Jolene Stanley has won over $90,000 worth of freebies by entering online competitions, winning everything from five-star resort vacations to meals in Michelin starred restaurants. And, she may be Britain's luckiest woman.
Stanley has been on a roll ever since she bagged a top-of-the-range stroller worth $1,500 in her first competition in 2012. Now, she takes home an average 25 to 35 prizes a month.
Pregnant with her eldest child, Stanley realized she was having far more than just beginner's luck.
Jolene and her sisters at the Spice Girls gig she won tickets for (PA Real Life/Collect)
Since then, Stanley has scooped everything from beauty goodies, to spa vacations, concert tickets, vacation vouchers and toy bundles, winning so much that she even gathered everything for last Christmas for free.
“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," she said.
“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."
Jolene posing with some of her recent prizes (PA Real Life/Collect)
“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," she added.
“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, Stanley never expected to win when she first tried her hand at comping back in 2012.
Jolene and Stanley during a trip to Scotland to stay in a log cabin – a prize she won (PA Real Life/Collect)
Winning the stroller set, which came complete with a carry cot and car seat 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."
Jolene and James (PA Real Life/Collect)
“No words can describe what it feels like when you win a big prize," she continued.
“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."
While she had great success, her first tries at the competitions were disorganized. Rather setting aside specific time to search the web for prizes, sporadically checked her phone whenever she had a spare 15 minutes.
But, at the start of 2019, she vowed to be more organized.
“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 said.
“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 categorize 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 with her family, Christmas 2019 (PA Real Life/Collect)
Stanley's strategic approach paid off, as in 2019, she won $20,000 worth of freebies, and managed to get Christmas for nothing, just as she had hoped.
“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,"she said.
“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."
James with Stanley, Ivy and Charlie during a day out to Gullivers Travels theme park that Jolene won (PA Real Life/Collect)
“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," she continued.
“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 Stanley's favorite things about her hobby is that it allows her to spoil her loved ones.
On multiple occasions, she has taken friends and family with her on mini-vacations, 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."
Some Amazon gift vouchers Jolene won (PA Real Life/Collect)
Adding everything up, Stanley estimates she has won $91,000 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.
Some haircare products Jolene won (PA Real Life/Collect)
“We went away for the weekend not long ago and I came back to five parcels waiting for me," she said.
“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."
Some beauty goodies Jolene won (PA Real Life/Collect)
To date, some of Stanley's best prizes include tickets to a Spice Girls concert, a four-night stay at a five-star resort in Portugal, a seven-course dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant and a $1,400 cooker.
She has also bagged around $3,900 of vacation vouchers, which she has used to go to Italy and Florida, 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.
Some toys that Jolene won and used as Christmas presents in 2019 (PA Real Life/Collect)
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 picture.
“The trip to Portugal will always stand out as one of the best things I've ever won," she said. “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."
Her wins not only make wonderful treats for her friends and family, they also make everyday life far cheaper.
Stanley 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.
Jolene posing with the cooker she won (PA Real Life/Collect)
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.
“I absolutely love my hobby. I never imagined when I started that I'd win so many incredible things," she said.
“I've been to places I'd never dreamed I'd go, and it's all thanks to comping."