Apr 14, 2008

A free alternative to lottery tickets

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 instead.

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!


Anonymous said...

I think I'll stick with buying a lottery ticket since it doesn't require me to give out my name, address, phone number, future children's names and the weight of my nonexistent pet dog (unless I win of course).

Anonymous said...

I think it sort of depends. If you like the thrill of winning a few dollars, this would work. If you are really hoping to win ten million dollars, lottery is still the way to go. (Of course, mathematically, the odds are hella against you.)

Shan said...

I'm in Canada so I like to check out the frugalshopper.ca. It's a frugal living message board with everything from coupons, sales, sweepstakes and freebies. I used to contest a lot more than I do now and won some decent prizes. As for the lottery we will pool money with others to buy tickets for the larger jackpots, just for kicks.

Anonymous said...

I've always told people they should be buying deep out of the money options instead of lottery tickets. The concept is the same -- a low probability of a potentially huge payoff from a small investment. The advantage is, you actually get a fair return on your investment if you do it long enough, as opposed to lottery tickets which have an expectation value which is less than what you pay for them. Plus it's more fun. You get to pick the stock, strike, expiry, etc., which is all more scientific than picking lottery numbers.