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.