Lessons From Bingo - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

Lessons From Bingo

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? 



bobi said:

Cheese sticks, cigs & cocktails? The woman is probably dead by now! I'm the queen of judgment...my fave is of course, the Independence card holders (welfare in MD) who buy all junk food...chips, soda, candy, etc. with their cards while sporting multiple tattoos, piercings and driving a late model SUV. Oh yeah, don't gete started.

July 30, 2013 7:16 PM

frugal_fun said:

It's hard because some people don't seem to "get" the connection between their habits and other issues. If they do, they can't seem to face it for whatever reason.

Our first owned abode was bought from a women with very similar habits. She worked two jobs and to relieve all that stress, I think she went shopping. Her condo (soon to be ours) was filled to the brim with stuff. It was so full that the movers had to come back (the estimate was way off) and they're weren't finished until late evening because she couldn't face packing most of her stuff. They had to pack it for her, even though she had said she would do it. Moving out of the condo must have cost a literal fortune.

It's tough stuff really and there's no way to talk people of self defeating behaviors until they are ready. (That maybe never.) I should know - my Mother has had terrible financial habits for all of her life. My Dad really kept us together for most of my childhood. There was no talking her into sense or savings and goodness knows my Dad and then my sister and I tried. She could only understand that she wanted stuff this second.

Thus a late in life degree (over 50) financed on student loans, after her sizable inheritance was gone. And a divorce at almost 60. (I'm not saying that they maybe shouldn't have broken up, but divorce is a serious financial issue.) As it stands today at 72, she's got a negative net worth and completely dependent on state support. Otherwise she'd have to live with either my sister or myself. As it was, we had to pay to move her to our new hometown and she couldn't face packing either, despite endless promises to at least do that.

In many ways, her negative example lead to my wanting to be smarter with money. That's a positive. :)  Unfortunately, it also means I know through hard experience that talking to someone (in 5000 different ways) doesn't always change the outcome. :(

July 30, 2013 7:35 PM

haverwench said:

When it's a complete stranger, I usually just shrug mentally and write it off as none of my business. When it's a close friend or family member, though, it gets hard. I'm never sure just how much it's acceptable to push the issue--or even if it's okay to raise it at all.

It was hardest with my late grandmother. She was in her nineties, living in Florida year-round and requiring expensive round-the-clock care, but she refused to give up her old apartment in Pittsburgh. Wouldn't consider selling it, wouldn't consider subletting it, and wouldn't consider moving back there herself. Plus she had a lot of physical health problems that she just didn't want to deal with; she didn't even want to discuss them, and she would always try to avoid going to the doctor. What made the situation so difficult was that in that case, it really *was* our business--my parents were afraid she might simply run through all her savings, and then my dad and his brothers would have to take care of her somehow, and they knew she wouldn't like it--but since she was starting to deteriorate mentally, there was simply no way to reason with her about it. Even if they could have talked her round once, she wouldn't remember it the next day.

After that experience, seeing a stranger be irresponsible with money doesn't really bother me at all--I just feel relieved that it's a problem I'm not responsible for dealing with.

July 30, 2013 9:28 PM

Hope Robinson said:

I live in Las Vegas and many casinos offer Free bingos. I keep record of my winnings and what I spend; I even walk to the casino to increase my foot steps.  I feel like its a win-win--but at first I did have to slow down--It;s FUN

August 6, 2013 8:42 AM

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