Just as a man is not a financial plan, I know my weekly Lotto ticket is not an investment. That’s why I’m trying to find other ways to raise my bank balance so I can retire at 60, and how I recently added mystery shopper to my long eclectic resume.

I first learned of mystery shopping a million years’ back when working at The Body Shop, convinced the most unsuspecting customer was a secret retail spy. It hasn’t crossed my mind in more than 15 years, until I read my lasted financial bootcamp book, The $1000 Project. Feeling inspired by the book’s money-making hacks, I decided that along with saving $2 coins in an empty drink bottle mystery shopping would be an easy way to make some extra cash.

How hard could it be? Walk into a store, ask some questions, buy something, leave and write up a quick report. It’s not like I haven’t nailed these things (separately) before. Turns out not so simple – for me at least.

The figurative penny started to drop when just before entering my first store, I read the brief. My head spun, my heart raced and my palms started to sweat as I scanned the 30 odd questions I had to answer as I walked through my local supermarket. You see, I’m not someone who sees or cares for detail. It’s why I frequently catch so many wrong trains…on the way route home from work! 

True to form, in the nearly two hours it took for me to complete the 30 minute task, my recall of detail was on par with Dad’s recollection of his dementia-affected day. It didn’t get much better then next day when, after another two hours, I was an emotional wreck feeling guilty about my deceitful interaction with the lovely and very helpful Cameron at store number 2. After a few nights losing sleep with worry about how the poor subject of my scrutiny would react when they discovered I was a fraud, I knew this was never going to work! Whatever possessed me to do this – especially as on any given day, I’d rather tend to my dog poo worm farm than spend time shopping! 

I gave it a crack, but also realised the $12/hour return was never enough to cover the stress, anxiety and more importantly time spent analysing a poor unsuspecting sales assistant’s performance. Time is precious when caring for a loved one with dementia and at the end of the day, I’d rather not spend the $12 in the first place than try to recoup it mystery shopping. Another reminder to declutter my time and do things that (dare I say) spark joy, than send me to therapy.

My hat goes off to all those in retail just trying to do the best they can to keep them and their employers afloat. It’s not an easy job and you don’t need me adding to your anxiety! I’ve taken back control of my time and know there’s better ways for me to save my pennies for retirement. Or is that rather save my pennies in order to keep my dog in the lifestyle he has become accustomed to…