Is it unethical to enter giveaways if you already have more than enough?

by J. Money - Published October 24, 2018

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Here’s a juicy topic today –> The ethics of entering giveaways!

Which we’re constantly featuring here on this blog, as well as hundreds of others!

Do you ever stop and think before you enter any of them though, or do you just scream “YES PLEASE!!!” the second you see “FREE” like I do? ;)

We often talk about accumulating “stuff” in terms of minimalism and clutter, but I’ll admit I haven’t really soul searched the ethical side of giveaways up until now…

Check out the following email I just received and see if any of it resonates with you… There are some excellent points in it, and it’s never bad to stop and reflect on things whether you end up agreeing with them or not.

Just don’t let it scare you off from entering *our* giveaways here or else I’ll be sad and lonely!!! You can always pay your winnings forward!! ;)

Hello, J Money:

I enjoy your blog as the ideas of others challenge me regularly.

My husband and I enjoy the benefits of hard work, saving and wise investing. We are debt-free and my husband has retired. I continue to work at my profession for health insurance and contributions to my 401K. We buy what we want, go where we want and give generously.

My comment is an ethical one. I want to provide background. Years ago when I was freshly out of college, single and just getting on my feet in a small town in the Midwest where I felt called to be, I appreciated every helping hand that came my way – no matter the form. I lived frugally and kept an eye open for opportunities. A local grocery store was celebrating National Beef Month and offered registration for a free beef bundle – burger, roasts, and steaks. I entered according to the rules and said a prayer that my name would be drawn. It was not. The winner was the wife of a prominent business man who, from appearances, didn’t have a money care in the world.

Now that I have progressed well beyond the financial status of my youth I do not enter my name into drawings of this kind. I can buy all the burger, roasts and steaks I want. I much prefer that someone who needs a helping hand receive the goodies.

If I come across a limited number of something offered, I don’t buy. I don’t shop on Black Friday as there is nothing offered that I can’t buy at full price. I leave those deals to those who don’t have the resources I do. I don’t take the free t-shirt at the ballgame offered to the first 1000 fans. I don’t need another t-shirt and someone else might.

This email was prompted by an event in my hometown recently. A local fast food restaurant had an event where the first 50 people in the drive-thru early one morning would get a free meal each week for a year. A university professor, his wife and two adult sons were among the first 50 people. They waited over an hour before the opening time. Perhaps it was the thrill of the hunt, but I wondered how many single mothers could have used that meal each week – maybe splitting it with her child. Or dividing it for her two children while she ate ramen noodles.

My bottom-line comment is this: I believe that those who are financially secure must make a mental shift from “accumulate all I can through all the options available as quickly as possible” and move to “enjoy the fruits of my labors and allow others the opportunities I do not need.”

Please know that I only mean to bring forth another perspective and challenge you with my thoughts.

And what a fresh perspective indeed, boy… Anytime you can put yourself in front of others is a beautiful thing, whether having to do with giveaways or anything else!

That being said, do I think it’s unethical to enter them if you already have more than enough in life??? Not necessarily, but perhaps it’s more of a “nice thing to do” type thing here vs an “ethical” one? Like when people hold the door open for you or pay you a compliment? They’re not exactly a-holes for not doing those, but it sure is refreshing when they do!

I also wonder if the *item itself* being given away matters in situations like this too? If you’re entering for a small thing like a finance book or video game, would that be less unethical than, say, going after the free year of food or anything else that falls under the “needs” vs “wants” category? And what about extreme wants like world-wide cruises or HGTV mansion giveaways that even those of us with solid finances can’t come close to affording? Would those be “okay” for anyone to enter?

I don’t know what the answers are, but there sure are more variables to it than first expected, haha…

And now I’ll be thinking about this EVERY TIME I COME ACROSS A NEW GIVEAWAY!!!

So… Thanks?! ;)

But what about you? Do you think it’s okay to enter giveaways regardless of circumstances, or should they only be reserved for those less fortunate than you? Are there cut offs of things that are okay to enter vs those which aren’t?

No right or wrong answers here, of course, just good things to think about on the constant pursuit of trying to live our best lives.

And having run giveaways here on this site for over 10 years now, as well as giveaway-specific projects like GivewaysAreSexy.com (remember that one?!), I already know some of you are living this “people first” mentality and I love it every time I see it. There’s always a handful of you who will comment that you love the item but don’t want to enter for it, and will then go on to buy it yourself so others can have a shot at winning it instead!

SO NICE OF YOU!!!! And always inspires me to try and be more cognizant of this too, despite always failing/forgetting :)

So yeah, good food for thought today, and regardless of where you land I’d love to hear why so it helps us come to better conclusions ourselves.

And if this question bores you too much, maybe try this one out instead –> Should Only Poor People Shop at Thrift Stores?

