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  • A free alternative to lottery tickets

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    Make money entering free sweeps - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I think it’s safe to say that most personal finance experts and bloggers would advise against buying lottery tickets (CleverDude being the one exception that comes to mind). But it’s equally safe to say that everyone at some point or other dreams about winning the lottery or coming into some sort of windfall. I’m certainly no exception.

    Rather than wasting money on lottery tickets, however, I’ve come up with an alternative that’s equally satisfying. And it’s free!

    Instead of buying lottery tickets, enter contests and sweepstakes.

    In about the same amount of time it would take you to drive to a store, stand in line, purchase a ticket, fill in the bubbles, and do whatever else you have to do (I’m not sure because I’ve never bought a lottery ticket in my life), you could easily enter a few contests or sweepstakes online. And let me say again, it’s FREE!

    I acknowledge that you give up some privacy when entering contests or sweepstakes, because you have to provide an email address at the very minimum. But you can set up a free email address that you use only for contests and sweepstakes.

    Larger contests and sweepstakes will often ask for additional information, such as your name, age, address and phone number. In such cases, you can also usually provide just a first initial instead of your whole name and a post office box if you have one. Also, don’t forget to check the opt out box if you’d rather not receive marketing communications. For additional tips on entering sweepstakes, check out some tips from The Baglady. Don’t forget to read the fine print and keep in mind that prizes are generally taxable (just like lottery winnings).

    My favorite contests to enter are the smaller ones, particularly blog giveaways. They usually require just an email address unless you win. And the odds are considerably better since the number of entries is smaller. Of course, the prizes are smaller, but you still get the thrill of winning. And it’s really not so different from buying scratch-off lottery tickets where the most frequent prize is a few dollars.

    So where can you find contests and sweepstakes to enter? You can always check out my other blog, CFO Reviews, for starters. There are also sites that aggregate giveaways and contests. Some of my favorites are PRIZEY, An Island Review, and Freebies4Mom (which posts links to free samples as well as sweepstakes).

    I know there are lots of other sources out there, so please share your favorites in the comments!

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by graur razvan ionut.

    Why I Decided Not To Join Revolution MoneyExchange

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    In the last few weeks, many (if not most) personal finance bloggers have been encouraging people to join Revolution MoneyExchange (a service akin to PayPal) through referral links. The referrer gets $10 and the person creating the new account gets $25, so it seems like a good deal. If you like the blogger who referred you, presumably you’re happy to help them earn $10 for something that also makes you money.

    I was all set to sign up, but being an attorney, I always feel obligated to read the fine print that I’m required to say I’ve read before signing up. I hit a roadblock when I read the privacy policy. The part that concerned me says (emphasis added):

    INFORMATION WE COLLECT
    We collect information about you from the following sources:
    • Information we receive from you, including information on applications or other forms, such as your name, address, social security number, assets and income;
    • Information about your transactions with us, our affiliates, or others, such as your account balance, transaction and payment history, parties to transactions, and credit card usage; and
    • Information we receive from a consumer reporting agency, such as your creditworthiness and credit history.

    INFORMATION WE DISCLOSE
    We may disclose all of the information that we collect, as described above. You may opt out of the disclosure of such information, other than as permitted by law.

    Maybe it’s because I’m recovering from a rough bout of the flu (the kind that makes your joints and back ache, and has given me a killer sore throat for the last three days), but I just didn’t find the opt out to be enough reassurance that they wouldn’t disclose my social security number and other information to just anyone. For obvious reasons, I find it much more reassuring to deal with a company who starts from the customer-centric position of, “We will protect your personal identification and never disclose it without permission or as required by law.” (See, e.g., Mint.com’s privacy policy.)

    I’ve had a PayPal account for years, but I had no recollection of what their privacy policy says. So I checked it out. What I found is too long to quote here, but it includes this reassurance:

    PayPal will not sell or rent any of your personal information to third parties in the normal course of doing business and only shares your personal information with third parties as described in this policy.

    Basically, it’s the opposite of what Revolution MoneyExchange says.

    I realize that it’s most likely Revolution MoneyExchange doesn’t intend to do anything different from PayPal and will protect its customers’ personal information in much the same way, using it for marketing purposes only (and of course, to perform the services it’s designed to perform). I just don’t like it when a company gives itself more wiggle room in certain areas than it really needs. The risk to my privacy and personal information isn’t worth $25.

    Millionaire Status: It’s all about perspective

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    Boston Gal’s Open Wallet turned me onto this NYT article about Silicon Valley Millionaires who feel they still don’t have enough money and are working like crazy to keep up with the Joneses. If I had that much money, I’d just move.

    Selling Clothes on Consignment

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    Ever since I started reading The Dollar Stretcher, I’ve been intrigued by consignment stores as a place to sell clothes for cash. (See this article from 2002, for example.) One reason I haven’t done it is that I don’t think my own clothes are consignment-worthy. Except for rare occasions, I don’t buy expensive brand-name clothing, and I don’t own many clothes in the first place. But the idea that one could walk into one’s closet, pick out some stuff, and make cash from it is pretty appealing.

    Today, I came across a great guide to selling children’s clothes on consignment at Baby Cheapskate. I love the guidance she gives when it comes to quality: Ask yourself if you would give the item you’re considering as a gift. If yes, it’s consignment-worthy. She also has good info on the different ways consignment stores can work and how to find one in your neighborhood.

    Alas, at this point, I have only a few pieces of kid’s clothing that are consignment-worthy. (I am pretty ruthless about decluttering – no matter how nice the item is, if the kids won’t be comfortable in it or won’t wear it for some other reason, I pass it on to someone else.) But I still find the idea appealing!

    9 Ways To Find Extra Money To Pay Off Your Debts

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    1. Sell some of the stuff that got you into debt in the first place. Hold a garage sale, list your stuff on Amazon.com or eBay, or put an ad in a local newspaper.
    2. Never spend change. Put all of your coins into a big jar at the end of the day. Once a month, sort the coins and put them into sleeves that you can get at the bank. Deposit the coins and write a check to your lender.
    3. Cook more at home and take leftovers for lunch. (More on that tomorrow in the Financial Tip of the Week.)
    4. Cut back on “extras” for a week, add it all up, and put it toward your debt. If you skip that morning coffee and afternoon soda, wash the car yourself, use Dryel instead of going to the drycleaners, and have dinner at Baja Fresh instead of El Torito, you might find yourself with a good amount of cash for the week. It might even be enough to motivate you to skip the extras until you’ve paid off all of your debts!
    5. Spend an hour online shopping around for the best deals on insurance, phone service, and banking.
    6. Check your house for energy efficiency before winter arrives. Many utility companies will perform a free energy efficiency check.
    7. Sell underperforming investments.
    8. Make sure you haven’t forgotten about old bank accounts or other deposits. The Dollar Stretcher has a list of links to each state’s Unclaimed Property website.
    9. Check your tax withholdings and increase your number of exemptions if you will have overpaid at the end of the year.