Many people who know me are familiar with my hobby of entering contests and sweepstakes. I started entering these online giveaways about 15 years ago, and in that time I’ve been fortunate to win many fun and exciting prizes. Since I’m a travel junkie, my favorite prizes are trips, of course. Since 2003, I’ve won trips to California, Iceland, Mexico, France, New York, Florida, Maine and Nashville (that one I gave to my sister!). Besides trips, I’ve won various gift certificates, shopping sprees, gift packages, books, cd’s, dvd’s and other fun stuff, including $5,000 in cash. So how do I win all this stuff? I’ll be walking you through my system in a series of blog posts.
If you decide you want to take up entering contests and sweepstakes as a hobby, the first thing you’ll need to do is to establish a separate email address. You can use any of the free email service providers, such as Gmail, Yahoo, Juno, etc. When you enter online contests and sweepstakes, you’ll receive email communications from many of the companies who sponsor the giveaways. Unless you want to wade through all those marketing messages to check for any important personal emails, having them in a separate account will help you to save time and, depending on the email software you use, classify your incoming mail so you won’t miss a winning notification.
Gmail, for example, allows you to create folders within your inbox. In my Gmail account, I created a folder specifically for Sweepstakes, where I park all the emails advertising new sweepstakes and contests. I’ve also created other folders for things I’d like to save or file away later, like Recipes, Coupons, etc.
You want to be sure to check the email account you use to enter contests and sweepstakes at least every other day. Many contest wins will require that you respond to your notification email within 48 hours. You should also check your spam email folder to be sure you don’t miss a notification. You can mass-delete the other emails, or move only the winning ones and the ones announcing new contests or sweepstakes to another folder.
Once you’ve set up your “sweepstakes-only” email account, you can use it to enter contests and sweepstakes you find online. Finding them will be the focus of my second blog post in this series.