MONEY holiday shopping

13 Halloween Costumes for Finance Geeks

Actress Katie Seeley as a bear (left) and Sacha Baron Cohen as a bull (right)
Combine a bear costume (as worn by actress Katie Seeley, left,) and a bull suit (see Sacha Baron Cohen, right) for a punny stock market couples costume. Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic (left);Fotonoticias/WireImage (right)

Look like a million bucks—literally—with these creative costumes.

Still not sure what you’re dressing as for Halloween? Don’t despair. We’ve got a bunch of costume ideas that are right on the money. These finance-themed getups are accessible for a general audience (so you don’t have to spend your evening explaining, “No, the other kind of black swan…”), cheap, and quick to pull together.

For some tried-and-true ideas, you could go as Zombie Lehman Brothers, the London Whale, or characters from Dave Chappelle’s classic “Wu Tang Financial” sketch. Or you can try one of the more timeless 13 suggestions below. Then again, you could just dress up as prerecession government regulations and stay in for the night.

1. Money. Let’s be honest: Dressing as a giant bill or stack of bills is kind of boring. The concept is improved if your homemade costume is a reference to the “made-of-money man” in those Geico ads—or if you are an adorable baby swaddled in a sack of money. (Mom and Dad, throw on a mask and a badge, and voila! A cop-and-robber duo.)

2. A market crash. If Halloween season sneaked up on you like the October stock swoon did on traders, you can craft a “market crash” costume in five minutes by taping a fever line on a t-shirt with some masking or electrical tape. Use light-up accessories, and you’ve got a flash crash. This costume can be modified for a couple or group—just extend the fever line across your torsos—and it pairs nicely with a “broke broker.”

3. The Federal Reserve Chair. Mimic Janet Yellen’s signature white bob with a wig and her go-to outfit with a black blazer over a black dress or pant suit. Don’t forget a gold necklace. If people ask who you’re dressed as, throw fake money at them and yell, “Loose monetary policy!” To turn this into a group costume, grab yourself a Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan. Wear matching “chair” shirts for solidarity.

4. Bull & Bear (couples costume). Like salty-sweet snacks and Brangelina, this costume combination is greater than the sum of its parts. Relatively inexpensive store-bought costumes are easy to find, assuming you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars, or you can always build a DIY ensemble with homemade horns and ears. Hang little signs with upward and downward trending fever lines around your necks for extra clarity. The only hard part will be deciding who gets to be which animal.

5. “Bond” girl. Personify this pun by dressing as your favorite 007 lady-friend and adding a hat, sign, or other accessory that reads “T-Bill” or features an image of a (now-technically-obsolete paper) Treasury bond. Jill Masterson’s “Goldfinger” look might be most recognizable: You can do it with gold spandex or body paint.

6. Wolf of Wall Street. See bull and bear, above. You just need a suit and tie, a wolf mask, and pockets brimming with fake money. And maybe some fake Quaaludes.

7. Cash cow. Unless your name is actually Cash (like this little guy), channel the Daily Show’s Samantha Bee and decorate a cow suit with dollar symbols.

8. A mortgage-backed security. This one might seem a little 2007, but there’s evidence these investment vehicles are coming back in vogue. Start with a shirt that says “security” in front. If you’re handy, you can then turn a small backpack into a “house” and wear that around. If not, just write “mortgage” on your back, and you’re done.

9. Gross domestic product. Just wear a “Made in America” t-shirt covered in dirt and fake blood.

10. Dogs of the Dow (group costume). Grab up to ten of your friends and dress as dogs. Wear tags with ticker symbols for each of the current Dogs of the Dow.

11. Distressed securities. Similar to #8, start with a shirt that reads “securities,” then layer on some dramatic makeup, to make yourself look, well, distressed.

12. Naked position & hedge (couples costume). This idea is pretty inside-baseball, but will be a fun challenge for your finance-savvy friends to guess at. The person dressed as the “naked position” can wear flesh-toned spandex, while his or her partner dresses like a hedge, as in shrubbery. Here are DIY instructions.

13. Spider / SPDR fund family (group costume). This one is pretty easy, since instructions for homemade spider costumes abound. You could go as a solo arachnid, with “ETF” painted across your chest, but dressing up is always more fun with friends. In a group you can each represent different funds; for example, the gold fund spider can wear a big gold chain and the ticker symbol GLD, and the high-yield bond spider can glue candy wrappers and bits of tinfoil all over himself and wear a sign that says JNK.

