Where Logic Meets Love

Sweepstakes Tips

Friday, March 26, 2010

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Sweepstakes Tips | Faith Permeating Life
I've been Facebooking quite a bit lately about my sweepstakes entries and wins, and I thought I would share how I do sweeps. There are a lot of better sites/blogs out there about sweepstakes that can give you more detailed information, but this is just the routine that I have set up, using the technology available to me. It includes both sweepstakes entries and "freebies"--I've managed to acquire quite a lot of free toiletries and other things in the past few months that were given away just for signing up.

The Discovery
How do I discover new sweepstakes to enter? The majority of them come from three main sites: Sweepstakes Advantage, Sweeties Sweeps, and About.com Sweepstakes. About.com and Sweeties also have Freebies sites.

Because of the tools I use, I don't have to go visit these sites every day. I use Google Reader, which I love for reasons outside of sweepstakes, which allows me to get updates any time new entries are added to the Sweeties or About.com sites. Because I subscribe to Sweepstakes Advantage, I get one e-mail every day that has links to all the sweepstakes that have been added that day and all the ones that are going to expire that day.

My preference is to have the freebies sites feed into my normal Google Reader, the one associated with my personal e-mail address where I collect all the blogs and other sites I read, and the sweepstakes sites feed into the Google Reader associated with my sweeps Google e-mail address (see below). That's just because I leave my regular Google Reader open all day along with my Gmail, and often freebies are only open to the first 1,000 people or something so you have to enter for them right away. All the sweeps stuff I leave for later, when I get home from work.

I am also a fan of Sweeties Sweeps on Facebook, where sometimes she posts sweeps before she puts them on the regular site.

One other tip for finding freebies, but only if you're willing to wade through a lot of stuff: You can set up a Google Reader feed that includes Google News stories with certain words in them, so I have one that gives me stories with the phrase "giving away" or "freebies" minus stories about basketball or bingo, because those are apparently what most stories with the word "freebies" are about. Additionally, you can set up a Google Reader feed for Twitter tweets about freebies, but that's really only if you want to stay on top of it constantly!

The Setup
As I mentioned, I have a separate Gmail account I use only for sweeps. It's pretty much a necessity to have a separate e-mail address. I've managed to avoid getting any real spam, but a handful of sweepstakes require you to sign up for some kind of newsletter, so those all get funneled to this e-mail address, along with the Sweepstakes Advantage digests, "thanks for entering our sweeps" e-mails, and "don't forget your daily entry" reminders from certain sweeps. Obviously you don't have to use Gmail, but since I use both the Google Reader and Google Calendar tools, it makes the most sense for me.

There are three main kinds of sweepstakes I enter: One Entry, Daily Entry, and Instant Win. For my purposes, Daily Entry and Instant Win are handled the same way. Sometimes they're combinations, like you play an instant win game and even if you don't win, you still receive your daily entry in the grand prize sweepstakes. There are other types of sweeps, like Twitter and Facebook sweeps, blog sweeps, essay-writing sweeps, and others, but I prefer the straight-up fill-out-a-form sweepstakes.

I use Google Calendar to organize my sweepstakes entries. When I find a new sweepstakes, I look at two things: One, whether I can enter once or every day (the latter being either daily entry or instant win), and if it's every day, I see when the sweepstakes ends. On the three sites where I find most of my sweeps, this information is included in the description. Then I click in the "all day" section on the calendar for today's date, type the name of the sweepstakes, then go to "edit event details" and copy the URL into the location. If it's a daily sweepstakes, I change the "Repeats" info to "Daily" and the ending date to the last date of the sweeps. If it's a one entry sweepstakes, I type "one entry only" in the description.

The reason I include the one-entries on my calendar is so I don't accidentally enter the same one-entry sweepstakes twice. Some will just throw out duplicate entries, but some will disqualify you altogether if you try to enter more than once. Another reason I love Google Calendar--it has a search feature built in, so when I find a one-entry sweepstakes I can search on my calendar to see if I've already entered it.

When I go to do my sweepstakes entries for the day, all I have to do is go down the list--I click the "location" button next to the sweepstakes name, highlight and copy the URL, then do cmd-T cmd-V to open a new tab and paste the URL in. I know there's a faster way to open multiple sites, but I haven't found one that combines with the calendar to automatically give me a list of only those sweepstakes that are still active.

