The Good and Bad of Mystery Shopping

I did some mystery shops over the weekend that highlight some of the good things and bad things about mystery shopping. There were a couple of bad things about this mystery shop. First, I had a receipt rejected because it didn’t include the address of the convenience store. I can’t control whether a store puts their address on the receipt or not. Luckily, I had another receipt with the address printed and I was able to scan the address on to the other receipt.

The other problem was that a report checker invalidated one of my reports because she said I didn’t purchase gas. This wasn’t correct and I had submitted a receipt for the gas so I don’t know why the checker said I hadn’t. I resubmitted the receipt and the checker asked me to send it yet again because the edge of the receipt didn’t scan. This was a little ridiculous since everything on the receipt was still readable and the important information was intact. Since I wanted to get paid though I had to send the scan in yet again. I have heard that you will occasionally run into checkers that are a PITA and I guess this was my first experience with one.

There are some good things about mystery shopping. It is nice to get to get paid to buy gas although there is quite a bit of work besides just buying the gas. It is also nice that most of my mystery shopping income will be tax-free. Since I can legally write off my mileage at $0.50 per mile most of my income is eliminated. For example, one of the fast food shops I did this month was 16 miles round trip from my home giving me an expense of $8. Since my pay was only $7.50 I technically didn’t make any money doing this shop. This would be bad if I thought my true expenses were anywhere close to $0.50 but since I estimate my true expenses to be less than half that these shops are worthwhile.

Making a Living by Mystery Shopping Update

My goal was to make $500 from mystery shopping this month. It looks like my total will probably be around $300 unless I get some really lucrative shops at the end of the month. There usually are shops with raised fees at the end of the month but I’ve not been quick enough to get the ones I want.

I probably would have made $500 but I did hardly any shops last week and I don’t have any scheduled for the rest of this week. I have decided I am only going to do shops if they are either especially lucrative or shops that I enjoy doing. It seems that a large percentage of the shops are petroleum shops and I don’t care for those. They take me too long and there is too much stuff to remember and too many pictures to take.

My conclusion after doing lots of shops this month is that it is possible to become a full time mystery shopper. It would require several things to be able to achieve this though. It would take some time to become more efficient at doing the shops so that you are returned a decent wage for your time. You also need to be highly organized to schedule the shops and report them in the most efficient manner. You would also likely need to persevere through some lower earning months because the mystery shopping companies do not show you all the opportunities when you first work for them. After you have worked for them for a while they will give you access to more and better shops. Although, I do believe it is possible to make a living as a mystery shopper it would be a lot of work. Since I don’t enjoy most of the mystery shopping jobs it wouldn’t be worthwhile for me. My plan for now is to continue making online income and look for a regular j-o-b, possibly in the legal industry.

****Don’t forget to enter my giveaway this week if you haven’t already.

Online Income Report – May 2010

When I share my monthly income totals people often ask for more details about my online income. To satisfy people’s curiosity I am now going to have a monthly report detailing how I made my online income. For the month of May I made $580.69 in online income. I am counting the money I actually received, not the money I earned but will be paid later. Most money I earn online is paid the next month so any efforts I make to increase my online income this month will not actually show up until the next month. Here is breakdown of my sources of income.

Google Adsense  –  $346.81

Text Links –              $42.26

Direct Ad Sales –    $71.47

Affiliate Sales –       $120.15

Since my Adsense is paid a month after I earn it I already know it is going to be down significantly this month.  My affiliate sales are going to be up significantly though and will more than offset the Adsense decline.  Going forward I plan to keep my affiliate sales up and build my Adsense back up as well.  I would like my other sources of income to be larger than Adsense in order to be less dependent on Adsense for income.  The Adsense income seems to fluctuate quite a bit and I usually can’t figure out what is causing the changes.  If there is any other information about my online income you would like to know, just ask.  I’m willing to hear any tips you have for increasing my online income too.

Making a Living by Mystery Shopping

Based on my personal experience I would think it is impossible to make a living by mystery shopping.  I struggle to make even minimum wage for the mystery shops I complete.  However, My Frugal Miser has been making $2000 to $3000 a month from mystery shopping so it is possible to do mystery shopping as a full-time job.  He has gotten mystery shopping down to a science.

Since my Census Bureau employment will officially be ending tomorrow I have decided to see how much money I can make from mystery shopping.   I do have online income coming in so I won’t need to make all of my money from mystery shopping.  If I could make $1000 a month from mystery shopping I would feel like I was doing pretty good.  Right now $1000 a month seems unlikely but for the next month I am going to take every mystery shopping job I can, as long as I feel the job will pay me at least minimum wage.  At the end of the month I will report my results and whether I feel that mystery shopping is a viable main income source for me.

*** There is a chance that I will start a medical study midway through June.  In that case I will report my results for the next two weeks.

Tracking Passive Income

To keep track of how I am doing in my quest for early retirement I have decided to add another monthly financial measurement. I will be tracking my passive income. For the purposes of this measurement my passive income will be my online income, interest, and stock dividends. My online income is only partly passive but to keep things simple I am counting all of it. Since I will likely keep blogging whether I need the money or not it doesn’t seem too inaccurate to include my online income in my passive income total. My online income, interest, and stock dividends can vary quite a bit from month to month so I am going to measure my passive income by my trailing twelve month average. This should smooth out the peaks and valleys a little. Hopefully the overall trend will be that of rising passive income.

Over the past 12 months my passive income has averaged out to $412.04 a month. My goal is to have this consistently over $1000 a month. At that point I will consider myself retired. Even once retired I will continue to participate in money-making activities of my choosing so it wouldn’t be the traditional form of retirement.