TIME Paycheck Friday

5 Unique Winter Warming Gadgets for Under $50

Come on, you're making some decent money now. Live a little! Consider blowing your paycheck on these worthy splurges.

Handwarmer/Smartphone Charger Combo ($34.99)

hand warmer
Sharper Image

Convergence is your middle name. It used to be Brock, but you changed it. Your seemingly never-ending search for a convergence device that could warm your hands, charge your smartphone and illuminate your path finally led you to this product, a lipstick-looking doodad that warms your hands, charges your smartphone and triples as a flashlight. It beats your own invention you were using before: a flashlight duct-taped to a surge protector with finger-melting exposed wires that spark sporadically.

Product Page [Sharper Image]

Toilet Seat Warmer ($49.90)

toilet seat warmer
Amazon

You’re used to the finer things in life. You drive a Mazda. You drink Budweiser Black Crown. You have an above-ground pool. So it’s no surprise that you seem relaxed and refreshed all winter long. Why? A warm toilet seat, of course. Let the mouth-breathing heathens be shocked awake in the morning by their common plastic toilet seats. You prefer a bit more refinement.

Product Page [Amazon]

Pajama-Warming Pouch ($39.95)

pajama pouch
Hammacher Schlemmer

Your nanny used to terrify you with urban legends of a primitive people who wore room-temperature pajamas to bed. You’d shiver in horror until she pulled your perfectly-toasted pajamas out of your family’s heirloom pajama warming pouch. When she died, you buried the pouch with her. Ursula was always more of a mother to you than your own mother, a truth you wouldn’t come to accept until you were in your early thirties. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. She’s dead and it’s time to replace the pouch.

Product Page [Hammacher Schlemmer]

USB-Heated Narwhal Slippers ($24.99)

narwhal slippers
ThinkGeek

Narwhals? Adorbz. I can’t even. They’re sah cute. Other whales might make fun of them for their weird tusk thingies, but we don’t know that. For all we know, whales don’t judge other whales based on appearance. We can only assume they do, because we do. And we, as humans, are the best. Sah great.

Just as narwhals are bound to the ocean, so too are these slippers bound to your closest USB port. Plug them in and feel the heat; if you’re feeling adventurous, unplug them and walk around until they cool off. But then hurry back to sitting in front of your computer. Don’t mess around.

Product Page [ThinkGeek]

Heated Steering Wheel Cover ($49.99)

steering wheel
Sharper Image

Extending one or more of your middle fingers toward other drivers is a rich American tradition. But the cold winter months can leave your joints frozen and stiff, making it difficult to show other drivers your displeasure in a timely fashion. And that’s assuming you’re not wearing bulky gloves, which can make which finger you’re extending imperceptible to other drivers. Don’t even get me started about mittens. This rechargeable heated steering wheel cover will ensure your hands are toasty-warm, leaving your fingers loose, flexible and ready for quick extension.

Product Page [Sharper Image]

Past Nonsense:

MONEY Travel

5 ‘Boutique’ Hostels That Are Better Than a Hotel

141024_EM_Hostels_Freehand
The Freehand Miami hostel in Miami Beach Adrian Gaut

These cheap lodging options are no longer just for grimy backpackers. Here's why you should give the new "boutique" hostels a try.

We get it: You’re not interested in sharing a bunk bed with a roomful of party-hearty 20-somethings. Who can blame you? But blanch every time you see the word “hostel” and you’ll miss some of the county’s coolest lodging options—not to mention some major bargains.

Europeans are way ahead of us on this front. The Continent has roughly 4,500 hostels, according to booking site Hostelworld.com, ranging from spartan, dorm-style accommodations to hip, unique properties that attract older, more sophisticated travelers. In the U.S., the number of hostels is small but growing (about 350), and many of the latest additions are modeling themselves on boutique hotels, with meticulously decorated rooms, cool on-site bars and restaurants, pools, and more. The Freehand Miami, for one, a Miami Beach hostel opened in 2012, “appeals to guests looking for an accessible price point, who still want to experience thoughtful design and a food and beverage destination,” says Roy Alpert, director of the Freehand brand. The company plans to open additional locations in Chicago next year and Los Angeles in 2016.

