MONEY Shopping

No Taxes on Back-to-School Shopping! (But Only in These 17 States)

Tim Barber—Chattanooga Times Free Press/AP

Starting next Friday, these states are offering tax holidays on clothing, computers, school supplies, and more.

The best time to do your back-to-school shopping, or any shopping for that matter, is starting next week. Every summer, a number of states hold sales tax holidays on all sorts of supplies, from notebooks and pencils to clothing and computers.

This year’s round of holidays starts on July 31 (get ready, Georgia and Mississippi!) and ends in late August, with each state’s tax-free period typically lasting one weekend.

As MONEY’s Brad Tuttle noted last year, these tax holidays aren’t exactly Black Friday when it comes to savings: Sales taxes in most participating states ranges from 6% to 9%. That said, with parents spending more than $600 on average for school supplies, according to the National Retail Federation, those savings can certainly add up. And you don’t have to go to the mall to save: the tax break applies to online purchases as well.

Want to see if your state is set to give you a break? Hover over the map below—the sales dates in participating states will pop up, along with the eligible items. Prices listed next to a product category mean you can’t spend more than that amount on any individual item and still get the tax break, although there is no cap on overall spending.

One special case is Massachusetts, where the state legislature has gone down to the wire waiting to approve a 2015 tax holiday. It’s likely to pass so we’ve included it on the map, but be aware that this particular holiday is still unconfirmed.

*Note: Dollar figures are per item. There is no cap on overall spending.


MONEY cord cutting

Cord Cutters Can Soon Pay to Stream a Single NBA Game

Jason Miller—Getty Images

Individual games will cost $6.99 a pop.

Basketball fans will be able to watch individual NBA games for $6.99 each, the league announced on Wednesday.

ESPN reports consumers will be able to stream the games online through a PC, tablet, or mobile device, or buy the games and watch on TV through a cable provider. Only out-of-market games that are not nationally televised will be available for purchase.

The NBA already offers a $200 service called “League Pass” that gives fans access to an entire season’s worth of out-of-market games, meaning matchups featuring teams other than your local squad. But ESPN notes that NBA commissioner Adam Silver has previously acknowledged of the full-fledged League Pass, “most people don’t want to consume that many games.”

In addition to the $6.99 option for individual out-of-market games, the league is also offering a $120 package that would show all out-of-market games for a single team. So if you live, say, in New York, and for some reason or another would rather keep up with the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, or San Antonio Spurs rather than the Knicks and Nets, here’s your chance.

Read next: The Cord-Cutter’s Guide to Streaming TV Services

MONEY cord cutting

7 Streaming TV Packages That Will Let You Cut the Cord For Good

illustration of people on sofa watching sports on TV
Ben Mounsey

Cutting the cord could save you $75 per month. Here's how to do it without missing your favorite shows.

With services like Showtime, HBO, Hulu, and many others now streaming their programming online, cord cutting has firmly entered the mainstream. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to get all your favorite shows over the internet. In order to make the transition away from cable as simple as possible, we’ve put together six streaming “packages” that should meet the needs of the most common types of TV viewers.

Along with each package, we’ve also included the amount of money the typical television viewer would save by cutting cable and switching to streaming. Greg Ireland, research director for multiscreen video at market-analysis firm IDC, estimates that the average cable subscriber pays $85 a month for video while receiving an effective $10 per month discount on internet service. That means for people with a “double play” bundle—cable TV and Internet in the same bill—canceling cable would save an average of $75 a month, or $900 per year.

So what are you waiting for? Here are six packages to help you make the switch.



THE PLAN: Hulu, CBS All Access, Sling TV

This option is for you if you like to follow the latest network and non-premium cable shows, like NCIS, The Walking Dead, and Modern Family. Hulu and CBS All Access will give you the networks, and Sling TV will bring in the most popular cable content.

That said, if you’re not going to watch at least eight different shows a year on cable channels, it’s cheapest to get your cable fix by buying individual seasons on iTunes or Amazon Instant Video.

PRICE: $408 a year ($34 per month)




For viewers who just have to keep up with current events and watch breaking news when it happens, a combination of Sling TV and a TV antenna should have you covered. Sling has CNN and Bloomberg TV, and for $5 extra a month you can get international news channels such as Euronews, France24, and News18 India. Add an indoor TV antenna, and you’ve got network and local news as well.

