Cheapskating, Mama Mojo, MicroLuxuries, Tips & Hacks

Five Minute Drug-Store Make-Up (And One AMAZING Splurge!)

This post includes affiliate links in addition to a giveaway provided by Chrysalis Beauty Co.  The Salty Mamas may make a small commission from items purchased after clicking through the links. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are our own. Thank you for supporting The Salty Mamas!

 

I know there are some fabulous mamas out there, but ladies, I am not one of them. Sure, I used to spend big money on make-up back in the day. But those days are loooong gone, and I’ve spent years and years with the same routine- drug-store foundation, drug store eyeliner, drug store blush, and LOTS of drug-store mascara. I just didn’t have the time, the energy or, frankly, the money to put towards my day to day look.

How a Little Bit of Drug Store Makeup Can Make a HUGE Difference! From thesaltymamas.com

And then my son spent five minutes as a model, and, as a result, so did I.  And I received two glorious makeovers as a result. I wasn’t the focus of the shoot, so my makeup was light, natural, and simple. But I still felt like a million dollars, and decided I wouldn’t wait until the next photo shoot to find that oomph again, but that I would find it on my own (which, thank goodness, as there was no next shoot).

I was lucky enough to stumble upon Mama’s Beauty Bar, a Facebook group run by a kind, funny, and talented makeup guru by the name of Beth Griffin. Beth is the owner and operator of Chrysalis Beauty Co. One facet of her business is a makeup line offered up by Younique, a company that offers incredible mascara, lip products, and other makeup. I thought I wasn’t ready to take the Younique plunge, but I watched her incredible Facebook live videos, learned some tips and tricks, and my style started to evolve.  And when I won a Lip Bon Bon of my own? I realized that this makeup really was worth every penny!

So I adjusted my makeup budget a little. I did some serious Google Searches, and some serious trial-and-erroring, and stepped up my game by finding the best drug-store make up around (which helped me free up my budget for my favorite splurges from Younique).

FoundationMaybelline Fit Me Dewy & Smooth Foundation, applied with this brush. A little goes a long way when applied with the brush, and it is everything it says it will be- full coverage, but with a little glow in the finish to leave you looking fresh and sunny.

BlushMaybelline Fit Me Blush– based on my face shape, the Make Up artist I worked with at the photo shoot gave me the suggestion to use only a bit of blush or bronzer low on the apple of my cheek.  After a little searching, I found this blush, which comes in a multitude of shades and adds just the right amount of color for some definition, without going over the top.

MascaraCoverGirl Outlast Mascara– While I use my Younique 3D+ Fiber Lashes Lash Enhancer for special occasions, I still prefer my old-school, orange-tube CoverGirl Mascara for the day to day.  I get it in ebony black, and lay it on thick in several layers. My mama always told me that a lady doesn’t leave the house without her mascara on, and for the most part I follow her rule.

Bon BonYounique Lip Bon Bon  from Chrysalis Beauty Co. I love the bold lipstick look when I see it on others, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t work for me. The Lip Bon Bons are creamy, subtle, and leave your lips feeling fully hydrated, soft, and lush.  They come in five colors, and one of you lucky readers will be winning one of your own in Beth’s favorite color.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a model in name only, and only wear makeup about half the time.  But all I was really looking for was a way to look better when I wanted to do, and between Beth and that Hollywood Make Up artist, I found a way to do just that.

Achieve a Fresh, Subtle Look in Just Five Minutes- Using Drug Store Finds!

Looking to see the makeup in action? Check out our Five Minute Makeup Tutorial over on Facebook!

 

The best five minute makeup routine, featuring drug store versions that work like a dream- and one Younique splurge. From thesaltymamas.com

 

Cheapskating, Kids' Activities, microhustle, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks, Traditions

Micro Hustle Monday: The Pumpkin Fairy

Today’s Micro Hustle won’t actually make you any money, but it can save you big bucks, and isn’t that kind of the same thing? Also, it’s a Hustle on your kids, which – I think it’s safe to say – we’re all on board for every once in a while! Enjoy! 

