Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Get Paid to Eat Out

Date night is an important part of a marriage. Time out of the house, away from the kids and other distractions. Whether it's a time to go out and just have fun, or a time to revamp the family budget, time alone with my husband helps bond us together and unites us as one.

For the most part, we eat dinner out where we usually talk about something half-way serious. That can certainly be a budget killer! We have found a way to eat at nicer restaurants without spending $40 a meal. Usually, it's about $10 (with tip) and I have leftovers for lunch. You're wondering how, aren't you?

It's called mystery shopping. There are a number of reputable companies that enlist the services of private contractors (that's me) to evaluate their clients for quality service. We got into this a couple of years ago, and have never looked back! Here's a list of the companies I do most of my shopping for. These companies have lots of restaurants in our area, which is what we like, and some also do other things- retail, grocery, theater, phone calls, etc. There are a number of other companies that focus specifically on those types, as well.

None of these companies asked me to pay a sign-up fee or promised great wealth. They are reputable companies that will help you get started in your own mystery shopping experience. Some of these companies pay a flat fee while others will reimburse to a certain amount. Either way, it generally works out the same for us- two dinners, drinks, and an appetizer/dessert and we pay around $10 out of pocket for a casual dining experience. I try to get two per month on our scheduled date night. Sometimes we'll do a different night of the week and take the kids with us. One time we had three in one week- yes it is possible to eat out too much!

I've done a few phone call evaluations. That ends up being about $8 for twenty minutes of my time. I've done one retail- that was a lot of work for the $10 they paid me. It was also my first shop, so maybe it would be a little easier now. I'm also working on a special project right now where I'll be interviewing for three jobs and will get paid a nice sum. Just in time for Christmas!

Do you have any experience with mystery shopping? I love to hear about other companies and see what they have in my area. If you decide to check out mystery shopping, let me know how it goes! For other great tips across a variety of topics, check out Works for Me Wednesday! This week is even themed, and many posters have some great tips for preparing for the holidays.


  1. Great idea! As a college student I considered mystery shopping, but was always leery. Husband and I enjoy our monthly "date" dinners and save $ by cashing in our credit card points at accepting restaurants instead of using cash. Ultimately, it really is cash, but it seems better somehow.

  2. That's a great idea! We also get gift cards with our cash back bonus, but usually use them for clothes, camping supplies, tools, or other infrequent purchases. Sometimes we've even given them as gifts!

    Another favorite way to save money is to purchase a dining club card or book that offers many buy one get one free options. We also just signed up with and are excited to see how that works out for us.

    I love eating out with my husband and it's a lot nicer when I'm not sitting there thinking about how much I would have spent had a made the food at home!

  3. I've done a couple of really fun mystery hotel stays -- a free night away with my husband, and paid (I think is was $20) for the evaluation. The company I do them for is AboutFace. I have found them really good to work for, the few times I have.

  4. Lynnette, how did you find companies that had opportunities in your area? I signed up for A Closer Look, and don't see any opportunities in my area. Most of the places I find don't allow you to see the restaurants etc until you are a shopper. Is there a trick to it?

  5. I was a little leary about signing up for companies at first. Then I met someone who does it here in Lincoln and she told me a couple to try. Now, I'm actually signed up for about a dozen, you're right, many of them don't have shops in my area- or at least the kind I want to do. So, I really only use the companies listed above. If you want to get into mystery shopping and you don't know anyone who can suggest a place to start, go ahead and sign up for a bunch and see what they have. And sometimes all of the current jobs are taken, and you can't see that there are opportunities in your area. As long as they don't make me put in a bank account number (they should offer to pay by check or paypal), I'll sign up and see if anything happens. Good luck!