If you’ve never stayed in a hostel, you might not realize that, along with dorm-style lodging, most offer private rooms (with private bathrooms). Often, these properties will have doubles that are essentially no different from a typical hotel room, as well as private quads with four smaller beds, which can be a good solution for families or groups of friends traveling together.

Budget travelers will find plenty of other things to love. Hostels typically have free wi-fi and breakfast, plus other affordable food and drink options and a dialed-in staff who know the area’s best affordable restaurants, bars, and activities. Many also have a shared kitchen, meaning you can snack or even cook, shaving a chunk off your dining-out bills.

Hostels are more social and less private than hotels, so if you don’t like chatting up your neighbor at the communal breakfast table, it may not be for you. Also, while hostels are starting to draw a more diverse crowd, travelers on the far side of 30 are still likely to be outnumbered by younger folks. At Chicago’s Holiday Jones, for instance, 20-somethings typically make up between half and a third of guests, says manager Madeline Rawski. In some cases, that can mean a loud, rowdy crowd. If that’s a concern, look for properties without a bar or restaurant on site (or at least one that closes early). One other note: some hostels have age restrictions, so check before you book if you’re traveling with young children.

Ready to give high-end hosteling a shot? Here are five to check out:

Holiday Jones, Chicago, Ill. This former SRO in the city’s hip Wicker Park neighborhood, opened in 2013, is especially great for solo travelers, since it offers private single rooms. It’s notable for its high percentage of private rooms: about 85%. Doubles start as low as $38, but are typically priced closer to $65 (you’ll pay an extra $10 or so for a private bathroom). A cool perk: On request, Holiday Jones will deduct your train fare from the airport from your bill.

The Wayfarer, Santa Barbara, Calif. This SoCal property just opened in August and is celebrating by offering travelers 20% off their first stay. Private doubles start at $159—not as affordable as most hostels, but still a decent rate for downtown Santa Barbara. The 4- or 5-bed shared rooms start at a more accessible $59 per person. The hotel also has pool and a shared kitchen with private food lockers.

The Crash Pad, Chattanooga, Tenn. Located in a great foliage town, this eco-friendly, LEED platinum certified hostel offers a fridge stocked for make-your-own breakfasts. Several local businesses, including restaurants and outdoor outfitters, offer discounts to Crash Pad guests. Private doubles are $75 to $95.

The Freehand Miami, Miami, Fla. Private doubles start at $150 a night, private quads at $140. The Freehand steps up the usual social hostel vibe with its own trendy bar, pool, and patio lounge area. Double rooms have cable TV, iPod docks, and all the usual boutique hotel amenities.

The Bivvi Hostel, Breckenridge, Colo. This mountain lodge-type hotel is closed for the fall but reopens November 7, when a private double start at $169. The Bivvi caters to adventure travelers and can connect guests with local outfits that do everything from mountain biking and skiing and to yoga and mountain climbing. Afterward, relax in the 10-person outdoor hot tub. Note: The hostel does not allow kids under the age of 12.

 

 

MONEY Airlines

WOW Indeed! Budget Airline Launches $99 Flights to Europe

WOW Iceland airplane
WOW

A low-fare airline called WOW just introduced new routes between the U.S. and Europe, with fares that are cheaper than what passengers are used to paying just for taxes and fees on transatlantic flights.

WOW Air is a small, low-cost carrier based in Iceland that just made a power move that could disrupt the lucrative—some say absurdly overpriced—transatlantic flight market in a big way. This week, the airline’s U.S. site went live, advertising specials as low as $99 each way, taxes and fees included, on routes between the U.S. and Europe.

Initial transatlantic service connects capital city Reykjavik to Boston-Logan and Baltimore-Washington (BWI) airports. Flights to and from Boston launch in March 2015, and BWI follows in June. WOW offers service from Reykavik-Keflavik onward to London (Gatwick) and Copenhagen as well, so passengers aren’t limited to visiting Iceland.

As of Friday, the lowest fare advertised on the site was for flights from Boston to Reykjavik. Availability is limited at the cheapest prices, but we were able to (theoretically) book a round trip in April 2015 for $246 ($99 going, $147 on the return), all taxes and fees included. For the sake of comparison, a round trip on Icelandair with the same route and dates was running $675 at last check.

