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"Getting money is like digging with a needle;
spending it is like water soaking into sand."

Japanese Proverb




Make Extra Money or Win Prizes by Entering Contests

One of my friends retired a few years back and moved to a resort area. Her full time job these days is entering the contests that the local hotels and restaurants set up to market their establishments. It is amazing how much stuff she has won. She got her driveway paved and won a scuba diving trip to the Caribbean all for free or for the nominal cost of raffle tickets. She does buy raffle tickets sometimes, so her costs are not always zero, but usually the raffles she enters are for charities. In that case she feels that even if she doesn't win, the money is going to a good cause. We usually visit our friend once a year or so, and we get to eat out and see a lot of local attractions either for free or at deep discounts just because of her prize collection.

If you have a regular job I certainly would not advocate leaving it to become a professional contest person, but if you are not doing anything else with your time entering free contests may be something to consider. Or, if you like to spend your free time shopping, entering contest instead may actually save you money by not spending it shopping!

Here are some tips for making the most of contests:

1. In my experience, local church, school and charity raffles often have the best odds of winning and the best prize values for the money. I used to buy hundreds of dollars worth of tickets at my kids' school raffles and usually received many nice prizes including lots of free restaurant gift certificates, a wine rack, and a MP3 player.

2. Local contests are usually going to have less participants than national contests. So all other things being equal, for a contest with a nice trip as a prize, spend your stamp on the entry form for the local contest rather the national one.

3. Even with national contests, you'd be surprised sometimes at how little competition there is. A friend of my mine works for a national store chain that sponsored a contest that was free to enter and had $10,000 worth of prizes. Interestingly, only a thousand entries were received. From a marketing standpoint the contest was a dismal failure, but for the people entering the contest the odds were fantastic compared to others with prizes of that value.

4. My friend who enters contests for a living listens to a radio station each day that has prizes for calling in at different times and being the lucky caller. She has won prizes this way several times, and didn't even have to pay for a stamp to send in an entry.

5. The search engine Iwon gives out prizes just for using their search engine.

6. To find contests on the Internet, use a search engine and type in things like:

free contests

free sweepstakes

Here are a couple of links to get you started:

Freebie List

TheFreeSite.com: Sweepstakes and Contests

Hint: Typing in 3, 4 and 5 word search terms will get you some of the more obscure contests available online, and that may mean less contestants. Use iwon for your search engine you may even win something just by searching for contests!


7. You can also use Google alerts to find out when new contests and sweepstakes web pages enter Google's index.

8. You are still liable for taxes on prizes you win, so before you accept any prizes make sure it is something that you can either use or resell. You don't want to have to pay taxes on a trip that you didn't get to take.

One thing to keep in mind is that marketers often use drawings and raffles to get your name for marketing information. So if you live in the U.S. and do decide to enter a lot of contests, it may help to limit the number of marketing solicitations you receive by phone and email by:

1. Putting your name on the Federal Trade Commission's do not call list to avoid calls by telemarketers.

2. Signing up at the Direct Mail Marketing web site to have your name removed from their members' lists.

raffle ticket   Remember that when entering contests, only give out limited personal information for entries such as your name and address. You don't want to give out any information that could be used by unscrupulous marketers for identity theft.



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