Thursday, December 22, 2011

Last Minute Gift Idea: Cake Mix Cookies! And, Free Downloadable Gift Labels

So I made a gift guide a few weeks ago, but I know most of us spent the past week or so running around like crazy trying not to succumb to the horrors of Finals Week. Now that it's over with, let's all breathe a big sigh of relief (PHEW!) and then try to scramble around and figure out what to give everyone for the holidays!

Picture of Retorte's Cake Mix Cookies
The easiest, most wonderfully delicious and inexpensive idea I've come across this year are Cake Mix Cookies. What are cake mix cookies? Well, exactly what they sound like - cookies made from cake mix! Except they don't bake like cake, they bake like delicious cookies, and then when they're done you don't have to decorate them. The reason I love these cookies and am making them in spades this year is because they are easy and cheap. A box of cake mix is typically around $1.00 - don't pay any more than that for it. Hit up your local dollar store or Wal Mart to snag a couple boxes. I highly recommend getting a Butter Yellow or Golden Butter mix, from any brand - it's MUCH better than regular old yellow cake, and it's the most adaptable mix out there. Duncan Hines, Pillsbury and Betty Crocker all have their own version of Butter cake mix. If you're a chocolate person, get some sort of chocolate mix, and if you're adventurous, try a Spice Cake mix or a Cherry Cake mix or Funfetti or whatever catches your fancy!

Here's what you need:
- 1 Box of cake mix (any kind)
- Eggs
- Oil or butter
- Water
- Chocolate chips, M&Ms, nuts, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, dried fruit, candy, ANYTHING you want to put in your cookies

Here's How to Do It:
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Dump your cake mix in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup oil or butter (if you're using butter, that's half of a stick.) Add 1 egg if you want cookies that rise but don't spread much (they will be puffier and fluffy inside),  2 eggs if you want your cookies to spread and flatten out more (they will be slightly more crispy). Mix furiously. The dough will be sticky and tough, that's perfectly normal. Work those arm muscles, and pretend you're burning off some of the calories of the 92862768276 delicious cookies you're going to be eating later. Once your dough is all mixed together, add whatever mix-ins you want to add and mix again. Now that you're all mixed and ready to go, grease a cookie sheet and form little dough balls/clumps on the baking sheet, spaced about an inch or two apart to allow for spreading. Try to make them as roundish as possible, because especially if you only used 1 egg, they probably won't spread enough to become magically round on their own. Once your cookie sheet is all filled, pop those suckers in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the tops of the cookies have hardened and the bottoms are slightly browned. Wait for them to cool before eating one!

Here Are Some Interesting Cookie Ideas:
Chocolate Cake Mix Sandwich Cookies from Annie's Eats
- Peppermint Holiday Cookies! Stick an Andes mint inside each cookie, or crumble up some candy canes to use along with chocolate chips.
- Cookie Sandwiches! Ice your cookies and stack them on top of one another. Roll the edges in holiday colored sprinkles.
- Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches! Sandwich ice cream between your flattened, cooled cookies. Roll the edges in holiday colored sprinkles and freeze before wrapping.
- Pinwheel Cookies! Make 1 batch of "white" dough and one of chocolate or red velvet dough. Using this technique,  roll out your dough onto a big rectangle of wax paper and place in fridge until firm. Stack your doughs one on top of the other - place any fillings you want rolled inside on top - and roll carefully into a log. Wrap log in wax paper and roll on surface to achieve optimal round log shaping, and firm in fridge again if necessary. When log is well shaped and firm, slice cookies. A knife might flatten your log so you may want to use unflavored dental floss instead. Voila!
- Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies! Add dried cherries and chocolate chips to your cookies, and possibly walnuts too.
- Chocolate Caramel Cookies! Get some chocolate caremel candy such as Rolos or Milk Duds and roll one inside of each cookie to create a melty chocolate caramel center when cookies are baked.

Package your cookies by putting them in a cookie tin from the Dollar Tree, or sticking them in plastic sandwich baggies and tying those up with ribbon. Gifts for everyone!!

Also, for those of you who ventured down the homemade alcohol route I discussed in my gift giving guide, I've made some labels for my gifts that I want to share with you all to download and use on yours! I created these in Adobe Illustrator, but they are all converted to plain .JPGs that you can color in yourself. The Skittles basic logo is easily customization just by using the "Paint" fill bucket tool in any photo editing program (heck, even MS paint will work). I added the flavor names for my labels and I've included a .zip file of all of those labels, which are for the "Blenders" Skittles. The Apple Pie Moonshine label is pretty much ready to go, you can fill in the background with a color if you want and then just slap it on your mason jars! Note: the images are very large, so make sure to measure your containers and then scale the labels down to the correct size.

To Download: Click to open full-sized in a new window, right-click and "Save As."
To Download these labels as a .zip compressed set of files: Click Here
To Download: Click to open full-sized in a new window, right-click and "Save As."

Enjoy and have a wonderful holiday break!
- The Broke Student Guide

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Broke Student Finals Survival Strategy: Make-Your-Own Starbucks Part 1

Ah, coffee. A must-have for most college students, especially during the hellish weeks that we all know as "finals" (or "f*** I never learned sh**" if you're into that). You'd be hard-pressed to find a student in the library this week without a cup of coffee clutched in their trembling little hand. But at what cost?? No, I'm not talking about the expense of your sanity, health, or sleep-deprived car wrecks; I'm talking about how expensive Starbucks coffee is. Oh my god, IT IS SO EXPENSIVE. How expensive, exactly? Well say you're a casual Starbucks drinker. You only buy a coffee 4 days out of the week when you have class, and you just get a tall of whatever holiday drinks happen to be out, so it's only about $3.60. Sadly, that $14.40/week habit adds up to $57.60 per month, $230.40 a semester and $460.80 in a school year! And that's not counting the times when you got a Grande or some extra syrup or went to Starbucks on the weekends. It adds up, guys! But don't worry - I'm about to save you that $460, and it will only cost you maybe $30 MAX if you really go all out.

My in-home coffee shop, complete with rainbow-organized tea bags!
I resisted coffee for a long, long time. I was a green tea girl, and I drank those big canned energy drinks when I needed a boost. But then one summer I lived in an apartment that had a 100% free unlimited fresh-brew, fresh-roasted coffee machine filled with fresh Starbucks coffee beans. You just pressed a button, and the beans were ground and brewed before your eyes. It was amazing (and made paying rent totally worth it). I became a daily coffee drinker that summer, and when I moved back onto campus, I use one of my Swagbucks Amazon gift cards to buy myself a cute little one-cup coffee machine that came with a travel mug! Since then I've built up quite a little coffee empire on my kitchen counter, which you can see in that picture there. The orange coffee machine, which is actually not currently used for anything aside from making my kitchen look adorable, was found at Goodwill. And that brings me to the point of Part 1: How-To: How To Make Your Own At-Home Coffee Shop.  (PS: this would make a neat gift idea for your favorite Starbucks-addicted broke student friend!)

