One morning after I worked a 12-hour night shift, I stopped at a gas station on the way to the hotel.
As I walked into the store I noticed a man at the counter scratching away at a small pile of scratch-off lottery tickets. I didn’t think much of it and went about gathering whatever it was that I wanted to buy.
When I was heading towards the register to pay, he let out an audible, “Yes!”
Good for him, I thought.
“How did you do?” I asked.
“200 bucks. I really needed that,” he replied. He had a look of relief on his face.
That’s when I realized that his scratching wasn’t done as a fun money splurge but was instead an act of desperation.
Now, I can’t know the details of his life so I made some assumptions based on how it felt at the moment. Here are my takeaways from this short interaction:
- He needed the $200 for a bill or food or some real necessity.
- Based on the pile of scratch-offs, he was desperately hoping for a win so he could make ends meet.
- This wasn’t the first time he had been in this situation.
- He would be in this situation again at some point and might not be so lucky.
Don’t Thank Your Lucky Stars
Let me step back a second and clarify my view on money.
If you are doing decently well in life and bills aren’t a worry, then you can spend your excess money however you like. I may not agree with your choices but that’s fine.
If you have an emergency fund and aren’t spending potential grocery money or electric bill money on lotteries, then you can have a ball with scratch-offs and lotteries. I don’t think that’s the best use for dispensable cash, but you aren’t risking your basic needs so I can’t hold it against you.
However, if you are in a situation where 200 bucks is something you REALLY NEED, then you’ve got problems. You’ve taken a seriously wrong turn at some point in your past if you end up in this situation and then decide that it is a good idea to risk your crucial, limited dollars on a last-ditch scratch-off spree.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, then you need to make some changes.
This foolish habit too easily becomes a cycle and luck will not always be there to bail you out.
Having the peace of mind just knowing that you have all your bills paid for the next month or two and don’t have to worry about food is a liberating feeling.
It means that you won’t be put into a situation of praying to the luck gods to spare you one more time.
Get at least a month’s worth of money saved away and don’t touch it. Six months is even better.
If you haven’t done this yet then make it a priority. Save your excess money or your fun money and hide it away.
You’ll appreciate the calm that it provides you month after month.