Just a quick note: If you’re interested in mystery shopping, I highly recommend The Ultimate Resource eGuide: Everything You Need to Know About Mystery Shopping and Other Side Hustle.
Now, I never recommend paying for information about mystery shopping resources.
But this book isn’t just a list of companies. The author has 15 years’ experience mystery shopping, doing panel studies, etc. She has some good insights — including a few I hadn’t thought of — and I found the information on other side hustles pretty helpful.
There’s my pitch. Take it as you will.
These days, a lot of the mystery shops I choose involve some form of spending. First of all, these shops tend to have better pay. Often, the most fun shops involve spending. Last week, Tim and I got to see a movie. We’ll be reimbursed for one ticket (we used a pass for the other) plus the popcorn.
But there is a third benefit that I am only now realizing: savings.
When you get paid for a mystery shop, you’re generally looking at a month to a month and a half lag. So, by the time you get it, it can easily feel like found money — even when the payment includes a reimbursement for shop expenses.
So if the spending on a shop is relatively low — that is, you feel comfortable taking it out of the bank account, rather than putting it on a card — mystery shops can provide an excellent route to savings.
Let’s face it, except in the most extreme cases, most of us will pick up a few unnecessary purchases. If you have plenty of money still in the account, it’s easier to rationalize that bag of candy, a latte or some other small treat. The point is, you’re likely to spend money on something that you barely remember a few days later.
But if that $10-20 is spent in the course of a mystery shop, you will probably forgo the indulgence. Then, when the payment comes to you, it’s a heftier amount — one that you’re more likely to put against debt or into savings.
In this way, then, I’m starting to see mystery shopping as a route to bigger debt repayment.
Of course, this doesn’t work when you have to put the expenses on a card. So restaurant shops, which can often run $30-50, may not be expenses you can take out of your account without feeling a pinch. Or perhaps you would take it as a challenge to be particularly careful for that period.
I suppose this method of savings could be applied even without the mystery shopping angle. For example, when I feel the urge to get a DQ Blizzard, I could exercise some willpower and just put the money aside. (And that would be good for both my wallet and my waistline.) Then, when Tim’s unemployment check comes, I could redeposit the cash and put it toward the credit card payment.
Arguably, if I can exercise willpower more, I could simply stick to a stricter budget and skip these little psychological fake-outs. But when I know the money is sitting in the account, I find it too easy to indulge in small ways. Often the expense is small. I’ll okay a bag of candy for Tim or myself (or both) at the grocery store, when I’d otherwise stick to the list. Still, those $2-3 can add up pretty quickly, as most of us know all too well.
So, at least for now, I need to use these little tricks. They help keep me aware of our spending, and they help me recreate the sense of urgency that sometimes gets lost when I’m burned out or have a craving. Whatever it takes to keep those extra funds going toward credit card debt, rather than to some sugary treat or some fast food.
Have you ever been a mystery shopper? What sneaky ways do you find to save money?