You may have heard that Quicken Loans is offering $1 billion to anyone who enters their March Madness contest and picks a perfect bracket.
This is a pretty sweet deal. Even the best lottery jackpots are only a few hundred million and you have to buy tickets for that. This contest is a cool billion dollars and the entry is free!
Since I’m a numbers geek, let’s do some math!
March Madness vs. The Lottery
Let’s look at the odds of winning lottery games Mega Millions and Powerball compared to picking a perfect bracket.
Odds to win the Powerball Jackpot: 1 in 175 million.
Odds to win the Mega Millions Jackpot: 1 in 258 million.
Odds to pick a perfect March Madness bracket: at least 1 in 128 billion (with a B)
The odds to pick a perfect bracket are hard to calculate. At worst, your chances are 1 in 9.22 quintillion — that’s if each game is a 50/50 chance. However, we know the games aren’t all literal tossups.
#1 seeds have never lost to a #16 seed in 29 years. #2 seeds win their first game about 96% of the time. #3 seeds win about 85% of their first games. You can find all the data here.
So using some of these pieces of information, one mathematician believes the actual odds are about 1 in 128 billion.
If he’s right, that means you have a better chance of winning over 700 powerball jackpots than you have of picking just one perfect bracket.
In fact, millions of brackets are filled out every year, and there has never been a verified perfect bracket in any year.
On a personal note, one year I had a perfect bracket after the first day (16 games). I started getting excited, thinking I might actually have a perfect bracket. By the time day 2 was over, I had picked 8 games incorrectly. Sad face.
To further demonstrate how difficult it is to pick a perfect bracket, last year only 47 out of 8.15 million brackets on ESPN.com picked all 4 Final Four teams. Less than 40,000 of those 8.15 million even picked 3 out of 4.
Let’s just say it won’t happen.
But What if It Does?
But let’s play a game where we live in the real world, where I’m full of distrust and cynicism. Let’s pretend you beat the odds and going into the Final Four, you have picked every single game correctly. Congratulations! You only need to pick 3 more games correctly and you win a billion dollars.
That billion dollars would actually come from Berkshire Hathaway, the company run by billionaire investor Warren Buffet. Mr. Buffet and all the people who invest their hard earned money into Berkshire Hathaway have a vested interest in not paying out a $1 billion insurance policy.
Imagine you’re 3 games away from winning a billion dollars. 3 games played by college kids who are living off a full scholarship and not even earning a dime off their basketball career. Most of them will never earn money playing basketball.
Now of course it is against NCAA rules for athletes or referees to be paid off to fix the outcome of a game, but with $1 billion dollars on the line, do you think all the fat cat investors in Berkshire Hathaway are going to care about NCAA rules? Do you really think they are willing to sit back and watch their company take a $1 billion loss on a a couple games of chance?
Call me cynical, but I don’t believe that for a second. I’m not saying I don’t trust Warren Buffett, Quicken Loans, Yahoo, Berkshire Hathaway, or anyone else in particular. I just think with $1 billion on the line and so many interested parties, I find it hard to trust everyone to mind their own business.
If it were me in that situation, I’d try to find someone to “buy my bracket” for a few million bucks. I’d take a guaranteed $20 million over the chance at $1 billion for sure!
But luckily, we won’t have to deal with that situation because the odds are it’ll never happen. (see above)
I’m Still Playing
Even though I know the odds are terrible and I am confident no one will win the prize, I still entered the contest. I did it because I like picking a bracket every year, and also because the best 20 brackets win $100,000 each.
The contest is limited to 15 million entries, so with 20 first prizes you have no worse than a 1 in 750,000 chance to win a huge amount of money! Those are the kind of odds I like!
I’ve got Florida winning it all over Wichita State. Let’s hope I’m right!
Readers: Are you entering the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge? If so, tell me who you are picking for your championship game.
