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Taking the Mystery Out of Mystery Shopping

Taking the Mystery Out of Mystery Shopping

During college, my mother accurately described me as someone who has “champagne taste on a beer budget.” For me, stumbling on mystery shopping was a happy accident. I had previously heard of mystery shopping (or secret shopping) in the past, but I dismissed it as a scam to get my credit card information and social security number. When I decided that it could potentially be something I pursued, I proceeded to scour the internet for reputable companies and tips for being a better shopper. Three years later, I am one of the many top secret shoppers in the Atlanta area. Though I have since graduated college, I continue to act as a mystery shopper.

Mystery shopping is a method of quality control for businesses. Any business involving customer service can benefit from secret shoppers. A secret shopping company is recruited by a business to monitor customer service through anonymous visits and evaluations. These secret shopper companies hire independent contractors to perform these evaluations. I have personally performed shops at hotels, bars, restaurants, concerts, movie theaters, gyms, and more.

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Almost anyone can become a secret shopper, but before beginning the application and shopping process, it is important to understand the following:

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  1. Most applications will require a brief logic test (basic math questions, spelling, etc.) as well as a short piece of narrative regarding a recent customer service experience.
  2. No matter what your age is, there is a secret shopper job for you. Certain shops cater to different age groups. For example, age compliance shops (I.D. verification) typically require shoppers between the ages of 21 and 29. Most shops require the shopper to be at least 18 years old. For those requiring the consumption of alcohol, shoppers must be 21 or older.
  3. You are not obligated to perform a minimum number of shops per month, although you can be capped at how many shops you can be signed up for at one time. As an independent contractor for the secret shopper company, you create your own schedule.
  4. You are not obligated to only shop in one area. I have frequently created entire vacations out of mystery shopping jobs. I will stay at a secret shopper hotel, eat at secret shopper restaurants, grab snacks at secret shopper grocery stores, etc. If you are traveling through an airport, there are often special shops that can only be completed by shoppers that are traveling.
  5. Mystery shopping is not a means to “get rich quick.” While you can make money performing shops, the majority of shops only include reimbursement. There have been times where I have gotten paid $25 just to visit a jewelry shop, where I was not required to purchase anything. Likewise, there have been times where I have not gotten paid to visit upscale restaurants. However, I am often fully reimbursed for meals that cost over $100 for two people. While you might not make money, you will have memorable experiences that would have otherwise been out of your budget.
  6. A reputable secret shopping company will NOT ask you to pay to register as a shopper. You should be able to sign up for shops without paying for access to the database. However, many secret shopper companies will require you to front the money for your expenditures. You will then be reimbursed in the form of a check at a later time.
  7. A list of reputable companies (as voted by registered independent contractors) can be found through the MSPA-NA (Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America). Of the companies listed, A Closer Look is by far the best. The wide variety of shops and flexibility in scheduling make it a perfect choice for most people, from young professionals to retired folks and all of those in between. You can apply to be a shopper for their site here.

Like all things in life, becoming a successful secret shopper will take time. Read over the guidelines carefully. If you are uncertain about any aspect of the instructions, get in touch with the secret shopper scheduler for clarification.

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Failure to follow instructions can result in non-payment (though I have personally never had that happen). In the event an editor has a question, be sure to reply as soon as possible. Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to becoming a successful shopper in your area in no time!

Happy Shopping!

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Melissa Manson

Media Planner and Buyer

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Published on January 8, 2021

How To Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast: 7 Powerful Tips

How To Pay Off Credit Card Debt Fast: 7 Powerful Tips

Ever wondered whether your credit card debt is the reason you’re in a bad financial situation? You can’t enjoy any fun activities because a good chunk of your money goes toward debt payment. Heck, you’re even behind on some of your monthly bills.

The effects of clumsy debt management are too many to list here. This guide is going to help you discover how to pay off credit card debt fast and start chasing your financial goals.

Debt problems are the last thing anyone wants to encounter. But things can get out of hand when all the “little debts” you take accumulate in interests.

What if you knew some simple and proven ways to be debt-free quickly? Implementing them would mean better financial health for you. It becomes possible to free up cash for your “wants.” These include taking a trip or buying something you’ve always desired. All that while paying your bills on time!

Let’s not wait any longer. Here are 7 powerful tips for paying off credit card debt fast:

1. Pay More Than the Minimum Credit Card Payments

Many people only pay the monthly minimum on their credit cards. Truly, that’s the right amount for staying on good terms with your credit card company. But you need a different approach if you’re looking to achieve financial independence within a short time.[1]

Most of your payments go toward interest costs when you only pay the minimum amount. A substantial sum of your balance remains standing. As a result, it becomes more expensive to eliminate your debts.

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You don’t want to wait more than 10 years to get rid of debt while it’s possible to do it sooner. All you have to do is double that $100 minimum payment to $200 or go higher.

The good thing is that minimum credit card payments are affordable in most cases. By paying a higher amount, you reduce your interest costs, lessen your borrowing period, and boost your credit score.

