When I wrote up my list of survey sites that I use on a regular basis to earn a little extra money, I said that I always get cash (or gift cards where cash is not available) as my compensation. I don’t do surveys that are “sweepstakes entries” and I don’t select prizes. Ever.
This past week, I almost got suckered into selecting a prize through my own idiocy, and I caught myself just in time. One of the survey sites I use is called My Survey, and you earn points which can be redeemed for cash (1 point = 1 cent, minimum you earn for a very short screener survey is 10 points). The cashout level is pretty low – 1000 points or $10. The last time I was ready to cash out, for some reason I decided to look at the prizes – I’d never even looked at them before, I always redeemed for cash and went on my way. Most of the prizes were uninteresting to me, but one caught my eye. For 1000 points, you could get 50 4 x 6 prints from Snapfish along with a shipping credit equal to free standard shipping.
As I have mentioned before, I am a scrapbooker. In my younger and more free-spending days, I accumulated a large collection of scrapbooking papers, stickers, and accessories. Generally for me, scrapbooking now is a fairly frugal hobby, because all I usually need to buy is prints of the pictures for my project and sometimes an album or more page protectors for an existing album. Not that these things are cheap, but it is a lot less expensive than buying everything for a project. Being creative and using birthday presents for scrapbooking gift certificates, I have been able to scrapbook for several years now with very little spent out of pocket.
I have taken advantage of several promotional offers for free picture prints from various online services, but I am always on the lookout for more. Pictures are not that expensive, but they do add up! I had gotten a free set of prints from Snapfish in the past through My Points, and I was pleased with the quality of the prints, so this sounded like a great deal. Free shipping! 50 prints! Awesome.
Well, until I did some research and really did the math. For 50 prints, Snapfish’s price for shipping would be $3.44. So if I subtract that from $10.00 (what 1000 points redeems for) that leaves $6.56 as the actual cost of the prints, which divides out to a smidge over $0.13 per print ($0.1312 to be exact). That still didn’t sound too bad to me, until I looked up the regular price of prints on Snapfish’s website. $0.09 per print. Whoops! If I used 1000 points to claim this prize, it would actually cost me $2.06 more ($0.0412 x 50) than if I got a $10.00 check and then just bought prints through Snapfish’s website. This is assuming I pay tax either way – if I pay tax on the prints when using cash and not when using the prize card, that reduces my savings to ~$1.59, but it is still a savings. It is less expensive, either way, to get the $10 in cash and then just buy 50 prints directly from Snapfish.
The only downside to that is I probably will not buy prints anytime soon – the nice thing about a “prize” is that since it is money I don’t actually have yet, it is easier for me to “let go” of it. Which isn’t a great thing, either. I need the $10. I don’t need more pictures to scrapbook. That can wait until I am out of debt, or much closer to it. I haven’t finished using the pictures I already have printed from redeeming some Pampers Points (more on that in the future, I hate when “free” isn’t really “free”…) so it is not like I am sitting around with no pictures to use. And my birthday is this month. I may get a new album for my birthday and have plenty of scrapbooking to do, with no new pictures purchased.
The moral of this story is that prizes are generally a bad deal! Don’t use one just because it *sounds* good. Actually do the research and do the math is the lesson I reinforced for myself. In general, prizes are overpriced as far as how many “points” you need to use to get them, and you are better off getting the money and using that to buy the prize yourself. Remember – it is still money! Don’t get a bad deal on a prize just because it is “free” – if you can get more cash than the prize is worth, you’re wasting money and overpaying.