MONEY Sports

The Staggering Numbers—and Dollars—Behind March Madness

Here's a look at some of the numbers behind the NCAA March Madness men's college basketball tournament, including special deals on pizza, TV packages, concerts, and, curiously, vasectomies.

  • $0

    Joseph Clayton, chief executive officer for Dish Network Corp., speaks at a press conference during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015. Dish Network Corp. plans to unveil the first major online television service from a cable or satellite company, a $20-a-month set of 12 channels that targets U.S. customers who don't want to pay for larger, more expensive TV packages.
    David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Cost of a seven-day free trial of Sling TV, the streaming service from DirecTV that includes TBS and TNT—the two main pay TV channels airing NCAA March Madness games, along with the broadcast network CBS. In order words, the service allows you to view all games in the tournament without a cable bill; it comes with ESPN too, so you’ll get your fair share of game highlights as well. After the seven-day trial, you can cancel or pay up $20 monthly, which is much cheaper than the typical pay TV package.

  • $0

    Rihanna performs on stage
    Matt Sayles—Invision/AP

    Cost of admission for the three-day March Madness Music Festival featuring Rihanna (pictured), Lady Antebellum, and the Zac Brown Band, among others. The free outdoor event is being held over Final Four weekend (April 3-5) in Indianapolis, which is also hosting the tournament’s final basketball games. In fact, Saturday night’s performers will be competing with the first semifinal game, which will be broadcast live for the music festival crowd.

  • 1.2%

    NBA basketball on court
    Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

    Percentage of men’s college basketball players that are drafted by an NBA team. More than three-quarters of college players, meanwhile, think they will play professionally.

  • $4

    Tickets for the championship game with former Duke Blue Devil player Rasheed Sulaimon ahead of the game betweeen the North Carolina Tar Heels and Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the 2015 ACC Basketball Tournament Championship game at Greensboro Coliseum on March 14, 2015 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
    Grant Halverson—Getty Images

    Cheapest list price of any March Madness ticket—this one for a Thursday afternoon session in Louisville featuring Iowa State vs. UAB, followed by SMU vs. UCLA. Meanwhile, tickets to the evening session in the same location on the same day were starting at around $120, though the night games feature the tournament’s overall #1 seed (and local favorite) Kentucky.

  • $35

    Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with his players after defeating the St. John's Red Storm earning his 1,000th career victory on January 25 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Duke defeated St John's 77-68.
    Jim McIsaac—Getty Images Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with his players after defeating the St. John's Red Storm earning his 1,000th career victory on January 25 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Duke defeated St John's 77-68.

    Number of college basketball coaches in last year’s tournament who were paid more than $1 million per year before any bonuses, according to data gathered by USA Today. Top earner Mike Krzyzewski’s total pay: more than $9.6 million.

  • 42% vs. 100%

    Davidson guard Brian Sullivan (3) celebrates after their 67-66 win over La Salle in an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament in New York, Friday, March 13, 2015.
    Mary Altaffer—AP

    The range of basketball player graduation rate success among NCAA March Madness contenders, with Indiana University on the low end and Davidson College named as the tournament’s overall academic champ. (In fact, several tournament teams boast 100% basketball player graduation rates, including Maryland, Notre Dame, Butler, Dayton, and Villanova.)

  • 50%

    Domino's hand-tossed pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and green peppers
    Jeff Padrick—Klug Studio Inc.

    Discount on all regular priced Domino’s pizzas now through Sunday, March 22, which marks the end of the tournament’s first weekend.

  • $595

    businessman with bandage on zipper
    Mark Hooper—Getty Images

    The special price of a “Vas Madness” deal, covering an initial consultation and a vasectomy—yes, a vasectomy—from The Urology Team in Texas. “Get your vasectomy, then sit on the couch for 3 days watching sports– Doctors orders!” the pitch explains. Many vasectomy clinics report a spike in appointments timed to coincide with the NCAA basketball tournament, and in some cases men who get snipped have wound up with free pizza as part of the package deal. A few years back, one Cleveland urologist explained the appeal of getting a vasectomy during March Madness this way: “If they’re going to have a day off, it might as well be on a day when they would want to be watching basketball, as opposed to watching ‘Oprah.'”