PRICE: $240 a year ($20 per month)



THE PLAN: Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Showtime

First, the most buzzed-about TV moved from networks to premium cable and then to basic cable. Now a similar transition is moving top programming from cable to the streaming world. Netflix has House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, while Amazon isn’t too far behind with crime drama Bosch and the Golden Globe–winning Transparent. Close the loop with HBO and Showtime subscriptions—for your Game of Thrones and Homeland fixes—and you’ve got access to some of the best TV content around.

PRICE: $519 a year ($43 per month)



THE PLAN: HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, Sling TV

This is the option for TV fanatics who want everything and the kitchen sink. That means network TV, cable shows, streaming shows, HBO, movies, all on demand whenever you want.

Believe it or not, you can still have all this for less than the price of cable. Even after subscribing to HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, and Sling TV, you’ll still be more than $200 ahead. Don’t care for Girls or Game of Thrones? You can replace the HBO option and subscribe to Showtime through Hulu and save another $72. Or you can drop Sling TV for Showtime and save an extra $108.

PRICE: $695 a year ($132 per month)



THE PLAN: Sling TV with sports package, two sports-league services

If you want to see a significant number of local games, stop here. This is one area where streaming services can’t fully deliver. Local games are generally exclusive to regional sports networks.

There’s also the issue of some online services being a little more unstable than diehard fans might like. Dish’s Sling TV failed for many customers during this year’s NCAA Final Four, forcing the company to issue an apology.

Sling TV will give you ESPN and ESPN 2, and for another $5 you can get even more sports options, including ESPN U, ESPNews, and the SEC Network. Add an indoor TV antenna, and you’ll also have access to network sports broadcasts.

For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for around $130 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay $70 to watch any team they like, but they can only tune in to an on-demand rebroadcast once the game is over.)

PRICE: $560 a year ($47 per month)



THE PLAN: 12 seasons of shows

If you have unpredictable tastes but focus on only one show at a time, it might make the most sense to buy your television à la carte. For the amount you’d save by switching from cable to just Internet service (about $900 a year), you can pick up 30 seasons of TV for $30 each. Assuming these are all 45-minute shows with 22 episodes, that’s almost 500 hours of content. If you can’t imagine yourself ever watching more than that, then this plan is for you. (Don’t forget to grab a TV antenna for major live events like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, or if you just want the option of kicking back and watching primetime now and then.)

PRICE: $360 a year ($30 per month)



THE PLAN: Netflix, HBO Now, 52 movie rentals

If your favorite part of cable is watching movies, cutting the cord might just maximize your bliss. Much like cable on-demand services, you can rent many of the latest releases on iTunes or Amazon for about $5 apiece. HBO also carries a wide selection of recent movies, and Netflix has a large back catalogue of films (though titles will appear and disappear somewhat randomly).

PRICE: $548 a year ($46 per month)

Read next: The Cord-Cutter’s Guide to Streaming TV Services


The Cord-Cutter’s Guide to Streaming TV Services

These days it's easy to slice the connection, along with the monthly bill.

Paying bills is never fun, and that goes double for cable TV, the least customer-friendly industry this side of repo men. It’s not your imagination—the bill really does balloon every year. From 1995 to 2014 the price of expanded basic cable increased at almost 2½ times the rate of inflation.

But in the past year an explosion of online viewing services has turned cord cutting into child’s play, and it can be a very lucrative game. You still need to pay for Internet, but Greg Ireland, research director for multiscreen video at market-analysis firm IDC, estimates that for people with a “double play” bundle—cable TV and Internet in the same bill—canceling cable would save an average of $75 a month. If you switch to online streaming, you could duplicate a basic-cable menu for $34 a month.

The big advantage to streaming is that you generally pay for only what you watch: no more Spike or Oxygen or the Jewelry Channel unless you want it. There are tradeoffs. While cable is essentially one-stop shopping—a single box and a single tier of programs—streaming requires you to be a more active consumer. You’ll need to explore various services to find the ones with your favorite shows, then pair them with the right hardware.

The following guide will give you an overview of the major streaming services. Once you know who carries what shows, you can start to mix and match programming that matches your tastes. Or if you want to make it even easier, just pick from one of the seven plans we’ve put together for viewers of all kinds.

