during crazy work month.  To find out about how I get this stuff for free, check out the free stuff from Menards page.
Here’s what you’re looking at:

  • 12 elastomeric blacktop crack filler tubes
  • 1 36″ stainless steel yardstick*
  • 12 paint brushes
  • 4 wiper blades
  • 1 10-pack dust masks
  • 2 pair tinted safety glasses
  • 3 NoDoz berry shot 6-packs (limit was 48)
  • 4 hose-end spray bottles of house wash
  • 4 cleaning cloth 3-packs

This spring has been riddled with 11% sales, which is great if you have some projects that require supplies or materials.  But it’s bad for free stuff, since the 11% sale never coincides with free-after-rebate deals.

Stay up to date on current deals at Menards by checking their ad flyers page.

Menards Haul (with unadvertised rebate items!)

Over the last two weeks I picked up $179.51 in free stuff from Menards! And more importantly, I found out what happens when you buy a rebate item from a sale that has expired, but that still has the sign up in the store.
On Wednesday evening I went into the store to buy the current week’s free-after-rebate items. Since it was so late in the week, I missed out on 4x Loctite Repair Putty (they were sold out in all nearby stores). But I maxed my quantities on all the other items from the flyers:

  • 4  pop-up cotton towels 8-pack
  • 1  36″ stainless steel yardstick*
  • 10  electronics wipes 20-pack
  • 2  jar/bottle opener
  • 1  stain brush
  • 5  paint brushes

* Limit was 2 but I was out of rebate checks and didn’t want to invest any more real money into this tactic.

Then I started spotting free-after-rebate items that I hadn’t seen on any advertisements.  There may have been even more of these items, but I didn’t take the time to check every corner of the store.  Here are the additional items I picked up for free:

  • 4  rug grippers
  • 10  colorful Loom Bandz bracelet kits (no quantity limit!)
  • 6  [low quality / outdated] Nintendo DS and Wii games (no quantity limit!)

I also found rolls of wallpaper and wallpaper borders free-after-rebate with no quantity limit, but I decided they weren’t worth my trouble (or storage space).

When I put the 6 video games in my cart, I considered looking up their current prices online and returning to the store the next day if they were worth anything.  I’m glad I decided to just pick up 6 of them that night, because when I was getting my rebate forms before leaving the store, I realized the register hadn’t printed a rebate receipt for the games.  When I asked about it at the service counter, they discovered that the sign had been accidentally left up, and the sale had ended the day before (March 31st).  I asked if I would have to return them, but the associate told me they have a way of working around their computer system when trying to print rebate receipts for expired sale items.  So instead of getting a rebate receipt, they printed me a rebate check on the spot!

The new flyer starts tomorrow.  The only free-after-rebate items I saw is the ever popular SealBest Elastomeric Blacktop Crack Filler (limit 6) and a 10-pack of dust masks (limit 1).

Stay up to date on current deals at Menards by checking their ad flyers page.