What are the odds?

It is likely that at some point you have flirted with the idea of winning the lottery. After all, just think of all the financial problems you could solve if you won, all for the small price of a lottery ticket - and are the odds really so dismal?

Statistics

You are more likely to be struck by lightning than to win the lottery, as well as the following:

  • die from a fireworks accident

  • die from a dog bite

  • die in a traffic accident on the way to buying your lottery ticket

Unfortunately, the answer is yes - so dismal in fact that your chances of bagging the 6-number jackpot on the National Lottery are 1 in 45 million.

It is also depressingly just as likely that you will win the lottery with consecutive numbers such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 as it is that you will win with a colourful combination of your favourite 'lucky' numbers.

Playing every week also does not make you more likely to win - as the odds are effectively reset with every draw, you are just as likely to win on your 500th try as you are on your first.

Is it ever worth playing?

Fact

Paying to play the lottery is not an investment in any real terms as you are incredibly unlikely to receive anything back for what you have spent besides the obvious entertainment value.

Purely mathematically speaking, if you play the lottery regularly over your lifetime the money you are 'investing' just is not worth it as the chances of getting a return are so slim.

Of course, you may argue that spending a few quid on the lottery each week is worth it for the fleeting excitement of thinking that you could in fact win big, and imagining what you might do with your winnings.

But in strict financial terms you are not doing yourself any favours by playing the lottery, and you would be much better off putting your lottery money into a savings account where a return in terms of interest is guaranteed.

For example, if you spent 5 each week on lottery tickets over 30 years of your life, this would amount to 7,800 effectively poured down the drain.

Why save the money instead?

If your 5 lottery spend was paid into a savings account over a 30 year period, even at a meagre interest rate of 3% you would still be left with 11,600 at the end - rather than nothing. As such if you do want to make a real return on your money, it is certainly better to put it into a savings account than it is to stake it on a lottery ticket.

The money you put aside in savings and earn interest on can then be used to pay off debts, to keep as an emergency fund, or any other use you might find it fit for - which is certainly much more beneficial than spending 20 a month and having nothing to show for it.

If you think you would be better off saving your money under your mattress, think again. Read our guide on how hoarding your cash at home is actually bad for your financial health.

Should you stop playing?

If you are playing the lottery every week in the hope that one day you will get the numbers right, but find that the money you spend on tickets could be better spent on essentials such as food and bills, it may be worth considering giving the game up and using that money where it is needed.

If you want to see a return on that money, put it in a regular savings account with a decent interest rate and watch the pounds pile up.

There is no harm in playing the lottery once in a while just for fun and for the momentary thrill of imagining your new millionaire lifestyle - just make sure you are not seeing it as an 'investment' or as a viable way to get rich quick, as you will only be disappointed.

How else can you make cash?

Rather than dreaming of a big lottery win, you could explore alternative ways to make money.