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Tuesday, March 26

Mystery Shopping Orgy

Sorry, I couldn't help myself with the title.  When is a good time to make money mystery shopping?  The end of the month.  When is the best time to make money mystery shopping?  The end of the quarter.  As the end of the first quarter of 2013 approaches, opportunity is everywhere.

Well, "everywhere" is relative.  I planned a trip to Birmingham a few weeks ago.  Between Birmingham and Tampa Bay are hundreds of small towns.  En route to Birmingham I completed about two dozen shops ranging from gas stations to restaurants to an auto dealership (service, not sales).  I was paid $81 plus a free oil change for one shop that took 30 minutes onsite and 15 minutes to report.  The ten minute gas station mystery shops that normally paid $6 in fees and $6 in reimbursements paid $18 in fees and $6 in free stuff.

Onward, I arrived in Birmingham on Saturday night.  My trip's purpose was to complete my regular merchandising route (it recurs roughly every 8 weeks) and to begin the eviction process on a drug-addicted tenant.  While in town, I found more restaurants, gas stations and payday loan shops.

Tomorrow I head back to Florida, but not before picking up a slew of deadline shops.  I start the day with another auto dealer.  This time I will be having the tires rotated and will be paid $81 plus the cost of the rotation.  I have a route of gas stations heading south and a super easy drive-thru lunch.

The month of March has been lucrative relative to the effort involved.  Fortunately, things don't fall off a cliff in April.  I already have 40 shops scheduled.  Most are the $6 gas stations, all of which are within a few miles of my house.  But I do have some more exciting jobs lined up as well.  On the 11th I begin a route that includes mystery shopping a Hilton Garden Inn, spending three nights at a timeshare resort in Gatlinburg, and eating at a themed restaurant while there.  Since the purpose of the timeshare is to attend a sales presentation, the rest of the time is mine.  I'm using the free stay to take my mom out of town for a short vacation.

Back to work!

Tuesday, March 5

My Frugal Miser - February Expenses: $2,804

In February my personal expenses were under $1,500.  My total expenses were once again much lower than my income, which is helping me pay down my debt.

There were no out of the ordinary expenses in February.  I did book the flight for my Omaha trip to attend the Berkshire Hathaway meeting in May.  Even though this is an educational event that helps me be a better investor, I still consider it a vacation.  After living in the Tampa Bay area for six months I succumbed to the Hard Rock Casino.  My losses were minimal, but it did increase my Entertainment spending in February.

February Personal Expenses ($1,441)

$230 Auto ($212 for 6 months insurance, $18 for fuel)
$5 Bank Fees
$29 Clothing
$117 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$118 Food
$0 Gifts Given
$513 Household/Housing/Home Repair
$159 Health and Dental Insurance
$26 Medical/Dental
$0 Miscellaneous
$0 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$0 Taxes
$80 Utilities
$194 Vacation and Recreation

February Business Expenses ($1,363)

$1069 Mortgage Interest (rental properties)
$161 Interest on Debt (not including Mortgage Interest)
$133 Rental Properties - Maintenance and Repairs

Total February Expenses : $2,804

  • I don't include principal payments in my expenses, only the interest portion of the monthly mortgage bills.
  • I expect Auto Service to increase, but it hasn't yet.  The Corolla has over 165,000 miles on it.
  • Beginning in February my partner is paying the water bill, which also includes trash and recycling fees.  The bill was $83 this month, so my total personal expenses would have been $924 if I had paid them.

Saturday, March 2

My Frugal Miser - February Income: $9,007

February marked another solid month.  Mystery shopping income has recovered from the effects of moving to Florida, but I am still debating whether I should cut back to focus on bigger fish.  All my properties are rented but, unfortunately, three of my tenants are falling behind.  I am optimistic two of the three will get caught up but have my doubts about the third.  An eviction is likely.

February Income
$2,243 Mystery Shopping
$6,393 Rental Income
$371 Other Sources
$9,007 Total Income for February

  • I don't include transactions in my retirement accounts.  This includes rental income, dividends and capital gains and losses.
  • I include merchandising and hospitality work in the mystery shopping category since the companies that I shop for provide this extra side work. 
  • In February, income from "Other Sources" included a rebate, money from things I sold on ebay, and a small amount of interest on savings.