How much do you spend on lottery tickets every year?

by J. Money -

lottery ticket experiment

Just saw this stat from the folks at LendEDU and found it interesting:

“Americans spend an average of $219.54 on the lottery per year”

At first it didn’t seem like that much, but after comparing it to my own past of picking up maybe 1 ticket a week, it certainly trumps my $52/year. And is almost like picking up a ticket every day of the work week!

Of course I was only doing it for fun vs actually counting on winning – or worse, NEEDING to win! – so it only stung a little as it scrapped my “entertainment” budget, but boy was it fun and addicting… Even though I literally lost almost every single time, haha… I can totally get why people say it’s a “tax on the poor” though as you get so much HOPE for literally just a dollar. And you “just never know” when it’ll be your lucky day! “Someone has to win it!”

Here were some other wild stats from the study too:

  • “Americans spent $71,826,676,000 on the lottery in 2017 which is more than video games ($43.8B), movies ($11.89B), and concerts ($8B) combined” <— WOW!!!
  • “Massachusettsans spent the most on the lottery at $737.01 per capita, which equates to nearly 2% of their annual household income”
  • “Rhode Island, Delaware, and New York were the next three biggest spenders, at $502.01, $475.75, and $426.27 per capita, respectively? (What is going on with the NorthEast??! Haha…)

And then my favorite:

  • “After we bought $1,000 worth of scratch-off tickets for the third consecutive year, our winning percentage from this year was 22.93% compared to last year’s 22.61% and the first year’s 21.62%. We can confidently say that your chance of winning on scratch-off tickets is ~22%.”

Had to laugh hard at that last one as I used to do experiments like this all the time back in the day myself ;) Though fortunately I only had the cajones (and patience) to try $100 experiments vs $1,000 ones which was way more than enough to satisfy my curiosity, haha…

And once we even raised over $200 for charity! –> The results of the $100 Scratch Off Lottery Project

100 lotto cratchers(I couldn’t’ even get the tickets to fit in that picture to the right!)

Here’s how my “winnings” came out on that one, which consisted of playing one hundred $1.00 holiday scratch-off tickets:

  • 12 $1.00 winners
  • 4 $2.00 winners
  • 2 $3.00 winners
  • 2 $6.00 winners
  • Grand total winnings: $38.00

So pretty much the *opposite* of impressive, and clocked us in at a flat 20% winning percentage, which is both worse than the odds the lottery states (1 in 4.21), as well as the results from LendEDU’s tests… And it only got more annoying when I asked them how much *money* they won in their last test ;)

Hi J.,

We won $2,858 on this year’s $1,000 test.

The years prior we lost a slight amount of money each time.

Triple their money!!! WOW!!! And way different sounding than a “23% success rate” haha… Not that that was the point of the email or anything, but still…

While we didn’t come close to bringing home that much in our experiment though (or even breaking even, for that matter!), I did take away a few things that ultimately ended up affecting my favorite pastime once and for all:

Here’s the TL;DR version:

  • Sometimes it’s more exciting thinking about things than actually doing them. The idea of playing 100 lottery tickets far exceeded the joy of scratching them!
  • Gambling brings out the emotions in you! I was a hot mess by the end of the 1 and 1/2 hours it took to go through them all, and then ended up with a major headache to cap it off.
  • Giving back is contagious. It was meant to be just a fun little project we did over one weekend to raise a few bucks and awareness, but after someone jumped in and offered to match our total winnings, it prompted others to do the same and our $38 original donation quickly ended up becoming $222! Which wasn’t too bad for a fledgling new blog at the time! :)
  • And then lastly, there really can be too much of a good thing. As I mentioned above, I used to LOVE playing the lottery casually for fun, and even though I rarely won it was still a much more enjoyable experience than playing a ton of them all at once. Similar one might say with consuming drinks of alcoholic nature, where one or two a night might hit the spot, but saving them all up to the end of the weekend can have a drastically different effect, haha…

Still, a fun project to try back in the day, and I’m probably much better for it now ;)

How about you though? Have you ever been a big player of the lottery? If so, how much on average do you think you spend a year? How much do you win??!

