Saturday, November 27, 2010


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Anyone that has ever been me around very long knows I am a planner and a list maker. I’m big on planning things out. I’m not always great at following the plan, but generally I’m within the neighborhood of it by the time a project is finished.

For the last month or so I’ve been drifting. Simply mystery shopping and merchandising, letting others steer my path in this sea of life. As a result Thanksgiving was okay, but not the meal I wanted and my timing was way off on it. Let’s just say not everything finished at once like it normally does and cold mashed potatoes are not a big hit.

I could give the excuse I had a horrible head cold, but that would simply be an excuse. Granted I spent all of Friday in bed trying to kick the worst part of it and still managed to sleep almost until noon today. But it’s still just an excuse. It was lack of on organization on my part.

Well, I didn’t really sleep that late, the last hour or so I laid there thinking rather than getting up. What I was thinking was I needed a plan, a goal, something to get me back in gear on everything.

While I’ve been working hard at working I’ve let other areas slide. Areas we can’t afford to slide. I had fallen slack on cooking, keeping the budget up to date, cleaning the house and have not been carrying my share of opening the new business.

So as I laid there mulling it all over I decided it was time to get back to a plan, but what plan would spur me on the most. After all a plan has to be a goal you really want to achieve. Everyone plans on doing chores, but because they really don’t want to do them they often don’t get done if something better comes along.

I’ve got the Princess Plan and it’s good, but I needed more. I needed to have a carrot dangling in front of me, something I REALLY wanted. Then I realized that one year from today we want to be in Walt Disney World for a 2-3 week vacation. Only there were several barriers (mainly bills) in our way for this. So that is when my plan started forming. How to make that goal become a reality. So…

This next year you will be receiving reports on the goal and how we as a family are going to achieve it.

First I need a title, hmmm something catchy, but not to silly. Since the Princess Plan is included in this goal I think I will call it. “The Royal Getaway” or RG for short.

Now I need to decide what I want in the plan, what must be achieved to make this vacation not only possible, but relaxed and enjoyable. So sticking with the format of the Princess Plan I broke it down to 12 categories.

I. Finances, after all this is to be a cash basis only trip, that’s the number one rule.

II. Incorporate the Princess Plan

III. Actual Vacation Planning

IV. Menus, for the year and the trip (also part of the Princess Plan), but it needs its own category for this plan.

V. Sticking with the budget (I know this falls under finances too, but you’ll see why it gets its own Roman Numeral as time goes on.

VI. Mystery Shopping and Merchandising

VII. Getting our business up and running, as well as keeping it going while we are gone.

VIII. Gardening, a day to day plan. You’ll see why this is important for the coming year.

IX. Weight loss. If you have EVER been to Walt Disney World you will know why being in good physical shape is a major plus going there. That place is HUGE!

X. Wardrobe, ours is starting to look pretty ratty and a new one requires cash only. Plus if we lose weight…

XI. Animals, we have a lot of plans for them for the coming year. Plus there are two to go with us and the rest will remain home and all sorts of plans and actions have to be made for this.

XII. Miscellaneous needs prior to the trip. In other words, everything else I forgot to list.

This all sounds pretty general I know, but that is the way a good plan starts. You start with the general categories and then develop the sub-categories right down to the daily plan as you go.

Take #VI. Mystery shopping and merchandising. After doing it for around five years what planning should I need for that right? Actually a lot of planning needs done.

Sean and I have been taking it on a day to day basis and as a result we have ended up working weird hours, rushing to finish jobs, overbooking ourselves, wasting gas and then having days where we have no work. Trust me the reason Sean and I were both so sick for Thanksgiving was because we let ourselves get run down because we didn’t plan.

Plus now we have this business we are opening up and we need to allow time for it or it will never get off the ground. The problem is mystery shopping and merchandising are guaranteed money, the business is a maybe. So MS/M must be the priority of the two at this time. This could easily change in the near future, but for now we must get in as much of the first two as we can and squeeze opening the business in around the edges. That takes planning.

So on the overall plan it would look like this:

VI. Mystery shopping and merchandising.

A. Locate jobs to do

a. Check daily on the self assign websites for mystery shopping

b. Try to contract for as many weekly/monthly/quarterly merchandising jobs as possible.

c. Always take the higher dollar jobs first

B. Print the week’s paperwork as much as possible on Sunday

a. Print additional paperwork as soon as available

C. Try to stack jobs when scheduling as close as possible on locations, preferably in the same building.

a. Limit out of town trips

i. Only do out of town trips when there are numerous jobs for both parties to do and make a full day of it.

ii. Incorporate household and business errands into the daily ms/m schedule to save time and fuel.

D. Study all paperwork the night before so there are no surprises (this has been a big problem for us lately—too many surprises)

a. Gather any necessary tools or supplies the night before

i. Make a ditty bag of tools used often and leave it in the truck.

E. File paperwork immediately upon arriving home, no late nights allowed.

F. Store documentation immediately.

a. Assign a set place each set of paperwork must go as soon as it is filed.

G. Cull old documentation when the need to keep it has expired.

H. Keep a calendar up to date as to any long range jobs to avoid double booking.

I. Arrange for merchandising jobs to be done while we are gone on the trip ahead of time.

J. Set as many accounts up as possible for direct deposit or paypal.(This one is pretty much done)

K. Wash our work wardrobe as soon as we have worn it for the week in preparation for the next time it is needed. (Too many late nights of doing a hurry up load for the next day’s job).

So you can see that by the time I do this full list of 12 this is going to be a very long plan. Then I will take that list and turn it into a monthly, weekly and daily list like I did the Princess Plan.

