Chloe, 20, Redbank Plains, Qld
Blowing out the candles on my cake, I wished for the one thing I was desperate for. Money. It was my 18th birthday and my family and friends had taken me out to celebrate.
I had an awesome time, but most of my girlfriends had celebrated their milestone birthdays with big nights out in gorgeous new birthday dresses.
The majority of my clothes had been hanging in my wardrobe since I was 14, and I had no cash to go to a club. Although I worked six days a week at McDonald's, my bills ate up most of my pay and I hardly had any money left over for extravagances.
Back home that night I was asleep when I heard a crash. Running to Mum's bedroom, I found her on the floor under her chest of drawers.
'What happened?' I gasped.
'I lost my balance in the dark,' she sobbed. 'I grabbed onto the dresser for support.'
As I helped her up, she seemed more shocked than hurt, but the next morning she was covered in bruises. 'I'll drive you to the doctor,' I offered.
Sitting in the waiting room, I was feeling restless. Opening my wallet, I realised I only had five dollars until payday.
I know, I thought. I'll buy my first-ever scratchie.
'Can I have a $5 scratchie?' I asked the newsagent, proudly showing my drivers licence to prove that I was 18.
I picked one with a puzzle and sat down outside to read the instructions. I have to scratch off the letters and find whole words with them, I thought.
Scratching away, I realised I was making quite a few words.
'...five, six, seven,' I whispered, counting them. 'Oh my gosh!'
Running back into the newsagency, I couldn't believe my luck. 'I think I've just won $250!' I said excitedly to the man behind the counter.
'Let's look,' he smiled.
Handing over my scratchie, I saw the man's forehead crease into a frown. 'You've missed a letter,' he said. He scratched it for me and the new letter created more words.
'You've actually won $750,' he laughed.
'What?' I gasped, feeling weak at the knees. I'd gone from being broke to having two weeks worth of pay!
'Because you've won over $500, you'll need to send the scratchie in to claim your money,' the man explained.
'Thank you,' I grinned.
Back at the doctor's, Mum was in with the GP, so I waited impatiently outside.
'Guess what?' I beamed when she came out. 'I just won $750!'
She was thrilled. 'That's the best birthday present you could have won yourself,' she said.
Mailing the scratchie, I rang my dad and told him the news.
'That's great, Chloe,' he said, sounding pleased. 'Now you can get on top of your bills.'
'Daaad,' I whined. 'I want to do something more exciting than that!' So out at a club that weekend, I celebrated my win.
'First round is on me,' I called proudly to my girlfriends.
Increase your chances
of winning the lottery
with our tips - click here.
Three days later, I'd spent most of my winnings, even though the money hadn't arrived yet. I knew I shouldn't have spent it all on going out, but I never got to do things like that and I thought my winnings would come soon.
That was until someone from Golden Casket rang me later that day. 'Hi, I'm calling about your scratchie,' the lady said.
A feeling of dread spread over my body. I haven't won anything, I thought, suddenly panicking. I must have read the scratchie wrong!
'You actually won a little more than you expected,' she told me.
Sighing in relief, I tried to calm myself. 'How much more?' I asked.
'$249,250 more,' she said. 'You missed a few words on your scratchie. Your total prize is $250,000, not $750.'
'No way,' I gasped. I couldn't process what I'd just heard.
Hanging up, I wasn't sure what I should do. Mum was away and Dad was at work.
I have to tell someone! I thought. Jumping in the car I drove to McDonald's and ran to the front counter. 'I just won a quarter of a million dollars!' I exclaimed, bursting into tears.
'What?' my workmates cried.
'Waiting at the doctor's was the best thing to ever happen to me,' I laughed through my tears.
That night I finally got on to my parents. Mum was ecstatic and Dad was his usual self.
'Don't count your chickens before they hatch,' he said wisely.
But by the time I got my cheque a couple of days later, my big win had finally sunk in. And I knew exactly what I was going to do with it.
'I'll take the Mazda 3 with all the extras,' I told the car salesman. 'Will you need finance for that?' he asked.
'No, I can pay right here on the spot,' I grinned.
The next week, I went shopping for a new wardrobe of clothes. Weighed down with half a dozen bags in each hand - boy did it feel good!
Finally, I spent the last of my money on something I had always dreamt of - my very own home. Four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a double lock-up garage.
'I can't believe it's mine,' I said, signing the contracts.
Today, it's been just over two years since my win and some days I still can't believe I'm set up for life. My boyfriend Michael and I are able to enjoy our lives without the worry of paying rent or a mortgage, and it's all thanks to my first-ever scratchie.
I quit my job at McDonald's and now work in admin.
I didn't want the win to change me too much. But there is one thing that's different - every year from now on I'll celebrate my birthday in style!
- The odds of winning on Chloe's $5 crossword scratchie were one in three million for the top prize, or one in four for a smaller win.
- All wins are tax free.
- Research shows people usually spend their winnings on a house, paying off debts, helping out family members or going on an overseas holiday.
- Other things people have said they'll do with their prizes include dining at a fancy restaurant, planning a wedding and even buying a goldfish!
- One of the main reasons people buy scratchies is for giving as gifts.
Have you ever had some good luck come your way? Share your story by leaving a comment below.