How Does Gambling Affect Your Budget?

How Does Gambling Affect Your Budget?

Gambling can be a great way to have fun and hang out with friends. It is smart to think about how gambling can affect your budget and what the risks are. In some cases it can develop into an addiction which ends up destroying not only your budget but also your personal life.

Gambling Responsibly

Many people gamble now and then for a bit of fun. Rarely does anyone decide that after the first successful or unsuccessful attempt at gambling that they should stop for good or dive into full blown addiction. It is a socially acceptable pastime, how can it hurt?

From a budgeting point of view a healthy way to look at is as follows… Pretend you are planning a trip to Las Vegas and while you are there you will visit a casino for an evening. You decide that $200 is a good amount to gamble with. Mentally and emotionally, that $200 is simply part of your vacation budget. You mentally pre-spent that $200 before setting foot in the casino or placing a chip on the table.

At the end of the night if you made some money great! If you broke even that is actually a $200 win. And if you were unlucky and lost the amount you decided to risk, that is fine too because it was already gone “in your head”.

Another way to protector yourself is with these two rules:

  1. Start with a predefined amount of money to gamble with and never go beyond that amount.
  2. Set a time limit.

Based on these rules you would stop when either a) you run out of money, or b) the time is up.  Decide on the amount and time limit before you start and stick to it. If you need to, tell your friends and have them hold you accountable to your rules so you don't go overboard.

How Does Gambling Grow Into an Addiction?

When you do something that evokes positive feelings in you and you want to feel them again, you will do it again. So it is with a gambling addiction. Gambling comes with feelings of satisfaction and control while winning. But when you start losing, the temptation is to regain a winning streak to feel good again. However with most casino games and lottery games the odds are in the house’s favor. If you gamble long enough you are practically guaranteed to go broke. This is not strictly the case in some forms of poker and blackjack where there is some skill involved. Consider if you want to walk the fine line between being a professional card player and an addicted gambler.

Gambling is like drugs or alcohol because when addicts do not use drugs or alcohol for a while they feel nervous, anxious, depressed, etc. So they take more drugs or alcohol they feel better. So it is with gamblers. A sign of addiction is feeling anxious, nervous or depressed when not playing for awhile and then feeling “better” when playing poker, slots, scratch-its or other form of gambling.

Does Gambling Have a Positive Effect on your Budget?

Gambling could be considered “entertainment” and spending a bit on it each month wouldn't be too bad provided your essentials are being provided for first. Some people are really good at fantasy football or online poker and they do consistently make money at it, but that is pretty rare.

In general, gambling starts to negatively affect your budget when you get carried away with it.

Both a single person and married couples have needs, wants, and goals in their budget. The “needs” have to be paid every month or there are negative consequences (getting evicted, getting your power shut off, credit card fees, etc).

If gambling gets out of hand a person may not be able to cover their basic expenses. In other words they will fall short of paying for their “needs”. This causes a person (or family) a lot of financial stress.

Does Gambling Affect Mental Health?

Of course, gambling also affects mental health, because it affects not only mental but also has physical and social consequences. Gambling addiction is qualified as an impulse control disorder.

People who have a problem with gambling can have other health problems such as depression, migraines, intestinal disorders, and anxiety. Gambling addiction can lead to discouragement and helplessness, and even suicide attempts.



How Does Gambling Affect Family and Friends?

Gambling with friends can be a fun activity. A regular “poker night“ with the guys is as old as card games and is generally harmless fun.

Where a gambler goes bad is when they start asking for loans from family and friends to cover their debts or gamble more. It can lead to a series of lies and excuses.

In the case of a gambling addict who is married, this behavior can destroy their marriage and their relationship with their children. Debts are not a good thing to carry between family or friends. A gambler who is unable to repay them had better hope they have understanding people in their life or they will be left out in the cold.


Gambling responsibly can be fun. A good approach is to start with a pre-budgeted amount to play with and a pre-set time limit for how long to play. Stop when your money runs out or the pre-set time limit expires. If you have any money left over that is a "win" and that money could go to something else you enjoy.

The post How Does Gambling Affect Your Budget? is part of a series on personal finances and financial literacy published at Wealth Meta. This entry was posted in Personal Finance, Budgeting
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