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Make gift money this holiday season as a mystery shopper

With the holiday season getting into full swing, you're probably trying to decide what kinds of gifts you're going to get for friends, family members and loved ones. If you have a big family or a large circle of friends, buying presents for everyone can become expensive fairly quickly. Whether you're a mother of two teenagers or a college kid visiting home for the holidays, you can make a decent amount of money by being a mystery shopper for the season. In fact, according to Forbes, it was fairly easy to make an extra $14,000 in supplemental income over the course of a year by being a mystery shopper. So, how would you like to make some quick cash for the holidays?

You should exercise a little patience when weighing all of your options. Here are five tips to help you explore mystery shopping this holiday season:

1. Do your research
There are plenty of mystery shopping services out there. Most of them will be looking to hire at least temporary help around the holidays because of the feverish increase in shopping that occurs at the end of the year. That said, you will likely have a few options when it comes to choosing a company to work for. Do yourself a favor by taking a little time to research each one. Use resources, like the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, to take a good look at companies of every size. 

2. Pick a specialty
One of the coolest parts about mystery shopping is that you can do it in virtually any field. If you're a foodie, try being a mystery shopper at restaurants. It's a great way for you to try new foods at the trendiest venues. Maybe your kids are in high school, nearing the point where they're beginning to look at universities. If that's the case, maybe it's not a bad idea to become a mystery shopper for schools. You can get paid while checking out different colleges for your children!

3. Be organized
You stand to make the money if you get the most out of your time. Do your best to establish a routine as a mystery shopper. By doing so, you can mystery shop more often and at more locations, thereby increasing your pay. Also, mystery shopping companies want individuals who can provide them with accurate, reliable reports. The more organized you are, the easier this is to accomplish.

Do your best to stay organized as a mystery shopper.Do your best to stay organized as a mystery shopper.

4. Watch out for scams
Although there are plenty of legitimate companies to work for, there are also a fair amount of scams out there. One of the easiest ways to ensure you work for a good company is to check its membership status with the MSPA. It's a quick, convenient way to confirm a mystery shopping company's credibility.

5. Be responsible for yourself
Going hand in hand with being cautious about scams, make sure you continue to protect yourself after beginning to mystery shop. It's fairly common that you will be responsible for completing your own taxes as an "independent contractor," so keep that in mind as tax season approaches.