How To Make Your Own At-Home Coffee Shop.: What You Will Need and Where to Get It


1. Coffee Machine I mean, duh. But have no fear! Not only are coffee makers cheap and easy to find and use, but you can have one in your dorm room! Yay! The best places to get a good, inexpensive coffee machine:

  • Thrift Stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army sell small appliances and frequently have coffee machines. Expect to pay anywhere from $2-$7 for one.
  • Post and ad on your local Craigslist or your school's Online Classifieds asking if anyone has a cheap one to sell for around $5.
  • Ask for one for free on your local Freecycle board. To find your local Freecycle chapter, visit Freecycle.org.
  • Amazon.com has some nice little ones for around $10-$15. I really like the one-cup machines that come with travel mugs so you can brew it and then take it right to class with you. There are some good cheap ones listed below. (Remember: you can use your Swagbucks points to redeem for Amazon gift cards!)
2. A Mug After you've got yourself a coffee maker, the next thing you need is something to put that coffee in once you brew it. If you bought a machine that comes with a travel mug, skip this step. If not, head to your nearest thrift store - they usually have some good mugs, and most of them end up being unintentionally hilarious (#1 Grandma? Hot Tasty Butts? ...that second one is a restaurant in MO, I didn't just make it up.) Or ask on Freecycle, most people have lots of mugs lying around. If you want a convenient little travel mug to take with you to class, hit up Amazon. DON'T go to a store, they usually tend to run about $15-$20 at a Target or Starbucks. Here are some fairly cheap travel mugs:

3. Coffee Again, kind of a no-brainer, but this one is a bit trickier. When I first started out brewing my own coffee, I went straight to the Dollar Tree and bought some coffee from them. As you can imagine, it was sub-par quality. So don't feel bad if you opt for the $8.99/lb coffee beans from Kroger or your local health food store - it's probably worth it, and it's way cheaper than Starbucks anyway. Grocery and health food stores typically have fresh beans and a grinder right there in the aisle. Dunkin' Donuts also has decent ground coffee, and of course there's always instant coffee like Folger's if you're not picky.

4. Creamer and Syrup Now that you've got the basics, it's time to have some fun! The flavored creamers and syrups you get are what will transform your at-home coffee into a Starbucks-esque dream come true. (You can also always stick with plain milk, though!) First you need some tasty creamer. Here's where to pick that up:

You can get creamers like this one at
the grocery store!
  • The Dollar Tree occasionally has International Delight creamer bottles, in flavors like Hazelnut and French Vanilla. Those are the same creamers in the little cups at gas stations and whatnot, and they are delicious!
  • Grocery Stores usually have tons of different creamers in both powder and liquid form. They'll also have fun flavors like Peppermint Mocha and Creme Brulee. Kroger in particular has a great selection of creamers. Pick out some fun flavors!
  • Gas Stations You know those little creamer cups I mentioned earlier at the gas station? Well as long as there isn't a limit to the amount you're allowed to take, why don't you go in there and buy a coffee and then, ahem, grab a couple of extra creamers to take along for the ride? I wouldn't condone this if I hadn't tried it myself many times in full view of the gas station attendants and confirmed that it is definitely NOT stealing - they've never said anything to me about it, and if there's a limit on the creamer you can take there is usually a sign. That said, don't steal.
Syrups are the other add-in that take your coffee from basic to baller. They can be expensive and difficult to find, though - I found mine (pictured above) at The Dollar Tree for $1 each! They will also have them at Grocery Stores, though they tend to be a bit on the pricey side. But if you always get a splash of Sugar-Free Hazlenut in your Starbucks, it might be worth the cost.

5. Sweeteners, Extra Goodies The last part of your DIY at-home coffee shop is the sweeteners and other extra goodies! You know what kind of sweetener you like best, so I suggest stocking up on it. Again, as long as it's free and unlimited, go ahead and grab some sweetener packets at a fast food place or gas station - just make sure it's REALLY free and unlimited, and buy something while you're there so you're not being a total dick. As for Extra Goodies, here's where you can have a bit of fun and get creative (or don't, because this stuff is totally optional.) How about Whipped Cream or Cocoa Powder to top off your drinks? Or Sprinkles? Or Cinnamon, Vanilla Extract, or Chocolate Syrup? In some of the recipes I'll be mentioning in my next post, we'll be using goodies like Hot Chocolate, Peppermint Extract (or candy canes, or peppermint candies) Eggnogg and Canned Pumpkin. So get creative in your grocery aisle! Like I said at the start of this article, even if you spend $30 on your at-home coffee shop today, you're still saving yourself from a $460/school year habit. Or to put it more simply, if you make your own drinks at home instead of going to Starbucks for 2 weeks, your at-home coffee shop will have paid for itself.


Of course, some of you are probably making a face right now and rolling your eyes and thinking "oh my god, this is way more work than just actually going to Starbucks, $460 be damned!" And, yea, you're right. So for those of you who just prefer the convenience of having someone else make your own coffee, I've got you  covered too! Here are your alternatives:

Circle K has tons of yummy coffee options for only $.99!
  1. Buy Your Coffee Somewhere Cheaper Just hear me out on this one: there ARE cheaper places to buy coffee than Starbucks, and they DO taste just as good. Some of the best and cheapest coffee drinks I've had come from gas stations, especially Circle K and QuickTrip.  Both of these gas stations serve 16oz flavored cappuccinos for $.99! You can make your own coffee drink by mixing and matching yummy stuff like French Vanilla Cappuchino or Pumpkin Spice Latte or plain old flavored coffee. Not only is it cheaper, but you get MORE coffee, and it tastes DELICIOUS. (Plus: free unlimited flavored creamer!) If you buy one of these coffees 4x a week for a school year, you'll spend only $128 - practically 1/4 of what you'd spend going to Starbucks!
  2. Use Gift Cards Sometimes it's just gotta be Starbucks. I get it. So for those times, why not use a free Gift Card? Where would you get those gift cards for free, you ask? Why, that site I keep talking about getting Amazon gift cards - you can ALSO redeem your points for Starbucks gift cards! I'm talking about  Swagbucks, of course. They offer $5-$100 gift cards to Starbucks. They are slightly more expensive than the Amazon gift cards, but the average daily Swagbucker can usually make about 2250 points in a month - enough for about $15 in Starbucks gift cards. Not bad, eh? At least that's one week's worth of Starbucks paid for each month! That adds up to a savings of $120/school year. To learn more about earning Swagbucks, read this entry. 
Stay tuned for Part 2: Make-Your-Own Starbucks Drink Recipes!!