     

  • $212,000

    basketball on top of heap of cash
    Dan Thornberg—Shutterstock

    The estimated average value of a college basketball player to his school and program, according to a 2014 study. Meanwhile, another study indicates that the average value a student athlete receives, in terms of scholarships, health care, coaching, and such, is about $125,000 per year. The players, of course, receive $0 in salaries because the NCAA insists they are student athletes and not employees.

  • $1 million

    Pizza Hut restaurant, Torrance, California.
    Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Prize that Pizza Hut will serve up if any of the three randomly selected contestants make a half-court shot backwards at a special event in Indianapolis on Sunday, April 5. To have a chance at being selected, go to StuffedCrustPizza.com and enter by Sunday, March 29. Three winners will get a free trip to Indianapolis and have one chance to nail a half-court shot facing the wrong way. Pizza Hut is also selling Stuffed Crust Pizzas for $9.99, which is the same price listed when the product was introduced 20 years ago.

  • $40.5 million

    Mangok Mathiang #12 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates his winning basket with teammate Chinanu Onuaku #32 after the game against the Virginia Cavaliers at KFC Yum! Center on March 7, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville defeated Virginia 59-57.
    Joe Robbins—Getty Images

    Annual revenues raked in by Louisville’s college basketball team, which is tops in the nation. After factoring in expenses, Louisville’s program makes a profit of $24.2 million, while schools such as West Virginia and Notre Dame reportedly lose about $2 million annually because of their basketball teams.

  • $240 Million vs. $1.15 Billion

    Shaquille O’Neal, Julius “Dr J” Erving, Clyde Drexler and Christian Laettner in AT&T March Madness "Legends" campaign
    AT&T Shaquille O’Neal, Julius “Dr J” Erving, Clyde Drexler and Christian Laettner in AT&T March Madness "Legends" campaign

    Estimated total ad revenues for the Super Bowl and March Madness, respectively, from 2013, the most recent year such data is available. Granted, March Madness is a full tournament while the Super Bowl is just a single day.

  • $1.9 Billion

    Office workers watching March Madness on television
    Sarina Finkelstein

    Estimated loss incurred by businesses due to workers being “distracted and unproductive” during the basketball tournament, according to an annual report issued by Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

  • $2 Billion+

    Mirage hotel-casino Race and Sports Book, Las Vegas.
    Julie Jacobson—AP

    Amount wagered on some 70 million March Madness brackets filled out for the 2015 tournament, per the American Gaming Association. The total amount expected to be bet on the tournament is $9 billion, only $240 million of which will be wagered with Nevada sports books.

  • $10.8 Billion

    Baylor coach Scott Drew, left, and members of the team including Isaiah Austin, right, peak in on the CBS crew following a news conference at the NCAA college basketball tournament, Saturday, March 22, 2014, in San Antonio.
    Eric Gay—AP

    Amount paid by CBS and Turner Sports to the NCAA for the rights to broadcast the March Madness tournament for a 14-year period ending in 2024.

  • 1 in 9.2 Quintillion

    Workers add team names to a 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship bracket that is displayed on the side of the JW Marriott, Monday, March 16, 2015, in Indianapolis. The championship game will be played Monday, April 6, in Indianapolis.
    Darron Cummings—AP

    Odds of picking all the correct winners in the tournament, from start to finish, for a perfect bracket. What’s a quintillion? It’s a one followed by 18 zeros. So 9.2 of those. This is all according to Bleacher Report, which points out that you have far, far better odds of being hit by lightning, getting bit by a shark, having identical triplets, winning the lottery, or becoming an NBA player.

MONEY Sports

Another Way to Watch NCAA March Madness for Free

Wisconsin Badgers forward Nigel Hayes (10) handles the ball during the Big Ten Conference Championship NCAA college basketball game against the Michigan State Spartans Sunday, March 15, 2015, in Chicago. The Badgers won 80-69 in overtime.
David Stluka—AP

Sports-loving cord cutters should take advantage of free streaming trials offered by Sling TV and Playstation Vue.

