Cleaner bags £70,000 of freebies by entering online competitions

Jolene Stanley may be Britain’s luckiest woman as she’s managed to win everything from five-star resort breaks to meals in Michelin starred restaurants.

Since the mum-of-three started ‘comping’ eight years ago, she’s won £70,000 worth of prizes and said she now makes more from her hobby than she does from her job as a part-time cleaner.

It started back in 2012, when Jolene, 34, of Wivenhoe, Essex, won a top-of-the-range pram worth £1,200 in her first competition in 2012, while pregnant with her eldest child Stanley Constable.

She now takes home an average of between 25 and 35 prizes a month – virtually one a day.

Jolene, who also has two children, Ivy, three, and Charlie, one, with her partner James Houghton, 28, explained: ‘From the moment I entered that first competition, I was addicted. I wanted to see what else was out there and what else I could win.

‘In the first year of entering competitions, I won £20,000 worth of prizes. That’s my best year to date. In 2019 alone, I won £16,000 worth.

‘I actually make more from comping than I do from my job. I work part-time, so usually earn between £65 and £85 a week from my day job.

‘My friends and family say I’m jammy, and joke that I must be the luckiest person in the country.’

The pram set initially triggered her winning streak and just two months later, she won a VIP experience driving supercars around a racetrack.

‘The more I won, the more I wanted to enter,’ she said.

‘I love winning – but it’s not all about the big prizes. I love the little ones too, especially when they come from new brands and small businesses.

‘No words can describe what it feels like when you win a big prize.

‘I’d go through waves of entering loads of competitions, then going a bit quiet. We’re a busy, active family so are often out and about, making it impractical for me to be scrolling through my phone, looking for something to win.’

In 2019, she decided to get more organised with what she was entering, rather than just checking for competitions when she had 15 minutes to spare.

She said: ‘At the start of last year, I decided I wanted to win enough to get Christmas for free and use all the prizes as gifts for my friends and family.

‘So, I started setting aside three nights a week specifically for comping, when James was working night shifts.

‘Once the kids were in bed, I would scroll through Facebook and Instagram to find as much as possible. I’d categorise the prizes, dedicating one day to vouchers, one to toys and one to parenting giveaways.

‘If I spotted something great during the day, I’d enter that, too.’

Jolene’s top tips

  • Find friends within the community who can alert you to prizes, and tag you in relevant giveaways
  • Leave a personalised comment under every giveaway post
  • Make sure you read the rules fully
  • Find a way to make it enjoyable, rather than feel like a chore
  • Search hashtags to find local competitions (e.g. #essexgiveaway #londongiveaway) as they tend to not get as many entrants and the prize will be on your doorstep
  • Enter as much as possible – you’ve got to be in it to win it!

Jolene’s strategic approach paid off, as in 2019, she won £16,000 worth of freebies – and managed to get Christmas for nothing, just as she had hoped.

She said: ‘I spent virtually nothing on Christmas. My total spend was £65, including £10 on all three kids. Everything else was taken care of by prizes.

‘I gave James a bottle of rum, a camping stove and a sock subscription that I’d won and we also had a family day out at Gulliver’s Travels theme park.

‘I gave Stanley a £165 scooter I’d won, and Ivy a new bike. I also won £200 worth of Amazon vouchers which I used to get the kids some other toys and stocking fillers. Then I gave them a £500 climbing frame I’d won as a joint present.

‘I got a £200 Tesco voucher and a £300 Love2Shop voucher, which can be used at multiple high street shops, which took care of everything else.’

One of Jolene’s favourite things about her hobby is that, usually on a tight budget, it allows her to spoil her loved ones.

Once a month, she also makes a donation at her local food bank, giving them any edible goodies she has.

Totting everything up, Jolene estimates she has won £70,000 worth of goodies since 2012.

On average, she will win between 25 and 35 prizes a month – although her luckiest streak to date saw her take home 52 in just four weeks in September 2018.

She laughed: ‘The local posties know all about my comping. If ever a few days pass without a package arriving, they’ll say, ‘What’s the matter? Haven’t you won anything?’

‘Whatever I can’t find a place for in my house, I’ll store in the attic, or give away to friends, family or charity. I’d only ever enter competitions where I want to win the prize, though.

Jolene’s top five prizes

  • A four-night stay at a five-star resort in Portugal
  • A £1,100 range cooker
  • A holiday to Bella Italia campsite by Lake Garda
  • £2,000 worth of holiday vouchers
  • A Mother’s Day package consisting of a meal cooked by a private chef, a £100 food voucher, kitchenware and a photoshoot

‘There’s no point winning something you have no use for.’

Most of her wins come through Instagram, but she also scours Facebook, where she is a member of several comping groups, and special forums.

She also uses comping to make every day life cheaper, winning food or toiletries that they can use day-to-day.

By sharing her story, she hopes to encourage other cash-strapped parents to try their hand at comping.

She said: ‘I absolutely love my hobby. I never imagined when I started that I’d win so many incredible things.

‘I’ve been to places I’d never dreamed I’d go, and it’s all thanks to comping.’

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