Inspired by a colleague whom I would have to refer to as a "sweepstakes queen," I've been having fun over the last several months entering sweepstakes and contests. I try not to make it too high of a priority, but I do enjoy winning things! Here's a sampling of what I've brought home since I started:
All this is nothing compared to what my coworker has won using the same system: various trips (including one to Italy), Apple products, a Wii, Xbox, and Playstation 3, and more. Not to mention many, many gift cards to Amazon and other retailers. To say I'm fascinated by her "sweeping" is kind of an understatement.
So, how does she do it, and why was she willing to share that information with me? Well, besides being a kind person in general, my colleague recognizes that the more people participate in sweepstakes, the more likely it is that companies will continue to offer new sweepstakes in the future. I'm grateful for the knowledge she was willing to share, and now I'd like to pass it along to you.
Knowledge Is Power
To enter a sweepstakes, you have to know it exists. To that end, I was encouraged to keep an eye on two main sites:
(Another good site is Sweetie's Sweeps, although I feel a little sheepish referencing a website with such a name.)
When I have some time, I take a look at these sites to find prizes that catch my eye, and I try to steer toward sweepstakes from more reputable companies and top brands. I'd like to avoid the many contest scams that are out there, if I can. I also come across new sweepstakes in my Twitter feed of companies and from brands that I follow on Facebook.
With a little one in the house and other more important things going on at home, I have very little time to spend on sweeping. So, I prioritize. I keep two bookmark folders in Safari — Daily Entry and Instant Win. Right now, I have 24 items in my Daily Entry folder. I can open all of them in tabs at one time, and with the autofill capabilities of 1Password, I have my entries submitted in 10-15 minutes max.
Instant wins take a little more time. These are the little contests and games you see on Facebook and other websites. The key to winning an instant win? Well, it may look like it takes skill to score a prize, but actually, they're not nearly as exciting as that. In fact, winning an instant win is all about timing. The computer randomly selects winning times, and if you're the first person to enter at or after that time, you're the winner. 98% of instant wins I've come across operate this way.
You know those marketing emails from companies and brands that aren't exactly spam, but that you don't always read, either? Some people call that bacn, and if you aren't careful, your sweepstakes hobby will generate a lot of it. Most legitimate contests will allow you to opt out of receiving such email, but some won't, and I usually pass on those ones unless I'm really interested in the prize.
An Even Playing Field
My favorite sweepstakes to enter are those that only allow one entry per person. No coming back every day, no instant win games to play, just the same odds for everyone. These might be more difficult to win, but at least you enter and you're done. Sweepstakes Advantage keeps a running list of single entry sweepstakes that are set to expire soon. I'll usually enter a number of these each week.
Oh, and don't waste your time on sweepstakes with unlimited entry, because you know there's someone out there just hitting refresh all day long.
Not Quitting My Day Job
While I'm sure the delivery volumes of UPS and FedEx are buoyed by the efforts of some extreme sweepers (yes, TLC already has a show), I don't expect this hobby to make us wealthy. (Not unless we can live on DoubleTree cookies, anyway.) Oh, sure I'm having fun — who doesn't love to win something? — but faith, family and friends, and my full-time job remain my top priorities.
Question: Have you ever won a prize or cash through an online contest or sweepstakes? Please share in the comments below.