The NCAA March Madness early round play-in games are over, and the tournament proper tips off around the country on Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately, the majority of the games are being broadcast on channels that are traditionally available only in pay TV subscription packages. What’s a cord cutter to do?

First off, many of the games are airing on CBS, and anyone can watch CBS and other broadcast networks for free on TV with an HD antenna, which costs as little as $30. If you don’t have such an antenna—heck, even if you don’t have a TV—don’t fret. Once you download the March Madness Live app, you’ll be able to live stream the games being broadcast on CBS at no charge, and without needing proof that you’re a pay TV customer.

The games airing on CBS on Thursday include Texas vs. Butler and Kentucky vs. Hampton, and on Friday there’s Kansas vs. New Mexico State and Duke vs. Robert Morris, among others. But CBS is only broadcasting some of the action. What do you do if you want to see the games airing on TBS or TNT, which can only be live streamed via the March Madness app after you enter your pay TV account information?

Well, for basketball-loving cord cutters, right now is an opportune time to snag a free trial of one or both of the newest streaming services, Dish’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue. We spelled out the basics of the former in a previous post, highlighting that the service comes with TBS and TNT and costs $20 per month, though it’s available for free for seven days—enough to view a ton of tournament games. The basic Sling TV package also includes ESPN (great for catching game highlights), but it lacks truTV, which is the other Turner-owned pay TV channel broadcasting some March Madness games.

The base PlayStation Vue package, on the other hand, has 60 channels, including TBS, TNT, truTV, and CBS (but not ABC or ESPN). It costs $50 per month, and like Sling TV, new subscribers can try it out for free for seven days. Unfortunately, for the time being, PlayStation Vue is only available in Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia. As you might gather based on the name, the service also only works for those who stream TV through a PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 console. So obviously you’ve got to own one of these to subscribe to Vue.

If you live in one of the above markets and you have a PlayStation, cord cutters can watch all of the tournament for a week without a cable bill, and without spending a penny for that matter. Add in Sling TV’s trial offer and that grants you another week with free access to the vast majority of March Madness games. Combine them both and you’re able to take in almost the entirety of the tournament without opening your wallet.

As for what happens when the free trials are over, well, that’s up to you. You can cancel, or course, or you might very well find that one or another of the services is worth the money. For more insight as to how these two streaming services match up, CNET did a terrific side-by-side comparison laying out the pros and cons of each.

MONEY

Is Daylight Saving Time a Conspiracy to Get You to Spend More Money?

150306_EM_Daylight_1
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Businesses have special reason to love when there seems to be more time in the day to shop, play golf, dine out, and take advantage of added sunlight.

At 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, an hour of time will disappear in most of the country. Daylight saving time will kick in, and when the clock hits 2 a.m. it’ll instantly be 3 a.m. instead.

The sudden change can have some strange effects. In Ohio, for instance, bars have been ordered to close 30 minutes earlier than usual in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Normally, establishments authorized to sell alcohol in the state have last call at 2:30 a.m., but because of the time shift, there is no 2:30 a.m. that night, and bars therefore must simply shut down at 2.

In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration has announced that bars and nightclubs will “automatically gain an additional hour to sell and serve alcoholic beverages between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, March 8.” In previous years, D.C. bars had to apply for permission and pay $200 to stay open an “extra” hour when daylight saving time kicked in.

Beyond the quirks, the impact of daylight saving time might seem to be little more than feeling groggy due to a lost hour of sleep. Researchers have noted other negative effects, however, such as increased heart attacks because people get less sleep when we “spring forward.” Likewise, some data suggests that on the Monday after daylight saving time (so, March 9 this year), there are more traffic accidents, again because people aren’t as well rested and have slower reaction times than usual.

Daylight saving time also has a big impact on the economy. When days are longer—or rather, when they seem longer due to extended daylight—people tend to spend more money on everything from tourism and recreation to shopping and restaurants.