2. Start With High-Interest Credit Card Debt

If you have more than one credit card debt, prioritize putting the extra money toward the ones with the highest interests. This debt pay-off strategy, known as the debt avalanche method, is essential for being debt-free quickly.[2]

First, you need to list down all the credit card debts you have in the order of their interest rates. Next, you choose the one with the highest interest and pay a significant amount toward it each month. It can be an amount twice or even thrice larger than the minimum payment.

At the same time, you make monthly minimum payments on the other debts. Their interest charges won’t be as costly as that of the first debt on your list. You only move on to the next high-interest debt after the first one is gone. Remember that your focus is on the interest rates and not the balances.

3. Revisit Your Budget

Budgeting is useful for tracking your financial moves. Once you create a budget, some tweaks along the way can make it work for you better. One situation that requires you to revisit your budget is when you’re struggling with debts. It might hurt a bit to slash some expenses. But you also don’t want to miss out on achieving financial freedom in the long run.

You can reduce some variable expenses to free up more cash for credit card debt payments. They’re the ones that change from time to time. Some examples are groceries, fuel, and clothing.

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Other opportunities for cutting down your spending lie in non-essential expenses. Instead of dining out all the time, you can cook at home more to save money. You can also share some subscriptions with friends and pay a fraction of the cost.

If you’re determined enough, you can eliminate all your unnecessary expenses and focus on paying off your credit card debt first.

4. Avoid Using Your Credit Cards

Do you want to know how to pay off credit card debt with a low income? One simple way is to stop using them. Having your credit cards everywhere you go means that you’ll be more tempted to buy unnecessary stuff. In this case, you spend money that you don’t really own and get deeper into debt.

The quickest fix to stop the debt build-up is spending with cash. You’ll be more aware of everything you can afford at any particular time. If you decide to keep one or two cards to ease the transition, always make wise choices. For instance, only use them when experiencing financial difficulties.

It’s best to categorize your fun activities under “discretionary spending” in your budget. This way, you won’t need more debt to kill your boredom. By halting your credit debt from accumulating, it’s easy to pay down what you already owe and be happy with the progress.

5. Start a Side Hustle to Boost Your Income

You’re probably turning away a lot of money by not monetizing your skills. Everyone has something that they’re good at doing. And you can use that to generate extra income for attacking your credit card debt.

If you look around your neighborhood, you can find several side hustle opportunities. It can be pet sitting, tutoring, or lawn mowing. You can start an online business by offering services such as digital marketing, content creation, and web development. Such skills go in high demand on freelance sites and job boards.

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Finding clients on social media is also a good strategy to utilize your skills and make more money. Facebook groups, Quora Spaces, and subreddits are some places to look for side jobs. You only have to join a niche-specific platform, share your services, and respond to any opportunities.

It’s possible to learn a skill, practice it, and earn from it. Use the free resources online or purchase some e-courses to get started.

6. Sell Your Used Items for Extra Cash

Starting a side hustle isn’t the only way to generate extra money. You can turn unwanted items into cash for paying off credit card debt. Whether it’s an old TV, book, or furniture, there is always someone itching to buy your used stuff.

A garage sale, as much as it’s old-fashioned, is perfect for getting your neighbors and passers-by to buy from you. You keep all the money because there are no business permits or taxes involved. While you may not make much cash, it’s better than leaving your stuff to go defunct in your storage.

Other than that, you can sell your used stuff on online marketplaces. Facebook groups are great places to start if you want quick approvals and hence sales. You only have to ensure that your listing follows Facebook’s commerce policies.

When selling any pre-owned items online, ensure they’re in good shape to avoid problems with your buyers.

7. Know When to Seek Help With Your Debt

Asking for help with your credit card debt can be challenging to do. But letting it drown you is a road you don’t want to take. While you may feel embarrassed at first, it’s the best way to get back on track when you run out of options.

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There are tons of non-profit credit counseling organizations that can offer you free guidance on how to escape the debt trap. An example is The National Foundation for Credit Counseling. They simply review your finances and help you determine the source of your financial problems. After that, they match you with an actionable debt management solution.[3]

In extreme cases, the debt solution can be:

  • Debt relief – where your debt is partially or wholly forgiven
  • Debt consolidation – taking out one loan to repay others
  • Debt settlement – the creditor forgives a significant portion of your debt
  • Bankruptcy – legal process for seeking relief from some or all your debts

It’s necessary to carefully weigh your options before deciding on the way to go. Find out how it might affect your credit score and any other risks.

Wrapping It Up

Debt is a major setback when you’re trying to prosper in life. Paying off credit card debt is essential if you want to reach your financial goals. That means having more free income, a good credit card score, and even a chance to retire early. You become more productive each day because of the peace in your mind.

So, you now have some tips on how to pay off credit fast. Go ahead and get rid of that good life progress killer!

More Tips on How to Pay Off Debt

Featured photo credit: rupixen.com via unsplash.com

Reference

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