Earlier this week the travel blog Jaunted was able to secure an April flight on WOW from Boston to Copenhagen (by way of Reykjavik) for $99, but it looks like such insanely cheap fares are already sold out. Even so, without too much hassle we were able to find flights next spring on the route that are bargains compared to the competition. For instance, you could conceivably book a round trip Boston-Copenhagen flight in May for around $450—roughly half the price of what you’d find for the same itinerary at any major travel search engine.

WOW’s fares from Washington (BWI) to Reykjavik start at $146 each way, while flights from BWI to London are currently being advertised from $195. Even if the cheapest fares sell out quickly, the (higher-priced) seats on WOW that are still available are likely to be much less expensive than flights with major airlines.

As you’d guess, WOW customers don’t get many extras with the rock-bottom prices they’re paying. Passengers must pay for both checked and carryon luggage, and services like food, beverages, and extra legroom are available only to customers who pay above and beyond the base ticket price.

WOW’s venture into the transatlantic market comes a little over a year after another northern European upstart, Norwegian Air, emerged on the scene with sub-$500 flights between the U.S. and Europe. The world’s largest airlines seem to have successfully thwarted Norwegian Air’s plans to expand its transatlantic presence, but the carrier is still flying a handful of U.S.-Europe routes and is still advertising fares far cheaper than any of the industry’s big players—as low as $169 each way between New York-JFK and Oslo and $189 for nonstop flights all the way from Oakland, Calif., to Stockholm, Sweden.

Like WOW, Norwegian Air lists fares with all mandatory taxes and fees included. That—as well as the long-awaited rise of low-cost competitors on transatlantic flights in general—is music to budget travelers’ ears.

Read next: The Secret to Getting a Ridiculously Cheap Thanksgiving Flight

MONEY Autos

BMW M3 is a Perfect Family Sedan — If Your Family Works for NASCAR

This car's engine, differential, suspension, and automatic transmission all add up to one heck of a driving experience.

BMW’s new M3 4-door is technically called a sedan, as in a family car. Which it is, if you have the kind of family that enjoys slingshotting out of curves at 60 m.p.h. The M3 is to sedans what the German four-man Olympic bobsled is to your kids’ Flexible Flyer.

Understand that this is a driver’s car in every aspect, which you’d expect out of a division created to produce race cars to compete on the European touring circuit. The low, sloping hood seems to bury its face into the asphalt that you are chewing up. And you can set the M3’s controls for a variety of engine, steering, and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) combinations so that you can feel everything that’s happening around you any way you wish. The optional dual-clutch transmission adds three mode variables to play with. But all of the settings seem designed with one thing in mind, to urge you forward.

That begins, natch, with the power plant. There was some anxiety among Beemer buddies when the engine specs of the M3 and its coupe cousin, the M4, were revealed. BMW has chosen a 3.0 liter inline 6-cylinder number to replace a beefier 4.0L V-8. But as is typical today, engine designers are coaxing more oomph out of smaller packages, which also means less weight: the I-6 gets 424 h.p., which is a 10-horse improvement. But the torque really jumps, in part because the M3 has twin turbochargers that are configured to chime in on demand. Pair that with a seamless, dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic version and the M3 means giddy passing power at any speed.

Then there’s the M Differential. Have to admit, I’ve been indifferent to differentials. Every car has one, but to the undifferentiated, let me explain: A differential is a thingamajig on the axle that uses a set of pinion gears (never mind) to change the rotational speed of a tire. It’s necessary because when you go into a left-hand curve, say, the outside right rear tire will be going faster than the inside one because it’s covering a longer distance. The differential distributes the engine torque equally to the two rear wheels, leveling the rotational speed so you aren’t burning out tires or veering off kilter.

The M3’s differential takes that basic tool and loads it with sensors that measure a range of variables such as yaw, torque, lateral acceleration, and driving speed, sniffing the ground to look for more speed and stability. When the M3 is doing this as you are entering a curve it is inevitably whispering in your ear, “Forget the brake; I’ll handle this.” And you find yourself leaving your foot on the accelerator thinking, “Yes, this makes perfect sense.”