  • Hulu

    Courtesy of ABC Modern Family

    PRICE: $8 a month

    MAJOR SHOWS: Empire, Modern Family (pictured), The Mindy Project, Scandal, Seinfeld reruns

    Hulu Plus carries the primetime lineups from Fox, NBC, ABC, and the CW, as well as current and archived content from the networks and cable channels like Comedy Central and FX. There’s also some exclusive content, including The Mindy Project.

  • Netflix

    Courtesy of Netflix Orange Is The New Black

    PRICE: $9 a month for high-definition streaming

    MAJOR SHOWS: House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black (pictured), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Daredevil

    Netflix is a bit like an online premium channel, with a large catalogue of movies and TV shows as well as a growing number of its own, exclusive productions. It can take a while for blockbuster movies to appear on the service, but Netflix’s buzzworthy original programming has made it an increasingly popular choice.

  • Sling TV

    Gene Page/AMC/Courtesy Everette Collection The Walking Dead

    PRICE: $20 a month

    MAJOR SHOWS: The Walking Dead (pictured), Chopped, ESPN sports

    Sling TV delivers more than 20 basic-cable channels, including AMC, TNT, A&E, CNN, and the Food Network (though it doesn’t offer archived shows for all channels). It is the only service carrying ESPN and ESPN2.


  • HBO Now

    Helen Sloan/HBO/Courtesy of Everette Collection Game of Thrones

    PRICE: $15 a month

    MAJOR SHOWS: Game of Thrones (pictured), True Detective, Veep, Ballers, Girls

    HBO was the first premium channel to release a standalone streaming channel. In addition to broadcasting its current slate of shows, HBO Now contains a library of every hit HBO series, as well as its original movies, documentaries, and major sporting events.


  • Showtime

    lachlan Cunningham/Getty Homeland

    PRICE: $11 a month

    MAJOR SHOWS: Penny Dreadful, Ray Donovan, Homeland (pictured)

    This option is already $4 a month cheaper than HBO Now, and now Hulu subscribers can add it for only $9 a month.


  • CBS All Access

    Monty Brinton—CBS NCIS

    PRICE: $6 a month

    MAJOR SHOWS: NCIS (pictured), The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife

    All Access delivers more than 6,500 CBS episodes on demand, including new episodes (available for viewing the next day). All Access subscribers in most markets can also use the service to watch live network content, including sports like pro golf (although NFL games are blacked out).


  • Amazon Prime Video

    Jeffrey Tambor in Season 1 of “Transparent”
    Beth Dubber/Amazon Studios—courtesy Everett Collection Transparent

    PRICE: $99 a year

    MAJOR SHOWS: Transparent (pictured), Alpha House, Bosch

    Amazon Prime Video is a lot like Netflix in that it mixes a back catalogue of movies and TV shows with a number of exclusive shows. There are many non-TV benefits too, including a music-streaming service, free two-day shipping on Amazon orders, and more.


  • Sports

    ESPN host Hannah Storm, tennis analysts Darren Cahill and Patrick McEnroe with guest Roger Federer of Switzerland on the on-site set for the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, 2010.
    Scott Clarke—ESPN The 2010 US Open Tennis Championships on ESPN

    So far there’s no one-stop shop for sports fans. Sling TV offers various college-oriented sports channels (in addition to ESPN), and each major sports league (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) runs its own streaming service. They vary in price but typically cost about $11 a month. The bad news: They tend to black out local games. (For more hard-core, can’t-miss-a-game sports fans, see “Sports Fans” in our viewers’ guide.)


MONEY rideshare

Here’s How Much the Average Ride Costs on Uber and Lyft

Passenger prices are rising, but it's unclear how much money drivers really make

Uber drivers in the U.S. collected an average $13.36 per trip, while Lyft drivers took in an average of $12.53 for each ride, according to a new report.

The data comes from SherpaShare, a smartphone app that helps rideshare drivers track their mileage and tax deductions, and is based on over 10,000 drivers taking more than 1 million trips from January to May of 2015. The cost per trip is calculated before Uber and Lyft take their cut, which is typically around 20%.

The report shows fares can vary widely depending on location. In New York City, where Uber and Lyft are more heavily regulated, drivers gross more than twice the national average, while drivers in Nashville make about $10 per ride. However, only in New York and San Francisco do for-hire rideshare drivers make more than $14 per trip. When those two are removed, the trip price in most cities falls between $10 and $13.