I’d bet our crowd spends significantly less than the $219/average on it, but it only takes one or two of us to really blow it out of the water and bring that average up, haha… And if you’re able to hit all your life/finance goals in the process, is it really that bad to play every now and then?!

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts…

******
PS: My wife will play the Mega Millions, but only when it’s over $400 Million or else “it’s not worth it,” haha… Which I find hilarious as *any* number of millions would be worth it for us!!!

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gene Roberts June 24, 2019 at 7:11 am

I flush about $50 “down the drain” every year.

Mostly it’s a social/”I don’t want to be the last one left at work if my group’s pool wins” thing.

If Powerball or MegaMillions gets ridiculous, I sometimes grab $20 worth of quick picks on my own. Really just renting a dream of what I might do with that much moolah.

Return on “investment”? Essentially zip. Just fun.

My real gambling currently is about 6K in a Russel 2000 short ETF. Nothing too crazy, just a 1X that I’m still up on after 6 months. But not risking the mortgage payment at only a little over half a percent of net worth.

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2 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 10:41 am

It’s def. fun to be a little more risky with side money – especially when the other 99.5% of wealth is solid :)

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3 Greenbacks Magnet July 3, 2019 at 3:28 pm

Agreed. I usually try to invest $500 or more on my bday. If I have some side/extra money, like $600, then I let 10-20% be fun money and the rest goes to investments or savings. I allow myself to do anything with that money. Go to the movies, donate 90% and take the last $20 to go to the movies, buy super soakers, action figures, comic books, or even funnel cakes and cotton candy for the kids in my neighborhood! Sky’s the limit here!

And in answer to how many lotto tickets I have bought last year, that’s an easy answer: none. I spend $0 on lottery tickets.

Great post!!
xoxo Miriam

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4 J. Money July 5, 2019 at 6:32 am

You must have very fun birthdays :)

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5 LeeAnne June 24, 2019 at 7:25 am

The amount I spend on lottery has decreased as I’ve gotten older. I’ve also always treated it as my entertainment. I probably spent more on tickets before I was able to legally buy them – or at least my grandparents did for me! I have fond memories of my childhood just leisurely driving around with my grandparents and somehow we always ended up at a couple of their favorite places to buy scratch off tickets!! . We never won big, but we always had a good time. Again, more of an entertainment thing than a need thing. In a couple weeks I’m going to Vegas – guess I should grab a little bit of cash for gambling. Not a big gambler either (I get bored!) but I do play for a little bit. I bring a set amount of “entertainment money”, and when it’s gone I’m done.
Oh, forgot to include a funny story about scratch offs and my grandma. We bought some scratch offs for my grandma when she passed. We had them in the casket for the calling hours and we were going to scratch them before we buried her – but we forgot!! For all we know, she was buried a millionaire. After I got back home from all of the funeral activities, I won $400 on a scratch off. We all assumed this was grandma passing along her winnings. I’ve never won any amount close to that since that day – typically zilch, or if it’s a good day, a dollar.

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6 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 10:43 am

THAT IS HILARIOUS!!! What if you found out that in fact one of those tickets *were* worth millions – would you find a way to go back and get them??! Would your grandma think it’s hilarious or be mortified??! :)

Very fun story – thanks for sharing! And congrats on that $400 – way more than I’ve ever won in my life too!

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7 LeeAnne June 24, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Seeing as she’s been gone for 10 years, I’m going to pass on trying to get the ticket back. Oh, I’m sure grandma thinks it’s hilarious we buried her with un-scratched tickets!

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8 Christine June 24, 2019 at 8:07 am

I was going to make this anonymous but then realized no one I’ll mention would ever be reading this blog!

I spend nothing or virtually nothing on the lottery—maybe occasionally I’ll pitch in on a group lottery ticket.

My family on the other hand is a completely different story. My mom and dad are okay—probably like you, an occasional ticket to “play their numbers.”