I gotta get you riled up somehow! ;)

{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kate October 24, 2018 at 6:51 am

Going a little off piste here but, in the quest for a slightly more minimal lifestyle and the endless quest to lose “the last 5lb”!, I don’t take anything free that I wouldn’t buy.
I don’t take a free t-shirt or travel coffee mug or tote bag because, to quote myself with my sailor mouth, “I don’t want that crap in my house!”.
And I don’t take free food. The greedy person inside wants to eat a dozen free sample cupcakes but… “I don’t want that crap inside my body!”

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2 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 7:18 am

That’s my more natural reasoning too :) Comes into play in other areas of finance too, like major sales or discounts! 50% off junk is still junk!

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3 Danielle Ogilve October 27, 2018 at 6:32 am

I think this is the better argument rather than ethical vs unethical. Is it actually something that you would use?

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4 Millionaire Dojo October 24, 2018 at 6:51 am

I get the point, but you’re not going to eliminate poverty by doing this. And this taking away something from someone else who needed concept can be taken as far as you want to take it. Every time you buy food at the grocery store, you’re taking food out of the store that someone else may have needed. Does that mean you shouldn’t eat? Truth is, we’ve all got it better than most of the world in America so we should all give back in some way. If you just really love giveaways and you’re donating money each month to a cause you care about, I don’t see the harm in doing them.

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5 Bryan October 24, 2018 at 6:54 am

I almost bought a Mega Millions Lottery Ticket last night. I never have, but it’s that one with a 1.6 Billion dollar payout. Bahahaaaaa! Can you imagine a 1.6 Billion dollar return on a 3 dollar investment. Fortunately, I didn’t have $3.00 cash on me so I kept my three little employees working for me at 7%. But I honestly thought that’s too much money. I don’t need it. Fantasizing if I did win, my first thought was to pay for my nieces and nephews college education, give some to friends and family, and sock the rest away at Vanguard for who knows what. Oh, and lest I forget…I would fly out to Colorado and slide 1M to you and triple M for teaching me so much good stuff about money and enjoy a nice cold brew. :-)

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6 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 7:24 am

We wouldn’t turn that down! Haha…

I actually did pick up a ticket but didn’t come close to even getting *one* of the answers right ;) I just really wanted to have an epic net worth update and then drop the mic, haha…

But you’re right that the lottery is similar to giveaways, only with much worse possible consequences since it costs money to participate :(

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7 Indian Thoughts October 27, 2018 at 2:09 am

Bizzare, I didn’t buy the ticket for same thinking. I looked at price money and though I was tempter (like everyone else) at first but then I thought that it is way too money, who needs that type of money? I don’t want that kind of life story (like I would have totally won ;)) and I didn’t buy the ticket. :)

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8 Karlene October 24, 2018 at 7:38 am

Hello J. Money,
I definitely understand and support your guest writer’s perspective. However, I think appearances can be deceiving. Just because someone has a job that says he should have a certain lifestyle does not mean that it is so. That person could be overwhelmed in obligations (aka d_ _ t) and struggling to repay.

Only that family really knows if they need to be in that line for the free meal.

There is a part of me that says it does matter what is being given away, especially if it’s basic necessities like food/shelter.

There are also some people who may be in need and do not know how to humble themselves to go get the assistance being freely offered.

Then I wonder what if people who need the food or donated items are too proud to go get some? Is it okay then for someone like that university professor and his family to get some freebies?

For me it’s based on need and the honor system. I think it also depends on one’s upbringing. Some folks just find it easier to accept help than others.

And, this might be an area in which one needs to evolve.

Although my husband and I always willingly and often anonymously give to others, for a long time we found it difficult to accept gifts from others, especially if we felt the giver was struggling. This started changing for us when a friend offered us another viewpoint, which made it a little easier to accept such gifts. She basically said that if we did not accept another’s gift we were blocking the flow [of energy.]

Although we still sometimes find it challenging to accept gifts from others who are struggling that reminder has helped us to keep things in perspective.

So, if that university professor and family are experiencing some financial challenges and someone else is offering free food I see nothing wrong with them accepting that gift. When things improve for them they can pay it forward.

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9 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 10:03 am

Love this view point :)

Another thing with accepting gifts is that it makes the GIVER feel good too!! There’s nothing better than knowing you’re helping out someone you love, which you can only do if that person somehow brings it up (or you’re good at figuring things out!).

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10 Karlene October 24, 2018 at 11:20 am

Great point J. Money. I forgot to mention how warm and cuddly it feels to give to others (family or non-family members). :)

I am so grateful to our friend for sharing such an important viewpoint about keeping the energy flowing, which we have since shared with others. Because I have seen how it’s transformed at least one other person who probably found it more difficult to accept gifts than we did.

Like you, I have read and appreciate many of the responses and ways of viewing this article. One that sticks out the most to me is: It’s okay, if it feels right to accept some free stuff that you might not necessarily need, because you like the positive feelings that come with the process. I really had not thought of this before. And, if you win, you could easily make a donation to some worthy cause….

I also like that you pointed out that the author sent her thoughts to you and you shared it with us. But, regardless of how it came out there is enough being shared that most of us can read and improve in some way or the other.

