Mission Competition

Top Money Saving and Comping Tips from a 21 year-old Student keen to make my limited budget stretch the semester!

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Luck and love!

Friday 23 September 2016

Day in the Life of a Comper...Neill Johnstone

Hello! I’m glad we share this amazing hobby, do you have a story about how you got into it?

Pressed for a date, I’d say I first started comping in 2014. I’d been meaning to start for years, but for reasons I can’t fathom, never got around to it! The final nudge came from a piece in the MSE newsletter when my first-born was still pretty wee and I was juggling childcare and part-time employment. Looking for a way to make Christmas easier I figured that if I entered enough comps, I’d soon be drowning in iPads, tellies and protein shakes. (Guess what? Didn’t happen!)

Haha, I think that's always the image people get! So what has been your best prize so far?

I don’t know about best, but my most cherished came in my first year of comping when I won an iPhone 5. I’m pretty sure it was a reconditioned model (the fact that the promoter was a phone repair company was a major clue here!) but I didn’t care - my old phone was so lamentably awful that two tins and a bit of string would have made for a quantum leap in technology. The new phone changed my life (or at least made me more pleasant to be around!). From that point, every call I made, every text I sent, reminded me that I could be - and indeed was - a winner. In your early days of comping, that’s like getting ten dozen motivational pep talks a day! On top of all that, I was able to enter so many more photo comps that you might say that I won several times over!

A daily reminder is certainly motivation! Do you prefer physical prizes or experiences?

Boringly, I’m going to sit on the fence here. The truth is, I’ve not won that many experiences, but I have been to a couple of great concerts that I would otherwise have missed, enjoyed meals I would never have been able to justify eating, and even got to see Norwich hold Man City to a goalless draw (honestly, it was a fantastic game!). On the other hand, I’ve also won physical prizes that have opened my mind to new things or stopped me from having to throw money at really boring things I resent paying for, like batteries, razor blades and granola.

I have saved myself a fortune, it's true! What do your friends and family think of this hobby?

I’ve got one friend whose mother is an old-school comper, so she takes an interest, but most of my other friends are indifferent at best, baffled at worst. “You win things … like … for a hobby?” asked one, before scratching his head and leaving it at that.

As for my family, my first-born only seems to notice if I win something he can eat, and steadfastedly refuses to cooperate for any photo comps that might benefit from having a small child mugging the camera. And to be honest, the second-born isn’t much better. My wife was sceptical at first, but now that she’s seen the benefits, she’s much more supportive. Generally, however, she stays out of it - although I did convince her to enter the Chicago Town dance off. First-born approved of the unscheduled pizza nights!

Haha, who doesn't love free pizza after all?! Aside from pizza, what are your top 3 dream prizes?

I’ve got family in North America, so I try to keep an eye out for tickets to the States. After, that, like most compers I imagine, I have fancy luxuries at the top of my wishlist, such as a Sonos system or a new motor. I confess, however, that I don’t try any way near hard enough to look for relevant promotions so I’m unlikely to win any of these anytime soon!

Don't give up! Searching for specifics is easy with sites like Prize Finder! What is your favourite method of entering competitions?

If you’re talking about social media channels, then I’m torn between Instagram and Twitter. There are many reasons to dislike Twitter, but it is effective for rooting out specific comps - including comps on alternative channels. Instagram, meanwhile is still relatively good for low entry comps, and largely easier on the eye. My gut also tells me that with Instagram, it’s possible to win regram comps; by contrast, I seldom bother with RT comps on Twitter as there are so many bots. The last time I retweeted a comp entry, I got a dozen bot retweets.

If, however, you’re talking about my favourite kind of comp, then it’s effort comps, sans doute. I’m terrible at the classic tie-breaks, but with most photo comps, you don’t have to be a pro photographer - some of my best prizes have come from quite unremarkable camerawork. The golden rule (and this applies to most effort comps, I’m sure) is not to follow the crowd.

Any tips for fellow compers?

I am by no means a comping veteran - indeed, I have much still to learn - and anyone who reads my blog ( will know that while I love chatting about comping, most of my advice boils down to one thing: do what Di Coke does! Read her book. I endorse it without reservation. There is so much in the book about comping smarter rather than harder that it really will pay for itself.

My other tip is to establish a skeleton routine to your comping. For me, that’s basically opening a set of comping bookmarks (local comp searches and daily lotteries). These bookmarks take seconds to open and, at most, minutes to close. Anything I do on top of this - whether catching up with Facebook groups or hashtag searching on Instagram - is a bonus. If I lose my mojo, I just need few moments to keep my hand in the game - which makes it a lot easier to pick up speed once my gears kick back into sync.

Any final comments about this amazing hobby?

Mental health is a subject that’s dear to my heart, so the main thing I’d like to say is: ENJOY YOURSELF! With non-effort comps in particular, it’s very easy to find yourself filling in form after form after form. At some point, the joy dries up and all that’s left is the compulsion to complete yet another entry form. As anyone with addiction or compulsive behaviour issues will tell you - that isn’t healthy! So, to borrow the words form the Gamble Aware campaign - when the fun stops, stop. Switch to another media channel, try an effort comp, or - dare I say it - take the rest of the night off. You can’t enter every competition, so don’t try!

The other side of the coin is mojo loss - when you just can’t face another comp. Mojo’s a funny old thing, and surprisingly easy to lose. Frustration with a dry spell is often the root of this problem (if this sounds familiar - try my tips, For some people, however, it can be down to an episode of low mood or depression, or simply being broadsided by extraordinary circumstances, perhaps benign (eg school holidays), perhaps tragic. The important thing here is to get your groove back - go easy on yourself and let comping take a back seat. The mojo will follow when it’s good and ready.

In short, look after yourselves, people! If you have a positive mental attitude, you’re already one of life’s winners!

Thanks so much to Neill for answering my questions, I really enjoyed reading his answers and it inspired me even more in my comping. If you would like to be featured on my 'Day in the Life of a Comper' simply Tweet me: @LaurieBeat, email me on or send me a message on Facebook.

Luck and Love,


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