But my extended family play it like it’s their job. I don’t know the numbers, but let me give this anecdote—basically at least one of my aunts stole from her brother to support her lottery habit. The clerk at the store told another sister that she was worried about how much she was spending. I won’t go through all the gory details and background to all of this, but suffice to say, it was bad. And, to be sure, I know that at least 3 other aunts (it’s a large family) have also put down large sums of money to play the lottery. Another aunt, for example, would use grocery money, and then take food from another sibling’s house to compensate. It’s messed up for sure. And, my guess is there are more people like that out there.

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9 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 10:45 am

Aghhh that is horrible!! And probably so hard to stop too once you get going and probably feel your time is right around the corner of hitting it :( A bad addiction for sure…

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10 Jessy June 24, 2019 at 8:30 am

When our state first got a lottery, it was a novelty and it was fun to get scratch-offs on the weekend. Now, I might buy a MegaMillions or Powerball when the jackpot gets so high that everyone is talking about it, but otherwise, I don’t even think about it.

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11 Nate Matherson June 24, 2019 at 8:34 am

Thanks for sharing the results of our study!

We had one massive winner…. we won $2,000 off of a $30 ticket. It was a lot of fun scratching that one. It was actually the first one I picked up out of our stack of tickets too. To claim anything over $500 you actually need to mail in the ticket. We are currently waiting for our $2,000 check from the NJ lottery haha.

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12 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 10:46 am

Interesting!!!

I don’t think I’ve ever scratched anything higher than $5.00 ticket before – didn’t even know there were $30 ones!

If you need any help next year scratching them, lemme know and I’ll come over and help (and then of course blog about it ;)

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13 Adam June 24, 2019 at 8:50 am

I’ve played once, ever: $10 in a friend’s 24-person pool in March 2013 when Powerball was at $198.3 million. Solely because he asked, and I had $10 to spare.

Out of 96 sets of numbers, we won $11. So he put it into MegaMillions tickets that drew three days later.

Nothing hit. I felt pretty silly; it was like when I happened to be in Vegas for a business trip: I put five bucks on black, it hit, I put ten bucks on red, it didn’t, and I walked away from the roulette table. Guess I’m not wired for this sort of thing. Darn. ;)

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14 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 10:47 am

It’s really hard when you win in the beginning because then it’s all over within seconds and you can’t help but want to play again! Better to lose first and then win and then walk away :)

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15 Rho | Their Money Goals June 24, 2019 at 8:53 am

I’ve only played the lottery once—a few years back when the jackpot was historically high. I had big plans for that money, but I didn’t set myself up well to win because I only bought 3 tickets.

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16 LIsa O June 24, 2019 at 9:01 am

It usually is about $30 at Christmas time when we decorate our small tree with them for a center piece for dinner. Then we all take part in scratching together. Biggest winner was $10 but usually just a $2 winner. I want to get something for my money so I don’t fall into the “Got To Be In It To Win It”!

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17 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 10:48 am

That is such a cool idea!!!! I”m making a note to copy it this year!!!

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18 B.C. Kowalski June 24, 2019 at 9:16 am

Mine’s zero – this was one of the few non-frugal things my dad did early on, even joining lottery pools on occasion. These experiments looked like yours – they rarely even paid money back. I think they’re the opposite of the mindset of the FIRE adherent – it’s about looking for the quick fix versus playing the long game.

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19 Elise June 24, 2019 at 9:36 am

I don’t often bring this up because people don’t usually ask for my opinion, but I don’t believe in raffles (unless all proceeds go to charity), lotteries etc. I don’t believe in get-rich-quick schemes, really don’t like the version of myself I am when losing things like lotteries (even losing charity raffles brings up some ugly greediness for me), and what I know of the lottery system feels like preying on those who can’t afford it.

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20 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 10:51 am

Some very good insight to know about yourself!