Thanks to you and the author and all who choose to share their thoughts.

Namaste.

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11 J. Money October 25, 2018 at 6:43 am

You know it!! Always stuff you can learn and grow from so long as you keep an open mind! :)

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12 FullTimeFinance October 24, 2018 at 7:40 am

It’s interesting way to look at it I guess. But it’s a slippery slope. You could make the same arguments buying something used or discounted. Honestly I try to remember the odds of a poor person being displaced by me in a giveaway is next to none. After all giveaway enterants come from all walks of life. Conversely the odds of me donating in some way that helps someone who is poor is 100 percent. So if it’s a large enough giveaway I’d donate something at the same time. The giveaway enables the donation. Then again part of my lottery fantasy (I didn’t even buy a ticket) was what charity would get 100 million and how would I do it annonymously.

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13 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 10:04 am

“the odds of me donating in some way that helps someone who is poor is 100 percent.” – very well said, hadn’t thought about it that way before but you’re right!

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14 COD October 24, 2018 at 7:53 am

I wonder about something similar every time I buy clothes at Goodwill. I can afford $50 for a Polo brand polo shirt, but I’ll never buy it. But a nearly new Polo at Goodwill for $5 will find its way to my closet every time. So far I justify taking from the poor (haha!) by noting that our local Goodwill is never, ever low on inventory.

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15 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 10:05 am

Well my stance is that it’s never wrong to buy stuff at Goodwill because the $$$ flows right back to helping people and the organization, so you keep buying those Polos to your heart’s content ;)

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16 PaulM October 24, 2018 at 8:31 am

I agree that it depends on the item and the circumstance. I’m not wealthy enough to just go out and buy whatever I want but I do have my more than my basic needs met. However, I never pass up the free breakfasts offered at hotels since not taking it wouldn’t mean that some poor person would get it.

I think being charitable in giving and helping others is more important than not taking a free t shirt, if that brings you some joy.

And no, I don’t feel guilty in winning those coin books which, though I could afford to buy them, I probably wouldn’t have. I’m sure your giving them and my reading them brought joy to the both of us and isn’t that what it’s all about?

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17 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 10:07 am

I JUST MENTIONED THAT ABOVE IN A COMMENT!! YES!!! It always brings me joy when you guys enter to win my free stuff because I know they’re going to good homes and will be put to use again! I would definitely not spend the hours and money shipping them all over the world if I didn’t get anything out of it, haha…

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18 COD October 24, 2018 at 8:41 am

The hotel breakfast isn’t free. You paid for it when you paid for the room. Now if you are talking about sneaking into hotels you didn’t stay at that is a different issue :)

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19 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 10:07 am

Haha… #TRUTH

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20 Nate October 24, 2018 at 8:43 am

I’d like to point out that a university professor, depending on the level of their position, whether they have tenure, etc, could actually be greatly in need of free food. Some of those professors get paid peanuts!

I actually have a very similar thought every time I take free food left out after meetings at work. I am one of the highest paid people in my company working with a lot of entry-level young people making half or less as much as me. A free meal is much more likely to make a significant difference in their budget for the month. For me it’s just more tasty food that I didn’t really need in the first place because I probably packed a lunch that day or even already ate it.

I think one of the problems with living frugally and automating savings so much is that without conscience thought, it can feel like you’re poor even when you’re not. We don’t have a lot in the budget to spend on fun things like eating out. We could eat out three times a week for dinner and grab something for lunch everyday if we wanted to. But we’re choosing to do more important things with that money.

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21 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 10:09 am

What I’m loving about all these comments so far is that this whole mentality stretches wayyyy beyond just giveaways here. I hadn’t thought about half the stuff you guys have been mentioning and it’s so fascinating!!

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22 Martin October 24, 2018 at 9:05 am

If it makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing than don’t enter. I enjoy playing the game. I also got into a frugal state of mind by entering giveaways and doing other money saving things. If I stop and become satisfied with not being frugal, I may fall back into debt and become that person who has no money again. Now that I am in a comfortable position with money I donate a lot of items to people in need. That’s how I learned the lesson of accept when you need and give when you don’t.

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23 Paul October 24, 2018 at 9:08 am

Not entering a give away or not shopping on BF because poorer people than you might want to waste only 50% of their money…. idk, it sounds very elitist. In fact the whole guest post sounds like a humble brag.

The question I have is that since you acknowledge people enter these things that don’t have a need, why would you also not enter to attempt to control the narrative. I mean whats stopping you from turning right around and giving away to someone you deem worthy?

Bottom line is we are all human and deserving of living an enjoyable life. More so than anything, people should learn to listen to that little whispering voice or feeling in their gut to tell them if what they are doing is greedy. I shouldn’t feel bad for getting a “free” hamburger because I sacrificed year over year and clawed my way up inch by inch to get where I am at. I’m not FI yet but what the hell is all this sacrificing for if you can never enjoy anything. Someone will always be better and worse off than you so you might as well just live it up.