SherpaShare’s findings show the average rideshare trip increased 8% in the five months covering January and May, but the company warns against reading too deeply into these trends because variables like bad weather, surge pricing, hourly guarantees, and other special driver incentives can skew the data.

However, even with those caveats, the report notes “gross fares per trip shows a clear (if small) upward trend since the round of 48-city fare cuts that made news at the beginning of 2015.”

“What we can say with certainty from this data is that Uber and Lyft haven’t driven per-trip earnings off a cliff as they’ve adjusted base rates over time,” the report concludes.

Unfortunately, without additional data like average trips per hour, average trip duration, and the average amount of downtime between trips, there’s still not enough information to create an independent estimate of how much Lyft and Uber drivers actually make. Uber has previously released its own report on its drivers’ wages, and come up with an average of $19 per hour in select cities. But neither Uber nor SherpaShare factor in the costs incurred by drivers, such as car payments, upkeep, insurance, and gas.

SherpaShare says it will be examining additional rideshare data in future reports.

Read next: Uber Reveals How Much Its Drivers Really Earn…Sort Of

MONEY Amazon

The 5 Weirdest Amazon Prime Day Deals

Want a beard growth potion or nail clippers for a large animal? Then Amazon Prime Day is for you!

It’s Amazon Prime Day, the big annual sale just for members of Amazon’s $99-a-year free shipping service, and the Internet’s verdict seems to be a resounding “meh.” The selection seems to resemble something between a garage sale and clearance day at the dollar store, with items like dishwasher soap being advertised as an “exclusive” Prime bargain.

But like the best garage sales, Amazon Prime Day’s selection occasionally manages to merge boring with total randomness in a way that makes you pause and wonder, “wait, that exists?” These are the five strangest Amazon Prime Day deals we’ve seen so far.

  • Beard Growther

    Beard Growther by Beard Farmer promises a “Longer Fuller Beard” faster, and with “18 RARE Essential Plant Oils,” it has the ring of science you’ve come to expect from the hair-growth solution industry.

    The product, which seems to be some sort of cream, is not pictured on the page, but customers are treated to multiple pictures of men who do indeed have beards. So that’s something.

    Unfortunately, even the bearded men weren’t enough to make this product a hit with customers. Despite the deal—$17.29 at 42% off—being live for about an hour at press time, only 46% of the supply had been claimed.

  • Horrifying Smiley Placemat


    The ezpz Happy Mat, which is basically a giant rubber smile you can fill with food, might actually be a good idea if it weren’t terrifying.

    The mat’s smile looks like the kind of thing that would come to life in a low-budget horror movie, and that’s without anything inside it. Add some triscuit teeth and orange slice eyes, and this product is everything childhood nightmares are made of. About 30% of the mats in Amazon’s deal remain unsold, meaning the product has found 70% of its target market of people who hate their kids.

  • Beer Koozie That’s Just for People Born in 1975


    This “funny 40th birthday gift!” is, apparently, a beer coozy emblazoned with the year the recipient was born.

    This wouldn’t be a particularly weird gift except for all the questions it raises. There’s also a 1965 version on sale, but why just those two decades? Does Amazon think 40 and 50-year olds are particularly enamoured with their birth year? And how is it 100% claimed? Who is buying this? What am I missing?

  • Nail Clippers for a Giant Dog


    *Logs on to Amazon Prime*

    “Oooh wow, Prime Day! Let’s see what they have.”


    “Uh huh, ok well my beard is fine but thanks for asking.”

    “Oh, perfect! Nail clippers for my gigantic dog’s gigantic bear claws! Glad I have this Prime Subscription!”

    Apparently the above mental monologue happened a lot because this deal is 100% sold out.

  • Gigantic Wine Glass

    Ever wanted to drink a whole bottle of wine at once while also making it impossible to back out of your terrible, terrible, decision? The Big Betty XL Premium Jumbo Wine Glass is here for you!

    The 10″ by 5″ inch glass “Holds a whole bottle of wine!” and to seal the deal, the page notes Big Betty was featured on the “TBS hit show Cougar Town.” The deal was 93% sold out at press time, so maybe Amazon subscribers are celebrating Prime Day in other non-shopping ways.

MONEY Travel

Filled the Tank on Your Rental Car? You May Want to Hang On to the Receipt.

Chris Rank/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Hertz is billing some drivers who don't return their car with a gas station receipt.

