Have you ever seen one of those ads urging you to “Enter now for your chance to win a car/$1,000 cash/a lifetime supply of Cheerios!” and wondered if anyone actually enters those contests? Better yet - who actually wins those contests?
I met Stephanie in one of Wisebread’s weekly tweet chats and we got to talking about such matters as sweepstakes and giveaways. Come to find out, this girl not only enters them ALL THE TIME, but she even wins on occasion and she considers the whole thing a nice hobby and side business. Meet Stephanie, a 24-year-old woman rocking the frugal lifestyle in the midwest and has been using the “odds of winning” as a practical way to make some extra money!
So, Stephanie, how long have you been entering contests and giveaways?
Pretty much since I started college, so probably about 5 or 6 years.
How did you first get into it?
When I first started out, it was just a good time waster. It just thought, “Wow, that would be fabulous if I won a car!” So I entered things that had pretty bad odds, winning things here or there - it was just something fun to do. Then I did more research, and eventually started thinking of it as a part time job. I definitely think it fits into a frugal lifestyle: I’ve managed to stay out of debt, I use coupons, and I also have an entertainment budget and manage to put a lot into savings. I think of it as another way to earn money.
Where did you start looking for contests to enter?
One of my favorite websites is slickdeals.net. It’s a very popular website and I don’t know how I got into it. It’s basically a big forum for posting great deals people find at different stores and coupons. Once I was there I noticed they had a contests and sweepstakes forum. I started entering there and over the years and through research I found other websites I liked.
Do you usually keep things you win or sell them?
One thing people don’t realize is that everything you win you have to count as income. Most people think that if you don’t get a 1099 form then you don’t have to claim it, which is not true. I know someone who won like $2000 in jeans and I can’t even imagine the taxes on that! I am pretty cautious about what I enter and I have declined prizes before. I try to enter contests for things I want to keep or things that will earn [my husband and I] some money. I also get a lot of birthday gifts through contests. I usually keep gift cards and cash prizes. I recently won a TV and a Kindle, which I kept. It’s also fun to donate wins too! A lot of stuff is perfect for charity auctions or kids programs.
What are some of the coolest things you have won from sweepstakes and giveaways?
I won several computers, ipad, iphone - which I was able to sell pretty easily. I’ve won a lot over the years.
What would be your dream prize?
One of my ultimate goals is to win a trip, but that has not happened yet. I am careful about the things I enter. If it happens when I’m 50 that would still be cool. The kindle was not really a big dollar amount, but I wanted it anyway so it was cool.
What advice do you have for others who are interested in pursuing this as a hobby or side business?
You get out what you put into it. You have to be patient, you have to persevere. I didn’t win anything last month, but other months I win a ton. You have to look at it as a task, don’t get attached; don’t imagine “What if this happened?What if I won this?!” Don’t get too emotional. There are communities out there, online and probably in person too, where you can connect and get advice from other people. You can get advice and get a sense of what others are entering and winning.
What is your favorite thing about entering sweepstakes?
It’s a fun extra hobby, a great conversation starter. Instead of just saying “I’m left handed!” or “I’m from Alaska!” It’s just something fun to tell people about. And sometimes you win really weird stuff, which is great for gag gifts. Like I recently was notified that I had won a life-size Alvin and the Chipmunks statue worth $1000. And I was like, “Why would someone even want this? Why is it even worth $1000?” But it’s out there, and it would make a great gag gift!