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24 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 10:17 am

Just a note to clarify here – she emailed me intending it to be a one-on-one conversation to get my thoughts, but it was *me* who asked if we could share it around with others as I thought it was something to marinate on. So you can blame me if it comes across as a “humble brag” as she had no idea I’d be blasting it around when she sat down to write it :)

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25 Paul October 24, 2018 at 11:14 am

Really all I am saying is that everyone deserves a break sometimes, regardless of need.
I really just wanted to start a conversation that didn’t blindly follow the acceptance + one interesting fact comments that usually follow a post.

If I take only the quoted section into context. I guess the question I have is what is the motive, is it truly benevolence, or is it to make yourself feel less bad about not being poor? In that respect the reason to abstain from giveaways, may not be altruistic at all. Rather, the reason may be so that you can obtain something intangible that money can not buy at all, a lasting positive feeling. If that is the reason, I would say there exists a possibility that motivations could be less than pure?

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26 J. Money October 25, 2018 at 6:45 am

I think I need more coffee to fully grasp all that, haha… But I do like that this has generated a lot of good comments so far – my inbox has blown up!

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27 Paul October 25, 2018 at 9:16 am

Hopefully you don’t mind me being the comment section’s antagonist from time to time. I really wasn’t trying to make anyone feel bad. Just wanted to open up some alternative view points.

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28 J. Money October 25, 2018 at 11:17 am

100% man. It would be pretty boring in here if everyone agreed all the time!!

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29 Aaron October 24, 2018 at 9:10 am

Interesting topic! On NPR the other day they were talking about a fella who gamed the lotto in SC – purchasing some $7 million worth of lotto tickets and eventually won the $20 million jackpot because he (being a math genius) knew the # combos he needed to purchase to win. Crazy. He’d done this like 12+ other times. I think its just greed playing out and when there is money available / giveaways available, the sly / greedy will find a way to take advantage and (often) robbing those who could use it more.

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30 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 10:17 am

WOWWWWW!!! That takes immense balls too, jeez….

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31 Joe October 24, 2018 at 9:15 am

I rarely enter any giveaways now. It’s not because I’m more considerate. It’s just that I don’t want to give my info out. I have enough robocalls already and don’t need anymore.
Also, I don’t have time to wait an hour in line.
I got a lotto ticket, though. And I won! One number, just $2…

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32 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 10:19 am

Haha good job ;)

I’ve heard of people who create multiple emails and phone #’s all for the main purpose of entering giveaways all day long… So if you ever get bored or want to do an experiment for your blog, that’s a way to do it ;)

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33 Mary October 24, 2018 at 9:34 am

The reason I can ‘afford whatever I like’ is because I take advantage of discounts and live on a budget. My income is good (not great), but we live a nice life. I can recognize that, but I also admit that I don’t splurge often. Freebies and giveaways allow us to ‘splurge’ in our lifestyle. If I bought tickets for my family to go to a baseball game (easily $50 for a family of 10), then the t-shirt is a bonus we can enjoy. I doubt many homeless people even knew about the restaurant giveaway – they could have slept there all night to be first in line. Now, the university professor has the opportunity to be generous with others – something he may not had a chance to do otherwise.

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34 Rita October 24, 2018 at 9:41 am

I don’t think that unethical buying on sale or second hand, I don’t take away others chance to do it. I often play on giveaways, and won a few prizes, but if I would enough money to buy these items, I would pass them. But sometimes there are some good opportunities, like travel somewhere and meet someone famous or a package of unique adventures that a common person couldn’t buy, maybe I would still enter those ones.

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35 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 10:21 am

Yup, true! That falls under my “extreme” giveaways where it’s so much $$$ or a unique experience/item that everyone in that case would be considered “less off” than the giver of ’em and thus all is welcome to enter :) I’ll play those every now and then when the barrier to enter is super low.

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36 Jessy October 24, 2018 at 9:55 am

Interesting. I enter the occasional giveaway. I’m not one of those to enter sweepstakes, but if there is a jar to put my name in at some local venue, sure. I won a little car safety kit in a very cool tote bag at a work giveaway a couple of years ago. Could I have afforded the items in it? Sure. Might one of my coworkers needed it more and been less able to afford it? Yes. But EVERY TIME I see that tool kit in my car, I feel lucky, fortunate, happy. I also remember with joy the two bags full of groceries that I won once, back when I did need them. Winning something is not just a matter of getting a material good. It gives you something you can’t buy–the feeling of being lucky, the reminder that good things sometimes come to you even if you are not particularly deserving or needy.

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37 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 10:22 am

love love LOVE this… such a great way to think of it!!

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38 Lisa October 24, 2018 at 9:57 am

The ethical thing to do is to enter the giveaway and then, if you win, give the steaks to a charity.

