- Personal Finance
Confessions of a Scratch-off Fool
When I would win on a daily number, which wasn't often, I'd treat myself to a few scratch-offs and would leave the store where I bought them to scratch them at home.
Then I became a scratch-off fool. I started playing way too often where I bought them and would walk away from the store I was staying and playing in with no cash. Or worse, would foolishly make an ATM transaction or two.
When you play scratch-offs, try to preset the amount you are willing to lose. However, that's easier said than done with these colorful, well-designed tickets with such enticing names as "Win for Life", "Cash $50!", "Jumbo Bucks", "$1,000,000 Large" , "Big Red 8s", "Lady Luck 7", "Cash X20", "$2,500 a Week for Life", "Cash X50" and "Set for Life" to name some. Even more enticing is there are new scratch-off games added each month.
Before I foolishly starting playing way too often, I saved money in a credit union. I'll confess it's a rush buying a ticket and winning $20 - $100 or more instantly, usually up to $500 max. Winning $500 is not easy, but possible. It's more likely to win a larger amount via the $5 and $10 tickets. However, I've won $500 a few rare times on a $2 ticket and once amazingly on a $1 "Loose Change" ticket which is even rarer. And no doubt, some scratch-off tickets are better than others.
Scratch-offs can be addictive. Odds are you won't win big and often. If you buy enough tickets in one sitting of the same kind, you will win something. Hopefully you will get a good hit after just buying a few. There are times you can buy as many as 8 or 9 of the same ticket and win nothing. There's been a few times I've won $50 or more after buying just a few tickets. When you do get a good hit, you have to stop yourself and walk away.
Like others who read this will confess, way too often you make the mistake of chasing a ticket after you bought 7 or 8 of the same ticket and won $0. You're angry, want revenge and are thinking there's got to be a winner soon. So, you buy a few more and win just face value of the ticket. You're still disappointed and upset. So you continue to buy a few more thinking the next ticket or two will be worth my time and money spent and it isn't. All that equals a big loss. You leave the store with $0 money and are angry.
Scratch-offs are OK gifts to slip into a card; Birthday (18+), Graduation (College), Anniversary or Retirement. Or it's fine to play on payday. Just buy a few and take them home. Don't stay at the store unless you are disciplined to buy a few (2 or 3) and leave. And when you stay and buy way too many, you will see the store clerk or owner frown or get inpatient. Especially if you are frequently buying one at time and winning a dollar or two and keep buying more.
If the store has a lottery scanner, double check what you think are losing tickets. Don't tear up the tickets you think are losers. On occasion, I've been surprised after checking that I actually won $10 or $20 on a $5 ticket. No need to check if you see a K or P at the bottom of any scratch-off. That ticket for sure is a loser.
For $2 tickets usually $100 is the maximum now. I've only heard of one very lucky person in the town I live in, who purchased a $5 Monopoly ticket and won $1,000,000. Yet, I've never met or personally know anyone that's won more than $1,500. And who knows how many of those $5 / $10 / $20 tickets they bought to win that. Unlike the name "Set for Life" it simply will be a good week or month if you win $500 or more.
It's OK to play. I still do, but play smarter. Try harder to save your money rather than scratching it away. Take it from a former scratch-off fool.
Scratch-off fever can be costly.
The reality is winning isn't easy with scratch-offs. Odds are you won't win often and will read frequently "Sorry Not a Winner" when you scan your ticket. It's more likely you will be break-even Steven every now and then. Or, on rare occasion, be a winner. That is, if you are lucky...