Do This Before Buying a Scratch-Off Lottery Ticket (2024)

The odds of winning a jackpot on a scratch-off ticket are low, but making the right moves could help improve your chances of winning.

While the odds of winning the jackpot prize off a scratch-off ticket are low, it can be fun to purchase scratch-off tickets occasionally.

That is, as long as you keep your finances in mind before buying tickets. The last thing you want to do is spend your emergency savings or money you plan to use to pay your mortgage or rent on lottery tickets.

A few times a year, I find myself drawn to the lottery machine at my local grocery store. I don't have debt beyond my mortgage and carefully follow a budget, so I don't mind spending a bit of money here to try my luck at winning extra cash (hopefully, a top prize).

If you're like me, you may like to spend some fun money on lottery tickets. But you may be making moves that could result in wasting your hard-earned cash. Find out what to do before buying scratch-off lottery tickets.

Check to see if the jackpot prizes are still available

If you like to choose which scratch-off lottery tickets you buy based on how fun they look or the prizes they offer, you may want to switch up your criteria. Instead, it's a good idea to find out whether any top prizes are still available to win. It takes only a few seconds to check your state's lottery website for a rundown of prizes available versus those already won.

Why should you check to see if the jackpot prizes are available before buying a ticket? Because other lottery players may have already claimed the more desirable prizes -- like that $500,000 prize you have your hopes set on.

I know I'd rather put my money toward a ticket with the small possibility of winning an unclaimed prize of $100,000 rather than spend it on a game where only smaller prizes under $500 are left to win.

You may still be able to win some of the smaller prizes, but once the jackpot prizes have been claimed, there's no more big money to win. If you're trying to win $50,000 instead of $10, it's a good idea to consider this before putting your cash into a lottery machine.

Pay attention to expiration dates

If you win money on a scratch-off ticket, make sure you claim it promptly. Did you know that lottery tickets have expiration dates? Some states are more generous with this timeline, while others have stricter rules.

For example, in Illinois, winners must claim prizes within a year of the game's announced end date. But in the state of Texas, tickets expire 180 days after the close of a game. You can research when games are set to end on your state's lottery website.

You can avoid missing out on money you're owed by claiming your prize soon after scratching your ticket. That way, your forgetfulness doesn't result in a lower bank account balance.

Don't forget to check the odds

One final tip when buying scratch-off tickets is to check the odds of winning a prize. You can also use your state's lottery website to view the odds of winning each scratch-off ticket game. With this information, you can buy a ticket with slightly better odds of winning money.

Keep your financial goals top of mind

Your personal finance goals are important and shouldn't be ignored.

If you have existing debt or struggle with money management, you may want to avoid playing the lottery until you reach your goals. You don't want to risk losing the money you need for bills.

If you're feeling the urge to buy tickets you can't afford, you may want to avoid carrying around cash, so there's less temptation to play the lottery. If you have the means to play the lottery every so often, it's not a bad idea to set a budget.

Establishing a spending limit allows you to have some fun while staying committed to your money goals.

If you luck out and win the lottery, make sure to have a plan for how you will put your lottery winnings to good use.

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Do This Before Buying a Scratch-Off Lottery Ticket (2024)

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