In addition to the M Diff, there’s also a $1,000 option called Adaptive M suspension. You have the choice of Comfort, Sport, or Sport Plus, depending on how tuned into the road you want to be. According to the company, sensors are recalculating and regulating the dampers every 2.5 milliseconds at each wheel to apply the precise amount of damping. At the same time, the DSC automatic transmission has settings for three different driving modes: Efficient, Sport, and Sport Plus, as in fast, faster and Messerschmitt. The settings correspond to the response of the accelerator. In Efficient, it’s a smoother takeoff; in Sport Plus it’s more reactive. There’s even a race setting called Launch Mode that allows you to hammer the throttle from an idle position to full power.

The M3 has a race car look about it, too, with flared fender skirts, a carbon roof, and, on the inside, that combination of hard-and-soft, steel-and-leather luxury.

A car loaded with this much technology has an Apple-like premium. Although the basic price on the M3 is about $63,000, the bells and whistles add up quickly. In addition to the $1,000 Active M suspension, the M Double clutch automatic adds $2,900, and the carbon ceramic brakes $8,150 more. My test car revved in at $84,000, including the $550 “Yas Marina Blue” metallic paint job that people tend to really like or really hate.

Count me on the “like” side on the paint job; as for the M3 itself, I like it a lot. A whole lot.

MONEY online shopping

How to Beat Online Price Discrimination

different price stickers
Feng Yu—Alamy

A new study found that major e-commerce retailers show some users different prices or a different set of results.

Do you think you can find the lowest prices by shopping online? Think again.

A new study by researchers at Northeastern University confirmed the extent to which major e-commerce websites show some users different prices and a different set of results, even for identical searches.

For instance, the study found, users logged in to Cheaptickets and Orbitz saw lower hotel prices than shoppers who were not registered with the sites. Home Depot shoppers on mobile devices saw higher prices than users browsing on desktops. Some searchers on Expedia and Hotels.com consistently received higher-priced options, a result of randomized testing by the websites. Shoppers at Sears, Walmart, Priceline, and others received results in a different order than control groups, a tactic known as “steering.”

Overall, the study confirmed what we’ve known for a long time: Online prices are all over the map, even for the same products. Search results can be influenced by a whole bunch of factors, including your search history, what kind of device you’re using, and where you’re located. For example, two years ago Orbitz was found to be “steering” Mac users towards more expensive hotels. Staples charged different prices for staplers based on where the shopper lived.

A majority of Americans think this kind of price discrimination is illegal. Sorry, it’s not.

Rather, as the Northeastern researchers explain, it’s a bedrock economic principle: Merchants should always try to establish “perfect price discrimination,” whereby a customer is always charged the absolute most he is willing to pay for any given product. Some customers are “elastic,” meaning they have very high price ceilings; others are “inelastic,” and if the price of a product increases just a little bit, they won’t bite.

In brick-and-mortar days, retail assistants might have profiled well-dressed customers as price-elastic and subtly directed them toward more expensive merchandise. Coupon-clippers might have received different treatment. Now, thanks to the Internet, retailers can make much more accurate guesses about how much different customers might be willing to pay, by using cookies to track buying patterns across the web.

Of course, retailers say this isn’t discrimination so much as using the tools and technologies at their disposal. “Presenting different booking paths and options to different customers allows us to determine which features customers appreciate most,” Expedia spokesman Dave McNamee told the Wall Street Journal.

Fortunately, you can play this game too. Here’s how to make sure you see the cheapest prices when you shop online.

Delete your cookies. Retailers use cookies to track you and collect information about your preferences. If you want to see unaltered prices, delete cookies by clearing your browsing history.

Browse privately. The problem with deleting your cookies is that information they contain might also work in your favor—remember that users logged into Orbitz or Cheaptickets sometimes saw lower prices than shoppers who were not logged into the site. So look at products using a “private” window, which will not send the website any information about you. See if the price is higher or lower in that mode. (On Google Chrome, go to “File,” then “Open Incognito Window.”)

Wait. Be inelastic. Put an item in your shopping cart, but don’t buy it. Some online retailers will cut the price to close the deal.

Use tools to price-watch. Try CamelCamelCamel.com, which sends you an alert when the price drops on an Amazon product. When MONEY tried it, the price of a vacuum fluctuated between $212 and $268 over the course of a month.

