Photo courtesy of Michael Coté
When J and I first moved to Lafayette three years ago, we knew no one, and found that our social lives were somewhat lacking.
So when I passed by a sign for weekly Bingo at the local VFW, I suggested we try our hand at some legal gambling. After all, my cousin and aunt had rhapsodized over how much fun they had had at Bingo, and it was something I had always wanted to try.
We got our first surprise as soon as we walked in the door. One Bingo card cost $20, which I suppose we should have anticipated. Since we still owned our home in Columbus and were in contract on a new house in Lafayette, we decided to share a card to avoid overspending on our evening out. After all, there were something like 10 to 15 games per Bingo board, so we would definitely get more than enough fun for two people out of one card.
We found a seat next to a friendly woman who was kind enough to lend us a dauber and try to smoke from the other side of her mouth in deference to the fact that I was pregnant. (In Ohio, it had been illegal to smoke indoors for so many years that it hadn't even occurred to us that there were places where indoor smoking was still acceptable in other parts of the country.)
Our new friend had no less than five or six Bingo boards arrayed in front of her. She told us cheerfully that she played Bingo three or four times per week--and that she was sure we would get hooked, too.
During a brief lull, the woman ordered some mozzarella sticks, a dessert, and a cocktail. I was getting a little thirsty myself, so I took a quick gander at the menu. I blanched at the cost of the food and drinks and went off in search of a water fountain.
In the midst of a conversation with our table-mates, the friendly woman mentioned that she worked three jobs and that Bingo was her downtime from all that stress.
I found myself wondering if she realized that she could probably quit two of her jobs if she stopped spending $150 three times a week on Bingo. (Between the cards, the food, the cocktails, and the cigarettes--which, to be fair, she'd probably be smoking even if she weren't at Bingo--I thought $150 was a conservative estimate for her Bingo spending).
I also found myself wondering what Miss Manners would say about my urge to take this nice, friendly woman by the shoulders and shake her until she came to her senses.
J and I ended up playing Bingo for about two hours. We won one game--a $100 prize that two other Bingo players also won at exactly the same time, which meant that each winner was given $34. After the exciting win, J and I decided to stop by a pizza joint on our way home, where we were able to get our favorite chicken and pineapple pizza for $12 plus tax. The way we figured it, our evening of Bingo had paid for itself and a pizza.
Even though it was three years ago, I still wonder about our Bingo table-mate fairly regularly. Is she still spending $450 per week on Bingo? Is she still carrying three jobs? Has she figured out the relationship between her hobby and her cash flow?
I try hard not to be judgmental when people make different financial choices than I do. It takes all kinds, as they say, and just because something works for me doesn't mean it's the right choice for others. But this was more like seeing a toddler playing in traffic. Our friendly table-mate was doing so much self-harm with her money choices and making her life so much more stressful than it needed to be. And there was not a darn thing I could do about it--not that it was any of my business.
Have you ever had an eye-opening experience about how other people spend their money? Do you ever feel like slapping them until they come their senses, or is that just me?