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                        The Contest Cupboard
                                                                                                              (A PART OF BEVERLY'S BUNGALOW)
I started entering contests on the web about four years ago, and while I haven't won the "big" one, I've won a lot more often than I ever did with the mail-in's I used to do.  With that in mind, I thought I'd share some of my favorite sites and tips with you.
This is a hobby that can be shared by all members of the family and can sometimes be very rewarding.  It's always a lot of fun!

First of all, let's talk about the difference between a contest and a sweepstakes.
1. Usually involves some sort of participation by the entrant.
       Invent a new recipe, write an essay,  answer trivia questions, scavenger hunts, or some other means of testing an entrants skill.
2. Usually judged on merit not a random draw.
3. More difficult to enter since you must complete the requirements in order to qualify.
4. Usually have fewer entrants so the odds of winning are a little better.  Personally I really enjoy the trivia contests and the scavenger hunts.  I'm not really skilled at writing essays or inventing recipes, so I usually don't enter these types.

1. A straight giveaway, no skill is involved.
2. You enter the required information and a winner is drawn randomly from all entries.
3. Very easy to enter.
4. There are usually more entrants in sweepstakes since no special skills are required to enter.

Costs and Fees
1. A raffle requires the purchase of a ticket and then the winner is drawn randomly from all the ticket stubs.
2. NEITHER contests nor sweepstakes require a purchase to enter.
3. Some contests require a non refundable entry fee.  If they do have an entry fee, I don't do them.  There are plenty without such a rule.
3. A legitimate sweeps/contest will NEVER have you send them money to claim your prize-these are scams and to be avoided!
4. Legitimate sponsors will NOT have you call a 900 or other chargeable number to claim your prize.
5. Some sponsor's WILL ask you to pay shipping/handling costs for your prize, this is legitimate and always stated in the rules.  If you don't want to pay the shipping/handling don't enter these sweeps/contests.

1. The most important thing to remember when entering any contest or sweepstakes is to READ THE RULES and FOLLOW THEM EXACTLY!  I can't emphasize this enough.  If your entry is incomplete or you enter too often or with the wrong material you WILL be disqualified.  Double check your entries to make sure the information you've given is correct.  You can't win if a sponsor is unable to get in touch with you.
It doesn't matter whether you are entering your contests on line or by mail, the rules are the most important part of your decision to enter.
2. Things to consider before entering ANY contest/sweepstakes
    A. Are you eligible for the contest?   Age, location, type of employment, and ending dates for entry, are all  things that may be specified in the rules.
    B.  Is the prize something you want? If it isn't something that you really want for yourself or your family you should pass on the contest.  There are always people who really want the prizes you hate.  There is no joy in being greedy and winning a contest just because you entered and then getting a prize you hate and will never use.  For example: I don't usually enter contests for trips unless they are for 4 people.  I would want my entire family to share in my win.
    C. How often can you enter?  When is the deadline for entry/s?  All of these questions will be covered in the rules.  Enter every contest that you really want to win as many times as you legally can to increase your odds of success.  On the web you'll find daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly and some even hourly or more frequent entries.

One of the best sites I found regarding sweeping and the law and particularly the internet is "Contests and Sweepstakes Law"
website, maintained by the law firm of Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn in Washington, DC.

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Now that you know the basics, where do you go to enter these great contests?
As you decide to enter more and more contests, you will probably find it easier if you organize your bookmarks.
I have my bookmarks organized as follows:
   Lists of Sites
   Ongoing contests/games
   One Time Entry
      One Time Entry- completed
      One Time Entry- do later
   Daily Contests
   Weekly Contests
      and so forth
   Monthly Contests
      Enter Early in month
      Enter Late in month
      Must enter every month
      May enter any time during month
   Sites with Answers
   References for Trivia
This will do for a start, you may want to further customize your bookmarks to fit your needs and desires. Do whatever makes keeping track of your contest entries easier for you.
There are many many sites out there on the web offering contests/sweeps to generate traffic to their business', you just have to look for them.  A really terrific spot to learn about contests, get your questions answered, and just meet a lot of really nice sweepers is Blondie's newsgroup.  The folks that visit this newsgroup are friendly, willing to share tips and answers.  They also post a lot of new contests for you to enter.
I visit here usually once a day, just to see what's going on.

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Here is a list of some of the sites I check the most frequently for new contests.
1. Sweeping the USA-  Terry Delosh has done an incredible job of listing contests that can be entered daily, weekly, monthly, etc.  Also lists #800 call in contests and mail in contests.  Terry also has a free newsletter and lots of other good information.  Frequently updated.
2. ThreadTreader's WWW Contest Guide-  The first and still one of the best sources of contests available on the web.  They list by prizes and alphabetically.  Also have a list of what's ending soon.  They include some contests that require a fee to enter, but these are clearly marked.
3. Ray's Coffee Break- Lists free stuff, fun stuff, useful stuff, and sweeps.  On his home page he even gives you his quick "in and out" recommendations for a sweepstakes, something you can sign up for for free and an interesting site to visit.  Well worth going to visit often.
4. Huron Online- Another great source for contests/sweeps.  Updated daily.  They even run their own sweeps as well.
5. Games and Giveaways-  Greg has so many things on his site! He has started a "Contest Chain" fot daily, weekly, and monthly contests so that you can just click through from one site to another rather than using bookmarks. (Most of the contests I enter aren't in the chain, unfortunately).  He has Lists of Contests, and Answers to several of the ongoing contests. He has screensavers, a contest of his own, a list of "freebies".  Always fun to visit!
6. Volition to Get Free Stuff- Sometimes I can't believe all the different things they have listed on their site.  Updated frequently.  Contests, freebies, links to interesting sites, a shopping agent, a list of survey sites, coupon sites, download sites......... There's just so much...........Just GO there!
7.SquirrelDon's Sweepstakes and Freestuff! - Sweepstakes, educational resources, free products & services, free catalogs, and more!
8. The Contest Catalogue- Hundreds of contests listed sorted by type and frequency.  Always a good site to check out, there are some here that the others miss.
9. Broomsticks- VERY well organized site.  Still under construction as it gets up and running.  Keep up with the New and Ending Soon pages and you'll find your contesting goes a little easier.

10. Freaky Freddies- You'll just have to visit here and pore over all the things he has to offer!  There's just so many things on his pages: Contests/sweeps, freebies, and more.
11. Free Contest City- Enter to win TONS of free contests. Prizes range from mousepads to exotic dream vacations! Sabrina updates these contests about every 4 or 5 days, so everything here is current.  This is a good place to start out your week's additions of new contests.
12. Stuff to Win- Geraldine has a very organized contest listing site. Contests are broken down by how often you can enter.  The monthly entry contests are even broken down alphabetically.  Easy to find what you're looking for and still not feel overwhelmed.
13. Iskander's Lucky Lamp- Holly's site is like an old friend to me.  One of the first sites I found that listed contests all in one place and wasn't a search engine.  Well worth your visit.

For those of you who would like to either continue or begin sweeping by mail.  The very best site for information about mailins is Susan Donahue's Winning Ways site.  All the information you'll need to enter this type of sweeps/contests is here. Tips, supplies you'll need, hints about entering.  She also has a newsletter that you can subscribe to for even more information and mailin sweeps. ($20/year or $2 by single issue)  I can't recommend this site highly enough.  Enjoy!!!!!!!!



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