Monday, January 30, 2012

Moolah Monday - Research Participation

Last week I told you about how we're saving money in groceries by shopping every other week.  I also briefly mentioned that I had participated in a research study.  This is a great idea for our family that helps us have extra income periodically that really helps our family budget without too much work.

A few years ago a friend at work told mie about a local research firm that paid money for participation in research studies.  This company is a bona-fide research company and does not sell your information (other than the information you agree to provide as part of the research, of course) and does not try to sell you anything.  They have a database with information about you and your family (income level, age, # of children, etc.) and some of your preferences and habits (health diagnoses that you disclose, cars in your family, types of extracurricular activities, etc.).  They use this information to match you to research studies their firm has been hired to conduct (or provide an audience for) and when there is a match they call you to see if you can participate.

Participation can include anything from a brief written survey to a focus group or even a more in-depth product testing panel.  If you're familiar with research design, the parties who hire this firm are trying to get a sample from the population that matches their target consumer.

I've been on the list with this group for a while but have never really matched a survey or been available during the times available, until last week.  Last week they called mie with a brief 30 minute car survey, a beer tasting survey, one about paper goods (paper towels, etc.) and one about sporting goods and apparel.  I didn't qualify for the car survey because my car prior to the Sienna was too old ('01).  J was actually targeted for the beer tasting but since we don't drink at all that was out.  I qualified for the paper goods one but because I work at an organization that sells paper goods I was disqualified.  Because I have had been running to train for the marathon relay I qualified for the sporting goods and apparel focus group.

I went after work one day last week.  It was a 2 hour survey (6:45 to 8:45), sort of near my work (so there wasn't much commute involved) and for my participation I received $80 cash at the end, no strings attached.

It was a fun experience, though the whole time I was worrying about how things were going at home.  I will say though that having a research background I am pretty sure they were disappointed that I qualified.  They were looking for highly active sports enthusiasts.  That is not mie.  I qualified for my training with running but other than that didn't fit in AT ALL.  That's usually ok because they target particular audiences, but in reality I can pretty confidently say that I wasn't there target audience.  Not my problem though - I gave my opinions and earned the $80.

I will also say that I was a bit disappointed too because of the way I "fit" into the target audience.  As it was, I was representing the "older" female in the group - there was a younger girl in college and I was the token 30 year old.  I can't believe I was representing all the old ladies out there.  Jeesh  :)

Anyway - this $80 was unbudgeted so we're using it for a few cool things.  First, I took the first $10 for "myself".  I used this to buy breakfast at Chick-Fil-A one morning last week.  Nice treat.  We used $20 to take the kids to CiCi's on Friday, which technically was a budgeted expense but now will give us $20 extra to use on something else.  Now we have $50 leftover which will be used in a few ways.

First - After writing that last paragraph I realized we didn't tithe on that money.  We should and we will.  $8 out.
Second - Parents night out is coming up at church in a few weeks.  It will cost us about $20 for us to put our kiddos in childcare for the night so we can go out on a date.  We wouldn't have planned it because we're trying to be frugal and save, but since we have this extra we'll take advantage of it.  We have a couple gift cards to a restaurant that we received for Christmas and our anniversary, I think, so we're going to probably use that for a dinner out.

The remaining money might be used for another trip to CiCis or maybe something else - I haven't yet allocated those dollars to something specific.  That's ok - we'll find a good home for it somewhere :)

If you're in the DFW area we use Dallas By Definition.  Otherwise, I'm sure you can do a Google search and find some research companies with good reputations that you can use to sign yourself up.  Happy hunting!

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