The golf industry, which has suffered from declining popularity for years, is “the most important reason we’re still doing and expanding the period of daylight saving time,” Michael Downing, a Tufts University professor and author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, explained on public radio a year ago. Downing also said that one of the original arguments for daylight saving time—it would save energy and money—is just plain false today:

We’re told we’re saving energy, but when Americans go outside and go to the park and go to the mall, we don’t walk—we get in our cars and drive. So for the past 100 years, the dirty secret is daylight saving increases gasoline consumption.

In any event, try to catch up on sleep as soon as you can after daylight saving time takes effect. And by all means take advantage of the opportunities that this period’s “longer” days provide. Just understand that you’re paying for it.

MONEY Travel

Spring Ski Lift Pass Deals Offer the Best Value on Snow

150305_EM_Ski_1
John W Banagan/Getty Images

Ski resorts around the country—and in New England in particular—have rolled out new springtime deals that promise tons of skiing for a relative pittance.

Walk up to the ticket window this weekend at Killington, the East Coast’s largest ski resort, and a one-day adult lift pass will cost a cool $92. For a little more than double that, however, the 1,509-acre Vermont resort is selling a special spring season pass that provides unlimited skiing for two months, or perhaps even more. Killington is known to stay open until June, depending on conditions, and the pass, dubbed the “Nor’Beaster” and priced at $199, grants lift access from March 14 until whenever the season ends.

Killington isn’t the only mountain with springtime lift ticket deals featuring seemingly screwy pricing. Okemo, just south of Killington, offers a Spring Skiesta Card for $99, allowing unlimited lift tickets from March 20 through the end of the season. Further south still, the $119 Spring Loaded pass at Bromley provides four days of skiing any day now through December 18, 2015. Considering that the walkup price for lift tickets at Okemo and Bromley go as high as $92 and $71, it’s easy to see how these passes can pay off in as little as two days.

How could it make sense for mountains to offer multi-day passes at rates that seem phenomenally cheap compared with the regular walkup price? Especially given that it’s been an absolutely amazing winter for skiing in the Northeast, and it sure looks like the record snowfall is leading right into a terrific, long spring ski season?

One explanation is that resorts are trying to eke out every last dollar from customers during a time of year when—regardless of how much snow is still on the ground—attention shifts away from winter sports toward golf, baseball, or pretty much anything that doesn’t involve snow and cold.

On the one hand, these resorts are theoretically losing money from guests who would have paid full price for several days’ worth of lift tickets during the spring season. On the other, the mountains are potentially cashing in from guests who are nudged into the upsell of a pricier pass, which they might not even use for more than a single day. As for those skiers and riders who do get the most bang out of their spring passes, they’re likely eating, drinking, getting tune-ups, booking hotels, and otherwise spending money that the resort probably wouldn’t otherwise see had the deals not been so tempting. If they get you to come back one more weekend than you planned on, that’s a win for the resort.

At some point, resorts are also simply compelled to offer super cheap spring promotions because that’s what the competition is doing. The mountains that don’t enter the game will lose the battle to woo a pool of skiers that shrinks smaller and smaller as the season comes to a close.

While cheap, end-of-season passes have grown particularly popular in the Northeast, there are plenty of deals out West as well. Oregon’s Timberline, for instance, is selling a spring pass with unlimited skiing and riding now through May 25 for just $99. Steamboat in Colorado, meanwhile, offers a “Springalicious” pass good for any three days from April 5 to 12, as well as a Double Dip Pass valid for unlimited skiing from April 5 at Steamboat and Winter Park/Mary Jane, starting at $169.

Multi-day passes are hardly the only kinds of deals waved in front of skiers to keep them coming back to the mountains in springtime. A common marketing strategy to get customers to pay up for season passes early is to let them ski for free in the spring on a pass that’s valid for the following winter. There are also wacky one-day deals aimed at attracting skiers for one last spring hurrah, like Patriot’s Day at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, when a lift ticket purchased on April 20 not only costs just $17.76, it comes with a voucher good for a second day early next season.