Renting a car can be stressful and complicated, and avoiding high refueling charges has long been one of its bigger hassles. Now a new refueling option from Hertz gives you one more variable to think about. It might take load off you mind if you are taking just a short trip—or add a surprising new cost if you aren’t careful.

The Consumerist reports the rental company has added a new “Express Fuel” option at some locations, where customers who drive less than 75 miles can either turn in a gas station receipt along with the car, showing they refueled it, or pay a $14 fee. That means even if you fill up the tank before returning your vehicle, you’ll still end up getting charged if you don’t have proof of purchase for the gas.

This only applies to short distance rentals, so it’s not something most Hertz customers have to worry about. But since the $14 fee is likely to be more than the cost of gas over such a small distance (the Consumerist does the math and estimates refueling would cost less than $10 depending on the car) it’s something short-haul renters should be aware of.


We Finally Know How Much It Costs to Go To Hogwarts

Even the Malfoys would struggle to afford this price.

Ever wonder how much money it takes to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Well, wonder no longer.

Thanks to the diligent research of Mic‘s Kevin O’Keeffe, we now know Harry Potter’s alma mater costs about $43,301 per year.

O’Keefe gets this figure by combining estimates of the school’s price (including some of Time’s own reporting) with the cost of essential back-to-wizarding-school items like a wand ($42), owl ($140), and cauldron ($105).

The total charge for those necessities? O’Keeffe uses J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore website to peg the damage at $1,031, which when added to the school’s price comes out to his total figure. Aspiring wizards and witches should check out the original post for a full cost breakdown.

We’ll have to assume Hogwarts has a generous scholarship program, because Mic‘s figure would be a huge amount of money, even for the Draco Malfoys of the world. Remember, Hogwarts lasts seven years, meaning the total sticker price for wizard training comes out to $303,107.

That said, schools this pricey do exist, both in the U.S. and in Harry Potter’s native country of England. Columbia University, which MONEY’s college rankings peg as the most expensive school in the Ivy League, will run non-financial aid students an eye-popping $69,084 per year when all costs are taken into account. O’Keefe’s own tuition estimate comes from two analyses of actual elite boarding school prices in Britain and Scotland.

Luckily, there is a way to get the Hogwarts experience for less. A real-life imitation Hogwarts, located in a Polish castle, costs $345 for four days of make-believe. Expanded across a 195-day UK academic year, that would come out to $16,818, less than half the price of the “real thing.”


MONEY privacy

This Is the Group That Most Wants to Be Forgotten by Google

Michael Gottschalk—Photothek/Getty Images

95% of "Right to Be Forgotten" requests are from ordinary citizens.

Nearly all of Google’s “right to be forgotten” requests have come from normal citizens trying to protect their privacy, according to a new report from the Guardian.

Last year, the European Union’s highest court affirmed the right of EU residents (and residents of some nearby countries) to ask the search company to remove certain pages from its search results “on the ground that that information may be prejudicial to him or that he wishes it to be ‘forgotten’ after a certain time.”

According to Google’s support page, the company adjudicates requests by balancing “the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s interest to know and the right to distribute information.”

Google has never publicly released data on the how it deals with these requests, which only apply to its European search results. But the Guardian discovered records of the requests in the source code in archived versions of Google’s transparency report.

The London-based paper found over 95% of more than 220,000 requests did not come from public figures, criminals, or politicians, but from regular people seeking to protect their privacy. The Guardian’s data shows roughly half of all requests have been approved, including less than 1% of those that apply to non-typical citizens.

Google acknowledged the paper’s information was authentic, but cautioned that the accounts was merely part of a “test” that was discontinued “because the data was not reliable enough for publication.”

Read more at The Guardian.

MONEY 50 Cent

50 Cent Has an Amazing Instagram Response to His Bankruptcy

The rapper might be out of money, but he isn't out of jokes.

50 Cent may have filed for bankruptcy on Monday, but that hasn’t stopped the rapper from joking about his finances.

The G-Unit founder recently posted the following photo on Instagram, featuring himself in front of something a little less fancy than his usual rides.

Times are hard out here LMAO #FRIGO #SMSAUDIO

A photo posted by 50 Cent (@50cent) on

It’s not exactly a ’64 ridin’ on Dayton spokes, but even Fitty has to pinch pennies sometimes.

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