Saturday, June 27, 2009

Confessions Of A ThriftyMaven

Rome News-Tribune Features Editor / 706-290-5255

In tough economic times, most people are looking to save a few bucks here and there. But Rome High School teacher Catherine Copeland’s home is stocked with brand new electronics and fancy gadgets and she’s taking trips all over the country, even being picked up at the airport in limousines. The catch is that she isn’t paying for any of it.

Copeland, who teaches business at Rome High, has been sweeping since she was 19 years old.

“Sweeping is when you enter sweepstakes,” Copeland said. “A long time ago I discovered that with patience and perseverance you can win a lot of stuff just by entering sweepstakes and contests.”

And for most of her adult life, Copeland has enjoyed the thrill of sweepstakes and contests and the chance at winning prizes and gifts.

She started with call-in radio contests and won more than 100 albums and saw 70 concerts including Billy Joel, Elton John and Queen for free.

Copeland then graduated to “snail mail,” filling out 3x5 cards and mailing them out to various sweepstakes.

And now, the Internet offers her thousands of choices for entering contests.

She is a member of the Georgia Peaches Sweepers Club as well as Through those groups, she shares information with other avid sweepers and gets information on thousands of contests.

“On average I enter about 500 sweepstakes per day,” she said. “But you have programs that make doing that very easy. It’s mindless. I could sit and watch television and send those out.”

There is also a big difference between sweepstakes and contests, as Copeland is quick to point out.

“Sweepstakes usually just require you to send in your name and address,” she said. “Contests require some sort of skill.”

Copeland has entered and won contests for recipes, photography, videos and even essays.

And that time spent has certainly paid off. Her home is filled with her prizes including radios, cameras, laptops, printers, gift cards and iPods.

She has won trips to the Bahamas, Disney World, Aruba, St. Lucia, several U.S. cities and even as far away as Scotland.

Her most unusual prize, she guesses, was a double ghost tour of New Orleans and Chicago.

And the most valuable?

“We sweepers have what we call ‘hall of fame’ wins,” she said. “Those are prizes that are worth at least $5,000. I’ve won three of those. Two were trips and one was an electronics package.”

But Copeland isn’t keeping all the wealth to herself. She’s taken to the Internet with a blog,, in an effort to share all her thrifty secrets with the community.

“The blog is a byproduct of what I teach my students,” she said. “I’m thrifty. I teach about good business and saving money and marketing and company strategies. So the blog is somewhere people can go to learn about some of those things.

Copeland blogs about everything from how and where to find deals to contests and sweepstakes and even coupons.

Readers can get special promotions, recipes as well as product reviews.

“I just want people to be aware of these money-saving strategies,” she said. “With rising joblessness, housing woes and other economic problems people are looking for ways to cut costs.”

Today is the day that my article appeared in the Rome News Tribune. Some 56 new subscribers signed up in one day. That's about the same number of people who signed up in one day after I began the Home Depot Contest.

I had posted that I had appeared in the paper on OLS and a couple of people were upset because I talked about sweeping and about OLS. They felt that this would keep them from winning because more people would sign up. That was fine. I guess I understand that. I do know that most of the people I turn on to sweeping generally lose interest quickly. They might enter a couple of sweeps and that's it, they're through with it. See I told you I never win!

One person though really lashed into me. She wanted to know why I talked about entering sweeps mindlessly while watching TV. Well if that person talked to my husband she would know that I don't watch TV in the sense that I stare mindlessly at the screen. I have the TV on, I listen to it, as I hit roboform. The reporter had wanted to know how in the world I entered 500 sweeps a day. I had chatted with the reporter about sweeping and I showed him Roboform. He thought that was pretty cool. He said "I guess you could just do that while you are entering sweeps." I said yes. The reporter had gotten the name of OLS wrong and he had put the mindlessly watching TV thing in his article and this bothered the heck out of this person on OLS.

Not once, but three separate times she came at me. Finally I had enough and I confronted her. She had been so snarky and then she said "Why are you being so defensive?" Uh hello? Are you following the same conversation I am I asked? As always I took it personally. So I told her look, some people will always believe they are right. It doesn't matter what is said THEY are always right so "YOU ARE RIGHT." She stopped posting. After that a few people posted how happy they were about my article.

So wish me luck, I'm still growing my blog.

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