Let’s also not forget that the vast majority of ski mountains now utilize dynamic pricing sites like Liftopia and GetSkiTickets.com to sell discounted tickets at whatever price the laws of supply and demand dictate. It goes without saying that prices at these discount sites are substantially cheaper in the spring than they are during peak winter weeks.

It also goes without saying that there’s rarely any reason to pay the full walkup price for lift tickets anywhere, no matter what time of year.

MONEY online dating

Over 30? Tinder Will Cost You More Money

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MONEY Odd Spending

‘Spocking': The Weird Way to Ruin Money and Pay Tribute to Leonard Nimoy

To honor Leonard Nimoy and the iconic character he played on Star Trek, all you need is a $5 Canadian banknote and a black marker.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was a prime minister in Canada from 1896 to 1911, and his face is featured on the Canadian $5 bill. Apparently, some feel his face also resembles Leonard Nimoy, the instantly recognizable actor who served as Star Trek‘s Spock, and who died last week.

Starting a few years back, someone thought it would be funny to take older versions of Canada’s $5 banknotes and artfully add some black ink to the profile of Laurier—darkening and extending the eyebrow, sharpening up the tip of the ear, scratching in a dark bowl-shaped helmet full of hair—so that the resulting image looked like Spock. (Another version of this game turned Laurier’s mug into Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.)

Now that Nimoy has passed away, fans of the actor and the highly logical Vulcan he played on TV and the movies are being encouraged to “Spock” their Canadian $5 bills in tribute. The “Spock Your Fives” Facebook page—yes, there is such as thing, founded in 2008—has heralded the “revival” of Spocking Fives. As you’d guess, word of this curious activity has spread on social media, like so:

The parody Twitter account @PMLaurier—yes, there is such a thing—recently wished “Adieu to the great Leonard Nimoy” in a Tweet that showed one of the manipulated bills, noting that he was “Honoured so many Canadians thought we looked alike and would ‘Spock’ their $5 bills.”

As for where and how, exactly, the idea of “Spocking” currency first began, the “Spock Your Fives” Facebook page only has this to say: “The origins of this mysterious tradition are shrouded in secrecy, although it is widely believed to be totally awesome.”

MONEY Leisure

Disney World, Universal Break Ticket-Price Barrier

Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando one-day admission tickets are in a whole new world.

MONEY

Binge-Watch Every Oscar-Nominated Movie for $65 (or Less) This Weekend

THE IMITATION GAME, from left: Allen Leech, Benedict Cumberbatch, Matthew Beard, 2014.
Jack English—Weinstein Company/Courtesy Evere THE IMITATION GAME, from left: Allen Leech, Benedict Cumberbatch, Matthew Beard, 2014.

It's not too late to get up to speed on all—or at least some—of the movies up for Academy Awards this Sunday.

So you plan on watching the Oscars on Sunday (who doesn’t?), but because you haven’t seen many—or any—of the films up for the big awards, it’s hard to figure out who to root for. Most of the jokes and references in the show will probably go over your head too. First off, you’re in good company. For the most part, the films with the most Academy Award nominations in 2015 skew anti-blockbuster, with only one Best Picture candidate (American Sniper) crossing the $100 million mark at the box office.

Second, there are ways to get up to speed on this year’s Oscar-nominated movies in a hurry. The simplest strategy is to seek out one of the select AMC Theatre locations around the country selling special “Best Picture Showcase” tickets. One $65 ticket grants admission to marathon back-to-back showings of all eight Best Picture nominees, starting with Boyhood at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 21, and ending early Sunday morning, after the credits roll for the final film, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The start time on Anderson’s film is … 3:45 a.m. And remember, the screening comes at the end of a movie marathon, following The Theory of Everything at 1:05 p.m., Birdman at 3:30 p.m., Selma at 5:50 p.m., American Sniper at 9 p.m., The Imitation Game at 11:30 p.m., and WHEW! Whiplash at 1:45 a.m.

