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Mission Competition

Top Money Saving and Comping Tips from a 20 year-old Student keen to make my limited budget stretch the semester!

Follow me on Twitter:@LaurieBeat or email any queries to lauriebeat@gmail.com

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Luck and love!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Day in the Life of a Comper...Neill Johnstone



Hello! I’m glad we share this amazing hobby, do you have a story about how you got into it?

Pressed for a date, I’d say I first started comping in 2014. I’d been meaning to start for years, but for reasons I can’t fathom, never got around to it! The final nudge came from a piece in the MSE newsletter when my first-born was still pretty wee and I was juggling childcare and part-time employment. Looking for a way to make Christmas easier I figured that if I entered enough comps, I’d soon be drowning in iPads, tellies and protein shakes. (Guess what? Didn’t happen!)

Haha, I think that's always the image people get! So what has been your best prize so far?

I don’t know about best, but my most cherished came in my first year of comping when I won an iPhone 5. I’m pretty sure it was a reconditioned model (the fact that the promoter was a phone repair company was a major clue here!) but I didn’t care - my old phone was so lamentably awful that two tins and a bit of string would have made for a quantum leap in technology. The new phone changed my life (or at least made me more pleasant to be around!). From that point, every call I made, every text I sent, reminded me that I could be - and indeed was - a winner. In your early days of comping, that’s like getting ten dozen motivational pep talks a day! On top of all that, I was able to enter so many more photo comps that you might say that I won several times over!

A daily reminder is certainly motivation! Do you prefer physical prizes or experiences?

Boringly, I’m going to sit on the fence here. The truth is, I’ve not won that many experiences, but I have been to a couple of great concerts that I would otherwise have missed, enjoyed meals I would never have been able to justify eating, and even got to see Norwich hold Man City to a goalless draw (honestly, it was a fantastic game!). On the other hand, I’ve also won physical prizes that have opened my mind to new things or stopped me from having to throw money at really boring things I resent paying for, like batteries, razor blades and granola.

I have saved myself a fortune, it's true! What do your friends and family think of this hobby?

I’ve got one friend whose mother is an old-school comper, so she takes an interest, but most of my other friends are indifferent at best, baffled at worst. “You win things … like … for a hobby?” asked one, before scratching his head and leaving it at that.

As for my family, my first-born only seems to notice if I win something he can eat, and steadfastedly refuses to cooperate for any photo comps that might benefit from having a small child mugging the camera. And to be honest, the second-born isn’t much better. My wife was sceptical at first, but now that she’s seen the benefits, she’s much more supportive. Generally, however, she stays out of it - although I did convince her to enter the Chicago Town dance off. First-born approved of the unscheduled pizza nights!

Haha, who doesn't love free pizza after all?! Aside from pizza, what are your top 3 dream prizes?

I’ve got family in North America, so I try to keep an eye out for tickets to the States. After, that, like most compers I imagine, I have fancy luxuries at the top of my wishlist, such as a Sonos system or a new motor. I confess, however, that I don’t try any way near hard enough to look for relevant promotions so I’m unlikely to win any of these anytime soon!

Don't give up! Searching for specifics is easy with sites like Prize Finder! What is your favourite method of entering competitions?

If you’re talking about social media channels, then I’m torn between Instagram and Twitter. There are many reasons to dislike Twitter, but it is effective for rooting out specific comps - including comps on alternative channels. Instagram, meanwhile is still relatively good for low entry comps, and largely easier on the eye. My gut also tells me that with Instagram, it’s possible to win regram comps; by contrast, I seldom bother with RT comps on Twitter as there are so many bots. The last time I retweeted a comp entry, I got a dozen bot retweets.

If, however, you’re talking about my favourite kind of comp, then it’s effort comps, sans doute. I’m terrible at the classic tie-breaks, but with most photo comps, you don’t have to be a pro photographer - some of my best prizes have come from quite unremarkable camerawork. The golden rule (and this applies to most effort comps, I’m sure) is not to follow the crowd.



Any tips for fellow compers?

I am by no means a comping veteran - indeed, I have much still to learn - and anyone who reads my blog (http://luckmuscle.blogspot.co.uk/) will know that while I love chatting about comping, most of my advice boils down to one thing: do what Di Coke does! Read her book. I endorse it without reservation. There is so much in the book about comping smarter rather than harder that it really will pay for itself.

My other tip is to establish a skeleton routine to your comping. For me, that’s basically opening a set of comping bookmarks (local comp searches and daily lotteries). These bookmarks take seconds to open and, at most, minutes to close. Anything I do on top of this - whether catching up with Facebook groups or hashtag searching on Instagram - is a bonus. If I lose my mojo, I just need few moments to keep my hand in the game - which makes it a lot easier to pick up speed once my gears kick back into sync.

