I’ve gotten a lot of questions recently about how I find all these amazing discount deals, how I save so much money, and how to earn a little extra cash here and there.  Well I’ve decided it was time to do a post encompassing all of these things.  Originally I was going to do this all in one post, but it began to get so long and I didn’t want to drown you with too much information at once, so I’ve decided to do this in parts.
Part 1 will detail earning cash back and using daily deal sites.  Part 2 will detail using coupons and getting freebies.  Part 3 will deal with how to earn extra cash by doing what you already do anyway.
Keep in mind I will only post about things that I have personally used or do use, so even though there may be other services/products out there, I am not going to recommend something I haven’t tried for myself.


One of the things I keep hearing from my friends is, “how can I make some easy extra money?”

Mystery Shopping:

This can be a bit of a misnomer, since in some cases you are not a mystery shopper at all, and you actually identify yourself to management, complete a simple task (my latest was picking up Santa Letters from the theater and dropping them in a mailbox), and send in the paperwork.

I am not kidding, this stuff is so easy I cannot believe more people do not do mystery shopping, at least occasionally.

Ok, a few things to remember right off the bat, if you are out there searching for mystery shopping companies, THERE ARE A LOT OF SCAMMERS who WILL try to take your personal info and use it.  However, there are also a lot of very legit services out there and you just have to know how to find them.  I can make that task a bit easier by telling you about a few companies I have personally worked with AND have gotten payment from.

One final bit of advice before I delve into the companies that I recommend.  On any and all of these shops, you typically have to read/review paperwork prior to the shop so you know what you are going to be doing BEFORE you get there, and also so the shop seems more natural when you are pretending to be interested in something.  Sometimes this paperwork can appear quite lengthy and will make you think it is a lot of work.  Let me tell you, looks can be deceiving!  The banking shop I did had tons of pages of papers, but the shop was so simple I couldn’t believe it was that easy to make $150.00!  A lot of times these companies just want to make sure that all the t’s are crossed and i’s dotted, so they send you very very detailed instructions.  As long as you follow the instructions in the summary and provide any necessary documentation (usually a receipt or business card) you can skim over most of the paperwork.  Some shops will ask you to complete an online quiz saying you read it, but a lot of it is common sense and you can take the quiz until you get it right!

One final request: I do get referrals for sending you their way and I have taken out the task of researching these companies to make sure they are legit, so if you do sign up, I would truly appreciate if you could use any referral information noted in each section so I can get credit for sending you over to these awesome companies!

1)  Bestmark

I have done the most “shopping” with Bestmark.  They typically seem to have car dealership shops and retail shops (in my area anyway).  They are very good about paying you quickly after you complete the shop and do so by sending a check in the mail.  They seem to pay the least per shop, but have shops available the most often and they are pretty simple to do.

A car shop will typically consist of going to a dealership and acting like you want to buy a car, getting some information that is requested in the shopper guide, and submitting an online report.  The retail shops are very similar, however, you will need to make a purchase (which they reimburse) to prove you were there.

