How to Win the Lottery Without Paying a Penny for the Ticket

Photo: Lisa Brewster

What would you do if you won the Lottery?

That's a great question. One that we've ALL fantasized about at least once and probably have let our imaginations go wild in at least one conversation with friends or family. I'm not talking about scratch and win lotto tickets here. I'm talking about the big kahuna.


You're probably in the stark minority if you haven't at least played that game once. After all, it's completely justified! You could, no, you should be that 1-in-500,000,000 because you've worked hard your whole life and nobody deserves it like you do — so what's another dollar, or two, or five?

Let's get back to that dream for a second...

The Lottery Dream Fantasy

When we have our lottery fantasies, the conversation often revolves around what we would buy. It might look something like this:

  • My custom dream house
  • A Ferrari and a pimped out Escalade
  • That sailboat that I've always wanted
  • A butler (is Mr. Belvedere looking for work?)

And if we fear we're starting to look a little self-centered in our discussion, we might throw in a few things like...

  • A college education for all of my grandchildren
  • A new house for my parents
  • I'd give a big chunk of it to charity

The Financial Freedom Dream

In a lot of cases, the dream simply boils down to:

  • I'd do nothing
  • I'd pay off my debts
  • I'd live off the interest
  • And I would never have to work for anyone else again

On the surface, that sounds great, right? Then why do so many retirees who could comfortably live off their pension or other retirement savings choose to keep on working? They've earned their Lottery ticket, damn it!! Be lazy and go enjoy the precious little time you have left!! (See also: The 10-Step Staircase to a Comfortable Retirement)

They keep working because they like what they do, or they like what it does for them. They might get paid, they might not — but they are still active and productive members of society. They are not sitting in their gated mansion in a dark room counting their dollars.

The Lottery Trick

The reason many of us get suckered into the Lottery fantasy and buying those tickets is because we've bought into the dream. But can all that money and the resulting "stuff" that you buy really bring you the happiness that you're hoping for? Probably not. Countless studies have show that those who are rich are not any happier then those with lesser means, so we should know by now that the "stuff" will not buy us happiness.

And we should also know by now that those who can afford not to work for others and end up doing nothing with themselves usually end up being miserable as well.

But financial freedom and the choice to actively do what we want with our lives? Sign me up for that.

Here's the thing. You don't need a lottery ticket to buy you that. You need to adapt to a lifestyle that will permit that. A lifestyle that results in your making more money than you are spending (and hopefully putting a little bit away for later in life when you aren't physically or mentally able to continue working). And the less you spend on lottery tickets and buying into that false hope, the more you can save and focus on buying your freedom.

5 things you can do today to start buying your ticket

Admittedly, these are as simple as they can be, by design. Realistic goals that we all can accomplish with a little work.

  1. Make more than you spend.
  2. Pay off your debts.
  3. Spend your time doing what you enjoy doing and get paid for it if you need it.
  4. Be kind and helpful to others.
  5. Remember this: You only live once. So live that way.

Accomplish all five and it might just make those Lottery tickets a little less appealing.

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Guest's picture

Most people do lottery not only because they want the large sum of money, but they want it INSTANTLY. I like your approach that our lottery ticket is to be financial freedom but it is way harder than it sounds for most of us. Many people live off paycheck to paycheck and struggle to look for future because they need to live TODAY.

You could have gone little deeper with '5 things we could do today' part, those are pretty much 'duh, we all know that' points. What many people need is practical approach and discipline to sustain those action items so they can work towards financial freedom. The 5th point of 'you only live once' doesn't really go with 'pay off debt' or 'make more than spend'. You're saying, since we only live once, we should go and do things we like/passionate about even though it'll cost us money and bring us in deeper holes? This only applies to those making millions and can afford to go buckwild without worrying about breaking the bank account. Most average joes can't even afford to go on one-great vacation a year because they cost so much. What would you want us to do? Save up or spend them? Just my thoughts.

Guest's picture

I love WB so I hate to criticize but I think this title was deliberately misleading. You knew nobody would read it if you titled it like it should have been, "How to feel like you've won the lottery" or "Win the lottery without playing it". or even, "How to 'win the lottery' without paying a penny for the ticket". Lame.

My dad plays the lottery because he needs some hope in his life. He's uneducated (GED), is a combat veteran, works his fingers to the bone every day at a physical labor, dead end job making barely living wage. He needs something that he can afford, that he can hold in his hands and look at that gives him the hope (however remote) that one day he might not be doing this. I think you'll find that this is the majority of the people who play the lottery.

I agree with WB readers that the money would be best spent depositing in a high yield savings account but that's not something he can see. You tell him 3$ a week might eventually make something big in 10 years and he'll say, "I'm 67 years old. In 10 years I'll probably be dead."

I don't think that he or many of the other people in his situation would buy Escalades. His dream is to pay off the house that he and my mom own, pay off the medical bills from when he had his stroke, move closer to mom's relatives (a place where my parents can't afford to live) and establish trust funds to live on for he and his relatives. The closest he comes to buying an Escalade is, "...and I'd buy cars for you and your sisters. Well, maybe just you. Kat has a car and Em lives in DC so she doesn't need one, but you. Something nice, like a Yaris or a Civic. If it's a BIG Megamillions, I bet we could get you a Prius!"

Guest's picture

If he put that money into stocks, investments or startups he'd have a much more realistic reason to believe his life won't be the same...

That's the problem with lotteries. It's WORSE than useless. It promises no likelihood of return while sucking away dollars people could invest better elsewhere.

Guest's picture

Number one on your list of 5 things you can do today should read: Spend less than you make. It is far easier to accomplish than trying to "make more than you spend". I have more control over my expenditures than I do my income.

Guest's picture

I play the lottery on a weekly basis but have never own the jackpot.

I do follow a strategy that results in me winning decent sums regularly, but nothing big enough that I can quit my job or retire.

The chances of winning the lottery with a single combination is 1 in 14 million or so. With analyzing previous results and some mathematics you can increase your odds, but it's still always a gamble.

It's all about fun ;)

Guest's picture

I notice that whenever lottery winnings happen they always happen in small towns. What's up with that?!?! There aren't even that many people living in these small towns as compared to the big cities. The big cities never have winners hardly and they always seem to be the winners in the small towns all the time. I really think they track the lottery tickets making it impossible for certain people to win at the lottery. What do you think about this? Think this is true. How many times has the lottery numbers danced around the numbers that you've picked huh?