Save Money on Christmas Gifts by Entering Contests

Guest post from Beeb of Contest Corner

These days, it’s extremely rare that I spend money out of pocket for birthday or Christmas presents. I have a variety of frugal strategies which I use to achieve this, but the most unorthodox one also happens to be one of my favorite pastimes: Entering sweepstakes, or “Sweeping”.

Yes, I’ve been able to utilize my hobby of entering contests to win a variety of great gift items over the years — everything ranging from camcorders to toys to MP3 players and more!

My “wins” have made for memorable and appreciated presents. But this isn’t the result of being especially “lucky”; it’s about using simple strategies to improve my odds of winning.

Here are a few tips for any novice who would like to try their hand at entering contests – and maybe even win a Christmas gift or two:

1. Think statistically.

People often dismiss giveaways thinking they’ll never win anything, but this simply isn’t true. If you enter consistently, odds are that one of these days you’re going to win something. And if you narrow down your options to sweepstakes with fewer entries, your chances increase exponentially.

2. Increase your odds.

Did you know that there are hundreds of blogs hosting giveaways that receive 200 entries or less? I’ve won so many prizes by focusing my attention on giveaways with low entries. For example, I won the computer which I am typing this from in a blog giveaway that had less than 100 entries.

So how do you find these giveaways in the first place? There are a variety of websites that list “Low-entry” giveaways – my favorite is Tight Wad in Utah, which maintains a daily round-up of giveaways with few entries.

3. Make a plan of attack.

Head to a reputable contest directory such as Online-Sweepstakes, where you can filter giveaway listings by prize and type of giveaway. For example, you could quickly conduct a search for current electronic giveaways hosted on blogs. Focus your attentions on contests for either products that your family would love or gift cards that you could use to buy presents with.

4. Use your time wisely.

You don’t need to sit around all day entering contests to win. Nowadays, I usually check out a low-entry link-up list such as the one I mentioned above, scan quickly for giveaways that I really like, and enter one or two. By focusing on more “winnable” giveaways, you make the most of your precious time.

5. Be realistic.

You are not guaranteed of any outcome when you enter giveaways, so you can’t plan on anything specific. Sweeping is one tactic that I use as part of an overall frugal lifestyle to reduce my expenses, and while I can’t plan for a specific prize the way I can plan for a coupon sale, using it as a part of my savings strategy has helped me save big over the years.

Do you enter giveaways? Have you ever won a present for somebody? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Beeb Ashcroft is a British journalist and “Sweeper” who lives on the Oregon coast. She teaches others the basics on how to enter sweepstakes and find “Winnable” giveaways on her blog, Contest Corner.

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Comments

  1. Deborah Auen says

    She must be lucky to have won so many…..I have entered several giveaways and never won…..I have to admit,I never seek out the bloga with low entry levels…I just enter the blogs giveaways that I follow and the ones I can actually use the prize for here or a gift…otherwise I dont bother,there is always some one who can use the item and it doesnt become clutter……Thanks for the great topic and I love your blog and you still inspire me even if I can never be at the level of consistancy and perfection you are with your groceries and cost….I will keep trying and I always think about your write up on being your personal best even if its not the place where someone else is…..forgive me, I forgot the title but that is what I took from it…..I started a very bad habit for the last several months,with some of the blogs I do follow…I see something that is such a bargain….I can’t resist and I end up spending more then I intended on that persons gift because now I have two inexpensive things for them….and I buy alot more then I normally would….somehow,I have to stop this it is sostink”n easy to do when the item is so cheap…..however,I am driving an 86 car that needs replaced so bad…I need to get to saving…..I thought about getting rid of my internet to stop this…..but I have it on my phone and find myself searching there too…..any advise on this?????I know this is rambling on but I guess when I started typing I had more on my mind then I thought…..Thank you

    • says

      I would start by changing to a phone without internet :)

      Perhaps you should focus more on blogs that don’t talk about spending money. There are blogs out there about saving money, too. Just focus on a few that really have things that you need.