This ticket is not for everyone. It wouldn’t be all that surprising that anyone who spent nearly 24 hours watching these films in a movie theater would wind up sleeping through the Oscar ceremonies on Sunday night. What’s more, while the price of admission breaks down to a reasonable $8 per movie, filmgoers should probably factor in $20, $30, or more in concession costs to make it through all eight movies. (The fine print on the AMC Theatre offer states: “Outside food and beverage is not allowed for this event. Limited seating. No passes or coupons accepted.”) Considering what you’ll be ordering at the movie theater—hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, Raisinets, giant sodas—you should plan ahead and factor in the cost of some Pepto Bismol too.

Sitting through a marathon showing at the movie house isn’t the only way to prepare for Sunday’s Academy Awards, however. In order to have a clue what host Neil Patrick Harris and everyone else is talking about during the show, you could utilize some combination of the following cost-effective strategies:

Buy tickets to a few matinees. Again, the $65 ticket breaks down to around $8 per film. Matinees and early-bird seatings at movie theaters are often cheaper than that. Plunk down $5 or $6 apiece for the two or three nominated films you really want to see in the theater.

Rent DVDs. Best Picture nominee Boyhood has been available for rent at Redbox locations for weeks. And while they’re not BP contenders, films up for other Oscars, such as Gone Girl (Actress in a Leading Role: Rosamund Pike), and The Judge (Actor in a Supporting Roll: Robert Duvall) are rentable as well. So are Animated Feature Film nominees Boxtrolls and How to Train Your Dragon 2, and The Lego Movie, which was robbed of a nomination in that category but is up for best Original Song (“Everything Is Awesome”). One day’s DVD rental from Redbox starts at $1.50, and there always seem to be coupon codes bringing costs down even lower.

Borrow DVDs. Your local library may have copies of Oscar-nominated films available to borrow at no charge. This is only an option for movies that were released in theaters many months ago. DVDs of The Grand Budapest Hotel, for example, first went on sale last June, giving libraries plenty of time to buy copies of their own and lend them out to locals.

Rent Online. Among other options, Google Play is renting films such as Birdman and The Theory of Everything for $4.99 apiece.

Video on Demand. Check out what Oscar-nominated movies are being offered VOD by Dish, Comcast, or whatever pay TV service provider you use. The prices and options are usually similar to what’s available at Google Play and other online services.

MONEY Travel

Millions of Families Will Soon Get Free Admission at National Parks

family sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon
Jens Lucking—Getty Images

A new initiative called Every Kid in a Park will give fourth graders and their families free admission to national parks and recreation areas for a full year.

President Obama will be in Chicago on Thursday to designate the Pullman District as a National Monument. While he’s there, Obama will also introduce a very special program called Every Kid in a Park that will provide free admission to fourth graders and their families at national parks, forests, monuments, and other federal lands for a year.

The Every Kid in a Park initiative will be available to families at the start of the 2015-2016 school year, in advance of the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service being celebrated in 2016. How it works is that next fall, all interested families with fourth graders will essentially be provided with a free annual pass (normal cost: $80) granting admission to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including world-famous national parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon—which each normally charges $25 to $30 per vehicle for a seven-day pass.

The program is “a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s unparalleled outdoors,” a White House press release explains. “Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces. At the same time, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens instead of outside.”

Why only families with fourth graders? Presumably, it would be too costly—and likely, too crowded at the parks—to give free admission to everyone. What’s more, the thinking is likely that fourth grade is an ideal time to expose children to the wonders of the outdoors, with the hope that doing so promotes a lifelong interest and appreciation of nature.

The initiative actually has a parallel in the ski industry. Around the country, Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado, and several other ski-friendly states offer ski and snowboard passport programs that typically provide a season’s worth of free lift passes for fourth or fifth graders. The concept makes sense because kids don’t go to the mountains alone; their families generally come along, and they spend money at the resorts. The program also obviously helps get kids interested in winter mountain sports, potentially turning them into paying customers for years to come.