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Broke Student Gift-Giving Guide

Holiday Gift Wrap Ideas make your cheap gifts WAY more classy.
The Holiday season is pretty much officially here (I mean, I don't think there really is an "official" arrival time, but it seems to me that it's pretty much happening, you know?  I mean, Starbucks is serving Holiday drinks now - buy one get one free, even!)! One of my favorite things about the Holiday season - aside from two weeks or so off from school -is giving my loved ones the perfect Christmas/Hanukkah/Whatever present, and with no income to speak of, that gets difficult. The following will be your How-To Guide for being able to afford this year's presents, so you can avoid that disappointed look when you  give your best friend yet another knitted scarf (or is that just my friends?). I present to you (GET IT? LOL) the Broke Student Gift-Giving Guide! 

More cheap, creative Gift Wrap Ideas!
1.  Before we begin, go and enter the Broke Student Giveaway, because you can buy lots of gifts with a $25 Gift Certificate to BuyGreen.com! Now, let's begin. The best way to give people quality gifts is, of course, to actually spend money on them. Which is where things get tricky, since of course, we don't have any money. If we did we wouldn't be reading this blog/entry. Have no fear! The Holiday season is the best time to cash in on all the hard work you've been putting into those Paid-To sites you signed up with months ago when I first wrote about them. (Right?!?!?! No? Ok, go sign up now, and hurry.) This month, I've cashed in a $45 check from InboxDollars.com, $75 in gift cards from Swagbucks.com, and a $50 Amazon gift card from MyPoints.com. For those of us who can't do math in our heads, that's a total of $170 that I'll have to spend on gifts this year! (Of course, after I buy my boyfriend all the video games he wants, that leaves about -$10 for everyone else. Which is why this isn't the only number in this list. Moving on.)

Wrapping your gifts in newsprint gives a vintage vibe.
2. Remember that entry I wrote about Mystery Shopping? If not, go read it. This month alone I've earned $114 from Mystery Shopping, which doesn't include payments that haven't been issued yet this month. Although some of that money is reimbursement (for things like meals I had to purchase) most of it is just income! So that brings my total Gift Budget up to $284! I do realize that #1 and #2 take quite a bit of planning, though, and it's kind of too late to catch up if you haven't already started with Paid-To Sites and Mystery Shopping (though do sign up now and start earning for next year!) So here's some stuff you can start doing TODAY.
Even more Gift Wrap Ideas!

3.  Do you have a computer and some extra time? (Obviously you do if you're reading this, that was rhetorical.) Why not write your favorite companies to get some free stuff? Sure, some of them just send coupons - but some of them send coupons for FREE products, or gift cards! Example: I had a gross muffin at Panera, so I wrote them describing in great detail the grossness of that muffin. One week later, I had a sweet hand-written card with a $10 Panera Gift Card folded inside! That gift card will be someone's Christmas present! (Friends who are reading this: GO AWAY.)  You can write with either genuine compliments or complaints - you'll typically get a response for either, as companies are very invested in keeping their loyal customers by rewarding them for their loyalty. Some of the best companies I've had responses from are White Castle (coupons for 6 free burgers!) and Starbucks (free drink coupons!). I'd also  recommend trying Panera, Kohl's, Qdoba, or wherever you shop or eat the most. Just be genuine and talk about your relationship with that retailer or company! They usually respond quickly, so you should be getting some good stuff to use as gifts before Christmas. Let me know which companies respond with the best stuff!

4. Ok, let's talk about stuff you can do RIGHT NOW. Well, maybe after a trip to the store. These are tried and true gifts that stand the test of friendship: delicious edible gifts. Get ready to become your circle of friends' Paula Deen. (Yes, Paula Deen. PS, my boyfriend tried deep-frying balls of cheesecake, and apparently it was delicious and everyone loved it. So I'm not including that on the list, because gross, but technically  that could be a pretty good gift. I will refer you to him if you have questions regarding anything deep-fried.) While baking cupcakes or cookies is always nice, these edible gift ideas are simple, unexpected and cheap - plus, no baking skills required.
    Super simple chocolate dipped pretzels!
  1. Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Sticks These are super easy to
    Bourbon balls or truffles are delicious simple gifts.
    Chocolate-dipped Marshmallows rolled in graham crackers.
    make, with minimal ingredients which means not very expensive. You'll need a bag (or two) of pretzel rods, some chocolate to melt (look in the baking aisle - chocolate for candy-making is best, but you can use chocolate chips too) and whatever toppings or decorations you want: white chocolate, sprinkles, mini m&ms, crushed up oreos, etc. Get creative! Here are some
    detailed instructions, but it's super easy: all you do is melt some chocolate, dip a pretezel rod in that chocolate, roll it around in some toppings, and then lay it out to dry. SO FREAKING EASY. A quick Google search for "Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Sticks" turns up a million results with some great ideas about what to dip them in and how to package them nicely (I just stuck a bunch in saran wrap and tied it at the bottom with a pretty ribbon.) These are a hit with just about everyone and 1-2 bags will yield more than enough pretzels.
  2. Chocolate Dipped Everything Anything is better dipped in chocolate. And it's SO FREAKING EASY to dip stuff in chocolate, so why not get creative? Snag some coffee stirrers from Starbucks (free Popsicle sticks!) and stick them into Bananas, Twinkies or Oreos (and then dip them in chocolate, obv.) Dip some Marshmallows in chocolate and roll them in crushed graham cracker crumbs for S'mores on a Stick. How about  apples or dried fruit of any kind? Plain sugar cookies? If you can eat it, you can dip it in chocolate. Let your inner Paula Deen go wild!
  3. Give the Gift of Balls There are so many kinds of balls that you can make this Holiday Season. First, watch the SNL Shweddy Balls skit to get you in the mood. Now that you're ready to make some balls, how about Cake Pops? Just bake a cake, crumble it up, mix it with icing and roll into balls that you can then dip in chocolate. (Tip: use LOTS of icing to hold the cake crumbs together.) Or how about Brownie Balls? Same idea: make brownies, crumble brownies, mix with icing, dip in chocolate! What about Chocolate Truffles? Truffles are easier than they look (only 3 ingredients, really!), DELICIOUS, and can be customized to just about anyone's taste. If you don't believe me, here's a giant list of truffle recipes. Here are some Oreo truffles, or perhaps you could customize your truffles with a liquor. Are you a peanut butter person? Make some Buckeyes! If you're from Kentucky, you've probably had Bourbon Balls before - did you know they're super easy to make? Here's another recipe to try. Make sure you have some powdered sugar or sprinkles on hand to dip all of these delicious balls into.