      • Deborah Auen says

        This is good ideas,however…we have internet on are phone because our youngest son in college couldnt afford internet seperate in the city…It was less expensive to get on phones so he could access anytime for homework,school ect. we have been looking around for a better price,without luck….Its a great idea to delete some of the blogs.I dont think they plan to have you spend a ton of extra money….posting deals allday that are really good,it is just tempting when you agree it is a good deal and you will use whatever it is down the road as gifts ect. however,I need to practice more self control on what I purchase and when….its getting to be to much.Yes,its a good deal. However,there will always be another one.

  2. says

    yes! i definitely do this. i’ve won a lot of small things- product coupons for things i already buy (yogurt is the first thing that comes to mind), cookbooks, full size product samples of cereal, lotion, etc., as well as a few larger things: a set of pots & pans that i gifted to my mom (who was using her 30 year old wedding set), a bissel steam & sweep, and some other things too. i do only enter giveaways that i would either use or know someone who i could gift it to. i don’t want to acquire junk and i don’t want to be greedy.

    i think another tip for entering is to enter in blog contests that have low entries AND multiple entry methods. it may be a bit of a pain to post this link to twitter and pin this link and on and on, but if you enter in 5 ways & most people stop at 1, then you have even more of a chance to win.

  3. says

    This is great advice! I’ve been entering blog hosted giveaways for the last year or so and on average I’ve won at least 1 a month (if not more than that)! I also participate in a few Twitter parties each month. Between giveaways & Twitter party winnings I have about half of my Christmas shopping done and have spent less than $50 out of pocket!

  4. says

    I completely concur. I have won an American Girl doll for my daughter, numerous family outings (we most recently went to Disney on Ice and we’ll soon be going to a Toy and Game Fair), a cookbook, a scrapbook and digital pages, a cooler full of food with a store gift certificate, and many others. You can’t win if you don’t enter, so I always try to enter, especially those with low entries and ones with multiple ways to enter for better chances. And many of them really do not take much time!

  5. Sarah says

    Do you have a dummy email or do you hide things on FB? I just entered a bunch of contests but it seems like a lot of them will generate unwanted likes on FB or junk email.

    I won free cupcakes for a year from Gigi’s-it was a complicated entry process and there were probably only about 200 entries!

    • says

      Sarah, I would definitely recommend setting up an email account just for sweeps so that you can keep those newsletters separate from your personal/work correspondence. Just remember to check it every day so you don’t miss prize notifications! :) As for Facebook, I have so much stuff on there anyway that adding new likes doesn’t bother me, but if you prefer to streamline it you can always hide the posts or just skip those entries altogether.

  6. Andrea says

    A few months by accident I entered a contest (only did so cause I was waiting for a kid to finish something). I ended up winning a $300 from ebates. I ended up getting $350 due to the fact they accident sent me a check with the wrong amount–only $200 so then next month they sent me a $150. I am glad that child was being slow now :)

  7. Angela Anthony says

    Thank you! This is awesome. I’ve only won something once, and that was a year supply of cheese from Crystal Farms. This was nice to think of winning something for Christmas!

  8. Heather says

    I won a new car for a friend of mine. It required less than 300 words to describe why she was a fantastic volunteer–took about 10 min. to enter. They were giving away a car in every state, and they chose her. It helped that I live in a lower-population state.At that time, I used an email address I didn’t check very often, and almost missed the deadline to confirm my entry. It’s a very nice car; she loves it. They even gave her additional money to pay for the taxes!

  9. Blaire says

    This is a little hobby of mine as well! I have won over $5,000 worth of items in 2 1/2 years of doing this. Here is an instant win game you can play once a day until February 27th. 25,000 Hasbro toys will be given out. I won a Nerf gun worth $35.00 for my son for Christmas. good luck!

  10. says

    I too have entered contests and won some great prizes. I usually enter the 25WOL comps as less people seem to do those. Also, I run a blog in Australia and often have giveaways that are open to international entries. I am soon to do a 12 days of Christmas giveaway and I do not get large amounts of entries either. So I totally agree with you about blogs – much more of a chance of winning the giveaways then some other comps. Thansk for a great post. I really enjoyed it and you gave me some good tips .

