Contests: Are they Worth it?

clipart-contestSecretly, everyone would love to have something for nothing, right? But in our commerce driven world, we are conditioned as consumers to know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Or is there?

What about the entering of contests and sweepstakes? Someone has to win, right? Is it really worth the time and effort though to enter these things?

Where to Look

Contests are everywhere- from the bottom of your store receipts (fill in our survey and enter a contest for $1,000!) to on your coffee cup to the lobby of your local grocer, where kids from local sports teams are selling raffle tickets.

Online contests have ballooned in popularity, as have contests fuelled by social media (Like us on Facebook to win big loot!).  Try visiting some of your favourite retailer websites or breeze through your favourite magazines, for likely contest targets.

Some sites are dedicated to updating and profiling contests, like

What do I need to do?

Some contests simply require you to fill out a ballot. In others, you are required to “earn” your prize entry, by filling out a survey, writing an essay or blog piece doing a photo entry, voting or by participating in social media.

Some contests require you to become a “member” to an organization. Always read the fine print and make sure that you fully understand what you are getting in to.

Several contests have rules surrounding province of residence, as well as restrictions around prizes, so- again, read the fine print.

What will I win?

The best kind of contests offer cash prizes, preferably those that you don’t have to purchase an item or ticket to buy (like sweepstakes) but realistically, many contests will require you to purchase something (even if it is something as small as a coffee or a hamburger).

Many contests that are free to enter (like those through magazines, online etc.) offer cash prizes, but also numerous merchandise and gift card prizes as well (some of which can be substantial).

Maybe you long to fill your cupboards with free odds and ends- but if not, consider selling larger items to shore up cash flow in your home. Consider regifting smaller items like gift baskets etc.- which lets you share the wealth with family and friends (or cut down on spending during gift-giving seasons).

Free Lunch?

Some contests are run simply as part of a marketing program, to draw attention to a product of service.

Generally speaking though there really is no such thing as a free lunch. In sweepstakes-type contests, where purchase is not required, you stand the chance of getting things for free, right? Cruises, cars and boatloads of cash await you after you submit your entry, right?

What many contests are after is your information (like your name, contact details and key demographic information). Some companies use contests to get an idea of their demographic profile and typical user- but others are collecting your information to sell to others for the purposes of solicitation- so be wary.

Only offer up the bare minimum when it comes to your info. As a rule, if something doesn’t sit right with you, it probably isn’t- and elect not to participate.

On a similar note, there are scams abounding out there. Beware of lesser-known companies or organizations, as well as receiving notice for contests that you did not enter.

Don’t Count on Winnings

While the lure of winning loot is strong, some people use the entering of contests as a means of income. They devote their time and energy to identifying and entering contests and sweepstakes. While the payout is potentially large, the odds are not in support of that. Additionally, when you break out what your time is worth and the time spent on this in relation to the potential payout, it is not very much.

A steady paycheque will outpace the odds of winning contests time and time again.