Greatest gift is time as couple spend first Christmas as millionaires

Andrew and Natalie enjoying their first Christmas as millionaires.  Images by Gareth Jones

Andrew and Natalie enjoying their first Christmas as millionaires. Images by Gareth Jones

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What would you buy if you won a million pounds?

It’s something we have all asked ourselves, but that was the question really facing one Blackpool couple this year as they enjoy their first Christmas as millionaires.

Andrew and Natalie work on the gingerbread playhouse (GBH) for  Zoes Place

Andrew and Natalie work on the gingerbread playhouse (GBH) for Zoes Place

They say money cannot buy you love, but Andrew Cunliffe and Natalie Cliff have found that money can buy you time – time to spend with your family.

The couple who struck lucky with a lottery scratchcard in February said that even a million pounds in your bank account is not necessarily a life-changing sum.

But instead it has given them some relief from the normal money worries and Natalie the chance to give up her job and have some precious time with their three-year-old daughter as she grows up.

Andrew, 38, said: “When we won we got a lot of help and advice from Lottery company Camelot about investments and how to use the money.

We are a lot more relaxed and I can take a bit of extra time off to spend with the family

“But you have to be sensible and you have to make it work for the family and for your children’s future. To be honest at current interest rates, if you just put it all in the bank, you could not live on the interest which is about £5,000 a year, and then there is tax on top of that. People just don’t realise.

“But we are a lot more relaxed and I can take a bit of extra time off to spend with the family.

Natalie, 31, who went to the former Greenlands High School in Bispham, said: “What it has done is give me the opportunity to be at home with our daughter. I gave up my job at the Tower and to have that time is wonderful it is priceless.

“It has been an amazing year with her so far.”

She said the couple had talked to each other like so many others do about what they would spend their winnings on if they did ever win, but once you do win everything changes.

“Everyone has that conversation, about paying off the mortgage, helping people have fantastic holidays, but it is completely different when you win. It is very exciting but you have to be sensible.”

Andrew, originally from Freckleton and who went to Lytham High School said: “We did have a couple of holidays but the dream Ferrari is still in the shed!”

He said that because he won while he was at work, word got round very quickly and there was no chance of remaining anonymous.

The construction company site manager had nipped to Asda in Hindley to get some tea bags for his workmates and picked up the lucky scratchcard at the same time.

But he said Camelot gave them loads of advice on how to handle everything and also introduced them to other winners – a meeting which led to a very rewarding life experience, the chance to do some charity work.

The couple have taken part in two major projects with other winners helping Manchester charity Stockdales which looks after young adults with learning difficulties and helping at Zoe’s Place in Liverpool, the hospice which cares for under fives.

Natalie said it was real hands on stuff.

“At Stockdales we were part of the group which upgraded their garden, helped plant a sensory garden and redecorated some rooms. It was two days of hard graft.

“Zoe’s place was so rewarding. We helped build a gingerbread play house for the children. Andrew took the lead being a joiner by trade. We met some of the children. I thought it would be very hard emotionally but a lot of the little ones that are poorly don’t really know that their condition is life limiting and were lovely.

“It is really for their siblings to visit and play with them, but it was so rewarding to see the smiles on their faces when it was finished.”

Andrew added: “Seeing their faces when they came out and saw the gingerbread house for the first time was great. It was in the papers and some of the lads at work were taking the mickey out of me but it was fun.”

Natalie said: “With that amount of money you can’t just hand it out and help everyone, but winning a million means that we can give our time to help.”

Christmas this year will be spent as usual hosting all the family but this time the turkey and trimmings will be on Andrew and Natalie.

Natalie said: “Our daughter is at that stage where she is very excited and asking for all sorts. But while we don’t have money worries we will not be going wild.

“I am very sensible and start planning for Christmas in January! We are keeping very grounded and do not want to spoil her, but this year will be very special.

“We have never been extravagant and were always trying to save. We missed out on quite a few things at times and most of our money went into our house.

“The money has not changed us. We are still looking forward to the family coming round for Christmas, but maybe this time we will pay for them.

“The best thing the money has done for us is to give us time, more time together as a family.”

Andrew added: “I have finished a bit early for Christmas this year. It is important to be with your children. She is changing so much from week to week, to be with her more is fantastic – it’s priceless.”

After Christmas the couple are looking forward to their dream wedding which will take place in Cyprus in May.

It was Andrew’s first thought when Camelot confirmed that he had won the million. He proposed to Natalie, who he had met at Blackpool Tower where she was working as an event manager, and was delighted he could give her the wedding she had always wanted.

Natalie said: “After New Year it’s all system go for thew wedding. We have around 60 family members going out to Cyprus. Our daughter will be a flower girl. Then it is back to Blackpool for a reception and then a honeymoon which we haven’t decided on just yet.

“It has been an amazing year, we have been very lucky, hopefully next year should be amazing too.”