But it depends on the product. If it’s not a charity, the marketers have giveaways so that people who can afford it go, like it, and go again. A European cruise giveaway isn’t meant for someone who can’t afford to take time off from work or who can’t afford to travel to Europe for the cruise. So enjoy your fancy person giveaways. On the other hand, I would never take money earmarked to help lower income people, like scholarships to attend events. I thought the Fincon scholarship was interesting to enter but I never would have taken the money (I mean, not that I won =P) because that was specifically to help people who couldn’t afford it. To me, that’s like stealing from charity.

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39 Kathryn October 24, 2018 at 10:01 am

My view is that, by taking advantage of discounts and trying to win giveaways, I have more expendable income for giving to others. I’m not trying to say I give ALL my money away but if I were to win fast food for a month (not my style but going with the story), then that’s money I’m not spending on groceries, so it goes back to my budget and I have the margin to give to hurricane relief or whatever needs I see pop up. You’re just speculating that by not entering, someone less fortunate gets your chance, when you actually have the right to control your money if you are smart with it (using discounts in this example since you can’t control giveaways).

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40 Oregonian October 24, 2018 at 10:19 am

“I think I’ll be sick for the month of November so others can be well.” Sounds silly, right? Our health and wealth both depend on our personal beliefs and higher vibrations, not what others have “given up” for us. Those interested in this viewpoint can check out Abraham-Hicks on YouTube.

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41 Money Cat October 24, 2018 at 10:23 am

The only financial situation you truly know is your own; someone that seemingly makes “plenty” of money or has “enough” might be paying for elderly parents in a nursing home, a child in college (or rehab), or some other obligation. if it makes you feel better to not enter contests and take freebies then don’t, but that doesn’t make you any more virtuous than those that enter to win and don’t “need” the prizes.

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42 Money Beagle October 24, 2018 at 10:35 am

If you’re comfortable and you also win a contest I think the best strategy is to pay it forward in some fashion along the way. Say you win the steaks. Then with the money you saved by reduced grocery shopping, increase your offering to the collection basket or donate to a food bank.

For many, it’s the act of ‘winning’ than the actual prize itself. Sort of like people that go to fish, and throw every fish they catch back, regardless of size.

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43 Ms. Steward October 24, 2018 at 10:50 am

This is an interesting question. I suppose my two cents are this: If you want to leave out of a contest because you don’t want/need the item, that’s perfectly understandable, but I don’t think it necessarily makes you “ethical” or good. There’s an implied assumption here that giveaways should somehow go to the most deserving–the beef giveaway should go to the person most in need of beef.But that’s not the point or even what the organization giving away the product wants. They want all people, perhaps especially the wealthy businesswoman, to be excited about their product. If it helps someone in need, that’s an added bonus. Random giveaways are, fundamentally, by design, not a meritocracy. If the intention was something otherwise, there would be some sort of sorting criteria or qualification activities. Now is THAT wrong–should giveaways instead have qualifiers to ensure the resources are best used? At that point, you’re fundamentally questioning the capitalist model, which is a much larger question.

To respond to the Black Friday argument, I recently wrote about how we cut back on Black Friday shopping ourselves, because of ethical concerns about Amazon. I think that’s legitimate, but it’s not about “leaving” resources for others (which I think is completely unreliable and makes no impact–hot take, I know) but instead about ensuring I am using my resources in the most ethical way possible. Since there’s not really a resource output in the case of a giveaway… at best the person could win it and then ensure that it goes to someone deserving? So win the beef and donate it to a community organization? That’s how you ensure something good comes of it. Before that, it’s not yours to have any ownership of/determine.

A somewhat jumbled book, but money ethical concerns are my jam!

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44 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 11:03 am

I actually meant to include that in my post – that the companies giving stuff away are 99% of the time in it for marketing and more business vs helping others ;) Otherwise they could just give the items/money away right to charity anytime they want! It’s an interesting set of variables on both sides of the equation.

(although FYI – I *do* actually care about my people here whenever we do giveaways – it’s def. not worth all the hassle and time just for a few extra blog clicks ;))

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45 Ms. Steward October 24, 2018 at 5:12 pm

Having pondered it most of the day, I think the part of what I object to most is related to the final sentence of your comment response to me. I know you care about your readers, and I love seeing your giveaways. You deserve mad props for being one of the “good” giveaway folk, which is directly related to what irks me a little bit. Until the item is given away, it is the giver’s (your) possession to do something with, and it’s the giver’s (your) ethical quandary to deal with the terms of. I can recuse myself from even being considered by you for any number of reasons, and that’s fine. But the undergirding principle I read in the original e-mail that the item SHOULD go to x or y rubs me the wrong way because it presumes to tell the owner of the item (you) what to do with your property, when it’s not mine to decide anything about until I win it. I feel like the point about point is very clouded by the (very minute in comparison) emphasis on the person whose possession it isn’t to somehow guide the giveaway, and removes both culpability and praise for the person/org hosting the giveaway to start with.

