Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Home State Advantage

Local, state, and regional sweepstakes are easier to win.  Unlike sweepstakes open nation-wide, they often restrict entries to those who live in a certain city or select geographic area.  This means there will be a smaller amount of entries into the sweepstakes.  If you don’t live in the select area, you can’t enter.  What this means for you is better odds of winning!

There are many ways that I have been successful at finding local sweepstakes.  The first thing I usually search for are local radio station and television station websites.  They often have a contests or promotions section on their websites.  They want to target their listening and viewing areas, so will often limit entries to people in that geographic area.

Another place I search for local sweepstakes is my local mall.  Sometimes local shops and jewelry stores will run promotions to get customers in.  The website for your local mall may have a section for what is happening in their stores that includes drawings.

And don’t neglect other local businesses, especially those having a grand opening celebration.  It’s good to keep your eyes and ears open to mailed flyers and radio announcements for a new store opening or celebrating an anniversary.  Often these businesses will try to get you in the door by offering great prizes like shopping sprees, cash, gift cards, and more!

Have you heard about a local festival or event that is going to have businesses (and sometimes nonprofits) tabling?  I have picked up both freebies and sweepstakes entries at these events.  In fact, last night I attended a local community fundraiser.  Even though I had to buy a ticket to gain entry, I had a great time and was able to enter two sweepstakes.  One for a Christmas tree loaded down with sweet stuff and another for $1000.

And if all else fails, you might try to do a google search for your city or state with the word “sweepstakes.”  You might be surprised what comes up!  Just remember, true sweepstakes are no purchase necessary.

For more local and regional sweepstakes you might also check out a site that I just joined called Sweeties Secret Sweeps.  I have not been a member very long, but there were a number of local sweeps I did not find on my own listed there.

However you go about it, I wish you much luck in finding good odds sweepstakes!

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Sweeping: A Solitary Hobby or a Chance to Make Friends?

girl in chair at computer

I’ve tried twice to start a local sweepstakes club.  The first time was in California.  I had about a dozen people sign up on our website to join the group.  But when it came down to attending a meeting, the only one that showed up was my mother-in-law.  She was not a sweeper but showed interest in learning and wanted to support me.  I kept the club going a few months, but never had anyone attend one of our meetings at a local coffee shop.

The second time I tried to start a local sweepstakes club was in Idaho.  I had about half dozen people sign up, 3 of which included friends of mine who wanted to learn but were mostly there to support me.  Others wrote on the website that they wanted to learn and wanted to attend meetings, but no one else ever showed up in person.

People have pointed out to me that it is a solitary hobby – for the most part you sit in front of your computer, alone at your desk at home.  Others have said it’s probably because people do not want to share promotions they know about or their methods because they want less competition.  But I do not think either of these statements are true.

First of all, while entering online sweepstakes is a hobby pursued from your personal computer, people do indeed seek out fellow sweepers to socialize with.  Contest Queen keeps a list of successful clubs around the nation.  Also there is a large annual National Sweepstakes Convention.  This year they are limiting attendance to 700 people.  That’s a lot of sweepers who want to come together and meet, learn, socialize, and win!

Second, sweepers share their methods and the promotions that they enter all the time!  That is why there are sweepstakes websites (by hobby sweepers) set up to share information.  Plus there are books and pamphlets on Amazon geared at teaching people how to begin this hobby.  And there are blogs, like this very one, to share links, ideas, and more!  I even post interesting promotions on a Facebook page called Boise Sweepstakes Club.

That definitely doesn’t make sweepers seem like secretive loners!  So it’s a mystery to me why in some areas it is harder to start a sweepstakes club or find fellow sweepers to socialize with.  Any ideas?

Luck of the Holidays!

You will hear many sweepers say on sweepstakes message boards that the holidays are no time to neglect your sweeping.  Many people believe they have more luck winning on holidays, especially for instant wins, because less people are entering.  Instead, they are of course eating, watching TV, and spending time with family.  Many people are travelling as well.

I don’t know if this is statistically true or not, but I have certainly won some instant win prizes on holidays past.  This year, I’m heading to the mall on Thanksgiving to enter two sweepstakes offering instant and sweepstakes prizes.

JC Penney Black Friday Sweepstakes (Ends Nov 30)

Macy’s Black Friday Walk In and Win Instant Win Game (Ends Nov 29)

I’ll let you know if I win anything major while doing my contests today, and I hope you will let me know what you think about holidays being lucky.  Did you win today?

happy thanksgiving

Gratitude Board – My Way of Thanksgiving

Gratitude

In my last post I talked about vision boards – words and pictures put together in a collage to represent things you would like to win.  But there is the flip side to attracting the prizes you want.  I believe it is also important to have gratitude for the prizes you have already won!