If you are a saver and like to hold your savings in a savings account, you have probably been disappointed these past few years. The interest rates for savings in traditional savings accounts have been at record lows, often hovering below the pace of inflation. Even though there is little risk involved in holding your money in a savings account, you could be doing much better while still minimizing your risk. Here are some ways to get a better interest rate on your savings.
High Yield Checking Accounts
One alternative to the low interest rates offered by traditional savings accounts is to park your money in a high yield checking account. These accounts have FDIC insurance and include all of the benefits of standard checking accounts with the additional benefit of having higher interest rates on deposits. Many of these account have specific account requirements, such as direct deposits and frequent debit card usage, which must be met for the account to qualify for the advertised interest rate. Are YOU Getting the Best Rate? Compare at RateSupermarket.ca.
Money Market Accounts
Another good alternative for low yield savings accounts is to move your money to a money market account. Money market accounts offer interest rates that are higher than those of traditional savings accounts, but account holders must operate under more restrictions, such as higher account minimums and withdrawal penalties. Before choosing this type of account, you should take your spending habits into consideration and make sure that you will not incur a great deal of additional fees by using the money market account incorrectly.
Certificate Of Deposit
A third option that offers better interest rates than traditional savings accounts is a certificate of deposit, also known as a CD. CDs offer a fixed interest rate on the money held in the account as long as the money is held in the account for the entire agreed to term. CDs are available in term periods of three months to five years with interest rates that could be triple what could be earned with a traditional savings account. However, if the money is withdrawn early, it is subject to early withdrawal penalties levied by the bank holding the money. This penalty amount could be a set amount or a percentage of the total value of the CD. CDs are a great idea to earn higher returns on your savings if you are confident that you will not need to withdraw the money before the term has expired.
I have a whole week off work so I decided to tackle a new DIY project: laying tile in my master bathroom.
I have already tiled my laundry room and it was pretty simple and cheap, so I was expecting a similar situation for my master bathroom.
Here are a few things that have seriously increased the cost of my renovation.
Cement Board is Almost More Expensive than Tile
When I did my laundry room, I was laying tile over a concrete subfloor, which means you can just lay the tile easily on the concrete. My master bathroom is on the 2nd floor, which means I’m laying it over plywood. That means I need cement board.
I knew I needed cement board, which is about $10 for a 3′ x 5′ sheet. I needed 8 sheets total, which cost about $80. I planned for this expense.
I didn’t realize I had to put mortar underneath the cement board (I thought I just had to screw it down). I bought pre-mixed mortar because I didn’t want to deal with mixing it and I thought one tub would be enough for the whole job. Laying the cement board over mortar doubled the amount I needed for the whole job. At $45 a tub, it increased my expenses by $45. Or so I thought.
The Mortar Bucket is a Liar
The bucket of mortar I bought says that I should be able to cover 130-160 square feet with one bucket. My master bathroom is only 100 square feet, so I thought 2 buckets would easily cover the whole job.
Well I’ve put down all the cement board and laid about 30 square feet of tile and I’m almost through my 2nd bucket. I’m going to have to buy a 3rd to finish the job.
If I had known I was going to need this much mortar at the beginning of the job I never would have bought the pre-mixed stuff. I was willing to pay $45 for the convenience of not mixing anything. That cost has now ballooned to $135. I probably could have gotten enough mortar mixing it myself for about $50.
Oh, and if you’re wondering I will be buying a 3rd bucket of pre-mized mortar. I’m so frustrated with this stupid bathroom that mixing my own mortar is just one more thing I’ll probably mess up and get angry about.
Baseboards are Not Cheap
Again, this is an expense I planned for, but I need to mention it because this is a significant expense. If you want to put the old baseboards back on, it’s going to be a huge challenge and they might not look as nice. The other option is brand new baseboards, which is either expensive for materials and time, or even more expensive to have them installed.
I have a great contractor that did the baseboards on the 1st floor, so Ill use him again after this job is done, but it’s going to cost probably a few hundred bucks to have the bathroom baseboards redone.