The Entry
The first time I find a sweepstakes, I judge its trustworthiness. If it's posted on Sweeties or About.com, I usually trust it, because those are pretty well screened. The ones on Sweepstakes Advantage are more numerous but a lot sketchier. Sometimes people will comment to say it's a scam, but a lot of them I have to figure it out myself. If the first part of the URL is a well-known company's site, great, but if not, I go to the Privacy Policy. If it doesn't have one, I don't trust it. The part of the Privacy Policy I focus on most is what they will do with my information. If they say they will give it to third parties, I don't enter. Sometimes it depends on what information it is--if it's my name and e-mail address, it's not as big of a deal as if it's my address and phone number. And I always enter the minimum amount of information, not filling in optional fields.

Also watch out for checkboxes--check only the ones you have to check to enter, like "I am 18 or older" and "I agree to the Official Rules." Uncheck anything subscribing you to their newsletters, unless you want them, of course. Sometimes it's unavoidable to subscribe, which doesn't really bother me since I have this separate e-mail address, but if you don't want to be inundated, check the Privacy Policy for how you can unsubscribe after they start e-mailing you. Once you've entered a sweepstakes a few days in a row, you memorize the checkbox pattern and don't have to pay as close attention to what you're checking and unchecking anymore.

Another thing to pay attention to is how many times you can enter per day. If it's more than one, I include that (e.g., 4x) in the sweepstakes name on my Google Calendar so I don't forget.

I use Safari because it has an "Autofill" button you can install on the toolbar, and so after I've entered a sweepstakes the first time, all I have to do the next day is click the button and it fills in all my info, minus any drop-downs, which are usually just State and sometimes Birthdate. This makes it go really quickly. If you're not on a Mac, there's something called Roboform(?) that only works on Windows, but it's apparently what most hardcore sweepers use.

My fingers are trained by now to open new tabs and copy without thinking about it, so I highlight a URL, cmd-C cmd-T cmd-V all in one swoop, and then click back and highlight another URL while that page is loading. That's how I'm up to 70-ish sweeps in an hour.

One helpful hint: Companies cannot require you to buy anything to enter a sweepstakes. Sometimes this means you have to mail them an index card if you want to enter, but most of the time this means you can get a free code on their site. So if it ever asks you to enter a code from a product, look for a "Don't have a code?" link or look through the rules for the "Alternative Method of Entry." I use this all the time to enter sweepstakes on My Coke Rewards.

Those are the basics. So far I've won a $10 Home Depot gift card, some recipe books, a $10 iTunes gift card (that was actually just for entering a sweepstakes), a free appetizer or dessert at TGIF's, a free pizza and two sodas from Papa John's, and a $10 Restaurant.com gift certificate. Even though these are small things, they still make a difference for us--we don't have the money to order pizza, so it's a treat to get it for free. From freebies sites I've gotten free toothpaste, tampons, a full-size bottle of shampoo, a bottle of Excedrin, and a coupon for a free Heluva Good dip.

Oh! One more thing and this might sound dumb, but it's one of the top tips I got when I started reading about sweepstakes sites: Make sure you actually want the prize. There are bajillions of sweeps out there, and you could enter them all and increase your chances of winning, but you'd probably end up with a bunch of crap you didn't want. Unless you have a quick and effective way of selling off unwanted items, don't bother--especially because you still have pay taxes on any wins. I primarily enter sweeps for cash, gift cards, and occasionally trips, but not many because I won't have many vacation days available at work this year after going to Ireland in June. I don't want to win a prize I can't use when someone else could have it instead.

I also do online surveys (got $25 recently for one of them) and also use Swagbucks, but those are for another day . . . :)

P.S. I almost forgot the most important part--you can often get extra entries for inviting a friend. I never do this (because I think it's rude to send people unwanted e-mail), but I am looking for a sweepstakes buddy who wants to find out about new sweeps and get me bonus entries, and vice versa. I just need to know your "sweeps" e-mail address if you want to be my sweeps buddy!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all the tips! I was wondering what a reputable sweeps company would be. I already use swagbucks too and do a lot of surveys so this will be a great addition. And I would love to be your sweeps buddy if you still need one. Just facebook message me and let me know and I can send you my email address :)


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