For a Bestmark referral all anyone has to do is simply enter my shopper ID when they sign up, or give me their email address and I can send them a referral link.  My Shopper ID for bestmark:  WI5603
Bestmark website to sign up:  http://www.bestmark.com/become_a_shopper.htm
2) Sassie Shopper
I have done one completed shop with Sassie Shopper and everything was very easy and smooth, they just don’t seem to have too many shops in my area or I would probably do more.  They pay using paypal only, so you need to have a paypal account (it’s free).
The shop I did with Sassie Shopper was a retail store shop where I had to visit a couple departments, get some info, and make a purchase (which you are reimbursed for).  Again, you have to submit online paperwork and your receipt to prove you were there.
I don’t know if Sassie Shopper has a referral program, but if they do, my Service Performance Group (Sassie Shopper) ID is:  Shopper #309643
3) GFK Mystery Shoppers
This company actually seems to pay the most, and the banking shop I recently did pays $150.00 per shop.  GFK also pays through paypal, and I just got my $150.00 payment today so I know this is definitely a legit company!
Since these shops do pay more, they typically will require more hours to complete than an average shop.  For instance, the banking shop required me to call and speak to a representative over several days.  I did not have to actually go into the bank, but I had to take time out to speak with him several times over the course of a week or so.
The retail audits are typically an all day thing, so if you want to get away from the normal routine for a day, or have a day off for some reason and want to earn an extra hundred bucks, then these would be ideal.
GFK does give referrals for certain shops (the shops pay $100.00 to do retail audits, or $150.00 for the banking shops).  You simply need to sign up with GFK and let me know you have done so so I can put you down as a referral (just leave a comment or email me!), OR you can email my scheduler and let her know that I referred you.  If you prefer this option please let me know and I will get you the email address for the scheduler.
4) VeriTES
I just started working with this company last week, and they actually contacted me through a referral from another company.  This company does shops that deal with movie theaters, and different aspects of the theater business.  Sometimes that means mystery shopping a movie, sometimes that means identifying yourself and taking pictures of display items to make sure they are correct.
My most recent shop was simply picking up letters to Santa that kids dropped off and taking them to the post office.
Since I just started with this company I cannot say how fast or well they pay, but they do use paypal as well, so as soon as I submit my paperwork I can let you know how quick they are to make payment.  I also don’t have a sign up link for you yet as my paperwork is still processing so I don’t even have my log-in information yet.  Once I get it, I’ll update you, or you can contact me via email to find out more information.
Update 4/3/12:  I have completed a couple of jobs for VeriTES and so far they have paid me as agreed, however, I have found it very difficult to get setup with their online system to this date, and am not able to self assign shops like I can with the other companies.  The issue seems to lie in that they say they don’t have my paperwork, which I’ve sent a few times.  They keep calling me for jobs and paying me, but I wish I could log in and pick out jobs on my own.  We’ll have to see what happens I guess.
5) Shadow Shoppers
I debated putting this company on the list or not because it is not initially a company I would recommend signing up with.  The reason I say this is because they ask you to pay a fee to upgrade to their “gold” membership, and I would NEVER recommend that you pay a fee for any mystery shopping service, regardless of how good they claim to be or how high their payouts say they are.  Usually these types of companies are scams, and are to be avoided.
What I will recommend with Shadow Shopper is that you sign up for their FREE service.  The free service doesn’t allow you to actually sign up for shops, but it does allow other companies to find you and request you for employment.  Often times there are mystery shop companies that have jobs to fill, but not enough mystery shoppers in the area they are trying to fill the job.  They will then look at the Shadow Shopper database and find people that live in the area and contact them.  I have completed a few shops this way, one that paid $100.00 to help with a store grand opening by handing out free products.
So my recommendation is that if you are willing to be contacted now and again by companies requesting your help (no obligation to do anything of course), then sign up with Shadow Shoppers.  But please remember, do your due diligence and make sure you check out the company that is contacting you before sending them any of your personal information.  You can always check bbb.org (one of my favorites!) or google the company profile and see what you come up with.  You can also check out the Mystery Shopping Providers Association as they will have a database of reliable companies.
Here is the Shadow Shopper link:

In closing, here is a little info about me to make this easier for anyone who is considering being a mystery shopper but is worried about scams.  I am a very careful person by nature, which is why I wouldn’t sign up for the “gold” shadow shopper program since there was a fee.  I made sure I checked out these companies before I agreed to even sign up with them since I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting scammed.  They all checked out on BBB.org and I have not had any problems with any of them so far.  Bestmark, GFK, and Sassie both have paid as agreed and in a timely fashion.  VeriTES, I do not know about how they pay, but I’ll find out after this shop and can let you know.  Update 4/3/12: VeriTES has paid me as they agreed.  They send a check in the mail a couple of weeks after the job is completed.




If you have any questions about any of these topics, feel free to leave a comment and/or contact me at mothersofactivechildrennow(dot)com.


Make sure to check out parts 1 and 2 of Saving Money, Being Thifty, Earning Cash in the rest of the blog!