People say that buying lottery tickets is just a tax on people who can’t do the math. I’m decent at math and still occasionally buy lottery tickets. What about you?
We all have some irrational ideas about money. Wishes. Hopes. Fantasies. Mine is exchanging the pennies that I accumulate in my nightstand–because they’re good for nothing else–for dollar bills, then using the bills to buy a big winner of a lottery ticket. Hey, a guy can dream.
Why I Buy Occasionally Buy Lottery Tickets
Here is my reasoning:
- I see it as entertainment, not gambling. If there’s effectively no chance of winning, and yet winning carries such a huge payout, it’s crossed from a game of chance to irrational behavior. Essentially, it’s a mind game, one that I happen to enjoy from time to time.
- It’s a tiny expense. I spend so little on other items that it’s a harmless $10 a month, at most, indulgence. Seriously, we don’t even pay for cable TV.
- Someone has to win. It might as well be me.
- Lottery tickets have no calories.
My Tips for Buying Lottery Tickets
This is where the bad-at-math part can come in.
- Don’t buy more than one ticket for a drawing. Increasing your odds from 1-in-300,000,000 to 2-in-300,000,000 is not a meaningful increase.
- Buy only when the biggest games, PowerBall and MegaMillions, offer huge payouts, preferably over $200 million apiece. Don’t buy every week. Most weeks have no winners, and there is no dollar cost averaging in lottery tickets.
- Go ahead and join a lottery pool at work if you want. View it as a team-building exercise. The group interaction can be fun, but it won’t increase your chances of winning. In fact, it decreases your payout should your group be lucky enough to win.
In the end, state lottery tickets are just a more entertaining way to pay taxes. If you can’t escape taxes, you might as well enjoy them. Maybe if everyone who paid their full taxes on time received a lottery ticket, that might reduce tax evasion.
Lotteries in the US could be far more entertaining. Check out how the Dutch Postcode Lottery unites neighbors and supports nonprofits.