Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Mystery shopping is a great way for a person to earn some extra cash in their spare time. Prospective shoppers sometimes have misconceptions about what the process looks like, having grand illusions of staying in hotels or having a dinner at a fancy restaurant paid for by someone else. While those opportunities do exist, the vast majority of mystery shopping opportunities pay very little. However, it is that illusion of being able to quickly make a large sum of money that exposes them to being ripped off.
A family member who knew I did some mystery shopping called recently to ask about an opportunity he had stumbled upon. He had been in contact with a supposed mystery shopping service, texting and emailing back and forth with them for about a week. Their interactions led to my family member receiving a package in the mail with the materials and directions for his first assignment.
He was to deposit a check for $2700 included in the package into his bank account. Within 24 hours of the deposit, he was to go to various wire transfer outlets in his area, wiring $200 from each location. He was then supposed to fill out a survey for each transaction to rate the quality of service of the wire transfer stations. The transactions would only use $2000 of the funds delivered to him, and he could keep the remaining $700 as payment for his efforts.
I was half asleep when the doorbell rudely dragged me back to full consciousness. At the door was the representative from the food delivery service that stops at our home every two weeks. The items we typically purchase from the service usually fall into two categories:
- Novelty items that we cannot easily find elsewhere
- Items that are better quality than at the grocery store
The reason our purchases fall into these categories is because the cost of the delivery service’s products are generally much higher than at the local grocery store.
Usually, my wife and I make a list of what we want, and submit our order online the Sunday before he shows up at our door. By ordering online ahead of time, we accomplish a couple of things:
- Conscious Ordering : We can make note of what we have already on hand, and make a conscious decision as to what to order. This keeps us on budget, and ensures that we don’t order duplicates or make an impulse purchase.
- Ensures delivery : By ordering ahead of time we guarantee that our items will be on the truck and saved for us. Otherwise, something we may want may sell out by the time the truck rolls into our cul-de-sac.
Unfortunately, we forgot to put together our order on Sunday. So when our delivery representative showed up at our door, we pulled out the catalog and started paging through it. We felt hurried because he was standing in our doorway waiting for us. We felt obligated to buy something because it’s our choice to have him take the time to stop at our home.
My wife and I tend to balance each other out, it’s why we make a great team. She’s a very spontaneous, “Let’s just GO FOR IT,” kind of person. I fall more on the, “Let’s just wait and see,” conservative side of the fence. If it wasn’t for my wife, I’d likely hold up in my home for weeks on end leaving only for work and the necessities. If it wasn’t for me, my wife would be spending an enormous amount of energy dealing with the consequences of living life with reckless abandon. I’m constantly hearing her say things like, “Aren’t you glad we went?” and “See, wasn’t that fun?” But this weekend it was my turn.
Last week my wife and I decided to throw down a healthy chunk of our weekly discretionary funds early in the week on some facial products she wanted. I wanted to be more cautious and hold off a few days just to make sure something else we’d rather spend our money on didn’t pop up out of nowhere. She wanted the facial products to be a priority. We went with her course of action and bought the products.
The rest of the week flew by, as did Friday and Saturday. We woke up Sunday morning and started getting ready for church. As we were about to leave the house, my cell phone buzzed due to an incoming text message from a friend of ours.
I shut the door after putting several bags of groceries into the back of the van. I commented to my wife that the coupon served exactly its intended purpose. The look on her face signaled I was going to have to explain myself.
The night before, my wife had seen an ad on the Facebook page of a local grocery store for a twelve pack of soda for $1.99, regular price $4.38. The sale was good only for one day. Unlike a previous time when we found an ad for cookies on their Facebook page, this time the post explicitly gave a code that we had to mention at the register to get the sale price. The coupon code requirement is actually a very shrewd business model.
What Paper Ads?
The percentage of people looking at newspapers, and thus newspaper ads, are steadily dropping. If retailers want to get your attention, they have to advertise where people are spending their time. With people unable to walk, drive, or ride anywhere without having their smart phone within reach, social media is where it’s at.
Be Someone Special
By offering special deals that require you to use a coupon code you got from the social media site, you feel like you’ve gotten something that most people haven’t. That feeling is supported when you walk in the store and see absolutely no sign of the discounted price. I found myself almost whispering the coupon code to the cashier, as if we were in a secret club.
Owning a home isn’t cheap to begin with, but when you are throwing money away in areas where you don’t need to, you’re just throwing good money out the door. It’s time to evaluate the things you have, the things you use, and the money you are spending on those things.
Do you have a budget written up? If so, take some time to look at it and see where you can make some changes to save some money. If you don’t have a budget written up, maybe it’s time to do that. Do you have more money going out than you have coming in, like many families? Here are a few areas in which you can make changes that will save you some money:
Stop wasting money on home improvements, and start saving by doing what you can on your own instead of paying other people to do it. While an issue with your electricity isn’t wise to fix on your own, minor plumbing problems and painting are simple fixes and can be done far cheaper on your own.
You may need to put some time and effort in, but it will be worth it with the money saved. The most important thing to do is to weigh the pros and cons of doing it yourself. Look at the risk involved and how much extra you’ll have to pay if you can’t fix it on your own successfully.
“I know it’s a lot of money, but I was wondering….” said my wife as we drove home from work.
She went on to explain that she was out of some facial products and was wondering if we could allocate some funds to buy new ones. The salon where she gets them was running a sale, offering several different products as a discounted package. If we agreed, the package was being held for her and we could pick it up the next day.
Her request signaled trouble, because it was only Tuesday.
We have a set amount of discretionary funds each week, and the purchase of her facial products would be purchased using money from this fund. We try very hard to not spend any of our discretionary funds during the week, so that we can have the maximum amount available for weekend activities. My wife didn’t see a problem with just deducting it from the weekend’s funds because we didn’t have any plans anyway.
I expressed my concerns:
Plans Out Of Nowhere
It was true that we currently didn’t have any plans. But plans have a way of popping up. Was she prepared to decline an invitation because we spent a large chunk of our discretionary funds before we even got to the weekend?
By the time the weekend rolls around, we may accidentally forget that we had already spent a significant portion of our discretionary funds. We may find out on Sunday, when we reconcile our spending for the weekend, that we had overspent.