Just a week ago the whole country was going a little nutty for the Mega Millions lottery drawing. The idea of winning $1.6 billion overnight can definitely pique a person’s interest. I admit it. I bought $20 worth of tickets myself. I spent $20 for the privilege of dreaming of what I would do with my millions in the off-chance that the numbers fell in my favor.
I didn’t win. I didn’t expect to win. I’ve run the numbers myself enough times to fully understand what my father always told me: “The lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math.” If you play with regularity…yes….you might win a little bit from time to time. But usually you don’t. And if you were to put that money into a savings or investment plan rather than spending it on the lottery you would come out much further ahead.
Yet I played. I knew I wouldn’t win and still I played. I didn’t pay my money expecting to win. I paid my money for a couple of nights of dreaming that maybe I could win. I didn’t mortgage my house to buy thousands of tickets. I bought what I was comfortable with losing. And that’s what makes it ok. It was $20 worth of entertainment. I knew it wasn’t an investment in my future. It was just fun to be a part of it and dream a bit. That’s the way gambling is supposed to work. Never bet more than you can afford to lose. And don’t continue to play after you lose that amount.
And my fun isn’t totally over yet. In my wallet I have a raffle ticket that I bought for $25. Tonight I’ll find out if I win a brand new Subaru Forester (or $20,000 cash—my choice), or if I’ve just donated $25 to a local animal shelter that I probably would have donated to within the next few months anyway. You can’t win if you don’t play. But you should only play with money you are prepared to lose.
Sometimes you really should get a second opinion. You think about it with medical issues. One doctor says you are going to die of random disease X, so you seek a different doctor who may offer you different news. But you should really think about it in terms of other things that cost a lot of money. Car repairs immediately come to mind.
There have been a couple of times that I took my old Subaru Forester to a local repair shop and was stunned by the quotes. When I called my father in tears, wondering how in the world I would pay for $1000 in repairs on my 2004 Subie, he advised me to get a second opinion. My dad is a wise man. I made an appointment at one of the places that he takes his car. It was a two hour drive, but I got to spend some time with my parents so I didn’t mind. In the end, I got that repair done for half of what I was quoted in State College. That second opinion saved me $500. Some of the work recommended at the State College garage wasn’t even deemed necessary. The work that was required was done at a much less expensive price. I felt like I won the lottery.
Owning a car is definitely a double edged sword. If you don’t have one, you are slave to the bus schedule. If you have a new car, you likely have to deal with monthly car payments. If you have an old car, you are likely waiting for the other shoe to drop with the next major repair. Any path you choose will at some point seem like the wrong one. But never be afraid to second guess the “experts.” It’s always ok to get a second opinion.
I’ve recently rediscovered the joy of my slow cooker. There’s something magical about spending a few minutes in the morning throwing some food together in the pot, and then having dinner just be ready and delicious at the end of the day. I don’t enjoy cooking. But I do enjoy eating. My slow cooker makes that easier for me.
I have a few slow cooker cookbooks that I’ve been hauling around with me since I had my first apartment in the 1990’s. And I still use them. All the time. I know there are tons of recipes online now, but there’s something nostalgic about reading the ingredients and directions from an old-school book. Sometimes I’ll crave something that isn’t in my books and I’ll turn to the internet for help. But I usually print out the recipe and jam it between the pages of one of my books. I’m just a print on paper girl when it comes to the kitchen, I guess.
One of the best parts of the slow cooker is that you can use the cheapest cuts of meat and they come out fork tender. On any given weekend morning you might find me scouring the meat case at Walmart looking for the bright yellow labels. Those are the labels of the meat that is getting ready to go out of code, so it’s reduced in price for quick sale. I love to snatch up those bargains and freeze them for later slow cooker use.
I know that the slow cooker is old fashioned (and a sore point for fans of This Is Us), and that the Instant Pot is the way of the future. And I sincerely hope that Santa Claus brings me an Instant Pot this year. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say goodbye to my old friend and its companion cookbooks. Slow cooking (especially in the fall and winter) will always have a special place in my heart. And my tummy.