Any final comments about this amazing hobby?

Mental health is a subject that’s dear to my heart, so the main thing I’d like to say is: ENJOY YOURSELF! With non-effort comps in particular, it’s very easy to find yourself filling in form after form after form. At some point, the joy dries up and all that’s left is the compulsion to complete yet another entry form. As anyone with addiction or compulsive behaviour issues will tell you - that isn’t healthy! So, to borrow the words form the Gamble Aware campaign - when the fun stops, stop. Switch to another media channel, try an effort comp, or - dare I say it - take the rest of the night off. You can’t enter every competition, so don’t try!

The other side of the coin is mojo loss - when you just can’t face another comp. Mojo’s a funny old thing, and surprisingly easy to lose. Frustration with a dry spell is often the root of this problem (if this sounds familiar - try my tips, For some people, however, it can be down to an episode of low mood or depression, or simply being broadsided by extraordinary circumstances, perhaps benign (eg school holidays), perhaps tragic. The important thing here is to get your groove back - go easy on yourself and let comping take a back seat. The mojo will follow when it’s good and ready.


In short, look after yourselves, people! If you have a positive mental attitude, you’re already one of life’s winners!

Thanks so much to Neill for answering my questions, I really enjoyed reading his answers and it inspired me even more in my comping. If you would like to be featured on my 'Day in the Life of a Comper' simply Tweet me: @LaurieBeat, email me on lauriebeat@gmail.com or send me a message on Facebook.

Luck and Love,

Laurie

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Comping Conundrums



I have decided to start a new regular part of my blog - Comping Conundrums. Submit all those niggling questions that occur while comping. and I will go off and so some research as well as look back at my own experiences and try to answer them as best as possible. So here we go with the first installement of Comping Conundrums! Please submit your questions in the comments below, and I'll pick my favourites for next time!


1) The ‘I never win’ myth


Although this comment may have been made with some jest, we all go through a time in comping where it just feels like we just ain’t lucky. We can enter the same amount of competitions every day, and do the same things we always do, but the luck just doesn’t seem to be with us.

Comping prizes are like buses, you wait for ages and then two of the same come at once (this genuinely happened to me yesterday, and it was entertaining to see everyone roll their eyes at every stop we approached)

With comping, you just have to be patient. But also, switch things up a bit. I went through a spell of no wins a while back. The only competitions I was really entering was social media comps (and mainly RT-to-win Twitter comps). I decided after reading Di Coke’s book that it was time to switch things up a bit. I started entering more effort competitions and more online competitions such as through radio websites. I continued to do a bit of Twitter comping (as the odd small win really keeps up motivation) but after a while, I started to see the type of prizes I was winning change.

I was lucky enough to win £250 in the Oxford Campus competition, where you had to draw a phrase in a notebook along a theme they gave. I made sure to make it rhyme, add lots of colour and a few drawing (despite my extreme lack of artistic flair).

Then, when I was on holiday, I got a call from KissFM – I had won a technology bundle including an Apple Watch and iPod for simply answering a question about Batman v Superman (helps that I’m a huge Batman geek) online. Simple.

So to answer your question - you will win, just keep going through the dry spell and maybe switch things up a bit to keep the excitement and joy of comping going! Good Luck!


2) When doing competitions by post, on a postcard, does there seem to be any evidence that bright or larger postcards have a better chance of being chosen to win?


Sadly, the days writing letters pen to paper are slowly dwindling away, although I am still a fan and own a couple of colourful writing sets (The Works is a great place to get these fairly cheap). However, it is possible to find the odd postcard and post-away competition – and if this is the only method of entry, you have a better chance of winning, as less people are willing to pay the price of a stamp than enter an online comp for free. 
However, how should you send in your entry? A plain piece of white card? Or the craziest, most colourful postcard you can lay your hands on. Well, it all depends.
If the promoter is a small company and it is the traditional ‘pick a card out of a hat’, there is a good chance that a colourful entry will be chosen. Its human nature (especially if it’s the end of a long week) to go for the more colourful entries, and so there could be a better chance of winning. However, some companies will choose by machine, or make sure the chooser is blindfolded when picking, to make sure that it is fair. My advice? If you have colourful cards, go for it! Better safe than sorry. However, if you are decorating it, I would suggest only using coloured pens and things, as sticking things on can increase the price of posting and glitter can cause one massive mess (years of working with children have taught me this the hard way).
Another thing to note on the subject of postcard entries, is how to write the address. There is often the risk that by writing two addresses on the same side the post office could get confused and you will end up with your entry back at your door. To make sure that the correct address is scanned, write your address at a 90 degree angle from the promoters, and make sure that the promoters is on the lined space provided (if it’s a traditional postcard, or if you are making your own, draw this bit in). Good luck!