5. Are you over 21? If so, these gift options are for you. Alcohol makes a lovely gift. And no, we don't mean bringing over a 30-pack of Natty Light to the Christmas party. Have some class, really. These ideas will not only result in the best Christmas gifts ever, but they'll get your friends/family so drunk they won't even remember that you didn't get them anything else!
Skittles Vodka! Easy, pretty and delicious.

Infused Vodkas
  1. Skittles Vodka As easy as it sounds, this is basically vodka + skittles = delicious skittles flavored vodka! Here's a how-to recipe. All you do is add some color-separated skittles to some vodka and let it sit for a while. You'll need to strain the skittles chunks before you serve it to your friends, but that's pretty much the hardest thing about this super-simple gift idea. Try jazzing it up with tropical skittles for a beautiful rainbow array of flavors and colors! I'm packaging my Skittles vodka in miniature $1 wine bottles I got from Kroger, but any capped bottle or container you have will do just fine. Just remember, you'll need one container for each color/flavor. Once you've completed your Skittles vodka, mix it with some Sprite for a super easy, super delicious mixed drink!
  2. Infused Vodkas if Skittles don't float your boat, you can infuse vodka with a million other things, and it's really, really easy. Here are some guidelines.  You can keep it simple (fruit + vodka, ginger root + vodka, cucumber + vodka, Rolos + vodka...) or make it more complex (habanero bacon vodka, perhaps?) Search Google or TasteSpotting.com to find some awesome recipe ideas. Just allow about a month for the infusion to penetrate the vodka.
  3. Apple Cider Moonshine No, it's not really "moonshine," but it's a simplified version of this classic recipe made with straight grain alcohol such as Everclear. Before you instinctively vomit everywhere remembering the last time you had Everclear, hear me out. Here's the recipe. Essentially, you'll add Apple Juice to Apple Cider, boil it in a pot with a lot of sugar and a lot of cinnamon, cool it off and then add an entire bottle of straight grain alcohol. I made this last week and I can verify that it is, indeed, delicious.Your apartment will smell like apple pie and your friends will be drunkenly amazed at your skills. I bottled all of mine in leftover recycled pasta and jam jars that I intend to decorate!
  4. Homemade Cordials and Mixers On this page you'll find recipes for everything from homemade Irish Cream to Sweet-N-Sour Mix. Here are recipes for Homemade Liqeuors. There are so many options, you'll be giving alcohol gifts for YEARS to come!!
6. By now there are probably some angry freshman who want to kill me for not including any gifts that don't require a kitchen. (You can microwave the chocolate, guys.) Anyway, just to be fair, here are some gifts that DON'T require any sort of kitchen equipment!
This is my boyfriend modelling his DIY shirt.
  1. Customized T-Shirts Everyone loves those shirts on Threadless or similar. But the problem is, they cost money. Not to worry - making your own graphic t-shirts is easy and not that expensive! Think of the possibilities: a picture of your and your friend; an inside joke; a reference to your friend's favorite movie or TV series; lyrics to your friend's favorite song; something really silly, insulting and/or dumb - there are SO many directions you could go with this. Customizing a t-shirt can be done in a few different ways: iron-on transfer paper, stick-on letters, or plain ol' paint and markers. Head to your closest craft store such as Hobby Lobby or Michael's (be sure to search for and print out the weekly 40% off coupon first, though!) and locate the t-shirt decorating aisle. You can buy plain t-shirts here, or you can go to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Anyway, look for iron-on transfer paper if you want to print out an image for your shirt. You'll need access to a printer and an iron for those. If you just want words, get some iron-on or stick-on letters - you'll want stick-on if you don't have an iron. There should also be fabric paint and fabric markers - you can decorate the shirt freehand! The picture you see to the right there is actually my boyfriend modelling his creation for Minecon 2011.
  2. Get Crafty There are lots of gift ideas that only require some basic crafty skills and materials. How about making a Reasons Why I Love You booklet? Here are some examples using a deck of cards: Example 1, Example 2. Here are some other examples: Example 1, Example 2.These make great gifts for your boyfriend/girlfriend, and are a step above a mix CD or playlist. (Not that those aren't cool too.) They'll also work for your friends! Here's another idea: make a collage using pictures of you and your friends! Just print out your favorite pictures from Facebook and paste them onto a big sheet of poster board with some cute cut-outs from magazines and quotes. Or if you're no good at collages, make a Memory BoardCover some foam board in pretty fabric and pin ribbons criss-crossing on top of the board to make a cute way to display pictures! You can decorate it however you like, or leave it blank for your friend to customize themselves. How about making some Custom Magnets by gluing pictures or jewels onto magnet backings purchased at a craft store? There are tons of ideas out there! Here are some tutorials, some more tutorials, and a forum filled with gift ideas. Happy searching!
  3. Salt and Sugar Scrubs are easy and make great gifts.
  4. Bath & Beauty Gifts Bath and beauty stuff is so easy to make. Whether you purchase a melt and pour soap-making
    kit at Michael's or opt for making a simple salt or sugar scrub, there are tons of ideas out there. Here are some good tutorials. Some of my personal favorites are Bath Bombs, Lip Balm or Gloss, and Salt or Sugar Scrubs. The last one is really the easiest - just mix olive oil with sea salt or sugar, and add a scent! Here are a bunch of Sugar Scrub recipes. Surprisingly, you can find good ingredients for DIY beauty projects at the Dollar Tree, including Sea Salt (food aisle), Epsom Salts (bath aisle) and scented oils (in the candle aisle)
Cute comic wrapped gifts! Great for kids.
Ok. Hopefully at least ONE of those suggestions inspired you. And remember, gift wrapping is cool and all, but recycling a brown paper bag and tying it with a pretty ribbon is cheaper, more environmentally-friendly, AND looks more unique and super classy. Or try using recycled Sunday comics papers or magazine tears! There are so many ways to give awesome gifts to your friends, but if you still can't afford any of the ideas above, don't sweat it. Your friends/family will understand and forgive you for being broke as a joke. I have a friend who is a music major, and every year she writes and performs personalized songs for her loved ones. I've received hand-made cards with heartfelt notes in lieu of gifts, and it was sweeter than any store-bought trinket. Just because you can't afford to buy *stuff* doesn't mean you can't show your loved ones that you care about them. So relax! The Holiday season is meant to be fun and enjoyable, and there are many more things to enjoy and be thankful for than giving and receiving gifts.  As always, let me know if you have any questions about anything in this post, and please comment with gift ideas not listed here!

