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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saving the Moola: mystery shop your way to extra income + free food!

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There are so many ways to earn a little bit extra here and there. One way that Jason has taken on to earn extra money is mystery shopping.

It all started when a friend of his told him about fast food mystery shops. His meal would be completely reimbursed, plus there was a fee he would be paid just for completing the assignment. He signed up, tried a shop and completely fell in love {I don't think it hurt that he received free food}.

Jason's been mystery shopping for about nine months and has really gotten into lately. He's saving up all his mystery shopping money for a Kindle Fire - an item he's wanted for a really long time. There's no money in our budget for fun items like this. Last year, I shared my journey of saving up extra money to buy an iPod, Bose headphones and an electronic Bible. Jason wanted to save up extra money in much the same way but was unsure where he would get extra money until he discovered secret shopping.

You can find a list of reputable mystery shopping companies here. Jason currently only shops for one mystery shopping company and has completed assignments at fast food, fast casual and grocery stores. He really enjoys doing these as he walks away with either a free meal or free groceries which also helps our budget! For some of the assignments, he's able to get a free meal for me as well, which is a nice added bonus.

Here are some of Jason's best tips for a successful mystery shopping experience:
  • Read the instructions thoroughly for each assignment. This will ensure you feel confident in whatever assignment you are completing, and it will ensure your assignment is accepted. Jason has never had an assignment not be accepted - in other words, he's been paid for all the assignments he's ever completed. 
  • To get as many assignments {and money} as possible, really think through what you have going on each week/month. If you're traveling to another area of your state for whatever reason {maybe your parents live in another area, you're making a trip to a special grocery store, etc.}, check to see if there are any assignments in that area. If possible, you could also create a little route for yourself with shops along the way to your destination! 
  • Once you have been paid the first time, be sure to keep some money in a mystery shopping envelope. You'll want to keep some money month to month to ensure you always have money on hand to complete the assignment. For all the assignments Jason takes, whatever money is required out of pocket, he is reimbursed later. However, he does need some money up front, so he always makes sure to have at least $50 or so in his mystery shopping envelope so he can complete the assignments. 
  • Never, ever go by your gut on where a store is located for the assignment you are completing. Always double check the address and use a GPS or print directions in advance. After all the time and money you're putting into the assignment, the last thing you want to do is have shopped the wrong store. 
  • When budgeting your time, make sure to budget at least a half hour after you arrive home from a mystery shop assignment to enter the results from your experience. One half hour is usually sufficient for one assignment. Jason always enters his results the second we get home. 
Mystery shopping is relatively easy for the right person. I've seen Jason in action, and I really don't think I would make a good mystery shopper. There's a lot to observe and remember, and I think I would be too nervous. Jason is very confident when completing shops and observes everything! 

By mystery shopping, we have eaten countless free meals and received a lot of free groceries. It has definitely impacted our grocery budget in a positive way when I know we will be eating out for a lunch or getting some free groceries. Jason is excited to finally be able to purchase a Kindle Fire. For us, mystery shopping has been a win-win experience all around! 

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