Ask any Mama what she loves about the fall, and nestled somewhere between a Grande PSL and putting on a cozy sweater will be taking the kids to the pumpkin patch. Because kids and pumpkins are adorable. Need proof? Fine.

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Moving on…

The pumpkin patch is AWESOME. Whether yours is in the middle of a city and has carnival style rides, a petting zoo and a concession stand or is out in the country and has apple launchers, a corn maze and homemade cider, every one is full of fun for the family.

Also, EXPENSIVE PUMPKINS.

Yes, the seedy underbelly of the pumpkin patch operation is insanely expensive pumpkins. And while you’re there for the adorable photo ops, your kids are probably there for the expensive stuff – like the rides, treats, and pumpkins. The pain that I feel in my heart – and my wallet – as I hand over a credit card to pay $20+ for a pumpkin that I can get for $3.99 at the grocery store is palpable. But what else can you do? It’s a pumpkin patch – you can’t just leave without a pumpkin!

But you can leave without a GIANT pumpkin…..

Enter…..The Pumpkin Fairy!

Oh you don’t know about the Pumpkin Fairy? Well let me introduce her to you! Because she may very well change your life at the Pumpkin Patch this year!  You see the Pumpkin Fairy is a beautiful and magical fairy that can turn tiny (read: cheap) pumpkins from the pumpkin patch into big, beautiful pumpkins – overnight!

Confession: The Pumpkin Fairy isn’t real, folks. But it can be real in your house this year if you follow these steps!

First – you gotta sell this to your kids. Start laying the groundwork immediately. Tonight, when you put them to bed, don’t forget to tell them about the legend of the Pumpkin Fairy! She’s beautiful, with orange hair and a dress made from pumpkin seeds and the stringy stuff inside the gourds! And every October she visits all the little children to turn their baby pumpkins into big magical pumpkins! (This may be harder if your kids are used to picking out a giant pumpkin at the patch, but you can talk them into it – I believe in you! I mean, who wants one of those big pumpkins, when you can have a pumpkin that has been made out of magic???)22523653_10214869927088050_2006313105_n

Then you go to the patch. Remind them of the new plan – tiny pumpkins kids! The cheaper smaller, the better! Let them pick any pumpkin they want out of that bargain bin!

When you get home, find a nice easy spot to put your pumpkins! Don’t do something stupid like put them under pillows. The Pumpkin Fairy is a LOT bigger than the Tooth Fairy and isn’t as good at sneaking around- especially after a glass of wine or two. The porch is an excellent spot.

Then, tuck the kids in.

Have a glass of wine and watch Real Housewives while you wait for them to fall asleep. You’ll be kicking yourself next year, and spending big bucks, if you get caught. Then – swap out those pumpkins with the grocery store ones you’re hiding in the trunk of the car. If you want to get REAL fancy, sprinkle some glitter around. Fairies are notorious for getting glitter on everything.

And that’s it! You saved a ton of money and made a Pinterest-worthy tradition that will have you looking like a) a money saving genius and b) Mom of the Year.

 

#fall #pumpkins #pumpkinpatch #pumpkinfairy #cheapskate #savemoney #momlife #falldecor
Let the Pumpkin Fairy help you save big bugs this year on your trip to the pumpkin patch!
Cheapskating, Chick-Fil-A, microhustle, MicroLuxuries

Chick Fil A First 100 Campout

When we first heard there was going to be a new Chick Fil A opening near us, we immediately began praying that they would have a playplace. And free WiFi.  When we found out they would have both, we were way more excited than we should be. But then we found out there was going to be a campout, according to Chick Fil A company tradition. And that the first 100 guests through the door would get free Chick Fil A (Read: One #1 combo a week for the next 52 weeks)? Well, there aren’t enough words for all the feelings.  Needless to say, we went.

So how did it go? Well, we slept a little, ate a little, and laughed til we snorted. And because we KNOW you’re dying to know, here’s a play by play of our overnight campout at Chick Fil A.

