A trip to New York City (with spa treatments, a Broadway show and a three-night stay in a $600-per-night hotel), a trip to see the Broncos play the Raiders in California, $600 in Colorado Lottery scratch tickets*, 50,000 miles from United Airlines, travel vouchers from Frontier Airlines, an iPad Mini and dinner with a big-time celebrity — these are some of the big prizes I’ve won entering sweepstakes. (For those new to “Bryan Blathers” — click here to read how I won dinner with Paula Abdul. The story is embarrassing, but true!)
Along with big prizes, I have also won numerous smaller prizes, including concert tickets, gift cards and free items — everything from a jar of pasta sauce to a football. I keep a journal of all of my wins — big and small. (I still remember my first win from KMGH in elementary school. I won a stuffed teddy bear from the “Noell & Andy” show. Does anyone else remember that show? I was so excited to hear my name announced on TV!) I seem to win a good prize every few months. And, by “good”, I mean anything valued at $25 or more. UPDATE: Yesterday, I won VIP tickets (with a meet & greet) to see Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on June 5 — plus, $100 to spend on food and drinks at the venue!
Everyone thinks I’m lucky, but I’m not. The trick to winning a sweepstakes is to…(drum roll, please) just enter. I already check every promo sign I see for bargains, rebates or bonus offers. However, I also keep an eye out for sweepstakes. I have a touch of OCD, so I always have to read the fine print. (I’m the one at the store, down on my knees, writing down the fine print at the very bottom of the promo display.) That’s where you find the entry period, entry limits (again, read my story about meeting Paula Abdul) and any AMOE (alternate method of entry.)
Here’s what I look for before entering a sweepstakes or giveaway: I prefer local sweepstakes (limited to Denver, Colorado or the region.) I also like sweepstakes with a very limited entry period — usually a month or less. And, finally, I always zero in on sweepstakes with multiple entry opportunities. (I keep a stack of stamped postcards on my desk exclusively for mail-in entries.)
Where do I find all of my sweepstakes? I find them everywhere — in-store, on Twitter, on Facebook, in the newspaper, in advertisements, on the radio/TV, at grand openings and on local media websites. There are more local sweepstakes and giveaways than you think.
With these three standards, I have won lots of local sweepstakes (probably about 75% of my wins) — obviously because I’m putting the odds in my favor. With local sweepstakes, you are, more than likely, competing with hundreds or thousands of other entries. Whereas, with a national sweepstakes, the number of entries skyrockets. However, I must admit, I have won the best and biggest prizes from national sweepstakes. Yes, I still enter national sweepstakes for cars, trips or big bucks — just not with as much fervor.
That’s not to say, I don’t appreciate a $25 or $50 gift card. For a bargain hunter like me, a gift card is a bonus and budget-stretcher. I never use a gift card at face value. I always spend it with a coupon, sale price or promo. I can often double its value. (I won a $100 Conoco gift card a few weeks ago, so that’s 5 fill-ups for FREE!)
FUN FACT: Did you know there’s a difference between a sweepstakes and contest? A sweepstakes is won by chance and a contest is won by skill.
I’m due for another “big” win. There’s nothing like opening your e-mail inbox (but not in the Spam folder, those are usually fake) and seeing “Congratulations” in one of the subject lines or getting a knock on the door from the FedEx guy needing your signature for a package or confirmation letter.
In the end, I know I’m not that lucky. I simply do what most other people won’t do — stop at every entry pad I see and enter. And, always, always, read the fine print. It’s just takes a few seconds to complete the form and the pay-off could be big…or, at least, a free dinner or show tickets.
If you start entering sweepstakes, good luck! Just know you have a little friendly competition out there and he’s entering as often as you are and reading the official rules to get an advantage over you.
(*With so many tickets, I was sure there would be a big cash prize in the lot. Let me tell you, it’s a fun hour of scratching 60 $10 lottery tickets! However, in the end, my biggest prize was $50 — with a total haul of about $200.)
Do you enter sweepstakes? Have you ever won a big prize?
I look forward to our next chat. And, remember, there’s always a deal, you just need to look for it. :-)
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