MONEY health

Smoking Can Cost You $1 Million to $2 Million in a Lifetime

smoking cigarette wrapped in money on ashtray
John Knil—Getty Images

Your pack-a-day habit isn't just destroying your lungs, but your bank account as well—more than you ever imagined.

According to the American Lung Association, tobacco kills nearly half a million Americans annually and costs the nation $333 billion per year in health-care expenses and lost productivity to boot. But it’s hard for the average person—specifically, the average smoker—to wrap one’s brain around such an enormous figure.

Coming to the rescue, timed to coincide with the CDC’s Tobacco Awareness Week, is a new state-by-state analysis from WalletHub detailing the lifelong financial costs of smoking for an individual. Because the average price of a pack of cigarettes varies widely around the country—$5.25 in Virginia, $8 in Michigan, $12.85 in New York—the lifetime outlay varies greatly from state to state as well. In all cases, though, the data gathered by WalletHub show that smoking is incredibly costly in addition to being potentially deadly.

The total cost per smoker is estimated at $1,097,690 in South Carolina—and it’s the least expensive state in the nation. A Kansas City Star headline noted that the “cost of smoking is cheap in Missouri … relatively,” as the state ranks as the eighth least expensive on WalletHub’s list, with the total cost for a lifetime of smoking running “only” $1,177,230. At the high end of the spectrum, there’s Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, where the habit costs more than $1.9 million per person in a lifetime. Priciest of all is Alaska, which crosses the $2 million mark.

For a little perspective, federal data estimates that the cost of raising a child to age 18 is about $250,000—a big chunk of change, but only a small fraction of expenses reportedly incurred by smokers.

Right about now, the average smoker (or just the average reader with a healthy degree of skepticism) is probably thinking: hogwash. The process of coming up with such wild figures must involve a fair amount of smoke and mirrors, so to speak, right?

Let’s have a look at what WalletHub did, exactly. By far, the largest expense incorporated into the per-person total is the “tobacco cost per smoker,” measured at $786,346 in South Carolina, up to roughly $1.5 million in Alaska. WalletHub came up with that figure by multiplying the average price of a pack of cigarettes in each state by the number of days in 51 years. Fair enough. There are cheaper ways to go about buying cigarettes, like buying smokes by the case, but many people purchase by the pack.

What’s trickier is the way that WalletHub pumped up its tobacco cost estimates by calculating “the amount of return a person would have earned by instead investing that money in the stock market over the same period. We used the historical average market return rate for the S&P 500 minus the inflation rate during the same time period to reflect the return in present-value terms.” In other words, the assumption is that money not spent on cigarettes would have been dutifully and wisely invested over those same 51 years.

Similar assumptions have also been used in the now (mostly) discredited “latte factor,” which is the theory that holds that people can wind up with millions in the bank by cutting back on everyday expenses like a daily latte. Among other reasons, this line of thinking is questionable because people don’t necessarily invest money that they don’t spend on some product or service—they’re more likely to simply spend that money on something else.

WalletHub also includes other costs that many smokers never think about, factoring in added health care expenses (with state-by-state data from the CDC) and an 8% hit on income due to smoking, as determined in a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Add up all of these and a few other estimated expenses, and over the course of a half-century, the cost to the pack-a-day smoker runs $1 million to $2 million, according to WalletHub. Are the figures overblown? Well, perhaps a bit. There’s a good argument to be made that the data were construed to come up with totals that are as big and headline-worthy as possible. (After all, they got our attention.)

Nonetheless, even if the figures are on the inflated side, it’s an undeniable reality that the smoking habit costs big bucks over a lifetime. And oh yeah, it can make your lifetime a lot shorter. Let’s not forget that.

MONEY Media

Historic Charlie Hebdo Issue Selling for $1,100 on eBay

The weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, on January 13, 2015 in Villabe, south of Paris, a week after two jihadist gunmen stormed the Paris offices of the satirical magazine, killing 12 people including some of the country's best-known cartoonists. Its cover features the prophet with a tear in his eye, holding a "Je Suis Charlie" sign under the headline "All is forgiven".
The weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Jan. 13, 2015, a week after two jihadist gunmen stormed the Paris offices of the satirical magazine, killing 12 Martin Bureau—AFP/Getty Images

After millions of copies of this week's issue of Charlie Hebdo sold out, the historic edition turned up for auction on eBay and reportedly drew bids reaching £760 (roughly $1,150). Asking prices have soared as high as €100,000—the equivalent of about $118,000.

Within days of a grisly massacre that killed 12 at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the surviving staffers published a new issue of the French satiric newsweekly. To say copies are in high demand is understating things: Millions of copies have sold out in France at the newsstand price of €3 (about $3.50), and around the globe buyers seeking print editions of the historic issue have turned to online auctions, with many bidding 100 or more times the list price.

Charlie Hebdo, known for publishing cartoon versions of the Prophet Muhammad and mocking various religions (among other institutions), was reportedly targeted by extremist gunmen seeking “vengeance for the Prophet.” The post-massacre edition of the newsweekly again features a cartoon version of the Prophet—an act that some consider deeply insulting to Islam—along with the words “Je Suis Charlie” (I Am Charlie) and “Tout Est Pardonne” (All Is Forgiven).

