Wish you could get cool stuff for free, legally? Try entering contests. You can win everything from toys and T-shirts to cars and trips.
While winning depends a lot on luck, there are things you can do to greatly increase your odds. That's where Carolyn Wilman comes in.
Wilman, who calls herself the Contest Queen, estimates she's helped people win more than a million dollars in prizes, including cash, a Ferrari and even a house.
Some of her tips for winning:
Read (and follow) the rules
It seems so obvious, yet many people don't do it. "This is the number one mistake," Wilman says. Common rules include deadline for entries, limitations on number of entries, restrictions on who can enter and contests that are void in certain geographical areas. Wilman points out that even if you win, you can be disqualified if the company discovers you didn't follow the rules.
Focus your efforts online
More and more companies are focusing on online contests, which are easier and cheaper for people to enter. Wilman believes mail-in sweepstakes may eventually fade away completely in the U.S.
But don't totally abandon snail mail
Until mail-in sweepstakes go extinct, enter at least a few of them here and there. With postage costs rising – and online contests so easy and convenient – fewer people are entering mail-in varieties. Bottom line: fewer entries mean less competition, so your odds are better.