Welcome to October’s series on 31 Ways to Earn Extra Cash Before Christmas. In this series, I’m highlighting simple and legitimate ways you can earn extra cash in the next three months for those of you who could use a little extra cash to help you pay for Christmas — or just for your living expenses if you’re in a tight spot right now.
If you’ve found a great way to make extra cash before Christmas that doesn’t require an outlay of cash upfront, please email me your tip. I’d love to hear it and possibly share it during this series!
You’ve probably seen the signs or ads promise you can make hundreds of dollars every month by shopping and going out to eat. And you’ve probably though it was too good to be true.
Well, those advertisements are likely a little over-the-top and just designed to get you to sign up for some overpriced list which you can find yourself with a little searching online. But mystery shopping is a very legitimate source of income and in many areas, the jobs are plentiful and the pay is decent.
Reader DB Landes says:
I do mystery shopping to get free groceries/take out and earn a bit of extra cash. You won’t get rich quick but by doing shopping I already do I get around $10-$25 extra every month by working for Market Force, plus I get reimbursed for what I eat/buy. -DB
What Skills Do You Need to Have to Become a Mystery Shopper?
A good mystery shopper is someone who is attentive to detail and thorough in everything they do. In addition, it is very important that you keep accurate records and follow instructions carefully. Many shops will require you to look for very specific things, keep track of the time, and ask specific questions — all without seeming suspicious or giving yourself away as a mystery shopper.
How Do You Get Started Working as a Mystery Shopper?
When I first began mystery shopping, I signed up for all of the mystery shopping companies I could find. I opened up a separate email account which was dedicated to mystery shopping emails and used that when I signed up. It took me hours to sign up with all of the companies and it was quite time-consuming, but the effort paid off as I ended up landing dozens of great mystery shopping jobs over the next two years.
Reader Cassie emailed in and suggested:
If your readers are interested in mystery shopping, they should check out the MSPA’s website (Mystery Shopper Provider’s Association) which acts as sort of a BBB for mystery shopping. The MSPA has a list of legitimate mystery shopping companies here that require no money out of pocket to shop for them.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You should never pay to sign up with a mystery shopping company. They may ask for a fairly extensive application process to make sure that you are thorough, detailed, and qualified. They will ask for your social security number and other personal information (always make sure the site is secure and the company is legit before giving out personal information).
But a legitimate mystery shopping company should never ask for money upfront. If they do, run far, far away and don’t turn back. They are a scam company and you do not want to get mixed up with the likes of them!
Erin emailed me about her experiences with mystery shopping:
I heard about the idea of “mystery shopping” a few years ago, when my husband was in between coming home from a tour in Afghanistan, finding a temporary job, and returning to Active Duty Military. We needed a little extra cash, and this seemed to work well with my schedule.
At that time, I only had my son, but I’ve continued to do these shops with my second child. There are some very simple shops that pay $5 and $10, all the way up to more complex shops that pay out up to $200!
I also have taken on jobs that have compensated me for meals that my family and I have eaten. I get paid very quickly and I have never had any problems with any of the sites I’ve used. A few of them are:
Mystery Shoppers Provider Association
National Shopping Service
Again, these are all real businesses. I have done jobs for every single one of these companies and have been paid for all of my work. -Erin
How Do You Find Out About Job Opportunities?
If you’ll thoroughly fill out all the applications and have patience, you’ll likely begin to see quite a number of job opportunities sent to you. Many times, these jobs are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so you’ll want to check your email for job openings a few times each day and be quick to respond to any which you are interested in. Some companies also have online job listings that you can apply for.
It typically takes a few months to build up a rapport with the companies. Don’t be discouraged if you get passed over for some of the better job opportunities in the beginning.
If you are patient and prove yourself, you’ll likely start to be offered better jobs. In fact, sometimes the company will start offering the job directly to you versus opening it up to others since they know you have done a great job in the past!
What Types of Jobs Are Available?
When I was mystery shopping, I did fast food shops, casual dining, high-end restaurants, gas stations, beauty supply stores, pet stores, and even a bowling alley, to name a few.
I found restaurant shops to be my favorite as they usually not only reimbursed for a meal for myself and my husband, but they also usually paid at least an extra $10 for the work involved. It was very worth it to me to get a nice free dinner date with my husband plus some cash, all for about 30 minutes of extra work!
How Much Will You Get Paid?
Most mystery shopping jobs pay between $7-$15 and include some sort of reimbursement as well. This is usually for an average of an hour’s worth of work, give or take. Once you’ve established yourself with a company, you may be offered jobs that pay $20 to $25 per hour, or more. These jobs are typically not offered to newbies.
Mystery shopping is a lot of work — especially in the beginning when you are first learning the ropes! If you stick with it, though, it can be a fun and rewarding experience that can also help supplement your income — or pay for some of your Christmas expenses!
Have you been a mystery shopper before? If so, I’d love to hear your tips and advice for someone who is considering dipping their toes into the world of mystery shopping.