3) In your experience, is it better to enter early or late during a competition, or does it not make a difference?


This is a question that phases a lot of people, and the answer is simply – it depends. Don’t worry, I’ll explain.

Twitter
If you are entering a Twitter competition, sometimes the time that you enter does matter. For companies that are choosing a winner based on comments, they may not have time to look through all the answers, and so may just look at the most recent ones (as unfair as this seems). Therefore you are best to enter late on. I often will do a massive ‘win-it-Wednesday’ comping session on Twitter at about 4 o’clock typing into the search bar ‘#winitwednesday 5pm’ so that the competitions that are closing at 5 show up. This means that I will be one of the last people to enter. Once I started doing this, I did begin to see a change in the amount that I won.

Effort Competitions
By effort competition I mean things like slogans, photographs and drawings. For these competitions, I would always say enter as late as possible – but set a reminder on your phone for the day before the deadline so that you don’t forget and miss out! The reason that I say this is that ‘originality’ is often mentioned in the T&C’s of effort comps and so you don’t want any sly compers stealing your amazing idea! One of my comping friends was outraged when she saw an entry very similar to hers winning, even though she posted hers up first! So I would say, even if you have your entry prepared on day one, wait a little longer to post it up- just don’t forget and miss the deadline!

Online Forms

When the competition consists of simply filling in a form, or using a Gleam or Rafflecopter widget, I really don’t think that it matters. I am currently running a competition on my blog <enter here> which uses a Gleam app. Once the closing date is reached, the winner will be chosen at random from all the entries, regardless of when they submitted the form. So in this case, enter away and keep your fingers crossed you are lucky.

I should note that for some competitions it won’t matter, and this is just my thoughts from speaking to other compers, people who run giveaways and my own experience.

I hope this blog helped and please do comment any other questions below, I am keeping note of all questions asked, and look forward to answering more Comping Conundrums!

Luck and Love, 

Laurie


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Making Money as a Skint Student



Being a student comes with many stereotypes – lazy, constantly out partying and being skint. Funnily enough they all go hand in hand – all those £1 messy bombs at the student union add up after all! Some students are too lazy to get a part time job, but for the vast majority of us, it’s simply too difficult to balance the constantly changing timetables and deadlines with a part-time job. So here are my top 5 ways of making money as a student that are flexible enough to fit around a crazy, or lazy, lifestyle.

1. Psychology experiments


Now, this one isn’t as terrifying as it may sound. Basically, psychology students need people to take part in experiments so that they can use the statistics to write up reports. The pay can vary from a couple of pounds to a couple of hundred pounds, and it’s worth checking out FULLY what’s involved. I have been paid £3-£5 for random half hour jobs like testing my reaction times, checking what colours I can see on a screen and filling out surveys, or £6- £10 for hour long tests.

There are also higher paying tasks. My friend is currently being paid £200 to gain 7kg in a month by eating a tub of Ben & Jerrys ice cream every day (which is provided) and then losing all the weight again in 3 months (no, I'm not joking). The experiment tests if people from different ethnicities gain weight in the same way, and where the fat lies on their bodies. In fairness, I think he's more interested the ice-cream and tasty pay cheque at the end!

So how do you find these experiments? The best place to look is around the uni – noticeboards, stairwells, student forums are all great sources of information. Whenever I am walking past one, I will always check and see if there are posters advertising, and either jot down the info I need or grab a tear off slip with the details on it. Be careful to read it properly – some experiments need people of certain ages, genders or ethnicities and don’t sign up for the longer term ones if you aren’t willing to go through with it all. Not all of them require you to be a student of the university, so drop the person a quick email to see what’s what.

2. Swag those Bucks


As a student, I spend an obscene amount of time on a computer. I would love to be able to say it’s all essays and studying, but let’s be honest - social media exists. So I decided recently, rather than wasting hours scrolling through cat memes and re-used jokes on the book of faces, why not try to turn that time into something more useful – like money? Swagbucks is an online survey site where you can build up points by completing online tasks and later exchanging these point for Amazon Gift cards. 