To bargain-shop like a pro, read MONEY’s feature about how to snag the best deals online.

MONEY Workplace

Camel and Pall Mall Maker Finally Bans Smoking in the Office

Starting next year, employees of Reynolds American Inc. will no longer be able to use cigarettes at their desks, or in the majority of the building.

MONEY Airlines

What You Really Need to Know About When to Buy Flights

shape of airplane over calendar
Amanda Rohde—Getty Images

Wait a second, now Sunday is the cheapest day to book airline tickets? Forgive us for being skeptical of this (and every previous) study naming one or another day of the week as the best for buying flights.

This week, the Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC) released a study analyzing roughly 130 million airline tickets booked in the U.S. from January 2013 to July 2014, with the hope of shedding some light on when prices are highest and lowest. Over the years, plenty of these kinds of studies have made the rounds, but the current report differs from the pack in a couple of key ways. It shows:

1) Flight prices are cheaper when booked further in advance. In the past, ARC data has indicated that the lowest domestic flight prices were for tickets purchased 42 days before departure, while other studies have advised travelers to book 49 days in advance for the cheapest fares. The new ARC study shows that, on average, booking 57 days out yields the best prices. What’s more, researchers found that average ticket prices were fairly flat during the window of time 50 to 100 days before departure. In other words, the best bet is to book 50 to 100 days beforehand: Tickets purchased during that period were $85 cheaper than the overall average for all domestic flight prices ($495.55).

2) Weekends are cheaper booking days than weekdays. This is the truly surprising takeaway from the study. According to ARC data, the average price of a domestic flight purchased on a Sunday was $432, and it was slightly higher on Saturday, at $437. For a long time, the consensus advice was that the lowest prices were to be found on flights booked on Tuesdays or Wednesdays (when airlines tend to roll out new flight sales), yet the new study shows the average paid on Tuesday was $497.

The smartest travelers seem to be those who booked flights on a Sunday 50 to 100 days before departure: They paid $110 less for their tickets compared to the average.

High Fares, Record Profits

Why is it that Saturday and Sunday seemingly have replaced Tuesday and Wednesday as the cheapest days for booking? The current mentality of the airline industry—which is less competitive and more profitable than it’s been in years—offers some explanation. As Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal noted regarding the shift to weekends: “Airline executives come into work Monday looking to raise fares, not discount them with sales to fill seats.”

Earlier this week, for instance, the country’s largest domestic carriers hiked airfares, a move that would seem to be not only unnecessary but downright greedy considering that fuel prices are plummeting. Given strong demand for air travel and American travelers’ apparent willingness to pay increasingly high prices for flights, airline executives are no longer worried about filling planes with passengers. They’ve moved on to worrying about surpassing their (already record high) profits, and they’re raising fares at every opportunity, for the same reason they’ve relentlessly been adding fees: Because they can.

In any event, the fact that airfares are rising would seem to give travelers even more reason to take notice of studies by the likes of ARC and adopt new booking routines, right? Well, maybe, maybe not. The problem with all of these studies is that they’re generalized and are based on averages from the past. The takeaways they offer may, in fact, not help you save on money your specific flight needs in the future.

Take holiday travel, for instance, when passengers are truly most in need of money-saving advice because prices tend to be so high. In the quest for cheap Thanksgiving airfare, the guidelines mentioned above don’t really apply. Several booking sites point to data indicating that the lowest prices for flights over Thanksgiving weekend are likely to be found two to four weeks before departure—that is, unless you absolutely need to fly on the peak-peak days of the Wednesday before or the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Flights on those days should be purchased far in advance, ideally several months beforehand. In other words, booking a Thanksgiving weekend flight 50 to 100 days ahead of time is probably a bad strategy, no matter what day of the week you’re searching for flights.

What’s more, all “when to buy” advice is based on past performance, as a recent Quartz post on Thanksgiving travel advice painstakingly made clear.

The Trouble With Simple Advice

The WSJ‘s McCartney pointed out that airlines are more inclined lately to discount flights booked on weekends because that’s when leisure travelers are likely to be casually noodling around online and may be enticed to make an impulsive flight purchase if the price is right. The vast majority of business travel, meanwhile, is booked on weekdays, and business travelers are less sensitive to pricing because the flights are deemed more essential. At the same time, however, airlines still do regularly introduce fresh flight sales on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to boost seat purchases on routes that aren’t filling up.