Continue reading “Chick Fil A First 100 Campout”

Cheapskating, Mama Mojo, MicroLuxuries, Salty Mama Lists, Tips & Hacks

Happy Birthday to YOU!

One year, for Jaymi’s birthday, she made it her mission to travel around to all the different places that would give her something free on her birthday. She ruled out the free ferry ride to Catalina, but she vowed to tackle every.other.thing.

She’s never been so sick in her life.

Do you have any idea HOW MANY PLACES will give you free food and drinks on your birthday? It’s kind of ridiculous, but also, it’s kind of awesome. So, without further ado, a list of places that will give you something FREE for your birthday (food, drinks, and otherwise!).

1.Kohl’s- As part of their Yes2You Rewards program, you will receive a coupon for $5 off a $5 purchase (aka the holy grail of coupons). That’s $5 free dollars to spend on the item of your choice!

2. Baskin Robbins– When you sign up on their website, you will get a free scoop of ice cream for your special day.

3. Cold Stone kind of gets in on the action as a part of their eClub, but they’ll send you a Buy One Get One coupon instead of an outright freebie.

4. Dairy Queen wants to offer you a BOGO Blizzard, which they’ll send you if you sign up here.

5. Einstein Bros. BagelsBy registering for the emails (adorably called the Shmear Society), you’ll earn yourself a free breakfast sandwich when you purchase a drink.

6. IHOP– One stack of free pancakes, coming right up! You can sign up here.

7. Denny’s will give you a free grand slam, and you don’t even have to sign up for anything for that one. Just show your valid ID on your birthday, and breakfast is on them!

8. Starbucks– As long as you have an account, you will get one free drink of your choice. Any type, any flavor, ANY SIZE. So that means if you want a Venti Maple Pecan Latte with Extra Whip and a Shot of Espresso, they’ll give it to you for FREE, along with a complimentary tummyache.

9. Red Robin– Get a free burger anytime during your BirthMonth when you sign up for the Red Robin Royalty program.

10. Old Navy gives their email subscribers a free gift on their birthday. Head to their website at oldnavy.com and then scroll down to where it says “Sign Up For Email.” Make sure you update your preferences when prompted to do so, as that’s how you’ll get your birthday email.

11. Victoria’s Secret– Sign up on their website here. They want you to think you have to sign up for a credit card for this, but you don’t! Just scroll down to the bottom where it says “Get Exclusive Angel Offers.”

12. Krispy Kreme– sign up for their eClub, and you’ll get a free donut when your birthday rolls around.

13. There are plenty of other places that will give you something, like a free dessert, on your birthday, but honestly, that’s a LOT of places (Black Angus, Chili’s, Applebees, TGI Fridays, Outback Steakhouse, etc).  So if you’re heading to a restaurant to celebrate, make sure you check their site or ask your server to see if they offer something to the birthday boy or girl.

So there you have it, our (partial) list of places that want to help you celebrate your big day (or, in some cases, your big month!) in style.  Got any that you would add to the list? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Our favorite birthday freebies- food, drinks, and products!- and how to sign up for them, from thesaltymamas.com

 

Cheapskating, microhustle, Tips & Hacks

OhmConnect Revisted (AKA How I Got Free Electricity All Summer)

This post contains referral links, which means that we may receive a small commission from people who sign up using the link. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are our own, though your results may vary. Read more in our disclosure policy, and thank you for supporting The Salty Mamas!

Okay, so I have told you all about OhmConnect, and how residents of California and some parts of Texas can pay earn credits by saving electricity when they receive alerts that “dirty power plants” are about to turn on. You can read all about how it works here,  but Y’ALL. I just HAD to update you.

I didn’t pay for power this summer. Not a penny in June, July, August, OR September. And I keep my house at a brisk 72 degrees.

And I have OhmConnect to thank for that.

I know a few of you Salty Mamas have joined, and you may be thinking I’m a big fat liar since you are pulling in a massive 70 cent payout. I know. I hear you. It so doesn’t feel worth the sweat for 70 cents.

