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.