Entering Sweepstakes the Frugal Way

by Susan Donahue

Many people have been entering the online sweepstakes more than mail-in type sweepstakes because of the postage costs. The pros and cons of online entries versus the pros and cons of mail-in entries is the subject of another article, however, I would like to offer you the following hints and tips for being able to enter mail-in sweepstakes without busting your budget.

Remember that sweepstaking is a hobby, and like any other hobby, you must have a budget. Although the returns can prove quite profitable, I still maintain a moderate budget. It is absolutely possible to go overboard to the point when you're sure that just one more entry will get you that grand prize, but you shouldn't feel guilty if it happens to you--most of us have done it one time or another!

Let's take a look at what a basic sweepstakes supply kit can include:

Envelopes - Many sweepstakes require #10 envelopes, which measure 4 1/8 x 9 1/2, so make sure you have plenty of them available. Generally, the smaller envelopes are less expensive than #10 envelopes. If you do by #10 envelopes and other size envelopes, make sure you have plenty of both. You do not need colored envelopes or fancy envelopes. Plain, white envelopes are fine for all entries.

Return address labels or stamper - Return address labels are fine for all entries. You do not have to hand print your return address, even if hand printing the "send to" address is required. You can also buy return address pre- inked stampers from many promotional supply catalogs or from places advertising in the Sunday newspaper inserts. These save you a lot of time when addressing envelopes.

Postcards - Many sweepstakes require entry by postcard. The minimum size postcard that is accepted by the US Postal Service is 3 1/2 x 5, and the maximum size that is accepted is 4 1/4 x 6. Anything over 4 1/4 x 6 requires additional postage. We buy the US Postal Service standard postcard, which is 3 1/2 x 5 and has postage already printed on it.

Index cards and paper - Most of the sweepstakes require 3x5 index cards or paper as the method of entry. You may use cards when paper is specified, because technically, cards are made out of paper, but DO NOT use paper when cards are specified. We always use EXACTLY what is specified. In either case, use plain white cards or paper. If we cannot find plain white index cards and we have to buy ruled index cards, we turn them over and write on the plain back of them.

Ball point pens - Use ball point pens. Felt-tip ink can smudge when it gets wet.

Ledger or other item for record keeping - Record keeping is very important. Make sure you record which sweepstakes you enter, and how many times. Supplies for entering sweepstakes are deductible from the winnings, but only if you keep accurate records.

Stamps - Sheets are preferable over the rolls, because no matter how pretty your roll dispenser may be, sometimes it's hard to judge how many stamps you have left. By using sheets, you can tell at a glance exactly when you're going to need more postage.

Sweepstakes to enter - Whether you find your sweepstakes through a sweepstakes newsletter, Sunday newspaper inserts, or an online service, you need to have a method of finding new sweepstakes to enter.

That's it for your basic sweepstakes supply kit. Other items such as colored envelopes, stickers, office supplies, and so forth are unnecessary. They may make sweepstaking more fun, and that's fine if you can afford the extras, but you certainly don't need anything else to start winning prizes!

Some other important tips for saving money while sweepstaking include:

  • Postcards are less expensive than stamps, so concentrate on those sweepstakes that require postcards for entries.
  • Shop at the wholesale clubs and office supply stores. Sometimes they will have a two-for-one sale, and this is the perfect time to stock up on envelopes and index cards.
  • Buy a package of large address labels. If you make a mistake when you address an envelope or postcard, cover the mistake with a large address label. Wasting the envelope or postcard is more costly than buying inexpensive address labels.
  • Enter sweepstakes that have more than prizes than just 1 grand prize. Your chances of winning something are greater.

There are many hints and tips for entering sweepstakes. Look for more of them in upcoming articles.

Entering sweepstakes by mail-in methods doesn't have to cost you a lot of money. My typical monthly sweepstakes budget is less than taking my family of 6 out to dinner at a moderately nice place... and the returns are much more satisfying!

Susan Donahue publishes Winning Ways, a monthly sweepstakes newsletter, filled with hunts, tips, and hundreds of sweepstakes to enter every month. You can reach her at winningways @onlinesweeps.com.

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