But as in all things MicroHustle, you gotta focus on your long game. The more Ohm Hours in a row you hit  (they call it a streak), the higher your payout is going to be. And as you level up, your amounts go up again. So if you hit Platinum level on a 60 Ohm Hour streak, you could be talking about making nine times as much each Ohm Hour as you are right now. And if you haven’t sign up already?  Head to OhmConnect now to see if you qualify.

Now is the PERFECT time to start your streak, while the weather is cooperating and the sacrifice doesn’t seem as big. And by this time next year, you may be flipping the breaker and heading out to sip some margaritas, and proposing a toast to the good people of OhmConnect.

And to the Salty Mamas of course.  Because obviously.

Looking for a way to earn extra money? Or save on your electric bill? Head to thesaltymamas.com to find out how to get your bills paid for FREE! (Sponsored)

 

Cheapskating, microhustle, side hustle

MicroHustle Monday Presents: SurveySavvy

This post contains referral links, meaning that the Salty Mamas will receive a small commission when someone signs up for SurveySavvy using our link.  As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are our own. We cannot guarantee that your results and outcomes will be similar to our own. Thanks for helping to support The Salty Mamas!

Ahhh, the survey. The MicroHustle many of us love to hate/hate to love.  This is probably the MicroHustle I’ve taken the most heat over in recent years, because from a short-game stand point, it just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes I spend twenty minutes on a 50 cent survey, and those numbers just don’t seem to add up.  But the survey is the tortoise of the MicroHustle Universe.  You earn money in very small increments sometimes, it’s true. But eventually, you can win whole races- and pay for whole cruises– using these little guys.

I’m going to start by introducing you to the survey site that seems to have the most potential to make big money. It’s called SurveySavvy, and it works like most survey sites do- they send you surveys, you take them, and you make a little money.  (You can also earn referral credit when someone signs up using your link, so yes, I’d like you to use mine if you’re wanting to sign up anyways 😉 ) But the reason SurveySavvy ranks number one on my list of sites is that SurveySavvy is a screening site for CSpace, a company that businesses and brands hire to conduct panels.  And that, my friends, is how you make the big bucks.

I’m not on any panels right now, but when I was, I would make about $60 a month per panel, and I was on two.  They would ask me to do things like participate in discussion groups, or visit a store and take pictures of certain sections, or post a video of me discussing why I liked (or didn’t like) their brand. It is very much like a focus group, except you participate from the comfort of your home and on your own time.  I found the activities to be kind of fun, and it was neat to see products that I had weighed in on showing up in stores a few months later. And, of course, the money wasn’t too bad.

So there you have it, my first and favorite survey site. Do you do surveys at home? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

*  *  *

Note: SurveySavvy also has an app, called SurveyConnect, that you can download. This app will give the company some access to your phone usage and browsing history and, for what it’s worth- I don’t use it. The idea of having someone tracking my phone just gives me the ick factor. If you don’t have the same reservations, feel free to try it out, but I can’t personally speak for, or recommend, a service I’ve never used. Just food for thought!

Want to earn a little extra money, but don't want to sell anything? Try this! thesaltymamas.com

 

Cheapskating, microhustle, side hustle, Tips & Hacks

MicroHustle Monday: Trash & Treasure

When I was growing up, every so often my Mom would hit a breaking point where we had TOO MUCH STUFF. Stuff in our rooms, stuff in the garage, stuff we did. Not. Need. We’d pick the hottest Saturday of the year, wake up at dawn and pull everything we ever owned onto the front lawn. My sister and I would post signs around the neighborhood and we’d inevitably spend the entire day sitting in the yard explaining to people that we weren’t selling our bikes that were still in the garage, but visible to all the gawkers. At the end of the day, we’d box everything up and just donate it anyway. It was such an inefficient system, but what else were you supposed to do with all your stuff?