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46 J. Money October 25, 2018 at 6:55 am

Hmm… not sure I follow *all the way*, but I know that for most of the giveaways we do here the winners are chosen anonymously so whoever wants to enter can, and will have just as equal a shot of winning whether someone “needs it” more than another or not. Though as the giver I DO always hope for it to go to someone who will love it and cherish/use it the most so it has the biggest impact! And I’m sure sometimes it does, and others it does not…

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47 Ms. Liz October 24, 2018 at 10:52 am

I don’t enter contests where I could easily afford the prize myself. I didn’t apply for free FinCon or PositiveCents registrations for that reason.

Not because I’m so virtuous but I wouldn’t value the free thing enough. My hope is the person who wins values it the most. That brings the highest utility to the situation.

Now, if they held a drawing for a private plane trip, I’d enter a million times. Oh, and I bought Mega Millions tickets because I thought I could do some good and have some fun with all that ca$h!

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48 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 11:04 am

And did you win it??? Are we all going to Tahiti to celebrate together?! :)

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49 Ms. Liz October 26, 2018 at 11:00 am

Sadly, No.

But wouldn’t that have been fun! A bunch of frugalish bloggers being unfrugal together???

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50 Deanna October 24, 2018 at 11:00 am

I agree with the commenter who said they frequently don’t take the free giveaways because they don’t want that crap in their house. That’s honestly the biggest motivator for me. I don’t want a year’s worth of free fast food – yuck!! But for trips or shopping sprees that I normally couldn’t afford, yes! Mostly because they’re so luxurious that a normal person can’t afford than anyway. I think those are fair game.

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51 Donna Freedman October 24, 2018 at 11:14 am

I’ve written often about how I pick up stray coins (and occasionally greenbacks). My partner and my great-nephews have also gotten into the act. At the end of the year I count our collective finds, round them up a bit and donate the finds to a local food bank.

One commenter said that I should leave the money where it is, so that someone who’s truly needy can find it. I disagree, for two reasons:

1. The next person who happens along might not be “truly needy” but will pick it up anyway.

2. The folks who visit the food bank are almost certainly in need.

As for giveaways, I don’t enter unless I or someone I know can actually USE the prize. For example, I don’t need another T-shirt. But recently I attended a community festival and won a $25 gift card to Red Robin. Happy to accept — I can take someone I know out to lunch!

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52 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 4:25 pm

I’ve always loved your yearly finds :) Most people don’t even take the time to PICK UP MONEY from the ground, so if you don’t its liable to stay there for years! Haha…

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53 Michelle Schroeder-Gardner October 24, 2018 at 11:40 am

I’ve honestly never really thought about this, and I’m not really sure what I think. I’ll definitely be thinking about this whenever I see a giveaway now.

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54 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Didn’t you get some hate years ago for winning something big? Or am I imagining that?

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55 SMS October 24, 2018 at 12:39 pm

As others have said, looks can be deceiving! If that university professor is an adjunct, the family may be in need of some free food. We can never know someone else’s financial situation and assumptions are dangererous. I would not hesitate to take something if I can use it. (As far as my financial situation goes, I don’t look poor and I don’t feel poor, but technically I am.) I would take a giveaway, but I also give, so it all balances out.

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56 Dr. Cory S. Fawcett October 24, 2018 at 1:10 pm

This is an interesting perspective. When my sons and I were bike racing, we were involved in a raffle at the end of the season. The more points you earned in the year, the more raffle tickets you had. My kids finished #1 and #2 for the years. They had the most tickets in the raffle. The two big items were new bikes. They each won a bike! Then as the raffle continued, they were excited to win more. I pulled them aside and told them they had won the most already, let’s not claim any more prizes and let the other kids feel good about winning something also. They were a bit disappointed, after all, they worked hard to win so many points and finish at the top of the leader board. But they understood. It was someone else’s turn. Then they felt happy to see the other kid’s faces when they won something also. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
Prescription for Financial Success

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57 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 4:28 pm

I love that you did that :) If you can receive AND give at the same time that’s the best of both worlds!

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58 Amanda October 24, 2018 at 1:31 pm

This is right up my alley! Entering contests and sweepstakes is kind of a hobby of mine. Last year I won almost $2500 in cash and prizes, this year only $700 so far.

I do have a full-time job – and kids and a husband who works 60 hrs a week and a house and other interests – so I can’t enter everything even if I wanted to. When deciding whether to enter, I ask myself if I would be excited about winning the grand prize because I could use it or give it to someone I know who would be psyched about the gift. $500 cash? Yeah! A boat? I’d become my dad’s favorite kid for sure, and probably also my brother’s favorite sibling. A sewing machine? Uh, not my area and don’t know anyone who does that stuff, so no. The thrill of winning would be overshadowed by the thought of “what am I going to do with this thing?” Plus, there’s someone who would have been excited to win it while I’m… not. I think of the Friends episode where Joey is disappointed to not win a soapie and then accepts one for an actress who is all “pfft. whatever” when he tells her she won. I don’t want to be Joey Tribiani or Alison Sweeney.