  11. Erin K says

    Along with the tip to enter contests with less competition, here’s some advice from personal experience – look for ones that require some kind of work or talent (a contest rather than a sweepstakes). Two of my brothers won laptops that way using their computer skills, and I was a top 5 finalist in a $10,000 contest earlier this year for an essay I wrote. Whenever entrants are required to do a little work, the number of entries drops drastically (and your chances of winning go up). A lot of entrants don’t read the fine print and get disqualified too.

  12. says

    It always bothers me when bloggers require you to “follow” them in order to qualify for their giveaway. I’m grateful for the giveaways, but I don’t necessarily want to have to follow several blogs I’m not interested in reading on a daily basis. This is the main reason I avoid entering giveaways.

    Although I haven’t looked into this myself, when I took Blogelina’s blogging class, we were told that it was illegal to require anything other than a comment for a mandatory entry in a giveaway. You can give them extra entries, but it can’t be required. Just something to keep in my mind if you choose to host them.

    • says

      I hear you Chelsea, what I usually do is have an “Easy entry” where all they have to do is click the button on Rafflecopter to enter; then they take other actions for extra entries if they so desire. When giveaways are complicated to enter, they are usually a turnoff to a lot of people. (But on the flip side, that also means they can be easier to win due to lower entries, so sometimes I prefer complex entries if it’s a prize I really want to win – haha!)

  13. Heather says

    I enter some of these once in awhile and it always seems that I win things that we relly need. Although one year we did a donation to the Arbor Tree Foundation and didn’t realize we had an entry to a drawing. We moved and 3 months later a package showed up at our new house. I thought that had sent it to us by mistake and called to let them know I did not order $150.00 in coffee from them. They laughed and said I had won the year supply of coffee drawing. Ooops. But it was really good coffee.

    • Tori says

      Heather, WOW!!!! I wish I had that kind of luck! A year supply of coffee is a FABULOUS homewarming gift! Yum!

  14. Elena Kwan says

    Hi I just recently subscribed to your facebook. Thank you for posting this. I had the idea that I never win anything and I’m never lucky so hopefully, I will win something in one of these low entry giveaways using the websites you provided. Are there any other online sweepstakes that you use besides the ones you provided here ? Again, thanks so much for the tips. I’m always on a budget and it’s so hard when you need something or like something, you can’t get it..

  15. Jaclyn says

    So now that 250,000 people have read this…. will there be any low entry giveaways ever again? Hahaha….

    • Erin says

      My thoughts exactly! But in a couple months or so, that traffic will have dried up as people lose interest when they don’t win. :)

      That said, I’ve won quite a few giveaways over the past couple years, and they are typically *not* low-entry giveaways, which seems strange. The larger prizes I’ve won include a kick-start scooter for my son last Christmas, a $125 check from Ebates this summer, and just a couple weeks ago, a $300 gift card to Walmart. These sites had lots of entries. I’m convinced I won the gift card because no one claimed the prize within the allotted 48 hours–and I believe that happens a lot. People use junk email accounts and forget to check them or don’t check their spam folders.

      Also, regarding low-entry giveaways, the prizes aren’t usually as good and fulfillment can be spotty. I religiously enter the giveaways on a small local blog because I use the match-ups weekly, and I finally won months ago but haven’t received the prize and don’t expect to. Bigger blogs have bigger prizes because they have a larger readership, and they tend to be more professional because they are run like a business, not just a pastime.

      Just my two cents!

      • says

        Haha good point! ;) In all seriousness, I don’t think a lot of views will affect it much. Most people think that entering sweepstakes is a great idea, but aren’t interested enough to pursue it seriously themselves or run out of steam after a few months as Erin pointed out. And even when extremely low-entry giveaways end up getting attention and more entries, the odds are still in your favor. Even a hugely successful blog giveaway will still have significantly lower entries than a traditional national sweepstakes.