Fast forward many years to today. And the internet. God. Bless. The internet. Because now, whenever I need to purge stuff from my house and/or need a few bucks, I take to the internet! In our house, we are pretty committed to systematically getting rid of STUFF. For instance, after my sons 4th birthday this summer, I held all of his new presents hostage until he helped us fill two boxes full of toys that he didn’t need anymore that we could give to other kids. He had some toys that were in great condition, hardly played with, that I knew another kid would love. And if I got a few extra bucks for Starbucks or a trip to Chick-Fil-A? Even better!

5 Tips for Selling Your Stuff

  1. Find a neighborhood sale site on Facebook

I’m in several “Trash and Treasure” Groups on Facebook. They may be called something else near you, but these are great buy/sell/trade sites where you can sell your stuff in a super easy virtual garage sale. It’s local so you don’t have to worry about shipping anything. You can either choose to meet at a central location or your home. Or my favorite – the porch pickup. God bless the porch pickup! I leave whatever I’m selling on the porch and the buyer drops the money in my mailbox. So easy!

  1. Take decent pictures

I want to make my items look as attractive as possible to potential buyers – but also be realistic about the item. You don’t want to think that your item sold only to have someone change their mind when they come see it. That takes more of your time – and time is money!

  1. Price to Sell

My husbands grandmother once gave us some art that she said was worth $1,000. But something is only actually WORTH what someone else is willing to pay for it. So when I want to unload, I price to SELL. I might think the item is “worth” more, I may have paid a WHOLE lot more, but if I’m not using the item and it’s just sitting in my garage or taking up space in my closet? Well that’s not making me any money either, is it? So personally, I’d rather have the item GONE with a few bucks in my pocket. So have I significantly undervalued some items? Maybe, but at least they’re not taking up space in my house anymore! Find the balance that works for you, but know that if you price to high you may not get the return you’re hoping for.

  1. Post!

You’ve found your group, picked your price, taken your pictures and now it’s time to post! Usually all you need to do is post a description of the item, plus the picture and the price, and maybe your cross-streets if you’re in a larger area where that could make a difference to potential buyers. Make sure you follow the rules of your group. For instance, some don’t allow cross-posting (attempting to sell an item in more than one group at a time) or have very specific rules of how to connect with folks interested in purchasing your items.

  1. Sit. Wait. SELL!

Remember when you used to sit in the blazing sun waiting for someone to come by and make an offer? Well now you can do that inside your house. Or at the movies. Or at Disneyland. Or wherever you want to be. Make sure you’re notifications are on and wait for a bite! Most sites have rules about how to make the sale – like accepting offers in the order they are received, no cross-posting (meaning posting the same item on multiple sale sites), no sale via PM (where you could be cutting off people that made offers through the comments). Make sure you follow the rules – you don’t want to lose out on potential sales, or worse, get banned!

Get your offer, put your loot on the porch, collect and you’re done! All you have to do is decide how you’re going to spend your new green!

Hope y’all have fun turning your trash into treasure!!

 

Micro Hustle Trash and Treasure
Caffeine, Cheapskating, MicroLuxuries, Tips & Hacks

Mini MicroHustle- Have You Had YOUR Break Today?

There’s a bright spot in my day lately.  A beautiful oasis in a hot, hot landscape.  The promise of refreshment, enjoyment, a tiny little break.  And this magical oasis? It is likely very near to you indeed- just under the Golden Arches.

Today’s post is spotlighting the rare combination of both a MicroHustle and a MicroLuxury. Odds are, most of you already know about the glory that is the $1 Any Size Fountain Drink campaign, a rare bird that flies in each summer to make the long, warm days more bearable.  And since there is a McDonald’s on basically every corner, and most people are able to carve out a dollar here and there, and you can get to it in a drive-thru format, it is the perhaps the most accessible and the most attainable of all of life’s little luxuries.Me, Lila, Diet Coke.And as if that wasn’t enough (which, if you’ve met me, or read my blog before, or seen my Instagram -you get the idea- you know it would be enough), McDonalds had to go and outdo themselves by making an app.  A pretty darn good app, at that. Not only does the app offer perks like mobile ordering and location finders, but they have some SICK coupons and deals.   They’ve got some of the more standard discounts, like $2 off a $10 purchase, which of course I won’t turn down. But they also regularly offer a TON of good freebies. When the Dodgers win, for example, I get a free six piece nuggets with any purchase (including those $1 fountain drinks!).  Hello, snacktime! And when the Angels win, I get a free signature sandwich with purchase of fries and a dollar coke (so basically a whole meal for $3ish). On FRYdays, you can get a free Medium fry.  And, for most of the summer, I have been able to get a free McFlurry with purchase.