I also sometimes buy raffle tickets using the same logic, but because I’m spending money, I additionally must feel that if I don’t win anything that I’ve made a donation to a worthy cause. So I might spend $100 on tickets to win a new car, but only if I would feel good donating $100 to the local high school band.

Now, just because I’d be super excited to win a new car does not mean I need a new car. In fact, I just bought a new car. Would I feel bad if I won and someone else is still driving a beater with 300k miles? No. I don’t begrudge the people who won cars instead of me when I was driving a beater. Like someone else said above, it’s not a meritocracy. It’s meant to get people excited. As long as I’m excited about winning, I’m good with it.

The most important part for me is that when I win, I feel more generous. I want to pay it forward. My family, friends, coworkers, and sometimes strangers benefit from my luck. 3rd prize of 10 coupons for a free dozen donuts means I treat the entire office for the next 2 Monday mornings. My 6yo loves the taco hat I will never wear. After winning in 2 separate $500 radio contests, I extended our water park vacation by 2 days, bought my mom the $75 fleece she would never buy for herself, bought myself a purse I would never normally buy for myself, and bought lunch for a random woman at Arbys who seemed to be having a really crappy day. The baking supplies I won were donated to a silent auction for a cause I believe in, but I used the accompanying $500 Williams Sonoma gift card to buy fancy dishes that I would never justify spending regular money on. And it all felt AWESOME, more so than the actual winning.

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59 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 4:30 pm

I think you should have written this post, haha… Love your mentality!!! Go start a blog so more people can benefit from your brain!! :)

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60 Dani October 24, 2018 at 1:38 pm

Holy comments already! I’m just on a quick break at work so don’t have time to read them all (but I’ll be back to read them at some point–your readers always bring additional perspective that gets me thinking outside of what my blinders allow me to see).
One blogger (ahem) was giving away some personal finance books awhile back, and each day there were several in a bundle. The first bundle was a collection that I had never heard of/thought of or otherwise hadn’t read but they sounded fascinating, so I entered. The next day, all but 1 of the books were ones that I already had, so I didn’t enter.
My own personal meter of when to enter and when not to is based on a few questions: Do I need it? Will I buy it if I don’t win it? Is it something that I will use? Is it something that I can gift to another that will benefit? If so, then yes, I will enter.
However, if it is something that will collect dust, not be used, not bring any value to me, etc., then I will pass. I have enough tote bags for my groceries, don’t wear logo’d T-shirts, etc. I know that there are people out there that will thrill at getting a freebie, so I leave the ones that don’t appeal to me to others. And honestly, that’s true most of the freebies/drawings/etc. that come along! I just don’t want/need that stuff. If something free lands on my desk unbeckoned, I have a homeless group that I work with that gets all the goodies that I don’t use, and they often appreciate new.

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61 Dani October 24, 2018 at 2:53 pm

Hmm… Somehow I hit submit without completing my thought.
Ethics can be a touchy subject, but in the case of a promotional giveaway, I don’t think it’s ethically wrong to enter giveaways for things that you don’t need or could otherwise afford. However, if I were to go into the homeless group that I’m in and ask for a gas card so that I can get to work, that would be morally wrong. There’s a difference between moral issues and ethical issues, and we each have our own moral compass.

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62 J. Money October 24, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Thanks for chiming in! And for volunteering with the homeless group – we need more angels like you in this world!!

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63 SherryH October 24, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Interesting question, with a lot of ramifications.

I’ll enter a giveaway, especially a blog giveaway, if the item is something I need or could use. I feel like most bloggers want to engage their readers, and I’m more than willing to be engaged. If I win, I probably won’t enter for a few months or so, just to give others a chance.

I can see the point of taking yourself out of the running if there are others entered who could possibly use the prize more, but: 1) There’s no guarantee a needy person will win the item, and 2) You can’t really judge another person’s need by outward circumstances.

I do think it’s often a knee-jerk reaction to put a hand up for something just because it’s available, without considering whether we really need or even want it, and whether someone else could benefit more. Ultimately, I don’t see much direct benefit, but perhaps there’s a psychic or karmic benefit. ;)

Devil’s advocate argument, though: If not enough people enter, the offerer may decide there’s not enough interest and stop offering further giveaways. Then no one can win.

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64 J. Money October 25, 2018 at 7:00 am

Hah – true on that last one!

I like the idea of not entering for a bit after winning something… I’ll participate in a number of raffles at my coin club, and if my name is called to win one of them I’ll always pass forward the 2nd item if won or give the tickets to a friend so others can have a shot and I don’t steal all the goodies… Feels much better that way, even though you’d think you’d feel even better winning a ton of stuff, right? :)

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65 OFG October 24, 2018 at 6:23 pm

I enter giveaways all the time I can honestly say that I’ve never thought about giving someone else the chance to win something that I could otherwise win myself. To be honest I just love the thrill of winning and feeling lucky. It’s the same feeling we all get when we win a board game like Yahtzee or Risk. You roll those dice and hope the right numbers land right side up. This feels a lot like an issue of need-based versus non-need based scholarships. Sometimes you receive a scholarship based on need, other times you earn it for getting good grades or playing a sport. Should the non-need based scholarships not exist because more people could use the need-based ones? It’s all a slippery slope. I know one thing for sure. I’ll still sign up for giveaways, but I’ll think about this post every time I enter. Thanks for writing about it!

