Pub cleaner bags £70,000 worth of freebies by entering online competitions 

A pub cleaner dubbed ‘Britain’s luckiest woman’ has bagged a whopping £70,000 worth of freebies by entering online competitions.

Mum-of-three Jolene Stanley, 34, of Wivenhoe, Essex, has won everything from five-star resort breaks to slap up meals in Michelin starred restaurants, earning more from competitions each year than her day job.

Jolene has been on a roll ever since she bagged a top-of-the-range pram worth £1,200 in her first competition in 2012 and now takes home an average of between 25 and 35 prizes a month – virtually one a day.

Mum-of-three Jolene Stanley, 34, of Wivenhoe, Essex, with partner James Houghton, 28, and son Stanley Constable, seven

Mum-of-three Jolene Stanley, 34, of Wivenhoe, Essex, with partner James Houghton, 28, and son Stanley Constable, seven

Pregnant with her eldest child, Stanley Constable, now seven, who is from a previous relationship, at the time of her first win, she soon realised she was having far more than just beginner’s luck.

Since then, Jolene, who also has two children, Ivy, three, and Charlie, one, with her partner James Houghton, 28, a carer, has scooped everything from beauty goodies, to spa breaks, gig tickets, holiday vouchers and toy bundles – winning so much that she even bagged last Christmas for free.

She said: ‘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.

Here Jolene poses with a £1,100 range cooker she won through a competition

Here Jolene poses with a £1,100 range cooker she won through a competition

A selection of makeup and products that Jolene has bagged through her lucrative habit of entering competitions

A selection of makeup and products that Jolene has bagged through her lucrative habit of entering competitions 

Jolene and James enjoy a pamper day. She has won multiple spa weekends which she takes her family and friends along to

Jolene and James enjoy a pamper day. She has won multiple spa weekends which she takes her family and friends along to

‘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.’

Now a seasoned comper – the term given to someone who habitually enters giveaways – Jolene never expected to win when she first tried her hand at comping back in 2012.

Netting the pram set, which came complete with a carry cot and car seat – a timely prize, given that she was pregnant – triggered her winning streak and just two months later, she won a VIP experience driving supercars around a racetrack.

Jolene with a mass of toys that she has won for her three children, many of which get saved for Christmas each year

Jolene with a mass of toys that she has won for her three children, many of which get saved for Christmas each year 

After winning a large selection of toys in 2019 Jolene was able to provide Christmas for her children for free

After winning a large selection of toys in 2019 Jolene was able to provide Christmas for her children for free 

The family enjoy a day out at Gullivers Travels theme park that Jolene won. Pictured: James with Stanley, Ivy and Charlie

The family enjoy a day out at Gullivers Travels theme park that Jolene won. Pictured: James with Stanley, Ivy and Charlie

‘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 we are often out and about, making it impractical for me to be scrolling through my phone, looking for something to win.’

While she had great success, her first forays into the world of comping were disorganised, according to Jolene. 

The family enjoying themselves on a holiday won by Jolene at a five star resort

The family enjoying themselves on a holiday won by Jolene at a five star resort

The family enjoying themselves on a holiday won by Jolene at a five star resort

Jolene and James in Portugal at the five star resort during the four-night stay

Jolene and James in Portugal at the five star resort during the four-night stay

Rather than setting aside specific time to scour the web for prizes, she sporadically checked her phone whenever she had a spare 15 minutes, but since early 2019 she’s been more organised. 

‘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,’ she explained. 

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

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 
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‘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 strategic approach paid off, because 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.

On multiple occasions, she has taken friends and family with her on minibreaks, spa weekends, for afternoon tea or out for fancy meals – and often treats them to hampers made up of beauty products she nabs.

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

‘A few of my family and friends have tried their hands at comping, too – though they haven’t been quite as lucky as me,’ she laughed. ‘They are constantly asking me for tips.’

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 gets so many packages arriving at her house that she is on first name terms with the local postmen and delivery drivers.

A selection of cleaning products bagged by Jolene, who cleans pubs as a part-time job

A selection of cleaning products bagged by Jolene, who cleans pubs as a part-time job

A selection of beauty products won by Jolene the competition queen

A selection of beauty products won by Jolene the competition queen

Jolene's attic full of toys she has won through competitions

A hamper of sweets and books won by the mother

Jolene’s attic full of toys she has won through competitions (left) and a hamper of sweets and books won by the mother (right)

She laughed: ‘We went away for the weekend not long ago and I came back to five parcels waiting for me.

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! 
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‘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.

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

To date, some of Jolene’s best prizes include tickets to a Spice Girls gig, a four-night stay at a five-star resort in Portugal, a seven-course dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant and a £1,100 cooker.

She has also bagged around £3,000 of holiday vouchers, which she has used to go to Italy and Florida – although the latter has been postponed due to Covid-19 – a meal cooked by a private chef and a trip to Scotland to stay in a cosy log cabin.

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 mainly enters competitions where all you have to do is like and share a social media post, or follow a certain account, but she did once win a holiday by sharing a sweet family snap.

‘The trip to Portugal will always stand out as one of the best things I’ve ever won,’ she said.

Jolene and her sisters enjoying a Spice Girls gig that she won tickets for

Jolene and her sisters enjoying a Spice Girls gig that she won tickets for

Jolene with some Olay skincare products she won

Jolene with a stack of porridge pots she won

Jolene with some Olay skincare products she won (left) and with a stack of porridge pots she won (right)

‘It was in 2016, so it was just me, James and Stanley, as Ivy and Charlie weren’t born.

‘We were picked up from the airport by a private chauffeur and driven to this incredible resort. It was like being a celebrity.’

Not do her wins make wonderful treats for her friends and family, they also make everyday life far cheaper.

Jolene often wins free food and has netted so many baby and bath products that she has never had to buy Ivy, now three, any toiletries.

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

And while it is only August, she is already looking ahead to Christmas, and has just started to focus her efforts on winning things that will go on to make presents for her family.

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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