I won the lottery last week. Almost. Not quite, but almost. I suppose I would have had a better chance if I still played the lottery. I used to play the lottery off and on by myself, buying a ticket now and again, when the jackpot was several hundred million. Then, I joined a group of people at my work that pooled our money together and bought lottery tickets with that. Eventually, when I began listening and reading more on personal finance and then found Dave Ramsey, I quit paying the idiot tax. Happily, I spent that $10 a month on something more worthwhile. Like debt repayment. And it was a good decision. Until last week.
Last week, the group of people that I used to play the lottery with won. Not the jackpot, but the second highest prize. All 5 numbers without the magic ball. $250,000. There were 19 in the pool, and, after taxes, each will receive about $9700. When I first heard, boy did I feel stupid. What was I thinking? I could have had a share of that! Do you have any idea what $9000 could do to my finances? It could eliminate my remaining credit card debt. What was I thinking, dropping out of the pool?
Then, as I had more time to think about it, I came to my senses. The odds of winning that prize were 1 in 3,900,000. You have better luck finding a fresh lightning strike and getting struck by lightning right then and there. Which doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It did. But, for each of those 19 very lucky people, there are thousands of people who bought a ticket and will never win. I can’t say that I’m not still slightly jealous of the winners. More so because of the “it could have been me” mentality than because I begrudge them the money. Some of them truly could use it. But, if they could use it, why are they playing the lottery.
Which is why I wasn’t playing. I could use the money. So, rather than spending my money on things like lottery, I was putting it to work for me. As fate would have it, the pool that I used to play with won. I see it, now, as a test of my financial resolve. How many of those 19 will have spent the money on frivolous things and then be complaining in a month or two about how they have all these bills? All while putting their money in to play the lottery, just in case lightning does strike twice?
I’ll keep plugging away at my debt. And one day, when they’re still playing the lottery, hoping to hit it big and get rich, I’ll have made myself rich with the money I’m not spending on debt. Now, does anyone know a good way to make my friends understand that?
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Cheapskate Sandy says
Wow. I know that it makes sense that you didn’t play, but when you go to sleep, don’t you wish you had broken that rule just the one time?
Financial Samurai says
Holy moly! $10,000 after taxes, that’s sweet!
Yes, in the long run, the lottery player will lose out. But man, that woulda been nice!
I personally always thought of the lottery as fun. Once we’re out of debt, I’ll probably buy a ticket once a week. But I look at it more as a chance to dream for a few minutes and enjoy the anticipation.
Will I really win? Uh, no. But, until the drawing is held, there’s the fun of “What if?” and there is always the incredibly minuscule “Don’t even bother hoping” chance I will win.
Mostly, though, my mom taught me to think of it as buying some excitement and some dreaming. Yes, technically I could do that without the actual ticket but it’s a lot more convincing if you do.
For that little bit of (completely in vain) excitement, I’m okay spending a couple of bucks a week.
The $60K Project says
Wow! You are handling this really well! I would have been so mad at myself initially. But generally people who win the lottery may actually end up in worse financial shape. Keep up the good work with your finances – you will reap the rewards.