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66 J. Money October 25, 2018 at 7:03 am

And that’s all I want, my friend!! For us to think about stuff more even if it doesn’t change our answers or actions at all :) Thanks for participating and being honest with your feelings!

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67 Brook hart October 24, 2018 at 7:33 pm

It’s hard for me to define needy. Just random thoughts here. I see people needing many things but spend what money they have unwisely. 150.00 for one cell phone and the same for a satellite dish. They frequent food banks for their groceries. I enter if it is something I need or want and can’t afford. But I utilize every tip you suggest.

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68 Almond Eastland October 24, 2018 at 9:15 pm

Although it’s a little off-topic, this post made me think about other ways in which spending more might be the right (or nice) thinks to do. Buying ethically sourced food, for example. Or supporting artists by buying their art/ music/ audiobooks/ tutorials even though it may be available for free. If you have enough, why not spread your good fortune around?

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69 J. Money October 25, 2018 at 7:06 am

YES!!! Love that line of thought!! And you know those artists/friends are going to be much more impacted by your generosity than larger corporations/etc! I catch myself doing more of this now too as my money increases… And REALLY admire those who do it even when they don’t have much to give up at all!

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70 Tonya October 24, 2018 at 11:42 pm

I definitely do not think it is unethical but it is definitely unnecessary. When you were giving away some stuff, I only entered into the drawings for things I was truly interested in acquiring. I would never wait in line for over an hour to get a free drive thru meal once a week for year. Waiting in line for over an hour early in the morning for 52 $5 meals does not sound appealing to me. I would rather spend that time sleeping, getting ready for work, seeing my child before he goes to school, and being prepared for my work day. As a minimal minimalist, I’m not really interested in accumulating more stuff I don’t want or need. If it is something I actually want or need, I check the complexity of entering. I will not spend 20 minutes filling out entries, following, and commenting on something to be entered if I can just buy it for $5 or $10. As they say, time is money.

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71 J. Money October 25, 2018 at 7:16 am

You had me at minimal minimalist! is that a more hardcore version of a minimalist? :)

And I will say, for those who do like entering giveaways, sometimes the ones that DO take the most time to enter will also give you the best odds of winning – mainly because of the fact it takes so much time! For example, my wife once entered a contest to win a sleep numbers bed, and to enter you had to come up with a creative poem or song or something of that nature. Most people just took 5 minutes to try and enter real fast, but my wife spent 3 hours+ trying to come up with the perfect song, and then ended up winning it in the end :)

Not saying it works for everything (and especially waiting in long lines!), but now she only enters giveaways that require some sort of *skill* since she knows if she takes the time she’ll have better odds of winning since most people don’t put in the effort… And of course similar to you and others, only enters for those things she *really* wants.

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72 Tonya October 26, 2018 at 9:57 pm

Being a minimal minimalist means I do it minimally. I hate extra crap and buying things I don’t really need but I don’t even want to attempt to live scorched earth style. I have a 5-year old so we have toys and hockey gear but I HATE knick knacks and useless items.

I get the thing where your wife spent time to win a freaking sleep number bed. Those things are expensive and that is an awesome giveaway. Most giveaways are junk you wouldn’t have bought with real money anyway. Or they’re cheap enough that you could just save your time and buy whatever it is at a minimal cost. Most (not all) giveaways aren’t worth the time.

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73 J. Money October 29, 2018 at 6:49 am

Ahhhh a *minimal* minimalist – got it! A more “normal” way of incorporating it vs all hardcore – I got ya :)

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74 lisa October 27, 2018 at 3:03 am

I enter giveaways if I really want or can use the item. And there’s not much that I want anymore.

As for the mega millions lottery, a guy at work had 37 of us pitch in to win. We didn’t, obviously, but to me, we all share in something like that. Most of us can use the $, if not all of us. We have mortgages, kids, car issues and struggles.

I also took the pool idea and when I buy tickets, I copy them and mail them to friends/family. That way, we can all share if we win.

Even if I won a smaller amount of money, say, $5,000. I’d share it with my sisters. My big sister sent me and my other sister something like $300 or something. She said she “fell into some money” and wanted to share. I will pay her back one day. I never forgot that.

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75 J. Money October 29, 2018 at 6:50 am

Awwww — you guys seem pretty close! Love to hear that!

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76 Kio November 18, 2018 at 3:55 am

Another ex-poor person who doesn’t enter giveaways because others might need it more. Everyone knows their own situation best, and I know mine – and I can buy whatever I need or truly want to prioritize.

Passing on the giveaways reminds me that I am grateful for having that, though, so giveaways still bring me joy.

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77 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 7:04 am

Love that they still bring you joy like that ;)

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