Of course you could spend today hitting the stores for Black Friday sales, but you could also get in the holiday spirit this weekend by seeing a play — or you could focus on gifts for your pet.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. this year give lottery tickets as gifts

    For some years now I have abandoned giving gifts except for lottery tickets.

    The reason is the giver (me) takes all the risk (spends the money for the tickets with no financial gain), the recipient gets a benefit (any winnings to use as they wish), the community (the public) is guaranteed a win even if there are no winning tickets, which is rare (please spare hate messages about the government in response to this post – it's holiday time)

    An additional benefit is the fun of scratching off the tickets in the company of the recipient. You can spend as much or as little as you want, buying as many tickets as feels right to you. No gift wrapping needed and who needs a card when you are giving cards to begin with.

    My advice is to get the cheapest lottery tickets because the odds are better of a winner (about 1 in 5 with the $1 tickets) and for a given amount spent, you can get more cards to scratch off. $20 will get you 20 $1 tickets and with 1 in 5 odds (read the back of the card to find out the odds) that means 4 tickets will likely be winners of at least $1 each.

    Think of the best outcome of all – the recipient gets, say, $500 a week for life – that's a gift that just keeps giving and that nobody but nobody would not appreciate!

  2. The stupidist of gifts

    For a $1 game you would be giving them something really worth 20 cents.

    The only game even possible to win over the odds is Power Ball and then the prize would have to be over $175 million.  Then if two people picked the winning number the prize would have to be double that and so on.

    If you take the payout in installments the present value would be much smaller.

    If you take the lump sum the taxes reduce the amount substantially.

    Instead of giving them a ticket [or buying yourself] donate to a charity in their name.  The tickets are about as good as flushing your money down the toilet.  Don't assume the money really goes for schools—the governor and legislature long ago found out uses—-like pet projects to get re-elected, 'fact finding' trips [always seem to be in exotic locations], etc..

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