Tools Aren’t Cheap
I already had a lot of tools I needed: a tile cutter, a tile saw, a trowel, a rubber mallet and a grout float. I didn’t have cement board tape ($5 a roll) or 3/16″ spacers ($5 a bag), but that was a pretty minor expense.
The point is that if you aren’t willing to commit to doing lots of DIY projects, you might almost as much money on tools that you’ll use just once than you would spend hiring a professional to do it.
It’s a Good Thing I’m Off Work for a Week
I was hoping this project would only take a few days. I realize now that I’m about the slowest tile layer in the world and that I’ll probably need the rest of the week to make it happen.
This is just another example of where they say to estimate your time and costs, then double it. This project fits that description just about perfectly.
Readers: Do you have any tips on saving money on DIY projects?
Yesterday was Mardi Gras, which means today is Ash Wednesday. That also means that as a Catholic I feel compelled to give up something as a sacrifice during Lent.
I’ve decided to give up drinking anything but water.
Those who have been around this blog since the beginning will remember I drank only water for 30 days back in 2011. Not only did I feel great but I also probably saved a little bit of money.
So I’m doing it again. I will be drinking only water for the next 6.5 weeks. I don’t drink alcohol or coffee which may make people think this is a simple challenge. However I drink a lot of soda, juice, and chocolate milk. This won’t be easy.
Here are the benefits I’m hoping to achieve.
1. Be More Mindful of Jesus
Every time I eat a meal or grab a snack, I’ll be tempted to grab something to drink as well. That means I’ll have 5-10 opportunities a day to reflect on my minor sacrifice and think about God. I don’t preach on this blog, but obviously this is the most important part of drinking only water for me.
2. Lose Weight
By drinking only water I estimate I’ll reduce my daily calorie intake by at least 400-500 calories a day. Not only will I reduce calorie intake, but apparently there are other weight loss benefits provided by water.
I do need to shed 5-10 pounds before the wedding (which is less than 3 months away) so hopefully this will help.
3. Become Healthier
This obviously follows very closely with losing weight, but I want to be healthier overall. My cholesterol and blood pressure has been rising slightly over the last few years. I know I need to eat better and exercise more, and getting rid of all the sugar in soda and juice should be a step in the right direction.
4. Save Money
Finally, water is free. Let’s pretend I’m buying a $2 fountain soda at a restaurant three times a week, and I’m also buying a gallon of chocolate milk or juice per week. That’s about $10 per week of savings.
Obviously $10 per week isn’t going to have much of an impact on my personal finances, but it doesn’t hurt.
Readers: Are you giving up anything for Lent? P.S. You don’t have to be religious to spend 40 days doing something to better yourself.
A few weeks ago I decided to try to grow a beard.
There were so many good reasons to grow a beard. It makes me look older. It’s manly. It keeps my face warm. I don’t have to pay for razors.
And there was one good reason to get rid of it. A beard just isn’t comfortable.
I’ve actually gotten the idea to grow a beard multiple times, but I can never do it because beards are just so itchy and uncomfortable. Plus Tag doesn’t like kissing me when I have a beard so that’s pretty much the nail in the coffin.
The problem is I’m always shaving with dull old razors because I don’t want to spend the money to buy a new set of razors. They are too dang expensive. Or at least they were. Enter the Dollar Shave Club.
$1 (+$2 s&h) Razors from the Dollar Shave Club
You may have heard of the Dollar Shave Club. They send you razors straight to your door every month, include a free handle for the razors, and they cost either $1 (plust $2 shipping and handling), $6 or $9 (free shipping and handling) depending on how comfortable you like your shave.
And they have this amazing video:
I’m a huge fan of products that make shaving easier and/or less expensive. The best $10 I’ve ever spent was on a shaving mirror for my shower, and now combined with the Dollar Shave Club my facial hair doesn’t have a chance!
The Dollar Shave Club solves all of the following problems:
- Razors are affordable and come with a free handle.