        Re what Erin said, it is true that not all low-entry prizes are for things that you’d really want, so there are plenty I skip over. But I’ve won so many great and truly useful things that it’s still very much worth my while – the last thing I won via a low-entry listing on Tight Wad in Utah for a $100 Walmart gift card. I also won the computer that I’m typing this comment on via a low entry giveaway. :)

        As for fulfillment, yes, that can be an issue on any blog and indeed, any sweepstakes – even one that you see advertised on TV. While larger blogs are usually much more professional due to it being a business for the webmaster, I don’t discount the smaller/hobby blogs either because I’ve gotten tons of great stuff in prizes from them. In 4 years of sweeping, I’ve only had a few prizes go MIA, so it’s totally worth it for me.

        Thanks for all the great comments, everyone! I love “Talking sweeps” – I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner, I actually didn’t know this had gone up until late yesterday! Been a crazy week! :)

  16. Linda Dietz says

    Thanks for the info! However, you’ve given away a secret site that I never dreamed even existed! Are there others? Aren’t you afraid you’ll diminish your chances of winning…although, we all have “a chance” if we enter, huh?

    • says

      Hi Linda! :)

      No, I don’t worry about “Keeping it a secret”, haha! I run a contest website and I try to write as many articles as I can to teach other people my tips for winning. Although most people think it’s a great idea, realistically, few of them have the interest to actually pursue it.

      And yes, there are actually many places where I find low-entry giveaways! I had to keep this article brief for space constraints, but I have a full list here:

      http://www.contest-corner.com/odds-of-winning/

  17. Shannon says

    I have to admit that I am one of those people who have entered lots of contests & won! I love contests but you have to enter to win. I always say you win some, you loose some. It does help to enter low entry contests. I have won some contests this way. Some of the big items I have won have been an XBox 360 & Kinect game system with 2 games, electric guitar (that I did not remember entering), a baby mattress, a toddler bed, several strollers–yes, I said several, $100 Walmart giftcard, Kolcraft excersaucer, & more. I have won some things that have never been sent to me. I won a gift certificate to a company last year around Christmas time from a blog that had done a nice review about the company & I emailed several times to the company & the blog & my prize never came. After reading another blog where the person said they had given good reviews to a company then was warning people to be careful because the company never came through with what they promised is when I took action & began to contact the blog but still never received my prize. I always enter things that would be for my children. My husband always asks when I am going to win a car or a house. I will have to check this blog out even if the “secret” is out.

  18. Eve says

    I hardly enter any sweepstakes, thinking I’ll never win anything. Do I have to subscribe to those blogs, if I enter their “giveaways”?

    • says

      Eve, entry requirements vary from blog to blog, so my advice would be to just skip ones with that requirement if you don’t wish to subscribe or set up a second email account just for contests. On the giveaways which I host on my own site, I make an effort to keep most of them “Easy entry” – IE just click a button to enter, as I know complicated entries are a turn-off to most!

  19. Lucy says

    I always enter contests, but hardly ever win. The only thing I’ve ever won online was here…and it was organic candy! I read the post above and went to the website that was recommended, but is it just me or are these giveaways confusing as to what you have to do to enter?? I don’t understand what they’re asking for in some cases. Other times they want you to go to another website and comment on something, and I can never find an area to comment in. Why do they make it so difficult to follow the rules? I suppose if you do it enough you get used to their ways, but just starting off, they need a tutorial for us beginners. Or……….maybe just for me!

      • Lucy says

        Hi Beeb…
        I can’t thank you enough for offering your help to me to try and figure out how to enter these giveaways! Lots of times they abbreviate things and I have no idea what the abbreviations mean. I will definitely look up your tutuorial and if I still have questions, I will take you up on your generous offer and ask you what the heck they’re talking about! HA….Thanks for helping a newbie! You’re very kind….
        Lucy….

        • says

          You’re very welcome Lucy! I know what you mean, there’s definitely a learning curve as you figure out the terminology and get a feel for how they’re laid out. Get in touch anytime, I love to chat sweeps with people! :)

  20. says

    Thanks to Money Saving Mom (Crystal) posting about the 10th birthday of Snapfish, I won an HP Mini computer that I’m typing on now. I still can’t believe it. I also won a collage a few days later from Snapfish.

    It never hurts to enter!