Most people gamble for fun and the chance to win more money than they wager. It’s exciting to walk into a casino with a pocket full of cash and high hopes. It’s a bit like the exciting feeling you get when you take a big birthday check to spend on stuff you’ve always wanted.
The difference between a trip to the casino and a birthday buying trip to a mall is that you’re all but guaranteed to leave the mall with something of value. When you gamble you’re more likely to leave the casino with less money than you took in.
If you’re only paying for fun then gambling is no different from seeing a concert or a movie. You spend your money on the time you spend at the venue.
The difference between gambling and watching a film in a cinema is that you’re not likely to hit the ATM machine for more money to see the next movie. Casinos install ATMs so their visitors can gamble away more money.
Short of carrying a bag of cash into a land-based casino with you, what are your options?
If you had an endless supply of money it would be a simple thing. But since most people live on a budget here are a few great ways to ensure you only gamble with what you can afford.
1 – Start with a Free Bank Account
Keep your gambling money separate from everything else. A separate bank account makes the most sense. And thankfully you can open free bank accounts through online banks or some special debit card offers.
Just as an example, you can buy a Bluebird card at Walmart and you won’t be charged a monthly fee for using it. Bluebird is a bank account service based on a debit card.
The important thing is to keep your money where it is safe and you have instant access to it. Even if you go over budget for the night, as long as you only withdraw money from your gambling funds account you won’t hurt your personal finances.
2 – How to Save Money for Gambling without Thinking
If you like paying for things with your smartphone then you’ve probably considered joining a service like Acorns, Chime, or Stash. These applications and others allow you to round up on all your purchases so that a little bit of money is dumped into a savings account for you.
As you make incidental purchases throughout the month your savings grow incrementally. You can invest this money or transfer it to another bank account. You can also withdraw it at an ATM if your account has a debit card option.
Another way to save money is to deposit everything you earn into a savings account throughout the month. Only pay yourself a “salary” once or twice a month, leaving as much in savings as possible. When you’re ready to fund a gambling account then make a transfer from savings.
By paying yourself from savings to checking account you still keep your expense money separate from your discretionary savings.
3 – Use Several Gambling Budgets in Land-based Casinos
This is a more convenient money management method for slot game players but I’ll show you how to create mini-bankrolls or mini-stakes for table games in a similar way.
If you take $200 cash into a Las Vegas casino you can divide that money into 4 lots of $50. Put $50 into a slot machine and cash out. Repeat and get 4 tickets.
If you only want to play table games then buy 4 chips for $50 each. These are your starter chips and you can cash them in at each table if you want to play with small denominations.
A third way to do this is to buy a cheap wallet for gambling. I use a long wallet with 4 pockets and I put 2-5 twenty dollar bills in each pocket.
However you carry your money around, the idea is to take a break or change games when you run out of starter money from 1 ticket, chip, or wallet pocket.
If you have a good night you can rotate the tickets or chips, gradually building up the value until you’re ready to cash in. Never cash in everything at once.
On my best nights, I found myself splitting tickets to start over and still had money left over in my wallet.
4 – Divide Your Bankroll to Create Forced Stops
If you only intend to play one game then divide your bankroll into a few high denomination chips or tickets as I suggest above. But instead of switching them out, play through each chip or ticket until you’re tired or the money is gone.
If you take a $50 chip to a table game and cash it in for ten $5 chips you can make 10 small wagers or 5 larger wagers. Just keep playing from that money until it’s gone.
If you have a good game and win you’ll eventually want to take a break. Take your winnings, cash them in, and don’t think about them again. You’ve still got at least 1 more mini-stake.
I like to play with as little money as possible to help me make thoughtful choices.
5 – Keep a Clear Head
I’ve mentioned taking breaks already but this is important. Everyone knows the casino wants to lull you into a semi-stupified state of mind. They want you coherent enough to gamble but relaxed enough to not care if you’re losing money.
Even when you’re gaming from home you should be aware of how much time is passing and what you’re doing. Keep a clock next to the computer so you see the time passing. Program your smartphone to sound alarms every 30-60 minutes.
It’s important to get up and move around. But you need to avoid alcohol and stay off drugs if you’re serious about managing your money well.
Anything that makes it hard for you to think or count is a sign you need to take a break and clear your head. Walking around the casino is a great way to do this. Make 2 trips.
Contrary to what some people say, eating isn’t necessarily a good idea. While you do need to eat if you eat too much you’ll become tired. You need to walk around for a few minutes after eating at the casino.
It’s best to eat small, light meals over several hours.
6 – Review Your Gaming Choices
Some people keep a gambling diary but most players never do. Still, if you gamble often you should know what to expect for your money.
If you don’t know the probabilities associated with your favorite games you should spend some time researching them. The more you take into account your favorite games’ return to player percentages, how often they are likely to pay prizes, and how much they cost to play the easier it is for you to plan your gambling budget.
If you’re playing at an online casinos you have player accounts. The better casinos allow you to look at your deposits and game histories. You can afford to take some time to review your history.
It’s better to know where you’re spending the most money and getting the most from the time you spend. Don’t assume it’s all working out fairly in the end. You may be cheating yourself without realizing it.
7 – Invest Your Winnings
Whether you’re thinking of becoming a professional or want to buy a house, bank your winnings. Don’t put them back into your gambling budget.
A good gambling budget comes from your regular income. I’ve talked with players who only wanted to play from their winnings. I’ve never met one who could keep rolling it over indefinitely.
After several years of dipping into my checking account at the worst possible times, I promised myself I would only gamble with the money I could afford to throw away. And that money comes out of my paycheck.
Anything I win goes into the bank, and I mean the non-gambling bank. If it’s a really small amount I’ll leave it in my wallet for incidental expenses like drinks and snacks.
If you can afford to keep playing from your paycheck without rolling over your winnings, you’ll become used to playing on a regular, predictable budget. You’ll know when you’ll have enough money to play again and you won’t worry about how you’ll get there.
Boring as it sounds money management should be an important part of everyone’s gambling lifestyle. Even though we say that gambling is for entertainment the truth is that it becomes mixed up with our monthly incomes and expenses. If you have a couple of thousand dollars in your account right now and you don’t know how much of that came from gambling, you’re ready to make a few small changes.
Keeping the money separate simplifies things and reduces stress. I found I started enjoying my playing time more when I didn’t have to worry about money. I’m not rich but I’m confident I won’t be betting the car payment next week.