Saturday, February 23, 2008

Organization is key

The first thing to understand if you're a complete sweepstakes newbie is that each contest has it's own entry rules and requirements. It's ESSENTIAL that you follow the rules, otherwise you risk disqualification.

The two most common types of sweepstakes are "single entry" and "daily entry." Some contests allow you to enter once weekly, once monthly, or once every 24-hours. Less frequently, there are contests that permit hourly, quarterly, or unlimited entries. And of course, there are the real oddballs, where they let you enter 210 times, or 16 times, or 3 times -- some random amount. It's a lot to remember, which is why organization is essential.

There are many different approaches to tracking and organizing sweepstakes. One of the easiest approaches is to use the simple, built-in "My Sweeps" function available to members of I certainly recommend that approach as it not only provides a straightforward way to manage your multiple entry sweepstakes, but also allows you to keep track of all those contests you've already entered.

Some people use the "bookmark" feature in their browsers, organizing sweepstakes into folders by expiration date and entry type.

I've been sweeping for 10 years, longer than "My Sweeps" has existed. And, personally, I find the browser bookmark feature limited and frustrating. I developed an organization method when I started this hobby, and it works well for me, so I've continued to stick with it over the years. Here's how it works:

I created my own webpage (which I don't post online, it's on my local computer as a saved file, so it's private). It essentially amounts to a list of bookmarks for contests I enter. The webpage basically consists of three main sections: daily, weekly, and monthly contests. Every day, I enter all my daily and 24-hour contests. (I keep them in the daily section as I typically enter the same time every day, so the 24-hour restriction is not a problem in that regard.) I enter my weekly contests on Saturdays and my monthly contests on the first day of every month. Within each section, I organize the listings chronologically by expiration date.

Each morning, I enter all my daily contests first. I then enter weekly or monthly contests (if it's the appropriate day). Finally, I go to online-sweepstakes and add any new daily, weekly, or monthly contests I want to start entering to my list, while deleting any contests that expired that day. I also try to mark particular favorite contests with an asterisk, so if I have a very busy day, I can enter those contests only as a "short list" rather than completing every single entry. But my entry system is pretty efficient (more on that in a future post), so I can usually get through all my contests while drinking my morning coffee, entering lots of sweepstakes daily despite having a very intense job and two kids.

I also enter all new single entry sweepstakes I'm interested in on the day they are first posted to That way, I'm always up-to-date. They typically post between 100-200 new sweeps (of all types) daily, but there are many that I skip because I'm not interested in the prizes. Some people enter 1x entry contests on the day they expire. That could work too, but certain days (end of the month, and especially end of the year) have tons of contests ending on them, so I find entering on the day they're posted to be more manageable.

In terms of my personal contest webpage, it's very basic, just a list of links, so no major technical skill is required. I use Netscape Composer (which isn't even available anymore as a new program), so you get an interface that looks like Microsoft Word or Blogger -- no HTML needed. Front Page or any other web page software would work just as well. To access the page, I open a browser (I use Firefox), use the File/Open function in the toolbar, and I can access all of my live links. I actually bookmarked my contest page, so I can get to it easily from my browser even though it "lives" on my hard drive -- couldn't be easier.

My bookmark list looks something like this (only much longer):


March 2008

circuit city 3/8*
pizza hut 3/8*
pet ecology 3/9
ford 3/10

April 2008
GE 4/1*
ronzoni 4/1
rochester 4/3
old navy 4/3*


cbs 3/13
cw 3/17
brides 3/19
glad 3/21


arden 5/31
energizer 9/30
bargain outfitters 10/31
promise 11/30

[Obviously, those link to a random selection of sweepstakes that I'm entering -- so enjoy!]

For me, there are a few key advantages to this arrangement:
  1. I can add in any notes, codes, trivia answers, messages, etc. that I need to enter a particular contest.
  2. I can access the list even if is undergoing maintenance (very rare, but happens every once in a while).
  3. I can include sweepstakes from other sources than if I wish to, consolidating all my entries in one location.
  4. I can use the "Linky" add-on in Firefox to open many sweepstakes simultaneously, which allows for more efficient entry (more on this in a future post). has a similar feature called "Shazaam" -- but Linky works more efficiently for me.
  5. doesn't show up as my "referrer" when I click on external links to enter contests. (I don't know for certain that this really helps my winning track record, but I feel like it might. I also use the "block referrer feature on firefox -- more on that in a future post. Again, this may make no difference, but why mess with success?)
There are obviously many ways to keep track of your sweepstakes entries, and you need to find the one that works for you. And, as always, good luck.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Getting Started

When I first started sweeping, I found a website called that listed many internet sweepstakes. After a few months, I found some other sites that listed sweepstakes and began visiting several sites daily, but still was the best single resource for sweepstakes information at that time.

Eventually, became defunct, and I had no idea where to turn to get my sweepstakes "fix." Fortunately, I quickly discovered a new site -- -- that quickly put all other sites (including the lamented huronline) to shame. is without a doubt the best sweepstakes resource on the web. Thousands of members join together to surf the web and share information about current contests. There is no requirement to post new sweepstakes (particularly when you're new and just learning the ropes), but the collective efforts mean that over 100 new sweepstakes are posted daily. There is also a terrific community, collaborating to find answers to trivia contests, solving puzzles, sharing codes, and generally offering camaraderie for new and experienced sweepers alike.

When you visit for the first time, you'll see that the site offers a premium membership along with the general site access. Premium membership costs $30 annually, an amount that I find to be an incredible value. Premium members have access to more sweepstakes than regular visitors, including some of the lesser-known contests (with better odds) or sweepstakes with bigger prizes or more extensive prize offerings. You'll still find good prizes on the regular listings. In fact, some contests with ultra-fabulous prizes -- such as the annual HGTV Dream Home Giveaway are posted in the regular listings. Those contests are so widely known and well-advertised that everyone would find them anyhow. But premium members have access to some less-publicized gems that might otherwise be overlooked.

If you're brand new to sweeping, I would not necessarily opt for a premium membership right away. Start out with the regular access and make sure you really are ready to commit to the hobby before investing in a membership. Still, if you decide to dive in, a premium membership is well-worth it's modest cost.

Next week, organizing and entering contests...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

You've Got to Be in It to Win it

I started entering sweepstakes 10 years ago while working a job that involved a lot of downtime. (The job was task-oriented, and if assignments were completed without new ones waiting, we were basically allowed to hang out, chat, surf the internet, read, etc.) After a few months and spending countless hours online, I began to feel that the internet was a little bit like television -- a million channels, with nothing good to watch. Of course, this was at the very dawn of the era of blogging, before social networking and youtube -- but still, I got bored pretty quickly.

One day, I happened to land on a now-defunct sweepstakes website called On a whim, I decided to enter some sweepstakes to see what would happen. Almost immediately (which I now know to be unusual), I'd racked up my first win. It was nothing spectacular -- I'd won an Oscar Awards-themed gift basket, including movie candies and popcorn, plus a $100 gift card to buy movies. Still, I was hooked.

Since that time, I've won close to $100,000 in cash, gift cards, and prizes, including trips to Japan, Paris, Rome, London, California, and Florida, among others. People often say I'm "lucky," but the truth is, you've got to be in it to win it, and I am definitely in it. With patience, persistence, and a few key tips, you too can be a winner. On this blog, I'll share the secrets of my sweepstakes success.