My friend Helen introduced me to Mystery Shopping about two years ago. I had heard about it, and was very curious (if not a little skeptical) about its potential in my money-saving toolbox . She mentioned in a conversation that she had not paid for an oil change in over three years. Boy did that pique my interest! After conducting two oil change shops  and being fully reimbursed for the oil changes that I needed for my car, I was convinced that I had uncovered a small goldmine.
Reasons to Consider Mystery Shopping
I took a break from mystery shopping after completing these two assignments. That is, until something very interesting came across my inbox. While completing this glamorous one (more to come below), I took the time to think about reasons why you might want to give mystery shopping a shot.
Earn Extra Cash to Supplement Your Budget
While you will not become rich off of my level of mystery shopping (think fast food shops and oil changes), the extra income  can certainly supplement parts of your budget. A good way to look at it is perhaps sign up for assignments and use the cash or experience towards a certain goal . For example, sign onto additional shops around the holidays in order to purchase gifts for others. You could save on food costs  by only eating out when you get a restaurant/fast food assignment, or mystery shopping could help you to afford some wonderful dates for with your significant other.
Experience Something New
In my inbox I receive lots of emails from the mystery company I am signed up for (Intelli-Shop). Most are for fast food restaurants, car dealerships, and an occasional insurance company. Don’t get me wrong, getting a meal for free is nice and all, but you do need to write up a report afterwards and so I haven’t found all of these types of shops to be lucrative or even worth it at times (though worth it when I need an oil change!).
Even with two past scores of 8 out of possible 10 for my past efforts, I have rarely seen an interesting or glamorous assignment like those advertised. Until now, that is. Last weekend, I snagged an assignment that would ensure a great date night with my husband completely for free: an evening at a racetrack. You might remember I mentioned this mystery shopping assignment when I talked about it in Do You Have to Pay Tax on Gambling Winnings? 
Not only did this shop include the general admission, valet parking, and three bets, but it also included a buffet dinner for two and two alcoholic beverages. What a deal! On top of the reimbursements, I was paid $60 for my time. Because I helped the company out in a pinch (two of the scheduled people had backed out last minute), I was given a “hero” status in my profile. This means my chances of getting really cool assignments in the future are higher than before. It was a win-win-win situation!
Help Fulfill a Shopping Addiction Void
If you have a shopping addiction or spend too much during the month, then mystery shopping could help to fill the void while offering reimbursable items. Instead of spending your own money, you can spend a company’s money (though of course you need to cover the cost upfront). You might be able to find a shop that you were wanting to go to anyway, or a type of assignment where you get to purchase and item you had needed/wanted to buy anyway (word of warning: some shops make you take the product back as part of the experience). Who knows, perhaps writing the reports out will give you enough work to do that you will go out shopping less.
Get You Out of the House
Perhaps you don’t have much money in your budget  for entertainment. If you are home most of the day, or on weekends, then you might like a good excuse to leave the house. Mystery shopping can certainly provide this for you. You will be on an assignment, focused, yet able to enjoy whatever venue you were given a free ticket to, or whatever meal you purchased (though reimbursable, so you have to pay upfront). Some mystery shops you can even take a friend along, so be on the lookout for these.
Because of my great experience with mystery shopping thus far, I wanted to share with you reasons why you might want to give mystery shopping a chance. It’s not for everyone, and you might question if you are wasting your time with lower-paying shops (think $7 for a fast food restaurant). But after picking up assignments and proving to be consistent, better assignments should be on their way!
Mystery Shopping Referral
If you are interested in becoming a Mystery Shopper with Intelli-Shop and would like a referral, please contact us  using the subject Mystery Shopping and include the following information: Name, email address, city, state and zip. We will submit your information under their refer-a-friend program. Intelli-Shop will then send you information about how to sign up.
Have you ever participated in mystery shopping?