Want to know about new freebies, samples, deals and money-saving as soon as they happen? Follow The Broke Student's Guide on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Freebies and deals of the week 11/11

Save $25 off your purchase of $50 or more at Haute Look! Just use code 25OFF50HL at checkout. I freaking love HauteLook so I am psyched about this.

Get $25 gift certificates for only $2 from Restaurant.com! Just enter code "HAM" at checkout. These make great inexpensive gifts. PS: if you go through ShopAtHome.com, you'll get 35% cash back; or use Ebates and get 15% Cash Back! Just go onto each site and search for Restaurant.com and go through their link to get cash back, super easy.

FREE Keebler Fudge Jumbo Stick sample! The site is in Spanish. So good luck with that. Use a translator, or consider it homework for Spanish class. Click Here

FREE Hot Drink at Pilot Travel Centers. Print this coupon to redeem this offer. Valid at participating Pilot Travel Center or Flying J locations. Coupon valid October 31 – December 31, 2011. Print the Coupon

FREE Wendy’s "Wheres The Beef" T-Shirt (or alternatively, "Here's the Beef" or "Hot 'N Juicy" - your choice!) Just play some fun little games until you get to the end where you can sign up to receive your shirt. Click Here

FREE Vega Sport Sample Pack when you sign up for the Vega Newsletter, Includes: 1 Pre-Workout Energizer, 1 Electrolyte Hydrator, and 1 Recovery Accelerator. Click Here


FREE Sample of Purt Plus when you upload any photo and share it with your friends on their facebook page. Click Here

FREE trial-size sample of TRESemme! You get to choose from their most popular TRESemmĂ© shampoo and conditioner formulas.  Click Here

FREE 10-day supply of Estee Lauder Liquid Foundation! Visit your local Dillards and stop by the Estee Lauder counter! Offer good while supplies last. One to a customer, no purchase necessary.

FREE Sample of AmLactin Body Lotion courtesy of AllYou! You’ll have to qualify for this one by taking a short survey. If you don’t qualify you’ll be offered a coupon instead. Available to the first 100,000 only. Allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery. Click Here

FREE samples of Airborne Chewable tablets. Copy and paste this link: https://secure.startsampling.com/sm/102094

Want to know about new freebies, samples, deals and money-saving as soon as they happen? Follow The Broke Student's Guide on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The 2nd Broke Student Giveaway: $25 Gift Certificate to BuyGreen.com!


Hey, remember that one time I gave away a bunch of free stuff?  Well, that time has come again! Except this time I'll be giving away a $25 Gift Certificate to BuyGreen.com! *Cue applause* All right, settle down. First let me share with you how on earth I can afford to be giving away $25 worth of anything (because trust me, I don't have $25 to spare, as much as I love you guys). This gift certificate was actually a prize from Recyclebank, as part of their "Green Your Vacation" contest. I write about Recyclebank a lot, mostly due to the free magazine subscriptions, McDonald's food vouchers, gift cards and coupons that you can get on the site just for learning about sustainability. And now I'm going to give them yet another shout out, because they are awesome. It is because of them that I am able to pay it forward and host this giveaway!

Super cute recycled notebooks!
BuyGreen.com, as you may have already guessed, is an e-commerce site dedicated to sustainability, selling eco-friendly, green and organic products. You'll find everything here from yummy organic lip balm to candles to bathrobes to picnic tables. I don't know why any of my readers would want a picnic table, but just in case you do, this is the place to get it! You'll be able to find something for everyone on your holiday shopping list - and if you're skeptical, just try searching the site using the "Gifts" tab. And hey, don't feel bad if you plan to use the gift certificate for yourself. You deserve $25 worth of organic beauty products or bamboo sporks. You've been working really hard this semester.

These water bottles are on sale!
So how can you win this fabulous prize? It's easy! Each of the following actions will earn you (1) entry. Once you complete an action, post a comment on this blog post including your email address, briefly explaining which action you took. Each action you complete, along with your comment, equals one entry. Make sure you leave a separate comment for each entry! At the end of the giveaway, I will use a random-number generator to pick a comment at random. If yours is chosen, you will win the giveaway! (Note: if your entry is invalid - say, you did not complete what you claimed - you will not be eligible for the prize, and a new winner will be chosen.) You will receive entries for EACH of the following:

1. Leave a comment about your favorite entry from The Broke Student's Guide, and how it helped you save money or get something for free! Be sure to include your email address in the comment. Limit: (1)

2. Follow The Blog using either Google Reader or Blogger. There's a "Follow" button on the right-hand side of the blog! Once you've followed, comment with your Google ID and email address. Limit: (1)

3. Follow The Facebook for (1) entry. Comment with a link to your facebook and your email address. Limit: (1)

4. Follow The Tumblr for (1) entry. Comment with a link to your tumblr and your email address. If you have multiple tumblrs, you will recieve (1) entry for EACH tumblr you use to follow the blog, up to 3. Limit: (3)

5. Follow The Twitter for (1) entry. Comment with a link to your twitter and your email address. Limit: (1)


6. Promote the giveaway on a social networking site or blog - receive (1) entry for EACH time you link to this post, 
OR link to any page on the blog. Comment in this post with a link to where you promoted the blog and an email address for (1) entry per EACH link. Limit: (2) per day.


You can copy and past the following:

Win a $25 Gift Certificate to BuyGreen.com from The Broke Student's Guide! Enter the giveaway: http://bit.ly/susaU5 

Total Entries Possible: 9 today, + 2 per day until November 30!


What are you waiting for? Start now! The giveaway is closed.


The winner of the giveaway is Shannon! Congratulations! Check your inbox, Shannon.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Freebies of the Week 10/22

FREE NESCAFÉ Peppermint Mocha sampleClick Here

FREE Subscription to Maxim. Click Here

FREE Sample of Lactaid Fast Act Dietary Supplement. Click Here

FREE Victoria's Secret Lacie Panty with any purchase! (up to $12.50 value). From Friday, October 21- Sunday, October 23, 2011. I realize it says you have to buy a bra, but if you read the fine print… you just need to make a purchase. How about a $1 hand sanitizer or some mints? Click Here

FREE Box of John Frieda US Hair Dye for those who qualify! $12.99 value! Click Here and choose "Get Special Offer"
FREE Can of Jamba All Natural Energy Drink! Like Jamba Juice on Facebook then click on the “Jamba Free Coupon” tab to request your coupon via mail.