Likewise, free admission will nudge families into visiting national parks and recreation areas. And ideally, the kids who go hiking and camping and whatnot will fall in the love with the experience, and become lifelong visitors and supporters of the parks and the great outdoors.

As for those who don’t have a fourth grader in the house, you’re not entirely left out of the freebies. Every year, the National Park Service lists a handful of fee-free days, when admission is free for all visitors. Last weekend, in fact, admission was free in honor of President’s Day. The next freebie event is the weekend of April 18-19, which kicks off National Parks week.

MONEY

What the Oscar Movies Can Teach Us About Money

The envelope please...

2015 Warrens Award
Leah Bailey

The Oscars do a fine job of honoring great movies. But who honors great movies about money?

No one—until now, that is. To accompany the 87th Academy Awards, MONEY is inaugurating its own prizes to commemorate 2014’s finest cinematic lessons in personal finance. We’re calling them the Warrens, in a nod to Warren Buffett, the shrewd money manager who’s also a celebrated dispenser of financial common sense.

Had the Warrens existed in past years, awards likely would have gone to movies like Blue Jasmine, for which Cate Blanchett won a 2014 Oscar portraying a woman whose life falls apart after her husband’s Madoff-like fraud is exposed. One key lesson from that movie: Don’t abdicate all financial responsibilities to your spouse. Another: Bad things can happen if your self-image is tied up in your net worth.

Another past recipient would have been the 2009 Best Picture Oscar winner, Slumdog Millionaire, which, despite its focus on a get-rich-quick game show, argues that love, not money, is the key to happiness.

So which 2014 movies win this year’s Warrens, and what lessons do they teach?

The envelope please….

— By Kara Brandeisky, Margaret Magnarelli, Susie Poppick, Ian Salisbury, Taylor Tepper, and Jackie Zimmermann

 

  • Best Argument for the Value of Education

    BOYHOOD, Patricia Arquette, 2014.
    Matt Lankes—IFC Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Boyhood

    In this Best Picture-nominated movie, Olivia (played by Oscar favorite Patricia Arquette), raising two children without their father, goes back to school to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. That effort ultimately helps her land a dream job as a psychology professor. At a lunch celebrating her son Mason’s high school graduation, Olivia encounters a young man she once hired to install her septic tank and whom she had encouraged to go to community college. Turns out he did just that and now runs the restaurant where she’s eating. “You changed my life,” he tells Olivia. No, it was education that did it—for both of them. (For a guide to affordable colleges that have the strongest economic payback, check out Money’s Best Colleges.)

  • Best Lesson in Estate Planning

    THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, from left: Paul Schlase, Tony Revolori, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, 2014.
    Martin Scali—Fox Searchlight/Courtesy Everett Collection

    The Grand Budapest Hotel

    In director Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated movie, famed concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) is willed a priceless work of art, “Boy With Apple,” by a rich patron of his hotel—who also happened to be his lover. The deceased’s progeny are none too pleased by this unexpected turn and go to great lengths to reclaim the valuable piece of art. This drama could have been avoided if the murdered Madame D (Tilda Swinton) had simply followed good practices in estate planning, such as identifying which possession should go to which people.

  • Best Career-Change Advice (tie)

    BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE), (aka BIRDMAN), from left: Zach Galifianakis, Michael Keaton, 2014.
    Alison Rosa—20th Century Fox

    Birdman

    Onetime movie star Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) sinks his life savings into a Broadway play to revitalize his career; the attendant pressures, financial on top of personal, pose serious threats to his mental health. One key takeaway: If you’re looking for a second-act career, make sure you have the resources to fund your new venture without having to make the drastic move, in Thomson’s case, of refinancing the Malibu home you promised to your daughter.

  • Best Career-Change Advice (tie)

    LETS BE COPS, from left: Damon Wayans, Jake Johnson, 2014.
    Frank Masi—20th Century Fox Licensing/Everett Collection

    Let’s Be Cops

    This buddy movie won’t win any Oscars — it scored a pathetic 30 of 100 on Metacritic—but it’s got our vote for job-switching smarts. Pals Justin (Jake Johnson) and Ryan (Damon Wayans Jr.) dress up as the fuzz for a costume party, find they like the attention their garb garners, and decide to keep up the act. After they get mixed up in a real crime, one of them—spoiler alert!— heads to the police academy. It’s a smart move to do a trial run on a dream second career. Not so smart: breaking the law in the process.

