Category Archives: Expenses

Five fanciful fads for frugal fun

Frugal fun that doesn’t involve the TV

Frugal fun… without TV?! Yes, it’s possible! 🙂

Back a decade ago, our idea of frugal fun was watching our favorite shows on cable TV. After the cable no-service tech royally ticked me off, I cut the cable and went to satellite. We loved our DVR, and recorded CSI, History Channel and Discovery Channel shows, and cartoons for the kids.

However, we found that with two small (at the time) children, and full-time jobs, we would fall asleep trying to watch our favorite shows on the DVR. We were so exhausted with work and family, we had no time for frugal fun TV. After a few months, I asked R, “Why are we paying for this again?”

So, we cancelled satellite. That was at least nine years ago. Our family is living proof that one doesn’t need to have the TV on all the time. Yes, our children have survived without TV. 🙂

We have a 46” Sony HDTV, but we don’t even have rabbit ears. We use the TV for DVD’s which we check out free at the library. We also play on our game consoles; we buy used games for cheap (less than $10, sometimes less than $5). Sometimes, I use the TV with the iPad or MacBook Pro as a giant computer monitor, so we can look at photos or YouTube videos.

However, this article involves having frugal fun WITHOUT the TV. So, let’s begin….

  1. Read – Reading… the non-TV thing you can do with your eyes. Now, if you don’t have any of those old-timey things called “books”, you can also read tablets or computers. Find a good novel for a relaxing frugal fun get-away. Pick up a non-fiction and learn something new.
  2. Write – Hand-write a thank you note. Send a birthday card to a relative. Put a recipe on an index card. Even type out a quick Facebook post to let people know that you went “old school” and read a “book”.
  3. Eat – Yes, one of my favorite frugal fun things to do. 🙂 Clean out your fridge, and get rid of left-overs… by eating them. R often prepares veggies and fruits by washing and pre-cutting them. She puts them in air-tight bowls in the fridge or on the table, so it’s easy to snack on something healthy.
  4. Take a hike – Or a walk, or gallivant about the neighborhood. Make a family excursion of it. Grab the pets, and get the spouse and kids off the couch for frugal fun, fresh air, and easy exercise.
  5. Nap – Now that you have overcome your couch potato tendencies by going for a walk, return home for a short rest. Frugal fun can even be had while “doing nothing”. Set your timer and take a 20-30 minute power nap. Awaken recharged, refreshed, and ready to take on the rest of your day.

How about you? What is one of your favorite things to do for frugal fun?

How to Win the Lottery

Today could be the day you win the lottery!

Not even a mouth-breathing, inbred country bumpkin who just fell off a turnip truck realistically thinks they will win the lottery **. Years ago, a well-known radio host said something that has stuck with me. I don’t remember his exact quote, but he basically said that “the lottery is a tax on stupid people, poor people, and people who don’t understand math”.

At various points in my life, I have been stupid, poor, and I don’t generally like math. 🙂

However, I have resisted the siren song of instant riches via lottery winnings. I’m in my mid-40’s, and I have spent less than $20, in total, on tickets to win the lottery. I don’t remember ever purchasing a scratch-off or instant ticket. The only times I remember spending money for lottery tickets was when the power ball jackpot was in the 100’s of millions, and my co-workers would take up money for an office pool, buying many tickets together.

Of course, we all knew it was a long-shot, and none of REALLY expected to win the lottery, but we could all hope, right? We could also all afford to chip in $5 or so. I don’t think it is wrong to blow a couple of bucks here and there on a lottery ticket. Instead of, say, getting junk food at the convenience store, spend that $1 attempting to win the lottery. Either way, you are still out a couple of dollars, but at least you are less likely to be overweight too.

Unfortunately, rather than playing for fun, many low-income people play for money. “If I can just win the lottery, all my financial worries will be over”. The lottery is the lifeboat they put their trust and hope in, as their financial ship is sinking. Unfortunately, the lottery is not only a poor-quality lifeboat, it is not even a good life vest.

Business Insider published an article in 2012 that took a close look at lottery programs, and the problems with the lottery.

As I said before, I don’t really like math. However, if we want to win the lottery, let’s first take a clear look at the math.

Statistics show that you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than you do of winning the lottery. According to this pdf, The Geography, Economics, and Politics of Lottery Adoption, by Coughlin, Garrett, and Hernandez-Murillo –  – “State lotteries have the lowest payout rate of any form of legal gambling…” Business Insider says simply, “The people who can least afford it are throwing away on average 47 cents on the dollar every time they buy a ticket.

Statistics show that the per capita lottery sales are being predominantly sold in low-income zip codes. The lottery is a punitive tax on the poor. Low-income, mostly uneducated people are the most prevalent buyers of lottery tickets. Even if they do win the lottery, because they are generally less educated, they are easier to take advantage of, and will usually end up squandering their windfall. They will often take the lump sum payout, so they wind up in the highest tax bracket for that year, and generally lose at least ½ of their winnings to taxes.

In some cases, they even wind up in worse financial condition than they were before they won. All their “friends” and “family” begin to come out of the woodwork, asking for help or to borrow money for a car or some “sure-fire” business venture. The winners will often buy luxury items on credit, such as fine automobiles, jewelry, and big homes, rather than purchasing the items with their new-found cash. Once the lottery winnings are gone, they still owe for the purchases made on credit, and now have no way to make the payments.

According to a 2009 survey conducted by UT-Arlington, instant tickets in Texas were more likely to be purchased by an unemployed person than by someone who was employed or by a retiree. Corresponding with UT-A’s findings, Indiana U’s study from 1994 which found that from 1983 to 1991, as unemployment rates rose, so lottery sales tended to rise.

In other words, those who had little to no income due to unemployment, who should be using their limited income for food, shelter, job hunting, etc, were more likely to spend it on the lottery. No doubt, they were hoping for a quick solution to their financial woes from unemployment. “If I can just win the lottery, things will be ok.

So, knowing that we are not likely to win the lottery, and knowing that winning the lottery is probably not even a good idea long term, you may be wondering why I titled this post, “How to Win the Lottery”.

Instead of the “instant ticket”, try this:

  1. Get a pickle jar, peanut butter jar, shoe box, etc. Make sure it is clean.
  2. Make a hole in the top.
  3. The entire month, put the money you would normally spend on the lottery, in the container. A $1 here, $5 there, $10-$20 if the jackpot goes high. If you are like many lottery players, you may average $15-$20/week on tickets. Whatever you would typically spend each month, put it in the jar. Throw your loose change in too… after all, you can spend coins to win the lottery too!
  4. At the end of the month, go to the bank, and deposit whatever is in the jar. Do not spend this money for anything. Once you give this money to the clerk to buy a lottery ticket, you don’t get the money back, right? Same idea here… Once you give this money to the bank teller, you don’t get it back (at least not right away).
  5. Each month for the next year, put your “lottery money” in the bank. One year after you start, if you average $20/week, you will have over $1000 in your account. If you were to do this for 20 years, you would have over $20,000. This of course does not include any interest you may have earned on that money.
  6. Best thing is… using my “sure-fire winning system”, you are “guaranteed” to “win the lottery”, by saving the money you would have normally thrown away playing the lottery.

Have you ever played your state lottery? Have you ever played a national lottery? How much, on average, do you spend on the lottery? Did you ever win the lottery?

 

**No offense to mouth-breathing, inbred bumpkins who just fell off a turnip truck. 🙂