If you've ever dreamed of winning a sweepstakes, your odds just got a lot better. All You has come up with several strategies to improve your chances of winning. Scroll down to see how you can get luckier and maybe even win some cash!

Be picky about promotions

Less is more: The fewer the entries, the more weight yours carries. So go for smaller contests, those that limit eligibility, or ones with niche prizes. Get a sense of a blog-run contest's size by checking the number of friends on the blog's Facebook account.

Favor complicated entries: Be willing to jump through a few hoops — submit a video, say, or create a Pinterest board. On Facebook, you probably will have to "like" the page and complete a survey or perform another task. Lots of folks won't bother — which narrows the competition.

Read the fine print: Examine the official rules. Are you eligible to enter? How often? If the prize is a trip, can you make it? If not, is cash an option? Save time for promotions you actually have a shot at. And remember, in the United States, you must report the cash value of all winnings on your tax return as income, no matter the value.

Be sure it's the real deal: Legitimate contests and sweeps should display official rules and a privacy policy that explains how your personal data will be shared and stored. But that does not always happen, especially on social media. Merely liking or retweeting should pose no risk. But if you're required to do more, be sure you're dealing with a reputable brand. You might be asked for your name, phone, or address in case you win. Never submit a social security or credit card number. If anything raises a red flag, seek out another opportunity.

Did you know? According to a University of Missouri study, the state of anticipating or wanting a product can make you happier than actually having it. So, even if you walk away from a giveaway empty-handed, you still might feel like a winner.

Increase your chances

Make a grand entrance: Enter daily, weekly, monthly — as often as is allowed. Set a phone alarm or bookmark the link on your toolbar as a reminder. In some cases, sweeps are set up to incentivize you to pass along the promotion to friends; sharing the link via social media or referring others might earn you bonus entries. Don't get disqualified by submitting more entries than are permitted.

Know the criteria: Say a major restaurant chain is seeking scripts for a new commercial. Check the rules to find out if you'll be judged on cinematography skills, humor, or use of special effects.

Follow mail-in rules precisely: If administrators ask for something specific, like a 3 x 5 postcard with no envelope, send only that. They're likely using a scanning machine that would reject anything else.

Announce in advance that you're eligible: Note your hometown or state on your social media profiles. Some prizes go only to US entrants; if your location is not stated, your entry might not be considered.

Never miss a one-entry-per-person sweepstakes: If multiple entries are not allowed, the playing field is more level. You don't have to worry about people who have more time than you to enter again and again.

Did you know? Some sweepstakes cap online entries but allow unlimited ones via snail mail.

Keep it effortless

Automate the process: Enable the auto-fill feature on your Internet browser so you can plug your data into the form fields with a single click. Or check out roboform.com to save heaps of time.

Create a routine: The more you fit promotions into your schedule, the greater your likelihood of winning. Enter via your smart phone during your lunch break, when your kids are doing homework, or just before bed. Use idle minutes in the waiting room of the doctor's office or the auto mechanic.

Check all your mailboxes regularly: With online giveaways, know where to find the winning notification. Entered via a brand's Facebook page? Look for a public posting of the winner on that page. The brand might tweet at you or send you a direct message. Watch for both. And check your spam! Notifications are often diverted there, and you might have as little as 24 hours to claim your prize before it is awarded to the next person. Also, answer phone calls from numbers you don't recognize and give junk mail a once-over before tossing it.

Did you know? Sweepstakes promoters are legally required to offer a free method of entry. If you're asked to buy a product (if, say, a beverage company asks you to enter a code from the inside of a bottle cap), check the rules for an alternate method of entry (AMOE). One option might be to have the code emailed to you.

Find and win more sweeps

A simple Google search can lead you to countless giveaway opportunities, but the results are unfiltered and unwieldy. Instead, target your search as described below to find legitimate sweepstakes that give you the best odds of winning.

Aggregator websites such as contests.about.com sift out scams and categorize current promotions. Sweepsheet.com sends out a biweekly newsletter with information and entry tips, based on years of research. At $6 for a single issue and $52 or $60 for an annual subscription (26 issues), it's well worth it if sweepstakes are your hobby.

Sunday newspaper inserts provide local businesses a platform to advertise their latest enter-to-win opportunities.

Sweepstakes clubs are where gung-ho contestants meet up on a regular basis to share tips and socialize. Look for one near you at sweepsheet.com.

Social media sites belonging to your favorite retailers, restaurants, and brands — local and national — often run contests and sweeps, especially on Facebook and Twitter.

— Kathleen Mulpeter

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