My first gratitude board was a small cork board covered with congratulations messages and pictures of the things I’ve won.  Then I had to upsize to a medium sized board.  My luck kept growing, and now I have the biggest cork board I can find with pictures of all the prizes I have won over the years tacked to it.  No matter whether it was a small prize, like a coupon, or a big prize, like a trip, it gets included on my board.

This helps me remember to be thankful for the luck I have received.  I am thankful that winning prizes has allowed me to be generous to friends and family.  And I’m especially thankful for prizes that I can pass on to those in need.  Because while I love winning and keep a lot of my prizes, I believe sharing and gratitude go a long way in creating more luck.

Do you have any traditions of gratitude in your family?  Do you thank sweepstakes sponsors and otherwise show gratitude for your wins?  Please let me know in the comments!

A Fun and Easy Craft Project to Help Keep you Motivated!

Vision Board

If you enter a lot of sweepstakes but only receive a winning message occasionally, it can be a bit disheartening.  The more sweepstakes you enter and the more consistently you enter them increases your chances of winning.  But what do you do when your motivation starts to waver because you haven’t had a recent win?

One fun craft project I like to do is creating Vision Boards.   According to an article in the Huff Post earlier this year:

“If you think vision boards are bogus, then the joke’s on you. They work, and there’s actually a really simple explanation of why they work so well.

Creating a sacred space that displays what you want actually does bring it to life. What we focus on expands. When you create a vision board and place it in a space where you see it often, you essentially end up doing short visualization exercises throughout the day.”

For sweeping, this means pasting images and words on your board that represent the things you want to win.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Magazines to cut pictures out. You can find tons of cheap magazines at thrift stores or you may already have a stash of magazines at your house.
  2. A board. I generally just use poster board these days, but when I first started out I used cork boards.  I found it more expensive to come up with tacks for the cork board than glue for the poster board.
  3. Scissors
  4. Tacks or glue to adhere your pictures.

When you have all your supplies together, you simply search through your magazines for pictures and words that represent the things you wish to win.  Cut these out and arrange them any way you like on your board.  When everything looks like you want it, fasten it on the board.  Now you can display the board in a place you will see it whenever you do your sweepstakes.

Visualizing every day what you want to win will help keep you motivated, and the motivation will help make sure you enter consistently, which increases your chance of winning!

Have fun with this project, and good luck!

Should I Use My Regular E-Mail Address to Enter Sweepstakes?

When I meet people just starting out sweeping I usually get asked about spam.  It is true that companies running sweepstakes sometimes collect and save your marketing information.  It’s also true that sometimes this information will get sold to third parties so they can advertise to you through e-mail.  There are sweepstakes that let you opt out of further marketing, sometimes by checking or unchecking a box on the sweepstakes entry form.  But, in general, this hobby will generate some spam e-mail.  The more sweeps you enter, the more junk e-mail you will probably get.

But there is a solution!  First, you can create a free e-mail account just for entering sweepstakes.  However, before you delete anything from your designated e-mail address, be sure to check it thoroughly for a winning notification.  I always check both my inbox and spam for winning letters just in case.

Second, some e-mail programs will let you set up filters to help organize your incoming mail.  In my case, anything addressed directly to me goes in to my main inbox.  Any e-mail with the word “unsubscribe” in it goes into a folder I call “Unsubscribe.”  This is because most winning letters will not have this word in it, but spam e-mail will have an option to unsubscribe from their list. While I still browse through the unsubscribe folder, most of what ends up there is genuine spam that I can either delete or unsubscribe from future messages from.

Another thing I do to ensure I don’t miss a winning notification in my unsubscribe folder is use the search feature of my e-mail program.  This feature allows me to select a folder– in this case the unsubscribe folder – and enter a search term.  I search for words like “winner” and “congratulations.”  Usually I don’t come up with anything, but occasionally I find one that didn’t make it into my regular inbox for some reason.

So, while I would recommend a designated e-mail address for entering sweepstakes, I also would not let the spam deter you from entering to win great prizes!  There are plenty of ways to manage your inbox, and seeing that “Congratulations!” message come in has always made it worth it to me.

Don’t Fall Victim to Scams!

You may have seen news articles about someone who fell victim to a sweepstakes scam.  Perhaps they lost money or their identity was stolen as a result.  How do you know when you’re being scammed?  How can you stay safe?

Most scams are e-mails, letters, or phone calls claiming that you have won a prize and requesting personal information or money in order to claim your prize.  It’s important to remember that a legitimate sweepstakes will never ask for your bank account information and there is never a fee to enter or claim your prize.