You heard me right, that soft-serve Oreo goodness has been within my reach somewhat regularly for free.  So basically, I can bribe  reinforce my children’s good behavior with ice cream almost any day of the week, AND get myself a Diet Coke the size of my head, for just a buck and tax. Because dreams DO come true people (as long as your dreams are as little as mine, that is).

So if you’re as into either McDonalds or Diet Coke (etc.) as I am, do yourself a favor and download the app. Then find yourself a McDonalds with a Playplace and move on in.  WiFI, endless soda, and free ice cream? Your summer has been solved. You’re welcome.

This is so not even a sponsored post. I just love McDonald’s that much.  But, how you doin’, McDonald’s? Feel free to hit me up if you WANT to sponsor us.

 

Using the McDonald's App to Get Free Stuff
Cheapskating, side hustle

MicroHustle Monday- OhmConnect

You might have seen those ads floating around Facebook by now. “This company will pay you $300 to unplug for an hour!”

Those ads are (almost) right.

OhmConnectThe company is called OhmConnect, and anyone across the United States can sign up. The company will let you know when a so called “Dirty” power plant in your area is gearing up to turn on, and will ask to you to conserve electricity to prevent excess energy usage. If you don’t live in one of OhmConnect’s payable areas, you’ll get points for participating, which can lead to prize awards. But if you live in California, Toronto, or Texas and use one of the major power companies (PG&E, SCE, SDG&E, Toronto Hydro Electric System, or as part of Smart Meter Texas), you will get paid in cold. hard. cash. (Via PayPal.)

The beauty of this system over other power saving options is that the intervals are pretty small, usually an hour long (although it can go up to four hours, this has been pretty rare in our experience). You’ll get a text message or email letting you know that an OhmHour is coming up; if you can’t or don’t want to participate that day, you simply opt out on their website and go about business as usual. If you are able to participate, then it’s time to get to work.
Right before our OhmHour begins, I run around the house unplugging everything. The company will look at the data from the last few days about how much power you’d be expected to use during that period, and ask you to cut your usage down below your forecast. The more you reduce, the more you’ll make, and you know I can get pretty extreme. So I unplug every cable, extension cord, and surge protector. I take everything off the chargers, I take my daugher’s nightlight out of the wall, and I for sure turn off the AC, TV, and the clothes dryer. Recently, I started to turn off the power to my fridge- we do it by adjusting the temperature manually from inside the refrigerator- and we’ve started noticing a bigger payout as a result.

Now, your earnings will start small. In the beginning, we’d make something like 70 cents to a dollar by participating in each OhmHour. But since Mama loves a micro-hustle, those tiny amounts didn’t bother me at all, and they started rapidly accumulating. I began participating more and more, making a no-go in-laws rule for myself, and pretty soon I was on a “Streak” for participating in so many OhmHours in a row, which adds a multiplier to my payout. At last count, we’re on a 43 OhmHours streak, and we’re getting roughly double the money we would be getting without the streak. You can get additional benefits by “leveling up,” which means increasing your average energy savings over time.

The program, of course, is not without its challenges. I always get about 24 hours notice before an OhmEvent, while Christine gets ten minutes (and kudos to her, that’s gotta SUCK and she still makes it happen). I use traditional power, but Christine has solar panels, which means some days she’s trying to beat a negative forecast. So yeah, that’s definitely more of a challenge. You’re not gonna be pleased with this program all the time, but for me at least (and for Christine most of the time), it definitely feels worth it.

