Is there anything better than seeing this subject line pop up in your email inbox? (Along with the knowledge that it’s not a scam – of course!)

For the past year and a half I’ve been sporadically entering online contests. Whenever I have a few moments of free time, I’ll boot up my computer and try to win a free cruise to Antarctica.

The payoff may not always be great but it’s a fun, and best of all, free hobby. From baby gear, to recipe books and crock-pots, cruises and guided tours, cars, electronics, and even cash prizes – there are thousands of online contests available if you know where to look and have a little spare time to enter them.

So before you dive into this new hobby, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Where do I find the contests?
    There are several sites online that are solely dedicated to letting you know about recent contests. My favourite is contestgirl.com. The Contestgirl website is updated daily and divided into easy categories such as contests available for Canadians, single entry contests, daily entry contests, etc. This is my go to place to find national or international contests. Contestgirl also allows you to create an account and track which contests you’ve entered, as well as see comments or reviews from others. If you’re a budding contest hobbyist I highly recommend starting with this site!!!
  • The other great way to win contests is to enter locally. To find local contests, check out regional newspapers, radio stations, or local magazines. These online contests are usually for tickets to local events or concerts, advance movie passes, or weekend getaways. For obvious reasons, these contests have less entries and thus have higher odds of winning.
  • I don’t have a lot of time to spend entering contests. Which ones should I focus on? For those who don’t want to enter contests every day, consider spending most of your time entering “single entry” contests. “Single entry” contests mean that you can only enter them once and therefore, everyone has one entry. “Daily entries” means that for the entire duration of the contest, you can return every day for another entry. (If I enter the contest every day for 60 days but you only find time to enter it twice, then obviously the odds of you winning that contest are a lot less.)
  • But won’t I get a lot of junk e-mails?
    Yes. You will. And for the record, the words “a lot” are a huge understatement. While these emails are super easy to “unsubscribe” from, it can still be time consuming and annoying. If you don’t want to clutter up your regular email with worthless subscriptions, consider creating a separate account just for contests. Keep in mind that you’ll still need to check it daily (many contests give their winners 24-48 hours to respond before passing the prize to another winner).
  • Is it worth it?
    It is if you win! (And if you enter contests regularly enough, you will eventually win something.) I’m not the most dedicated contest “enterer.” I’ll go through phases where I’ll enter contests every day for a week and then a couple weeks will pass before I enter more. Unless it’s a super amazing prize, I usually stick to contests for “Canadian’s only” as I like the odds better.

Most of the things I’ve won thus far have been small prizes from local contests. (My favourite win was my Trapeze Class with WestCoast Flying Trapeze.) I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for a new car but I get pretty excited even for my small “movie ticket” wins.

Keep in mind that many contests also enter bonus entries if you share them on your social media account and get friends to sign up. Just try not to spam your friends too much – they don’t tend to appreciate it. 😉

All in all, entering contests is a great rainy-day hobby. It’s free and fun. Who knows – you may end up with a new blender, a bubbling hot tub, or a free trip to Australia.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s start entering some contests!

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