FREE Sample of Aeroshot Pure Energy. Click on Send me a invite to get your code for the sample. Click Here


FREE full size bottle of Frederico Fekkai luxury conditioner when you bring in any bottle of conditioner to the Saks Fifth Avenue “Calling All Conditioners Event”, 10/27 only.


FREE Burberry Body fragrance sample (INTERNATIONAL) Click Here

FREE sample of Armani Sport Code! Just “Like” Giorgio Armani Beauty on Facebook then click on the “Dive into the Night” tab and scroll down to fill out the request form to score a free sample of the new fragrance for men, Armani Sport Code! Click Here

FREE Spider identification chart. AKA free super creepy poster that will freak out everyone who visits you. Click Here

FREE Astroglide Natural Personal Lubricant Sample! Click Here

FREE Splenda samples, limit 2 per person. Click Here

FREE Sample of Truvia natural sweetener. Click Here


FREE lip color from Bare Escentuals!  Bring in this coupon to a JCPenney store with a Sephora inside. Through November 1st, 2011. Click Here

FREE movies on YouTube (INTERNATIONAL) Click Here

10 FREE songs from iTunes courtesy of Spin Magazine. Click Here

FREE Make Marijuana Legal sticker. I mean .... stickers are legal. Click Here

FREE Nescafe samples. "Like" the Facebook page and fill out the form. Click Here

FREE Try Veg sticker (US AND CANADA) Click Here

FREE O.B. tampon sample. Click Here

FREE download of Korn's new song, Narcissistic Cannibal (INTERNATIONAL) Click Here

Want to know about new freebies, samples, deals and money-saving as soon as they happen? Follow The Broke Student's Guide on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Freebies Scores from September and October

I've recieved lots of freebies since school started back up, but I haven't had a chance to post them yet! Of course that means several of them are already gone (RIP,  full-sized candy bars from the Hershey's booth at the career fair that I ate almost immediately) but I gathered together my remaining goodies to post them! Here we go.


Career Fair Goodies: Goody hair elastics (see what I did there with the "goodies" thing? eh?), Bath & Body Works Snow Kissed Berry shower gel, Target and Marathon water bottles, Cintas hand sanitizer, Chase piggy keychain, pedometer, Discover sunglasses, free song from Gap Careers, thumb drive, bottle opener keychain, Bon-Ton stores flip flop keychain. Not pictured: like 6 full-sized Hershey products, 6 adorable greeting cards from American Greetings, reusable bags from Sears, Target and Bon-Ton Stores, another thumb-drive, and a bunch of pens and highlighters. And some business cards from some seriously kickass recruiters ;) Seriously you guys, career fairs are awesome for ALL the right reasons. 


Mailed Freebies: Target beauty bag containing Pond's facial wipes, Garnier Fructis shampoo/conditioner sample, John Frieda shampoo/conditioner sampler, Burt's Bees moisturizer sample, Loreal Youth Code sample, and Tresemme Naturals sample; Origins night cream; Ojon serum; Infusium 23 hair treatment; Nivea body wash; Zantac pills; Obestrim pills; Youtonics collagen drink; Splenda with antioxidants samples; Tripliderm moisturizer; Wake Up Joe coffee; John Frieda shampoo/conditioner samples; Frederic Fekkai shampoo/conditioner and treatment samples; Glamour, Runway, Woman's Day, Family Circle and Good Housekeeping magazines




On-Campus Freebies: Kleenex, First-Aid kit, Aetna hand sanitizer (thanks, IU Health Center! They also have condoms and sunscreen on the 3rd floor. And a bunch of other stuff, listed here.)

Redeemed Freebies: Eureka! Cordless Vacuum cleaner  from Amazon.com using my  Swagbucks gift cards (read more about Swagbucks in this entry); HauteLook LORAC exclusive eyeshadow palette (learn more about Hautelook in this entry); check from BestMark.com for mystery shopping. (Note: if you sign up for BestMark, please enter my shopper ID, MO5014, on the 2nd page as your referrer!) Not Pictured: $100 or so and a ton of free meals from other Mystery Shopping companies (learn more about Mystery Shopping in this entry), and more stuff from Amazon via Swagbucks - milk frother, coffee machine, and some super cute boots.


So there you have it! What goodies have you received this month? Post 'em up here or on my Facebook page!

Want to know about new freebies, samples, deals and money-saving as soon as they happen? Follow The Broke Student's Guide on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Freebies & Deals of the Week: Super Mega Huge Edition!


FREE Proctor & Gamble Brand Sampler! Click Here
FREE Quaker Smashbar Samples at Build-A-Bear Workshops nationwide from October 28-October 31! Come by in costume and receive more free virtual gifts during the Kooky Spooky Bear Bash! (Sidenote: is that the cutest party name ever or WHAT?)
FREE Thermosculpt Weightloss Capsules! Click Here
FREE Matador Fat-Burning Energy Shot! Click Here
FREE Obestrim Weight Loss Pill Samples! Click Here
FREE Nescafe Taster's Choice samples! Click Here

FREE Atkins Starter Kit including Atkins Bars! Click Here

FREE sample of Origins Plantscription Anti-Aging eye treatment! Click Here

FREE Flu Shots for anyone without health insurance from CVS! Pick up a voucher and redeem at any CVS. List of voucher locations: Click Here

‎$10 FREE coupon for Office Depot copy and print department! Use it for business cards, passport photos, photo prints, resume copies, laminating, binding, and more!! Expires 11/7/11. Click Here

$10 FREE when you sign up for CouponMob! CouponMob is essentially like Groupon, with mostly online deals. Click Here to Sign Up

FREE samples from Hero Nutritionals! Sign up and enter the promo code "KK Free Sample" for your free product sample and coupon. Click Here

FREE Eggroll at Panda Express when you text "Panda" to 49675. Also, IU students (and possibly other schools?) get a FREE orange chicken when you wear your Hoosier clothing to Panda Express on a game day. 

FREE Feminine Hygiene Sampler! Hey girl hey. Get a super awesome sparkly free sample kit from BeingGirl. "Like" the facebook page, then click "More" on the lefthand column to find "Free Samples." Click Here

FREE Bare Escentuals bareMinerals® Pretty Amazing Lip Color in Confidence from Sephora inside jcpenney®. Print the coupon.