Making a plan is pretty simple. AND once you have a plan it’s easy to follow.

So I challenge each and every one of you to make a plan and let’s work on our plans together. Why wait until New Year’s Day, why not start now? I’ve got my plan started, what’s yours?

Jan who says if we work together we can accomplish anything in OK

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


November 10, 2010

I haven’t forgot you all, we’ve just been super busy. Life is good right now, but then it generally is, you just need to know how to look at any given situation.

I thought once Gary went back to work life would slow down, but instead it has kicked into a higher gear. Something that I didn’t think was possible prior to this last couple of months..

Sean has become my mystery shopping/merchandising partner. We planned on doing mystery shopping on Mondays and Thursdays for just a few hours each day until the mystery shops died their normal death this time of year. Remembering this time last year when we had trouble finding mystery shops to do we figured we’d probably be down to one day a week by late November.

We started working on an idea for a small home based business and doing all the business plans and such required to make a knowledgeable decision on whether or not to do the business has been very time consuming—WHEN we have had time to work on that. More on the new business another time.

Because even though the mystery shopping has slowed down, it has not ceased like we thought it would and the merchandising has quadrupled in volume. We have been putting in 9-10 hour days 5-6 days a week for nearly two months now. NOT complaining Lord! Even better it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up between now and the end of the year.

Gary has not only gone back to work, but has been on overtime for three weeks now and it looks like that too may last through the end of the year.

We are so gazelle intense around here it is crazy! For those of you who are not followers of Dave Ramsey that means we are running from the debt cheetah at gazelle speed to become totally debt free. Every spare penny we make is going on our debt snowball. It has become fun to pay bills! No I am NOT crazy, I said fun.

The three of us now have our Step 1 Baby Emergency Funds fully funded and are now working on our Baby Step 2—the debt snowball (see Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover”) and are making great progress on it.

Sean has paid off a medical bill that was eating him alive and nearly has his only credit card paid off as well. The credit card of course is long gone as we no longer use credit cards in our household. That will leave him with a few truck payments and his student loans and then he will be debt free. I’m so happy for him.

I am still paying on our first installment of the debt snowball, but it will be completed by this time next week. It was a $2,400 medical debt and we are paying it off over three years early based on the scheduled payments. Next will be a credit card that we hope to shave three years or more off the scheduled payoff on. It is truly exciting to see our debt spiral downward for a change. I am so glad we found the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover. By staying on this plan we should be totally debt free in 3 years or less including the house! Not bad for a family that was maxed out credit wise and unemployed this time two years ago.

If you are a user of yahoogroups, you should visit with the knowledgeable people at it’s a free to join list and I’ve learned so much from these people!

Now back to merchandising. I’ve never really covered merchandising when talking about mystery shopping so I thought I’d expound a little more on it today.

Most of us walk into a place like Wal-Mart, Target or any number of stores and take for granted the sparkling displays were all placed there by the store’s employees. NOPE! While the employees do re-stock and are responsible for certain merchandise many of those displays and what’s on them is placed there by merchandisers. Here’s how it works.

The store will receive a certain set of merchandise. For this scenario let’s use gift cards. The store will receive the materials to build the actual display case, along with the materials needed to set the display up and stock it. Sometimes they will set up the display themselves other times a merchandising company will send out a merchandiser—or two to set it up. That’s where we come in.

We go in, unbox the display case, assemble it, add the hanging pegs and then set the cards to a planogram and are paid for our services. Then either the store will keep the display stocked OR they will send the merchandiser back once every 1-4 weeks to restock it. Depending on the company the merchandiser gets paid anywhere from $8 to $15 an hour to do the job.

We have each acquired several repetitive weekly jobs. That means guaranteed income weekly until the project runs out. Once the project is set-up often times the hourly rate will drop slightly because it will simply be a short walk in to verify the display is still in good shape and the move onto another project. We’ve been blessed enough on some of our merchandising shops that we have been able to “stack” jobs. Meaning that Sean or I will have a job from one company in a certain store. The other of us (or sometimes the same person) will have 1-2 more jobs in that certain store from other companies. That makes the gas usage is far less and the possible income for each of us greater on a single stop.

I once spoke with a person who did nothing but merchandising and she said she cleared after taxes and expenses over $4,000 per month. We would like to achieve that goal. That could really speed our gazelle along! We aren’t there yet, but we are working toward it. Be aware though merchandising has to be done between certain hours, like a regular job, but generally you have 1-5 days to get the project done. So it is a great “part time” job if you are going to be staying home. We didn’t do these the last two years because we were traveling, but now that we are home for at least 2-3 years it is the best plan for us.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these merchandising jobs are HARD and tiring. Some sound simple to do—repackaging a product and do an inventory of said product—13 hours later you are worn out and the job still isn’t finished. So if you decide to do merchandising READ the instructions closely BEFORE you accept the work, including the fine print. Also be prepared to stand for LONG periods of time.

Another possible source of income is demonstrations. You know the people you see at Sam’s Club handing out samples. This is also contract labor work and can be applied for through several companies at as well. All three types of work are listed at

If none of the above is for you check out the legit jobs at Most of them are work at home jobs. There are all sorts of jobs for all sorts of talents. So if you want to become a earn a little extra money to survive unemployment, earn extra money for the holidays or become gazelle intense and may have the answer for you.

As always if you need more info or a referral to certain companies feel free to leave me a message and I’ll answer as soon as time allows.

Jan who has no affiliation with any of the websites she mentioned in OK.