Right along the lines of our post on asking yourself “Do I like who I am while I’m doing this?” from last week… Can tell you a lot about your habits when you pay close attention :)

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21 Stevo June 24, 2019 at 9:46 am

$8 a week! Or.. $416/year.. ouch! I’ve been playing the same numbers for like, 8 years now.. Plan is to keep playing them for every MegaMillions and every Powerball drawing until they finally hit, which should be any day now. Right? I drop $80 at a time every other month or so. Can play the same numbers for 20 consecutive drawings on one ticket. It’s more of a chore at this point, and extreme anxiety when I forget ‘refill’ my numbers and I miss a drawing. I only check winning numbers when I buy new ones. Figure I’ll hear about it in the news first if my neighborhood gas station sells a big winner lol

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22 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 10:52 am

What are the numbers based off? :) Birthdays or lucky numbers or something?

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23 Stevo June 26, 2019 at 9:19 am

Unfortunately, I think it’s just some numbers that were in a fortune cookie a decade ago hahaha

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24 J. Money June 26, 2019 at 11:21 am

LOL

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25 Joe June 24, 2019 at 10:52 am

I might get a ticket if the jackpot is really huge. So maybe $2 per year? It’s really infrequent.
You can’t win if you don’t play the game. :)

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26 Lonelle June 24, 2019 at 10:59 am

Hmmm…well..I am in two Lotto clubs at work, so one is about $10-12 a month (played twice a week, one ticket per person) and the other is about $20 a year (they follow your wife’s idea! lol). Scratch off’s we don’t do as much, but have been knows to spend a couple ($10-$20) while traveling for the fun of it. We usually, about 75% of the time win more than we spend. However, my other half loves to gamble, but he does it responsibly and dang if he doesn’t win a LOT!! He loves Vegas, he only takes what he plans on spending, but he has had to have the “lady” come pay him so many times its really crazy! The “lady” comes if you win over $1,200 at one time. One night she had to come pay him 4 times! He gets comped rooms, food, etc. I just shake my head because I am definitely not that lucky! lol

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27 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 2:12 pm

WOWW!!! That’s hard to hate! :)

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28 Nita June 24, 2019 at 11:53 am

YOU HAVE ONE-DOLLAR TICKETS?????!!!
No fair! The basic ticket for national lottery is €2,20 here. €2,50 for European lottery with bigger jackpots and better likelyhood of *some* winnings.

Seriously though, I play to the tune of €10-20 a year, I guess. So, about every other month, usually when I’ve had a bad day at work and want to retire much earlier.
(I wish for 20 years but honestly, I don’t think I’m gonna make it. The numbers aren’t good :( )

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29 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 2:13 pm

Hopefully you’re picking up some good tips in our $$$ community here at least!! It all adds up over time! :)

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30 Nita June 24, 2019 at 3:38 pm

Of course I do :) but even adding up, the current path is not enough.
There are ventures I haven’t tried so far, but they’re gonna be a real PITA, especially tax-related. Could be bad enough to be dissuasive.

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31 Paula June 24, 2019 at 1:56 pm

I’m one of those folks who believes that we are taxed enough. I have spent zero dollars and zero cents my entire life on lottery tickets.
Many years ago I lived in South Dakota when they began their lottery. The state guaranteed a 40% payout. The work force of my employer at the time was predominantly young adults in their 20s. A very wise co-worker in his 60s told all of them that he would give them 50 cents for every dollar they plan to spend on the lottery. Sadly, no one took him up on his offer and lost $1.00 for every dollar they invested.

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32 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Hahaha… That is good…

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33 David M Capparuccini June 24, 2019 at 2:33 pm

Great post! i probably spend about $ 100 a year, and pretty much break even. I like the scratchers because they are fun! Win some, lose some, all $$$ from our entertainment budget.

I have family members though that drop $ 1,000 to $ 2,000 a year, and have never won much. Most of the folks I know can’t really afford to spend this much so this is truly a regressive tax on the poor! They bring home $ 2,000 every two weeks and spend $ 100 on lottery tickets.

I always like seeing the HUGE skyscrapers that make up each State’s Lottery office. Trust me, the lottery is making a killing. How much goes to education? Is it really helpful to the public? Doubt it…….. but this hypocrite still plays a little :-)

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34 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 5:48 pm

I feel like I researched it the other year and most of it *does* go to education/etc?! Not that it’s still great to play if you’re broke, but at least it does go back into the community vs other pockets :)

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35 Patrick June 24, 2019 at 2:54 pm

I’d say maybe $10.00/year?
I always get suckered into doing it when i am pumping gas and the jackpot is $500Mill plus…I only throw in $2.00 each time
I never have cash on me which is a blessing…if they allowed credit cards, I might be screwed..haha

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36 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 5:48 pm

SOOOO good they don’t accept credit!!!

