There are zero things wrong with fantasizing about winning tonight’s billion-dollar Powerball jackpot drawing.
And dropping $5 to $10 to buy lottery tickets or scratch-offs on occasion can be considered entertainment spending. So, by all means, enjoy if that’s what you like.
But, given everyone’s dreadfully poor odds of winning big — you have a better chance of being struck by lightning — spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year in hopes of becoming a fast millionaire is a little like setting your cash on fire.
Yet Americans spent nearly $108 billion on lottery tickets last year, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.
If your real goal is to improve your financial situation and enjoy your life more, here are a few easy ways to do that with the same amount of money you spend playing your numbers — but with a guaranteed return:
Let’s be real. If you’re willing to spend hundreds of bucks on lottery tickets, scratch-offs and other games of chance, you may not be psyched to redirect that money into a retirement fund, since the payoff may be decades from now.
If that’s the case for you, why not spend most of your lottery money on experiences you know you like doing now.
“Simply enjoy the money. Put it in a ‘fun’ fund. To go out to a fancy dinner or go on a vacation,” said personal finance educator Tiffany Aliche, founder of TheBudgetnista.com and the Live Richer Academy. “If that money is going to be gone anyway, I’d rather you have lovely experiences. Let it be gone in a way that holistically enriches your life.”
If you’re carrying credit card debt, one of the best ways to leave yourself with more money is to pay off, or at least substantially pay down, your highest-interest debt. And — reality check — all credit card debt is expensive today, since rates are at record highs.
So, redirecting most of your lottery-spending dollars toward that end may improve your life markedly by relieving you of some financial strain.
“You’ll have more money to spend on what you enjoy,” Aliche said. Or, even if it’s not something you enjoy per se, it can help you pay for what you need, like housing.
Since your chances of winning the big jackpot are so low — think 1 in 292 million — why not put most of what you usually spend on the lottery into an online high-yield savings account instead, many of which are paying between 4.5% and 5% interest?
Think of it this way: Let’s say you spend $35 a week on lottery tickets ($1,820 a year). And, all in, maybe you win $100 over the course of a year. That means you’re out $1,720.
If instead you had banked that $1,820 at 5%, you’d have more than $1,900 on hand instead.
High-yield accounts at FDIC-insured online banks let you park money you can tap any time you need it. And when you see your balance grow through regular, automated deposits, you might grow fond of the habit.
That, in turn, will put you in a better position financially, whatever your goals.
— CNN’s Chris Isidore contributed to this report