FREE 2oz Sample of Benjamin Moore Paint! Print the Coupon

FREE Coffee at Waffle House! Expires 10/15. Click Here

FREE Evamor Bottled Water. "Like" the Facebook Page

FREE Sample of Spark Energy Drink! Click Here

FREE Sample Natural Persimmon Tea! Click Here

FREE Sample of TeaChef Tea! Click Here

FREE Sample Yogi Tea! Send an E-Card/sample to yourself, and whoever else you want. Click Here

FREE Art of Ironing DVD! Come on guys .... this is an AWESOME free sample. Ironing!!! It's an art! .... No? You don't want to watch a DVD about the Art of Ironing? No worries, I gotcha covered. (Just in case though - Click Here for the world's most interesting DVD.)

FREE DVD rentals from Blockbuster! No ironing. These codes expire 10/13:
7650BW8
65DWTM7
73MAYB6
74ABDP3
97KRFT5
63SLRH5
49WHZS3
24NCCC7

FREE Kleenex Sample Pack for you and a friend! Click Here.

FREE L'Occitane hand cream, redeemable at your local L’OCCITANE Boutique. "Like" the Facebook Page

FREE sample of Flix Flossing Stix! (International) Click Here

FREE Subscription to Maxim Magazine! Click Here

FREE 1yr Subscription to SPIN Magazine! Click Here

FREE Issues (4) of OK! Magazine! Click Here

FREE Issue of Bridal Guide Magazine! Click Here

FREE Pristine Skincare Solution Sample! Click Here

FREE sample of Ojon Hair Serum! "Like" the Facebook Page

FREE sample of Burberry Body Fragrance! (International) Click Here

FREE Carol's Daughter Hold & Control Hair Smoother! Click Here

FREE Escada Perfume Sample! Click Here

FREE 16x20 Poster from WalMart! Order online, pickup in-store. Expires 10/31. Print the Coupon
FREE Portrait Collage from PictureMe inside WalMart! Click Here 

FREE Aromatherapy Samples! Click Here

35% off at Gap.com! Use code GAPLINE to save 35% on your entire Gap.com purchase now through 10/13/2011. After that the same code will save you 30% through 10/14/2011. The savings drops to 25% on 10/15/2011.

Whew!! Did you get 'em all?  Want to know about new freebies, samples, deals and money-saving as soon as they happen? Follow The Broke Student's Guide on FacebookTwitter and Tumblr.

P.S. If you feel like over-achieving and getting even MORE free stuff .... My favorite paid-to site is Swagbucks. I earn at least $25 in Amazon Gift cards each and every month! Read more about Swagbucks in this entry. 



Monday, October 3, 2011

Freebies and Samples of the Week! 10/3

Today's free samples seemed to be primarily about health and fragrances. So you'll smell good while you feel good, for free! Here's this week's round-up:

FREE Poise feminine hygiene sample pack! Click Here

FREE PedPod energy drink mix. Click Here

FREE sample of Spiru-Tein Energy Drink Mix! Use promo code 5646. Click Here

FREE  Eat-Smart Bar at Vitamin Shoppe or GNC. Print the Coupon

FREE Sample of AlternaVites Vitamin Powder Today! Click Here

FREE Sample of Disney Gummy Vitamins! Click Here

FREE Sample of Emergen-C Vitamin C drink mix! Click Here and also Here

FREE sample Krystal Strawberry Shortcake"Like" the Facebook Page

FREE $2.00 Amazon MP3s Credit: Enter code FALLMP3s

FREE 32oz bottle of Evamor water! "Like" the Facebook Page

FREE Sample of Victoria's Secret "Gorgeous" fragrance when you try on a "Gorgeous" bra in-stores. More 
information here.

FREE Sample of Wonderstruck Fragrance by Taylor Swift. "Like" the facebook page.

FREE Sample of "Bottled Night" Fragrance by Hugo Boss! Click Here

FREE Lacoste Fragrance Samples! Click Here

FREE Sample of Dove Nourishing Oil Care Cream! Click Here

FREE Botanical Therapy Hair Treatment during your next cut or color at an Aveda Salon. Print the Coupon

FREE Dove Deoderant sample for Costco Members! Costco Members Click Here

FREE Sample of Wet Platinum Personal Lubricant! Click Here

It’s Swagbucks Code Extravaganza Monday!  This  means that today, 10/3 Swagbucks will be releasing 60sb worth of codes! Some of the codes will be easy to get, and some will require some work. HINT: Make sure to check the Swagbucks Facebook Page frequently to see where and when others have found codes! 

If you have not signed up for Swagbucks  yet, now is the time!  Today is the LAST DAY to get 100 swagbucks JUST FOR SIGNING UP!   Head over to Swagbucks and use the promo code: BIGTIMEBUCKS in the "Gimme" box to grab the 100 Swagbucks. Learn more about Swagbucks in this entry.

Want to know about new freebies, samples, deals and money-saving as soon as they happen? Follow The Broke Student's Guide on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mystery Shopping: Get Paid to Shop! Seriously. Not even kidding.

I have a lot of articles about ways to make money while at school, when you're too busy for a real job but need some extra cash. In addition to paid-to sites, paid research studies, donating plasma and the other suggestions I've made, I'd like to add one powerful new weapon to your money-making arsenal: Mystery Shopping!

What is mystery shopping? Mystery Shopping is a tool that companies use to evaluate their performance from a customer's perspective.  A mystery shopper goes into an establishment with a situation provided by the company, in order to evaluate what ACTUALLY happens to a real customer on an ordinary day. They will evaluate everything from customer service, to cleanliness, to whether the correct signage is being used. Then they report their findings back to the company so that the company can see where they need improvements. If you've ever worked anywhere, you know that the day the district managers come to visit calls for a week of deep-cleaning and everyone using their best behavior to make it seem like that's how things always are. Management caught onto this awhile ago, and got sneaky: hence, mystery shopping..  The process of mystery shopping goes like this: Search for job. Sign up for job. Complete job at specified time. Fill out shop report and submit proof of receipts/documentation (to prove you actually did the shop). Receive payment 30-60 days later. (Some payment is sooner, but most is on a delay.) 

