‘Deadbeat’ Dad Chronicles: Odd Jobs – Part I

Taz Bright helms this series. Taz is a father, speaker, long-time business owner and graduate of the school of hard-knocks. Taz uses his past business and personal finance experience to help steer others in a positive financial direction while, hopefully, avoiding the mistakes he’s made along the way. As a former 6-year victim of Identity Theft, Taz shares unique lessons learned while trying to regain his financial footing. Taz is a member of Toastmasters International, a martial artist, former bodyguard and a CrossFit athlete. As the owner of Bright Balance Ministries, Taz’s goal is to help as many people as possible reach long-term, solid financial stability.

As a non-custodial father paying child support, I live life under the microscope of scrutiny from not only an ex-wife, but society in general. Not only do I wake up determined to succeed financially to provide for myself, but I have the added pressure of providing for a son who does not live with me.

DeadbeatI’m not saying this financial responsibility is more burdensome than a custodial parent’s job, nor am I saying that one should feel sorry for, or be lenient with, a father who is paying child support.

However, I have recently become very familiar with society’s misconceptions concerning the toil of supposedly deadbeat dads. So I think it’s time we explore what a father goes through financially in order to provide for his child, keep up with court-ordered payments, avoid jail and be a good example to his child.

The Odd Jobs.

Jail is not exactly my idea of a good time. I can’t even stand to be in my own house for more than two hours at a time. I get anxious, like a caged dragon I feel the deep need to escape and spread my wings.

With this mindset I have always been motivated to seek odd jobs if I was ever laid off from a job. So, what jobs did I take in order to keep up with child support?

First, there was Secret Shops. Many folks have a misunderstanding of how this industry really works. There are horror stories but I can tell you personally that there are legitimate secret shop companies that will literally pay you to shop. Side note: If you Google “secret shops” you’ll be flooded with choices. Avoid any company that states you have to pay to become a secret shopper. Most of these are not legitimate.

One company paid me to go to Burger King, order a meal and fill out a report. The report included details about the taste and temperature of the food, the cleanliness of the store and if proper signage was displayed in the location.

For a recently laid-off individual this was a great way to keep my head above water because I’d be reimbursed for the meal and be paid an extra $5 – $10.  Therefore, the groceries I had already bought would stretch a bit further while I ate these “free meals.”

Another secret shop company sent me to Mattress Firm to pose as a customer interested in a new bed. This is by-far my favorite kind of secret shop. During the visit I’d take mental notes about the employee’s performance, level of professionalism, the cleanliness of the store and which model features the employee demonstrated along with several other key aspects of the employee’s job. I’d do this while the employee demonstrated the many positions of the adjustable bed. Yeah, it was tough but somebody had to do it.

Secret shops are easy and convenient. I’d have lunch at Burger King while out looking for a job and enjoyed knowing I’d be reimbursed for the meal. Then as I go about the rest of my errands I’d stop into Mattress Firm, lie on some really comfortable beds and get paid for it!

There are some folks who are professional level secret shoppers. I never rose to that point myself but shoppers who are dedicated and reliable are eventually given higher-paying shops. There are even some secret shoppers who earn above $30,000/year.

Obviously this would help a struggling mom or dad avoid jail time which can sometimes result from falling behind on court-appointed payments.

Generally speaking, secret shop companies pay their shoppers once a month. So, my advice is to be very detailed in your record keeping as an independent shopper. Keep your receipts, keep track of the shop location, expected payments, etc. At first, look for shops that don’t require you to buy anything. One example is the Mattress Firm shop I mentioned.

ResponsibilityA shop at James Avery requires you to ask questions about jewelry but not make a purchase. The profits from one month of these shops may then be used in your second month for shops like Burger King for which you’d be reimbursed.

With discipline you can earn a good part-time income which can help you stay current on child support payments. If you are a non-custodial parent, it pays to be prepared to take on work where you can find it and practice frugality…and avoid those famous silver bracelets.

Have you had to take on the odd job – or two – to keep up with child support payments, lest you be called a deadbeat dad (mom) and potentially face dealing with the judicial system?

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. I used to do James Avery shops but can not find them any more. Does anyone know if they are still shopped by the same company or has it changed?

    • I’m not sure, Stacey. Hopefully Taz will jump in and let us know.

  2. Thank you for sharing the noncustodial parent’s side of the story.

    • Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation. Hopefully you will make this a regular stop as you journey across the Internet.

    • I’m glad you came by Tre. The next article in the series will go even deeper into the life and difficulties of the non custodial parent.

  3. I’ve thought about trying secret shopping but even though I’m a detailed person, I worry if I could make enough mental notes to be able to fill out my report afterwards. Oh well, never say never, and maybe in my retirement.

    • Like you, I have thought about it but have yet to pull the trigger…perhaps at some point in the future.

    • DebtDebs: I say go for it. You may not remember every detail but you don’t have to. You can use your phone to write notes discretely then transfer them to the online form. Also, you can have a friend remember certain details while you remember others. Check out http://www.realitybasedreports.com.

      Create a free account and let them know Eustace Bright sent ya. I would love to hear your secret shop stories in the future.

  4. My Mom was a secret shopper for years in the 80’s-90’s. It was a good gig since she did not work full time. The only thing was they would ask her to do jobs that were too far away. Driving there took too much time and it ended up being to inconvenient and not worth the money. She did it long enough that she could only take the ones close to her.

    • Thanks for stopping by, RBD. Although I have never been a secret shopper, it strikes me as a viable way to make some extra money if you approach it wisely.

  5. I’ve done secret shops before and surveys that paid good money. I definitely see those as avenues to supplement income. Looking forward to future parts.

    • Thanks for joining the conversation, Jason. While I have considered becoming a secret shopper, it is not something I have done. However, I have given plasma not only as a way to generate extra income, but to help with staying on top of child support payments.

    • The Phroogal Jason: Thanks for stopping by and joining the discussion. I love that there are little-explored avenues available for those willing to step outside the normally accepted forms of earning income. Secret Shops are one of my favorites, especially when I can get paid for something I planned to do anyway.

  6. That’s incredible! Is it really happening? Glad I have not been in odd jobs that lead me to deadbeat.

    • I’m pretty certain Taz was not stating that an odd job, or two, led him to being a deadbeat. In fact it is just the opposite. He was willing to take on odd jobs (e.g. secret shopper) to augment his income – or when regular employment was lost – in order to meet child support payment requirements, thus avoiding being labeled a deadbeat. Moreover, he makes the case that an odd job such as a secret shopper supports frugal practices. As an example, as a secret shopper at Burger King, he was essentially being paid to eat, thus avoiding spending his own money on a meal.

      Thanks for stopping by, Hannah and kicking off the conversation.

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