Falguni Patel, 30, from Neasden, north-west London, won £250,000 on a National Lottery scratchcard in April. It is dwarfed by the £90m Euro Millions Lottery win shared last November by a Welsh couple and a syndicate in Liverpool, but is a more likely outcome for those who continue to buy tickets and scratchcards
"I bought the scratchcard from my parents' shop. They have a newsagents in east Acton, west London, and I happened to go there on a Saturday morning because I was picking my mum up to go shopping. I don't normally buy Lottery tickets but occasionally I go in and ask mum what new ones are out. It was a Deal or No Deal card and as I scratched off the panels I didn't even look at them but just handed it back to my mum to check through the machine. A message came up that said 'Contact Watford' and she knew it meant the prize was at least £50,000. We couldn't believe it. My mum looked down at the card but couldn't see what it said because of her glasses. Then dad came back and said it was £250,000. We just kept thinking it must be a joke and that it couldn't be real.
"The three of us went to the head office together and saw videos of people who won millions and ended up bankrupt. I just couldn't understand how that happened. The Lottery gave us an advice pack and I didn't want to blow it, I wanted to get something that might increase in value in a few years' time. I kept the cheque in my bedroom for 10 days before I cashed it. I just kept seeing all these banks closing and was really scared to put it in. Every day I'd open the drawer and check it was still there. When I went to the bank to ask their advice they couldn't believe I'd been keeping it in my bedroom. They stayed open late so I could run back and get it.
"My brother Pryank was studying in America and he was really anxious about his student loan, which was something like £100,000. We were worried about what to do and had been considering re-mortgaging the house. When we phoned my brother to tell him the news about the win, he just didn't believe us. He was gobsmacked.
"It wasn't millions, but it was a considerable amount. It would have been easy to blow it, but I wanted to be helpful. I wanted to use it to help my family. First we paid off most of my brother's student debt, then we cleared my dad's credit card and put some money away as a pension for my parents. After that we wanted to work out how to invest it sensibly, so my mum went to India in May and invested it in two properties.
"We also looked for physiotherapy and private healthcare for my younger sister Mayury, who is disabled. Her legs are paralysed and we've always wanted to be able to get her the best care. My advice to anyone who wins the Lottery would be just not to go and splurge it all in one go. It's nice to be able to help people, especially if they are your family – why not?
"This year we've gone all out for Christmas and got a new plasma TV fitted, and my mum is getting a diamond ring, which she really deserves. Next summer we'll probably go for a family holiday, which will be nice. I haven't really bought anything just for myself; everything has been for all of us, whether it's the family car or the family TV. There's nothing I really need and anything I've ever needed, my family has provided for me, so I'm really happy to give back. The National Lottery told us to be aware that charities and others might come to us for money. At the beginning we decided not to tell everybody but as word got out we began to get phone calls from people we'd never even heard of. We even got a call from someone claiming to be my mum's friend, but she didn't know who she was. I don't know whether these calls were to get money or just to be nosey, but they were weird. We didn't get anyone directly ask for money but then we only talked about it if it came up in conversation. That's what I would advise people to do – don't go around broadcasting it to everyone, just try to be discreet about it.
"I teach English as a foreign language part-time and have my own pamper party business called FalMay, so I've also invested some of the money into the business for marketing and to expand it a bit. I've got a business mind and I just want to see what return I can make, because I don't want to be back at square one again.
"The last bit of money left, which is about £55,000, I have invested and saved so I can use it as a lump-sum deposit to get property here. But I wouldn't want to leave home, I love living with my family. One bit of advice I heard and would pass on is that if you spend all your winnings on a fancy house and car, you must think carefully whether you can afford the maintenance on them."
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