- 4 or 5 razors are shipped directly to your house every month free of charge for the 4x and Executive, or it costs $2 for the basic razor.
- You never have to decide between buying more razors or having an uncomfortable shave.
I’ve always said when you work hard for your money that it’s important to spend that money on things that make you happier and make your life better. And if you’re a guy there’s a good chance you’re buying razors anyway that cost about twice as much as you can get from the Dollar Shave Club.
I used to use the Gillette Fusion, which costs $16 for a pack of 4 and I have to go to the store to get it. I can get the Executive from Dollar Shave Club for just $9 a month (a pack of 4) delivered to my house.
Finally, if you’re like me and don’t have to shave every day, you can sign up for a few months. After 5 months you’ll have stock piled 20 razors. That could very well last me 1-2 years without wearing them out. You can cancel your subscription at any time with no penalty, so there’s really nothing to lose.
Plus their video is still just awesome.
A few months ago I got a very disappointing letter in the mail telling me that the rewards for my credit card were changing. A card that used to earn me as much as 2.5% on all purchases would now earn only 1% on most purchases. As someone who loves credit card rewards, that wasn’t acceptable.
After looking long and hard for a new credit card, I finally found the best rewards credit card to replace my Citi ThankYou Premier. I am a proud cardholder of the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard.
The Barclaycard Arrival is one of the best credit cards available today. You can find my full review of the Barclaycard Arrival on Reward Boost, but I’ll give you some of the highlights here.
2.2% Back on All Purchases
I earn 2 miles for every dollar I spend on the card. 10,000 miles can be redeemed for a $100 statement credit against any travel purchases.
Then if any miles are redeemed for travel, I get 10% of those miles back. That means if I use 10,000 miles for a $100 statement credit, I’ll immediately be credited with 1,000 miles that can be used for my next redemption.
My old credit card earned ThankYou points which limits me to using their travel center or getting gift cards from a limited number of companies if I want to maximize the value of my rewards. Being tied to only the items offered by ThankYou.com really limited my ability to maximize my rewards.
However, now I can shop for the lowest prices on any plane tickets, hotels, car rentals, or anything else. I can go to Priceline, name my own price and save 40%, and then use my Barclaycard Arrival miles for a statement credit. This is MUCH better.
$440 Sign Up Bonus and 0% for 12 Months
I can’t forget two other great benefits with this card. First, I get a 40,000 mile sign up bonus. Again, I’ll get 10% of my miles back when they are redeemed, so it’s really like a $440 sign up bonus!
Second, I have a 0% APR for 12 months. Normally I would never carry a balance on a credit card, but with my wedding coming up in just under 3 months, there might be a few expenses that I’ll want to pay off over a few months. At 0% APR, I can pay something over time and never pay a dime of interest.
The only downside is the $89 annual fee, but that is waived for the first year. Plus the $440 sign up bonus pays for almost 5 years of the annual fee.
Free FICO Score Every Month
As if this card wasn’t awesome enough already, they also give my my FICO score free every month. This is a really valuable benefit if you care about your FICO score.
If you go to myFICO.com and pay for your score, it will cost you $15 a month. That’s $180 a year just for your monthly credit score. The Barclaycard Arrival gives a free FICO score every month as long as you are a card member.
Their Website is Great
This may not be a big deal for some people, but I love a good looking and intuitive website. With this being my first Barclays credit card, I didn’t know what to expect.
I was pleasantly surprised. The site is easy to navigate and looks great. With this being my new main credit card, I’ll look forward to logging in to check my account every few days.
I Love My New Rewards Credit Card
I have a lot of wedding bills to pay over the next few months and I can’t wait to put them on this card and earn double miles for every purchase. By the time my wedding and honeymoon are paid for, I might have enough points to pay for my next vacation!
If you are interested in adding the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard to your wallet (including the $440 sign-up bonus), I encourage you to read my full review over at Reward Boost, and if you still think it’s a good idea then go for it! Just make sure you pay off the balance at the end of every month!