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37 LeeAnne June 24, 2019 at 7:27 pm

When I stopped at the gas station this past weekend (for gas, not lottery tickets ) I noticed that my state is now accepting debit cards to pay for lottery tickets…I feel like they are preying on the weak and those who probably shouldn’t be buying tickets.

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38 Stephanie Foster June 24, 2019 at 4:06 pm

I would guess we spend $20-30 a year on tickets. I usually buy only when it’s over $300 million and sometimes not even then. Sure, the odds are no better or worse than any other time, but it’s fun to pretend.

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39 Rachael June 24, 2019 at 5:40 pm

I’ve never brought a lottery ticket. I will buy pull tabs occasionally at the bar but that it more social/entertainment

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40 J. Money June 24, 2019 at 5:49 pm

Impressive! Never known anyone who hasn’t bought one before until today :)

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41 Annie June 24, 2019 at 8:48 pm

I spend only $10 on lotto tickets if the jackpot goes over $250M.
But I just finished a project where we had to scratch a lotto ticket a night for 6 weeks, and with all those tickets, there was a total of $24 winnings. Not good in my book.

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42 J. Money June 25, 2019 at 6:05 am

oh wow! what led you to doing that project? 6 weeks is a long time!

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43 w8jcd June 25, 2019 at 9:53 pm

I play this same way to the tune of $100 a year.

Even though $10M is a life-changing amount of money, I only play the really big jackpots. It’s irrational, I can’t explain it.

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44 Financial Advisor July 1, 2019 at 8:58 am

I spend about $50 per year on a jackpot of 10 million. But landed every time with a $10-100 prize only.

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45 J. Money July 5, 2019 at 6:33 am

That’s a pretty good return!!

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46 Tara July 15, 2019 at 10:22 am

We play the big powerball/megamillions if they go over $300 million, but usually only buy one ticket for our household (you can’t win if you don’t buy one, but your odds don’t increase significantly enough if you buy more than one). We also like to buy a few scratch-offs for holidays/birthdays, but usually limit it to $20 for birthdays and $5 for mothers/father’s/valentines/anniversary and then maybe another $20 or so in Christmas stockings. With the few I buy for other family members for similar holidays/birthdays, we maybe spend $250 a year on scratch-offs which isn’t too much, and maybe another $50 or so a year on the big number draws.

I do agree that one can go overboard, and I don’t win enough to justify spending more! Especially since considering all that money we spent ($300 a year) and we don’t have much to show for it! But it’s entertainment, so we view it as such. And it’s healthier than eating an ice cream cone, ha!

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47 J. Money July 15, 2019 at 10:30 am

Yeah it is, haha….

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48 Jerri Lyn July 18, 2019 at 3:14 pm

I have an online subscription to the Mega Millions, which is about $4/week, so $208 for the year. I have yet to win anything higher than $50, but the amount of joy I get *imagining* how I’ll spend the money is worth the stupid tax.

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49 J. Money July 18, 2019 at 3:53 pm

An online subscription?! How does that work? Do they randomly send you the numbers via email or actually mail you print tickets?! I’m intrigued!

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50 Jerri Lyn July 19, 2019 at 2:14 pm

On the website, you determine which game your want to play, what your numbers are (they’re fixed throughout the subscription period; you can choose your own or have them automatically generated), how many draws per game, do you want the multi-lier, and how long you want the subscription to run.

I recently discovered that I can have it auto-renew, which is awesome! Can you imagine having your numbers hit only to find out afterwards you forgot to renew? That would be awful! It’s set up to auto-renew every two weeks for $12. If I have winnings in my account, it deducts from that to pay for the renewal.

For the hard-core players, they have an option to set up a maximum daily withdrawal. I can’t imagine being that level of addictive, but I guess it’s a real problem!

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