What all of these strategies have in common is that the airlines are reacting to traveler behavior and are lowering or raising prices to maximize revenues. If and when travelers change their behavior again—say, if a critical mass of business travelers suddenly starts booking flights on Sunday rather than Monday—the airlines will tweak their pricing tactics accordingly. All of which is a roundabout way of pointing out that there are far too many complications for simple advice like “book on Sunday” or “book on Tuesday” to be valid across the board. (We’re only talking domestic flights, mind you; booking advice for international flight is more complicated still.)

Probably the only solid time-tested guideline for finding inexpensive flights is this: Booking too early is generally bad, but booking too late is likely worse. The average domestic flight purchased 225 to 300 days before departure cost $500 to $550, per the ARC study, while the average for a ticket on the day of departure was around $650.

How do you find the sweet spot in the middle, when prices are lowest? It’s complicated, dependent on a range of factors including the destination, season, and day of the week you’re traveling; whether there’s a convention or major event where you’re going; and even larger forces like the state of the economy and yep, gas prices. Kayak and Hopper are among the flight search tools that use historical pricing data to try to predict whether fares on a given route will rise or fall, but again, past performance is no guarantee of future results—especially not in recent years, when airline executives have regularly rejiggered their pricing tactics, generally sending fares up, up, and up.

Despite the dizzying amount of tech at traveler’s fingertips, the question of when to book remains largely unanswerable. Yes, it’s wise to hunt during that window 50 to 100 days in advance, and sure, try to remember to poke around for flights especially over the weekends. But be on the lookout on Tuesdays and Wednesday too, because that’s when sales pop up. Consult historical pricing data and airfare price predicting tools, just don’t expect to pay the same bargain-basement fare you got a decade or even one year ago. Pay attention to airfare sale-tracking services like airfarewatchdog, but bear in mind the best deals are often for fluky routes and days and may not work for your travel needs. Perhaps wisest of all, use an airfare tracking service like that of Yapta, which will alert you if and when a flight on your route and dates has reached your desired price threshold. Just try to be realistic with the kind of fare you can expect nowadays.

MONEY

Ebola.com Purchased for $200K by Marijuana Company. And It Gets Stranger From There

Gloved hand holding marijuana leaf.
Alessandro Bianchi—Reuters

Earlier this month, we reported that Ebola.com’s owner, a disease-obsessed domain name vendor called Blue String Ventures, was hoping to sell the URL for at least $150,000. Now, according to a report from DomainInvesting.com, Ebola.com has been sold to a Russian company that is apparently focused on the marijuana business.

Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Ebola.com was bought by Weed Growth Fund for $50,000 in cash and 19,192 shares of Cannabis Sativa, a Mesquite, Nevada-based recreational and medical marijuana company that trades on over-the-counter markets. Based on Cannabis Sativa’s current stock price, those shares are valued at roughly $164,000, making the overall transaction worth just over $200,000.

So to recap: Ebola.com was sold to a marijuana-related company based in Russia that paid mostly in the stock of another marijuana company.

But the story’s not over yet. As recently as September of this year, Weed Growth Fund was known as Ovation Research, which according to this BusinessWeek profile was in the business of distributing “stainless steel cookware products for retail and wholesale customers in North America.”

Then, on Sept. 19, the company filed with the Nevada Secretary of State changing its name to Weed Growth Fund. (We tried to contact Weed Growth Fund by phone and email to ask about the deal and name change, but got no answer.)

Why would a marijuana company want to own the URL Ebola.com? Elliot Silver, DomainInvesting.com’s publisher, asked Blue String Ventures founder Jon Schultz this very question. And while Schultz replied that he did not know why Weed Growth Fund wanted the domain, he did send Silver to this Marijuana.com article in which Cannabis Sativa CEO Gary Johnson (the former two-term New Mexico governor and Libertarian Party presidential candidate!) claims that marijuana can be used to treat Ebola. (You can see him do it in this Fox Business interview.) Cannabis Sativa also did not respond to requests for comment.

So there you have it. A newly renamed, Russian weed-related company bought Ebola.com using shares of a medical marijuana business run by a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate who thinks that pot should be used to treat Ebola. And no, you’re not high (as far as we know). This really happened.

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