This all ties in quite nicely with the fact that, when you’re a student, gift giving standards seem to drop a little. Partly due to lack of funds, and partly because you’re so busy with other stuff, you probably remembered about Rachel’s Big Day a couple of days before. Both of these issues can be solved by the wonder that is earning Amazon Gift Cards. My favourite site to do this on is Swagbucks – simply build up your Swagbucks through games and surveys and exchange for gift cards! At first, it may seem a little time consuming, but once you get into a routine with it, you’ll be flying. I earn around £30 a month in gift cards – plenty to cover all those surprise birthdays! And with a 6-month trial membership of AmazonPrime for Student, you can get next day delivery for free – so they’ll never know you forgot!
Top Tips for Swagbucks:
  •   Sign up using this link to get good headstart 
  •   Hit the daily target – every day you will be given a target amount of points to reach and when you do this every day you get a bonus. The longer your winning streak, the more points you get at the end of the month.
  • Watch videos – wondering what’s out in the cinema at the moment, wanting to do some DIY or improve your yoga skills? Swagbucks has so many videos it’s unbelievable. So instead of watching another failed stunt on Youtube, try getting paid to watch a comedy show on Swagbucks.
  • Play games – When I need just a few extra bucks to make my daily total, I head to the game section. I find online games great fun and pretty addictive, so sit and play them anyway. On Swagbucks, I play Swagjump which is similar to other games you will find online, but you earn points. BONUS!
Top Tips for Swagbucks:
  •   Sign up using this link to get good headstart 
  •   Hit the daily target – every day you will be given a target amount of points to reach and when you do this every day you get a bonus. The longer your winning streak, the more points you get at the end of the month.
  • Watch videos – wondering what’s out in the cinema at the moment, wanting to do some DIY or improve your yoga skills? Swagbucks has so many videos it’s unbelievable. So instead of watching another failed stunt on Youtube, try getting paid to watch a comedy show on Swagbucks.
  • Play games – When I need just a few extra bucks to make my daily total, I head to the game section. I find online games great fun and pretty addictive, so sit and play them anyway. On Swagbucks, I play Swagjump which is similar to other games you will find online, but you earn points. BONUS!

 3. Win, win, win


Among my more normal student hobbies of sport, tea-drinking and studying, I have a hobby that most people look at me weirdly when I mention. I am a comper. I love entering competitions on Twitter, blogs, emails, you name it, and then waiting not-so-patiently for the postman to bring me a present in the post.

Now, comping simply to make money is somewhat frowned upon, however it can save you a lot of money, I can't remember the last time I bought make-up because I win it so often. Donating unwanted wins as presents or selling off the odd prize that you just don’t have use for is perfectly okay - I won a pair of gorgeous Adidas shoes the other week, and was gutted when they didn’t fit. However, when I sold them on eBay for a cool £120 it didn’t seem quite so bad!

Another common one to win, is tickets to events. If these events are local, the competitions usually have a lower number of entries, so you have an increased chance of winning. Then, since you normally win a pair of tickets, you can sell the other one or, if you’re feeling generous, take a mate and enjoy a free night out! I took my X-factor mad Dad to the Live X-Factor tour, just look at his wee face:




For those students that find university isn’t enough of a brain work out (I’d love to meet you) or just miss the joys of Highers and A-Levels, you can make a little extra money by passing on your wisdom. For me, tutoring is one of the best ways to make money as a student: you are keeping your brain active, it’s so rewarding to help other people, it doesn’t take up too much of your time and, the crucial ingredient, it’s a nice wee earner.

I have been tutoring for about 2 years now, and couldn’t recommend it highly enough! I have met some great people, and have managed to avoid a part-time job at uni. The key to tutoring is contacts and preparation. Don’t go in thinking that the one hour contact time is all the time it will take – the prep and learning can be time consuming, so be sure to take that into account. I charged around £15 when I first started, and just tutored younger friends. Once I got into it, and they spread the word a little for me, I managed to get a good base of tutees.

However, it can be even more flexible than that. MyTutorWeb is a great online tutoring base. As long as you attend a Russel Group University, are studying your subject and achieved the appropriate grades in the subject at school, you could tutor online. This opens up so many more tutees to you, and location is no longer an issue! Tutoring really is such a flexible money-maker!


5. Shopping


The food shopping is a task all new students have to get to grips with – finding the best bargains, choosing healthy options or picking the quickest meal. However, did you know that you can make some money when you are shopping?

There are two ways to do this, one is being a mystery shopper. You go to a set shop, answer some questions and take some photos. Upload the results to the appropriate site and receive some money back as an incentive. My favourites are ‘iPoll’ and ‘Click and Walk’, mainly because I can get them on my mobile. Although this isn’t a consistent stream of income, it contributes towards my emergencies fund and it’s always nice to get a little money boost.

The second is cashback. Again, I like using an app for this – mainly Checkout Smart. Simply upload a picture of your receipt onto the app within a week of your purchase and receive cashback on certain selected items. This quickly adds up, and they are very efficient at funding you the money.

Although none of these are set to make you a millionaire overnight, these ways to make money are perfect for students and can all build up. Putting a little money away each week really adds up – just try not to splash it all on ‘Pints of Fun’ at the union (don’t ask, you’re best not to know). So long skint student, hello savvy money maker!