Let’s end with some facts and figures here, in case you need more persuading- on our last four OhmHours, we made $46.18, $13.49, $9, and $43.79 respectively. So far, in the first half of July, we’ve made $138.25 by participating in OhmHours, which covers our electric bill for the month and then some. It takes time to get your account to this point, but once it does- oh man, will your inner cheapskate be So.Stinking.Happy.ohmconnect screenshot

 

For more information about OhmConnect, to see if you are eligible, and to sign up, visit https://ohm.co/c1da05c. You’ll get $20 when your account is synced with your power company, and, in the interest of full disclosure, so will we. Happy saving!

 

This post is neither sponsored nor endorsed by OhmConnect. We just really love it, and think you will, too.

 

 

Cheapskating

MicroHustle Monday presents Mystery Shopping

collage-2017-07-06-08_32_59.jpgWhen I first quit my job to stay home with my little miss, I was determined to do everything I could to maintain our quality of life for my family. And since dining out is basically our favorite pastime, I was desperate to find a way to make it happen on a drastically reduced budget.

Enter the Mystery Shopping experience, in which you visit restaurants (among other places), get reimbursed for your meal, and sometimes get paid a little something on top of it.

Now, mystery/secret shopping has gotten kind of a bad rap in the last few years because of a nasty scam where the jerks of the world posed as a mystery shopping company, wrote people huge checks, apologized for the error, and asked people to wire the extra money back to them. And, since most people are honest and kind, they did, and then they were royally screwed. So, good people of the world, do not do that. No one should be getting any of your account information, pretty much ever. But I think you probably all know that already, so let’s agree to use common sense and move on.

Your next step is finding a company to pair with. There are a few tricks to make sure the company is legit. First, NEVER PAY THEM. If anyone asks you for money, A.) Don’t give them any and B.) Don’t sign up for with them. Legit companies will be paying you, not the other way around. Secondly, the company should be registered with the MSPA, the legit-mystery-shopping association.

Thirdly, and this is just my own personal advice, don’t sign up with a company that requires your social security number upfront. If you start making decent money off it (anything over $400/year; I gave it up before I ever came even close to that amount), it may be required for tax purposes, but by then you should have enough experience with the company to know that they are legitimate. A company may ask for this information upfront and still be legit, so the fact that they’re asking isn’t necessarily a red flag. But personally, I would rather not have that kind of information in too many places. It’s a decision you’re gonna have to make for yourself.

Once you choose a company (I used isecretshop.com which compiles shops from several different MSPA companies, or you can choose one from the list of companies the Penny Hoarder has deemed most trustworthy), you’ll be able to see mystery shopping opportunities and claim a shop or two for yourself (procedures vary between companies). Once you’re assigned, it’s time to carry out your task. You might visit a restaurant and record the timing of everything, from when you’re seated to the appearance of the food via cell photos. Or you may make a phone call to a company on a recorded line for quality control purposes. Maybe you’ll visit a store and take photos of their bathrooms so the company can ensure they are being kept clean at all times. The nature of the tasks can vary widely, from easy to intensive, so make sure you know what you’re in for before taking it on.

Just like the type of shops, payment can be all over the place. Sometimes you’ll find a job with no required purchase and a decent payout (my last mystery shop paid me $25 for an hour of my time, from home). Other times, you will only be reimbursed for a portion of your meal, and you’ll typically need to front the cash (For example, you accept a shop with a $10 reimbursement. You spend $14, which you pay out of pocket, and in a few weeks you receive a payment for $10. You’re out $4 overall, but hey, that’s a pretty good discount on your meal, so it’s a win). It makes sense to run the numbers ahead of time to make sure you’ll come out ahead, or at least understand what you’ll be receiving in return.

You’d need to hustle HARD on this one to make any kind of financial gains, but sometimes that’s not what we’re after. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little hobby that pays for itself, or to go out to dinner on someone else’s dime. I dabble in mystery shopping now and again, especially if it’s a place I already enjoy going to or an easy over-the-phone shop, but it’s a fair amount of work for the payout, so I try to choose my shops wisely, and I suggest you do the same.

So, what do you think? Do you feel ready to get your ninja-fix, one secret shop at a time?