Money I

by zenquaker

I bought $20 worth of lottery tickets today.

I’m sure many of your are having a WTF moment. I mean, I’m a statistician. I know better than anyone the futility of lottery tickets, and gambling in general (except poker). Plus, Maryland doesn’t use the lottery funds for education, they go to the Maryland Stadium Authority. I’m subsidizing Dan Snyder, for crying out load.

So why would I do this? Because I’m trying to waste money.

Let’s go back to last year, when I took a trip to New York for the week. It was my present to myself for 20 years of not smoking. I just hung out and walked around the city all week, seeing cool things like the MoMA, the High Line, and Washington Square Park (I even managed to get in a Chess game there before it became illegal). I had a lot of fun, but my overall sense of the week was not enjoyment, because it cost so much.

For several years I have been working on toning down my possessions and being more careful with my money. I’ve gotten rid of 85% to 90% of the stuff I used to own. Along with that comes not buying more stuff. I’ve changed my eating habits, which has indirectly changed my spending habits. I’ve made retirement plans which changed my savings habits. All of this has made me a much more frugal person.

So this year is my 20th anniversary of quitting drugs, in some ways an even more important anniversary. I saved $1,100 to get/do something nice for myself. I couldn’t think of anything. Getting rid of all my stuff made me realize that I don’t need more stuff. My Zen practice has taught me to get so much enjoyment from walking to the bus stop in the morning that I’m not really worried about going to some exotic locale to have a good time. But beyond all that is that I don’t want to spend the money. Everything I looked at made me thing the same thing: that’s cool, but it costs too much.

I can’t seem to enjoy things anymore if I have to spend money on it. Maybe that’s always the way it’s been and I’m just noticing now. Either way I find it kind of disturbing. A couple months ago I got 75 $10 bills and just handed them out to strangers at the Shady Grove Metro station. I had no problem with that. I can happily give $750 to random people, but I can’t enjoy spending $750 on myself. I feel like I’m becoming a miserly tightwad, which is definitely something I don’t want to be.

So I forced myself to buy some of the things I was looking at. But some of the money I saved I am just going to waste. Lottery tickets. Burn it. Flush it down the toilet. Maybe I’ll find one of the slot machine places they supposedly have in Maryland. Maybe it won’t solve the problem, but I am hoping it will help me get a better sense of what the problem is and what I can do about it. I think it has something to do with the results. When I give the money to other people, I don’t see what they spend it on. But when I spend it I see what I get, and maybe that’s not living up to my expectations of the value of the money. I don’t know. We’ll see.

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