Last week the Powerball jackpot was 1.5 billion dollars. A bunch of my friends bought tickets and a few of them even won…four whole dollars.
When one of my friends first told me he went and bought a bunch of tickets, I’ll be honest, I was little upset with the idea. He asked me if I was going to buy any myself, and I replied with a haughty, ‘no, I think I’m going to invest my money and save it, thank you very much.’
I kinda felt amazingly proud of myself- the lottery (and gambling in general) are things that I can easily control my response to and I value that about myself. I have insane self-control when it comes to spending money on things that I consider wasteful. I don’t know if I’ve ever purchased a lottery ticket- maybe I bought some for an ex many years ago.
However, something about my own response bugged me- was it really so bad to buy lotto tickets? That same week, I received an email newsletter from a writer I love, Ramit Sethi. He was talking about how silly it is to discourage people from buying lotto tickets, because, in a way, you’re discouraging them from dreaming. Ironically, he was actually writing in response to bloggers who scoffed at people who bought lotto tickets. He said:
Their articles [finance bloggers] reflect a total lack of understanding about WHY people buy lottery tickets. Hint: People who buy lottery tickets don’t really expect to win. People know the odds are astronomically, cosmically against them. So why would they do it?
The answer: They’re buying permission to dream about winning it.
If you think about it, $2 for a dream is well worth it. If you live a life where you’re counting pennies, isn’t it worth paying $2 for the dream of becoming fabulously wealthy — even if just for an hour? Hell, if you live a humdrum life of $60,000/year with 2% annual raises and one 2-day vacation a year, you can see why people would crave an escape.
By the way, there are a LOT of other ways we pay for an escape: Movies, fancy clothes, and so many more things. Isn’t it funny how lottery tickets cost less, but incur more wrath from judgmental people? It’s fun. It makes you feel good, and that’s a great reason to spend $2. OF COURSE lottery tickets are mathematically stupid. So is going to a bar to meet someone…but we do it anyway.
I never really thought about lotto tickets that way, but they’re a tiny price to pay to dream about something way bigger and more exciting in your life. Sure, we can all visualize and meditate and dream for free, but any tool that helps you feel happier and more passionate about life, is harmless, and only costs a couple of dollars, is absolutely, totally worth it. Use the tools that you discover- little indulgences here and there can help you feel better and dream exponentially bigger. Make the ‘silly’ choice sometimes.