How to Keep Track of Your Sweepstakes Prizes
Create a Prize Tracker Spreadsheet to Make Tax-Time Easier
If you enter sweepstakes but don't keep track of your prize wins, you are making a big mistake. Tracking your prize wins takes only a few seconds once you have a system in place and it can help you avoid problems down the road.
For example, referring to your spreadsheet, you can see when your prizes are due to arrive. Ideally, every prize would arrive promptly, but in reality, mistakes happen and sponsors sometimes need some prodding.
Furthermore, if you live in a country like the United States which taxes prize wins, having a tracking system in place will save you time when it's time to do your taxes. You will be able to pull the information you need to accurately report your taxes in a matter of minutes, and you won't risk making any costly mistakes.
Having all of your prize wins in one easy-to-review place is motivational as well. When you look back at the great prizes you've won, you'll remember why you are spending time with your sweepstakes entries. This can help you fend off sweepstakes burnout, which in turns helps you win more frequently.
And if you've ever had a question like whether instant-win sweepstakes work for you, or whether you have more luck entering one-time or daily-entry sweepstakes, your prize tracker has all the information you need.
So how do you go about tracking your prize wins? The first step is to set up a simple spreadsheet. If you don't have a favorite spreadsheet on your computer, there are many free programs available including Google Sheets, Open Office Calc, and LibreOffice Calc. If you are new to using spreadsheets, each of those programs offers step-by-step directions.
Once you have chosen a spreadsheet, here is the information that you'll need to keep track of:
The Date the Prize was Won
The first thing you'll want to track is the date that you won the prize. This will let you calculate when the prize is due (in cases when the prize will arrive a certain amount of time after your win, as opposed to after the end of the giveaway). It will also make it easy to sort your prizes in the order you won them.
Who the Sweepstakes Sponsor and Fulfillment Company Are
Next, take note of the sweepstakes sponsor and fulfillment company on your prize tracker. Not only does this help you remember the giveaway you won from, but it also lets you know who you will need to contact if there is any problem with receiving the prize.
The ARV of the Prize
The ARV of a sweepstakes prize is the sponsor's estimate of its value. You'll want to keep track of the ARV listed in the sweepstakes' rules. You can use that information to total up how much you won at the end of the year. If you feel that the ARV is too high once you received the prize, you will also need this information to dispute the reported value on your taxes.
FMV of the Prize
FMV stands for Fair Market Value, and it's this amount, not the ARV, that you'll need to declare on your taxes. Sometimes the ARV and FMV will be the same, but at other times you can find proof that the prize is selling for less when you receive it. Then you could reduce your taxes by disputing the ARV.
The Type of the Giveaway You Won
For a similar reason, you can also track other features of the giveaways you win. For example, you can track:
- Online sweepstakes
- Mail-in sweepstakes
- Contests (writing contest, photo or video contest, recipe contest, etc.)
- Instant win sweepstakes
- Trivia contests
- Social media sweepstakes
This will let you know where you have the most luck.
Win Notification Method
Some people like to track not only what they won, but also how they found out about it. It could be interesting to see whether more sweepstakes notifications come by mail, by telephone, email, social media, or another method so that you know which notification methods you should pay the most attention to.
Date to Return the Affidavit
You need to return an affidavit to claim your prize, note the deadline in my sweepstakes tracking spreadsheet. This helps ensure that you don't forget or put off sending in the affidavit, cheating yourself out of a prize.
Once you've sent the affidavit in, you can update this row with the date it was mailed in case there is any problem down the road.
When the Prize is Due to Arrive
Check in the sweepstakes rules or your win notification to find out when the prize should arrive. Then note the expected arrival date on your prize tracker spreadsheet, so that if your prize hasn't arrived within a few weeks of the due date, you will remember to follow up with the sponsor about it.
Date Prize Was Received - And Your Reaction
The final entry on your sweepstakes tracking website is the date the prize actually arrived, and your reaction to it. It's fun to be able to look back later and see how excited you and your family members were when you received a prize. This is also a great source of motivation when it's been a while since your last win.