We’ve all seen those TV moments. Someone screaming and shedding tears of joy because their numbers have come in and they’re suddenly rich beyond their wildest dreams. Of course, we’ve all fantasized about winning the money, what we’ll do with it, who, if anyone, we’ll share it with. Nice fantasy, right? But what’s the reality? How easy is it to win the lottery, and should we even bother?

Here are a few shocker facts for you. The amount Americans spend on the lottery has doubled, yes doubled since 1995. Data from the US census shows that income generated from lottery tickets was at $29.8 billion in 1995 and at the last census in 2016, it was $72.7 billion. Part of the reason is that more states offer lotteries, and the average spend per American, per year, on the lottery, sits at $225. The same US census tells us that the states where people spend the most on that near-impossible dream are Massachusetts, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Delaware, and New York. 

So, should residents of the above states and anyone else using their hard-earned dollar carry on gambling on the lottery or are there more sensible alternatives out there? Here’s why we think the lottery is a waste of time and more importantly, money. 

Gambling is a bad habit

Just like betting on the horses or playing the slots, buying lottery tickets is classed as gambling. And gambling can be addictive. Are you increasingly thinking about winning or feeling like it’s the only way you’ll ever have money? Consider how this way of thinking is affecting your wellbeing as well as your wallet. Maybe there’s history in your family of other addictions? If so, you might have a higher predisposition to these sorts of issues. If so, you’re probably better off keeping an eye on that rather than the jackpot figure on TV!

Look at the odds of winning

Here are the odds. At the time of writing, your chances of winning the big time are one in 302.6 million. If you were going to bet on a horse race with those odds, would you? 

Yet people still carry on playing. Sometimes it’s because they hear of someone who’s won or see a TV report about that person. No matter. Consider each time a person wins, say, even a smaller amount and how much money they’ve actually pumped into buying those tickets over the years. If you calculate that and compare it to your actual win, have you actually won? No, the people selling the tickets have.

Taxes

Yes, if you win, the chances are that you’ll have to pay tax fees. The IRS can take up to 37% of your winnings. Don’t assume you get to keep the entire jackpot if you do actually win! The government gets its share too. 

Plan B

Consider making a money plan instead. Calculate how much you spend on the lottery each year and instead, find alternative ways to make that money actually grow. That’s guaranteed growth.

Open a savings account

How about putting that money into a savings account instead? Whether it’s an instant access one or a higher yield one that comes with some risks, those risks are still lower than the odds of winning the lottery. In recent years interest rates on savings have indeed been terrible, offering maybe 2% at best, but they are on the up. And as your savings accumulate, if you are really saving well, your high yield account will be insured up to $250,000. Your savings are safe. 

Invest in stocks

Of course, there are associated risks in doing this. Investing money means it will hopefully grow because of something called compound interest. Compound interest is when interest is added to the amount of money you have deposited, so interest on interest. And that gets reinvested, and in turn, it hopefully grows until you want to take it out. Imagine you invest just $50 a month into stocks that have an annual return of 5%. In ten years you’ll have $7,500. You’ve saved around $6,000 yourself; the rest has come from compound interest!

There are tons of investment apps out there that can help you find the right investments. A quick scan of Google will show up dozens of online articles and reviews of the best apps. Read a few, compare which apps come up time and again. The research takes longer than just writing down your lottery numbers, but it could be a surer winner. 

Property investment

If you have enough capital, invest in a property, and make it work for you. Either rent it out and take an income from the rental or live in the property and rent out one of your other bedrooms. If you have enough money to buy a second property, as it gains in equity, use that equity or rental income to pay off your own mortgage. 

Start a sideline

So, set up an online store, sell products that need limited outlay, such as sunglasses or jewelry. Or try different activities that can make you money in your spare time, such as freelance writing, dog walking, or writing online reviews. 

To wrap up, there are plenty of other ways to make money than hoping against hope of winning the lottery. Remember the odds. Next time you’re tempted, take a look at some savings accounts on offer instead. Tell us how you got on!