In my 5 years of entering sweepstakes, I have only received two scam messages.  One was a phone message telling me I’d won eleven free nights of camping.  The caller did not leave the name of the sweepstakes on her message, so I did a Google search for the phone number.  I came up with a private campsite in California that sells time shares.  Just to be sure, I then searched for the name of the campsite and the word “sweepstakes.”  Nothing came up but there were online complaints linked to the phone number. The complaints said they were called and told they won camping but were really targeted for a time share.  I decided not to call back, and they called me about a dozen more times before getting the message.

The other scam was a bit trickier.  I received a “Congratulations” e-mail that listed all the aspects of the prize that I had supposedly won, including airfare, hotel, activities and more.  I looked at my list of sweepstakes that I had entered and it wasn’t there, so I did a little more research just in case I had forgotten to track that one.  I searched Google for the sponsor and sweepstakes name and soon discovered there had been such a contest but that the entry period and prize was awarded one year ago to that day.  Someone else had won it, and now a scammer was using the company’s information about the prize to try to get me to respond with my personal information.  Luckily I caught on in time!

There are ways to stay safe from sweepstakes scams!

  1. Track Your Sweepstakes: If you didn’t enter it, you didn’t win it!
  2. Never give out bank account information or otherwise pay to claim a prize. A legitimate sweepstakes will never ask you for money.
  3. If you receive a vague win notification, be suspicious. Scam sweepstakes usually won’t know your name and won’t list the sweepstakes name or sponsor.
  4. Don’t be afraid to do a little research on the information in your win letter.  Approach it with a skeptical eye until the information can be verified.

4 Instant Wins You Should Enter Before They End!

Instant wins are especially exciting because you learn whether you have won a prize right away.  Sometimes instant wins come along that offer thousands of prizes or prizes with a very high value.  It’s fun to enter these!  There are four instant win sweepstakes going on now with good odds and good prizes.

RetailMeNot – What’s the Deal? Sweepstakes

Mars – Get Charged for the Holidays Sweepstakes

SC Johnson – Help Me Host Sweepstakes

SC Johnson – Help Get Me Home Sweepstakes

Good luck and let me know if you win and what it means to you!

You’re A Winner! Now About That Prize…

A big part of sweepstakes is waiting.  First you wait until the promotion conclusion to find out if you have won.  If you have and your prize is valuable, you may then wait until all proper paperwork is turned in and verified.  Finally you have to wait for your prize to arrive.

The promotion period could be as short as a day or even an hour, or it could be longer than a year.  The longer the promotion runs, it decreases your chances of winning because so many more people have the opportunity to enter.  Obviously, it also increases your wait time.

Hopefully you will soon get that “Congratulations!” message by e-mail, text, phone, or special delivery.  If the value is low, generally there is no paperwork and you can expect your prize to arrive no later than 6-12 weeks after your notification.  However, if you have won a more valuable prize, you may have to fill out an affidavit and other associated paperwork to verify yourself and for tax purposes.  Only after that is taken care of, and assuming you are verified, will you receive your prize.  Perhaps it’s a trip, a bicycle, a car, or that dream something you always wanted!

Other times, with lower value items, prizes may come unannounced.  I love waiting for the mail every day and love seeing a package truck on the street!  I have received many unexpected prizes such as gift cards and cosmetics this way.  I will open the package and, if there is a letter inside, I’ll usually say, “Oh, yes, I remember this sweepstakes!  I had no idea I was a winner!”

Lastly, I do want to remind you that you are responsible for taxes on your sweepstakes winnings.  So keep that in mind when you are entering contests valued at various amounts.

I hope you have been winning lots of great prizes and if you are just starting out, I can’t wait for you to get your first Congratulations! message.  Please let me know when you win!  I want to hear all about it!

Make Your Sweepstakes Entries Even Quicker!

There are helpful form filling programs out there that can make entering sweepstakes a breeze!

My favorite is Last Pass which has both a form fill feature and the ability to create and remember unique passwords for those sweepstakes that require passwords.  You tell the program what information you want automatically filled in when there is a form to fill (you are creating a profile).  Then you name that profile and save it.  When you are entering sweepstakes you simply need to choose Form Fills and the profile name (just 2 quick clicks) and your sweepstakes form will fill in the information automatically.

A couple words of caution about using form fill software.  First, not all sweepstakes allow this.  If it is not allowed, either the form will fail to populate or your sweepstakes entry may be disqualified.  Second, while the fields usually populate correctly, they don’t always.  It is safest to check that all your boxes are filled in correctly.  But overall, you will find that it saves a lot of time over typing out your information for each sweepstakes entry form.

For more form fill programs sweepers prefer check out this article on the Contests and Sweepstakes section of the About.com website: 5 Best Form-Filling Programs for Entering Sweepstakes.

(Note: I prefer Last Pass over internet browser form fill programs because it offers a tremendous amount of additional security.)