Is playing the lottery a good idea? What about gambling?
Are you just wasting money?
That’s what many sites, personal finance or not, will tell you.
As far as the lottery goes, a college professor of mine told me one time that the lottery is a tax on stupidity because of the astronomical odds. You’re essentially wasting money each time you play.
Do you think that’s a bit harsh?
Well, I’m here to suggest that the lottery and gambling actually isn’t a bad way to spend your money.
Before you jump at that, here’s the deal:
It’s not a bad way to spend your money, sometimes.
It’s not a bad if:
- You don’t play in anticipation of winning
- You don’t gamble or buy lottery tickets regularly
- You don’t overspend your budget
Not playing to win? Isn’t that why you buy the ticket or go to the casino?
Well, kind of. It’s true that you can’t win if you don’t play. At least that’s what my state’s lottery tells me.
But if you spend your money in anticipation of winning or trying to double it at the poker table then you are more than likely wasting it.
In terms of the lottery, the odds of winning the Power Ball jackpot are 1 in 175,000,000. Not great.
But if you buy a ticket for the experience and the thrill of daydreaming for that short time, I would argue it’s not as bad of a cost as some say it is.
And if you head to the casino with the idea that you’re actually spending, not betting, $60 on the experience and a good time, you actually see the money in a different light.
If you win at the blackjack table, that’s fantastic. An added bonus!
If not, you simply spent $60 on the experience of a few hours of competition.
Sure, it’s nice to daydream about winning big with the lottery or at a casino.
Thinking about paying off those debts, setting your kids up for college or going on a family vacation are all great things to think about doing. And as much as we say we’re going to be responsible with our money, admit it: we think about indulging a bit.
I certainly wouldn’t recommend dwelling on these daydreams, because there are so many other things in life to focus on without centering on money, but let’s face it: the flexibility would be nice, right?
In the end, you have to think of the lottery & gambling as an experience you are buying in to.
Somewhat similar to a seeing movie, visiting a theme park or going to an event, you’re spending money on something that isn’t a material possession.
So should you buy in?
Now I certainly am not recommending you ditch other experiences to gamble. And I’m certainly not suggesting you go outside of your budget because you want to spend a few hours in a casino. In the grand scheme of things, the lottery or gambling should be very low on the priority list for your budget.
It’s an activity, just like going out to dinner or heading on a day trip.
All I’m suggesting is that as long as you participate for the experience, gambling at a casino or playing the lottery isn’t as much of a waste as some say it is.
You’re not going to strike it rich (probably), but the experience and the momentary rush can still be fun!