Gambling laws are complex, and a lot of betting is off the books, but we all know it happens. That’s especially true during major sporting events, like the Super Bowl, World Series and, of course, March Madness.
Last year, the American Gaming Association (AGA) predicted Americans would wager $10.4 million on March Madness games alone. Breaking that down even more, they found the average better is completing two brackets, spending $29 per bracket.
Unfortunately, there are no raw statistics on how much people win through these wagers. But, a win is a win, whether it’s a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. If you find yourself with the W, here are seven smart ways to parlay those winnings into something great.
1. Buy tickets to see a game
What’s better than betting on your favorite team to take it all? Seeing your favorite team play a game in person next year. Fortunately, tickets to NCAA games aren’t overly expensive, meaning any March Madness winner could likely afford a ticket for themselves and a guest.
A four-game package for the beginning of the 2018 March Madness series started at just $50, and three-game regionals packages started at $250. Of course, those prices could change for next year. And, depending where you live and what team(s) you want to see, you may have to factor in travel, accommodations, food, etc. but the experience could be worth it, especially if it’s a bucket list item for you. So, put your winnings in a savings account and stash them away until tickets for March Madness 2019 go on sale.
Genius tip: If you aren’t partial to a particular team and just want to see a game, try to find the one closest to you to minimize travel expenses.
2. Splurge for a weekend getaway
If you prefer a more immediate indulgence to celebrate your March Madness mastery, a quick weekend getaway could do the trick. Figure out where you can go within driving distance, then splurge for a cheap Airbnb or a stay at your favorite hotel. (Want to get the best deal? Check out these tips to help you save on your next Airbnb.)
Do you live near the beach? A few hours from a big city? Plan a trip that will let you “get away from it all” while giving you ample opportunity to enjoy your March Madness glory.
3. Pay off a nagging debt
If you want to get the most bang for your buck possible, use your March Madness windfall to pay off high interest debt. Paying off debt with a high interest rate is a lot more advantageous than sticking your cash in a savings account. Why? Because the average high interest savings account is paying less than 2% in interest, whereas the average credit card has an interest rate of more than 16%. It’s like you’re gaining money by paying money and ditching those interest charges. Your credit score (and your stress level) will definitely thank you.
4. Invest your cash
Don’t have a debt to pay off? Another responsible option is investing your money so it can grow over time. Consider opening a Roth IRA or traditional IRA if you don’t have one (you can contribute up to $5,500 across both types of accounts in 2018 or up to $6,500 if you’re age 50 and older), or deposit your winnings into your family’s Health Savings Account (HSA) for instant tax savings and potential growth.
5. Get a gym membership
While watching basketball can be a lot of fun, betting on the game takes that fun and cranks it up a notch. But playing the game can be pretty fun, too — especially if you're in tip top shape.
Splurging for a gym membership can get you closer to playing the game you love, and gyms don’t have to be expensive, either. While you can pay upwards of $200 per month for a luxury gym, gyms with fewer amenities can cost as little as $15 to $40 per month.
6. Show your fan status with merch
Buying merchandise is a great way to support your favorite college basketball team while getting something for yourself. Use your March Madness winnings on shirts, hats, hoodies or jackets, and you’ll show everyone you’re the ultimate fan.
7. Pay for something you’ve put off
Many people think of “found money” as cash you should use to splurge, but you could also use it for something you’ve been putting off. Maybe you desperately need to have some dental work but have been dreading the trip – and the expense. Or, perhaps you need to get the oil changed in your car, get a leak in your roof fixed, or pick up new shoes for the kids. Maybe now’s the time to finally get the life insurance you’ve been putting off buying. Whatever you’ve needed the cash for, now you have it.