As a mystery shopper, you are truly getting paid to shop. Or eat. Or get your brakes looked at. Or get a spray tan, or go to the movies, or talk to someone. If it sounds too good to be true, that's because it kind of has a bad reputation as a huge scam. You know, you see those ads like "Mystery Shopper Wanted: make a bazillion dollars by doing absolutely nothing!!! No catch!" which reeks of scam (not even convincing scam, either). While those companies ARE scams, mystery shopping in general is 100% legit. I was skeptical myself when I signed up for a few mystery shopping companies this summer, and I decided not to report back on the blog until I'd gotten paid from these companies to prove that they were actually legit. Several months later, and I'm here to tell you that THEY ARE SO LEGIT YOU GUYS OMG. This is hands-down the best way to make extra cash in college. I've actually resorted to mystery shopping as my primary source of income this semester. I'm in a small town, which means less companies to shop, so I'm making about $30/month on average, but when I was in a big city this summer, I was making MUCH more than that. If you live in a large city with a mystery shopping company located in that city (Louisville, KY is a great example of this - there are TONNSSSSS of mystery shops in Louisville!) it is perfectly doable to turn this into a part-time job, making several hundred a month. If you're willing to travel for a shop, you can potentially turn this into a full-time job. This IS possible, but you also will need to have a lot of mystery shopping equipment, like hidden video recorders, and pay extra to get certified for some higher-pay shops - but it CAN be done!


Still feeling skeptical? To the right is a pay
statement from one of my first months of mystery shopping. It adds up QUICK, guys. Some shops pay you just to go and talk to someone, some shops require you to make a purchase and then reimburse you later. So far, I've mystery shopped at banks, car dealerships, fast food restaurants, electronics stores, cell phone stores, and even an adult store (Indiana University Students: it was College Books. I totally got paid to shop at College Books.). It's fun, it's easy, and I end up making more per hour than most of the jobs I've had so far.

So, ready to give it a try? First, you need to find some mystery shopping companies to sign up with, or see if there are opportunities in your area. (Bigger cities are the best locations to be a mystery shopper.) The availability of the shops depends on the companies located near you and how many companies are employing their services. There are hundreds of mystery shopping companies located all over! To find out what's available near you, search using this handy little website. The sites I linked to are both on the MSPA site - the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. They're essentially a regulating certification board. To be on their site, you have to be a LEGIT mystery shopping company - no scammers allowed. Signing up with a company from their site ensures that you won't get scammed - they do a thorough check of each of their listed companies before certifying them.
So, found a few shops in your area? Interested in giving it a try? The next thing to do is to sign up with the companies that are providing shops in your location. Once you click on a description of a shop you're interested in, it will list which company is providing the shop, usually with a link. Click on that provided link to go to the website of the mystery shop company. Now, you need to sign up for that Mystery Shopping company. It will ask you a lot of information about yourself. Don't be scared - the more personal information they have about you, the better they can match you up for certain shops that are targeted at specific customers. Some companies may also ask you for writing samples, for example, writing about an experience at a store. Just try to give complete unbiased details, and use proper grammar and spelling.


Now, some things that will make you nervous. Every mystery shopping company will ask you for your Social Security Number. This is because mystery shopping is a legitimate form of income - read: job - and as such, they are required to report to the government if you make over a certain amount per year using their company (I think it's $600/yr) for tax purposes. It's no different than giving your SSN to a job in-person. If you look at the browser, it should read https:// instead of http://, which means your information is secure and encripted. I have yet to have a problem giving out my SSN to any of these sites, and I've signed up for about 10 of them. Second nervous-making thing: some mystery shop companies will ask you for your bank account information, to direct deposit your income into your account. Again, this is just like handing over a voided check at a job - just because they have your account number DOESN'T mean they can steal your money. It'd be like giving a check in your name along with a filled out deposit slip to a friend to deposit in your bank for you - all they'll be able to do is deposit that money. If that company is direct deposit only, that's how you will get paid. Many companies pay via paypal or mailed check, but I've also received direct deposit income with no problems at all.

Ok, now you've signed up with a mystery shopping company! You're all ready to find that shop you signed up for and get going! Before you request or self-assign that shop, you'll need to have a good understanding of how to complete a mystery shop properly. It's not rocket science, but if you mess everything up your first time, the site may not let you sign up for anything else, so you want to make sure you get it right (or at least, mostly right). First, read this detailed overview of what you need to know about being a good mystery shopper. It's long, but very informative and worth reading. Here are the most important points to remember:

1. Mystery Shopping requires acting - aka lying. If you're not good at acting or lying, Mystery Shopping may not be the right job for you. You'll be given a situation to memorize and you must stick to that situation and make it seem convincing - this may require making up additional details on the spot.

 2. Mystery Shopping requires attention to details. Details may include things like, "How many seconds before you were greeted? How many TVs were turned off in the electronics department? Was there a coffee machine in the waiting room? What was the featured item on the drive-through menu? Did the sales associate mention the Supreme Extra Special Deal? What did the sales associate look like?" You will need to be able to remember what details you are looking for, AND remember exactly what you saw. I always take notes as soon as I leave a mystery shop so I don't forget them. These details are extremely important, and you must be hyper observant - in some cases, you have to sneak in observations while also talking to a sales associate and trying to remember your made-up situation, which can get tricky.

 3. Mystery Shopping requires timeliness. Some shops must be completed at a certain time and on a certain day, and all shops require a report to be filled out and submitted within 24 hours of completing a shop. This is a REAL JOB, so treat it as such. If you turn in a mystery shop report late, you WILL be penalized.

Ok. Ready to get started? Sign up with as many mystery shopping companies as you like (I'm signed up with about 10). Make sure you keep a list of these somewhere and keep track of which shops are assigned for which companies. Select a job, and either request or self-assign it (every company is different). Complete the job, submit your report, and sit back and wait for payment. It sucks that there's a time delay, but after the first couple of months, you'll have income on the regular coming in monthly. It's fun, it's easy, and anyone can do it! What are you waiting for?? Go get paid to shop!!
As a quick reminder, here's where to start finding shops in your area:



Get Started

1. MSPA lists all of their verified (aka not a scam) mystery shopping companies, and you can  search for available shops near you to find which companies to sign up with.

2. Jobslinger is a database for multiple companies using the Sassie user interface system. You'll be able to search multiple companies in your area using your zip code, and sign up for the ones offering shops near you. You'll need to sign up for each individual company offering the shops - Jobslinger is NOT a mystery shopping company, just a search engine!

3. Mystery Shopping Job Board is another site like Jobslinger - it's a search engine for a variety of different mystery shopping companies. Use it to find shops near you and sign up for those companies.

4. Mystery Shop Forum is a great place for mystery shoppers to talk about companies and jobs, as well as find out about more companies to sign up with. If you're curious about Mystery Shopping, check out this forum and browse some of the posts!

As always, contact me with any questions!

Want to know about new freebies, samples, deals and money-saving as soon as they happen? Follow The Broke Student's Guide on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
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