  • Best Performance by a Financing Campaign

    VERONICA MARS, Kristen Bell, 2014.
    Robert Voets—Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Veronica Mars

    Spunky detective Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) transitioned from the small screen to the big one in 2014 to help clear the name of her hottie ex Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring). While fans of the cancelled TV show were delighted to see the Neptune High gang reunited, it wasn’t the contents of this film that earned it a Warren — it was the financing. Appealing to a rabid Veronica Mars fan base, Bell and show creator Rob Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the film. The effort paid off: The film stands as Kickstarter’s highest-funded film project, and the sixth-highest-funded project ever for the site. If you have a project you’d like to raise money for, start with these tips for a successful crowdfunding campaign.

  • Best Small-Business Strategy

    CHEF, from left: Emjay Anthony, Jon Favreau, 2012.
    Merrick Morton—Open Road Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Chef

    This indie hit isn’t just about food and family. It’s also about how to promote your small business on social media—and how not to. High-powered chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) makes a big mistake after joining Twitter, losing his cool and firing off a series of obscenity-laced tweets at a famous restaurant blogger. After Carl loses his job, however, his son Percy uses savvier social media posts in a wildly successful effort to promote Carl’s new venture, a Cuban sandwich truck.

  • Best Real Estate Recommendation

    NEIGHBORS, from left: Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen, 2014.
    Glen Wilson—Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Neighbors

    Mac and Kelly Radner (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne), adjusting to life with a newborn, suddenly have their lives turned upside down when a fraternity moves in next door. Frats throw parties—loud ones that make it hard for babies to fall asleep—and soon the couple and the frat engage in an escalating series of pranks meant to make one another’s lives unbearable. Don’t want to end up like the Radners? Make sure you follow these steps when shopping for a home, and find a good real estate agent who is extremely knowledgeable about the neighborhood where you’re looking.

  • Best Sales Pitch

    A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, from left: Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, 2014.
    Atsushi Nishijima—Courtesy Everett Collection

    A Most Violent Year

    In this movie from Margin Call director J. C. Chandor, beleaguered heating-oil company owner Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) coaches his sales force on how to close a deal. The key, he says, is projecting an aura of quality in even the subtlest of gestures—if a customer offers coffee or tea, for example, take tea because it’s the “fancy” choice. “We’re never going to be the cheapest option, so we have to be the best,” he says. “When you look them in the eye you have to believe that we are better—and we are—but you will never do anything as hard as staring a person straight in the eye and telling the truth.” Of course, sending a message about quality—whether or not it’s true—does something else: it gets people to spend more. That’s why we pull back the curtain on all the subliminal tricks that salespeople use to loosen your purse strings.

  • Best Argument for Having a Nest Egg

    THE GAMBLER, from left: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, 2014.
    Claire Folger—Paramount/Courtesy Everett Colle

    The Gambler

    You’ve probably heard of the importance of building up an emergency fund in order to cope when disaster strikes in the form of a job loss, or perhaps a costly family health issue. The necessity of having a nest egg to fall back on takes quite a different level of importance in this film, in which a literature professor and severe gambling addict named Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) winds up owing several hundred thousand dollars to various underworld characters. At one point, Bennett turns for help to another loanshark named Frank (John Goodman), who offers a brilliant lecture on why an emergency fund is so critical—only with a lot more expletives than the typical personal finance expert. “Somebody wants you to do something, f*** you. Boss p***** you off, f*** you! Own your house. Have a couple bucks in the bank,” Frank explains. “A wise man’s life is based around f*** you. The United States of America is based on f*** you.”

    It’s worth noting that there are also better ways to pay off debt than turning to loansharks. Assuming, of course, your life isn’t on the line in the matter of a few days.

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