Normally, Charlie Hebdo distributes around 60,000 copies per week. For the latest edition, the print run was hiked to 3 million and has since been upped to 5 million. One week after the killing, people in France waited in long lines early in the morning to buy multiple copies of the new Charlie Hebdo. Within hours of those millions of copies selling out, issues began turning up on eBay.

On Wednesday the (U.K.) Independent reported that online auction bids have passed £500 ($760) at U.K. and U.S. versions of the auction site. The Hollywood Reporter noted that dozens of bids at one U.K.-based auction pushed the price of one copy up to £760, or $1,153. CNBC rounded up various copies of the new Charlie Hebdo on eBay listed at “Buy It Now” prices of €20,000, €50,000, even €100,000. At today’s exchange rates, those asking prices are the equivalent of around $23,500, $60,000, and $118,000, respectively.

Starting at the end of this week, a few hundred issues will be go on sale in the U.S. at a select few locations—mostly in big cities such as New York and San Francisco. Presumably, the few sellers with copies will have no trouble finding interested buyers. Charlie Hebdo isn’t normally distributed in the U.S., but as USA Today reported, magazine sellers all over the country are trying to find ways to get their own copies that can be put up for sale.

MONEY Odd Spending

Why Adults Are Buying Kid Stuff for Themselves

Adults are buying themselves candy and other products traditionally meant for youngsters. Marketers are charging grown-up prices, too.

MONEY Tourism

Why Disneyland Closed its Doors on Christmas

142912_EM_CLOSEDDISNEY
Buddy Mays—Alamy

Disney had to close its flagship parks because they reached maximum capacity. Shareholders are laughing all the way to the bank.

It might have been a rough Christmas for tourists visiting Disney’s THE WALT DISNEY CO. DIS 0.2639% flagship theme parks on both coasts, but that is ultimately welcome news for the family entertainment giant’s shareholders.

Disney had to temporarily close Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom in Florida on Thursday morning after both theme parks reached their maximum capacity. The two have become popular Christmas attractions, and it only helps that Disney-owned ABC keeps the buzz percolating by airing its annual Christmas morning special showcasing parades at both iconic parks. This year’s installment — Disney Parks Frozen Christmas Celebration – was the 31st annual airing, and the House of Mouse again cashed in on the success of last year’s animated blockbuster Frozen.

Guests arriving too late at Disney’s Ticket and Transportation Center in Florida — the parking lot gateway to the Magic Kingdom — were advised to head to one of the resort’s three other theme parks. Things didn’t get any easier on the West Coast, where resort guests were told to hit up Disney’s California Adventure adjacent to the original theme park.

Those who got in might not necessarily consider themselves the fortunate ones. A couple of hours into the operating day, the wait for the Magic Kingdom’s new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was 180 minutes. Waits for Space Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight peaked at two hours. It’s no fun being in a crowded theme park as everything from getting around to grabbing a bite to eat become patience-rattling challenges.

Shareholders don’t mind. They’re the ones laughing all the way to the bank. Naysayers who argued that Disney would drive potential guests away by raising prices earlier this year could not have been more wrong. The only question that remains is how much higher Disney’s theme park tickets go during next year’s inevitable hike.

Disney’s theme parks have been on a roll lately. The media behemoth’s theme parks and resorts division’s revenue climbed 7% to $15.1 billion in the fiscal year that ended in September. Given the high fixed costs associated with operating a theme park, it’s no surprise to see the division’s operating profit fare even better with this scalable model, soaring 20% to nearly $2.7 billion in fiscal 2014. If the turnstiles are clicking and folks are spending money at the parks, it’s going to pay off exponentially as you work your way down the income statement.

Then again, the turnstiles don’t click at Disney World anymore. They chime and flash green as guests scan their RFID-backed admission tickets of MagicBand bracelets. Disney has reportedly spent roughly $1 billion on the MyMagic+ and MagicBand technology, in which guests scan bracelets to access reserved ride times and order ride photos, among other goodies. More important, Disney is learning more about the behavior of individual guests, arming it with the ability to better monetize the experience while at the same time eventually offering up more customized and optimized outings for guests.

In that sense, a crowded theme park is like an optimal lab of guinea pigs for Disney to dissect. If a three-hour wait for a family friendly roller coaster or waiting nearly as long for a snapshot with Frozen sisters Anna and Elsa create disgruntled guests, MyMagic+ will steer the theme park leader to offer more tailored itinerary suggestions for guests. The House of Mouse always wins.

MONEY Odd Spending

5 Weird Holiday Gifts You’d Never Guess Would Be Ultra Hot Sellers

You're not going to find Elsa, Elmo, or any toys whatsoever on this oddball list of bizarrely hot holiday buys.

We’ve come to expect that certain kinds of gifts will be hot sellers during the holiday season. Remember Zhu Zhu Pets? Or Tickle Me Elmo or Bratz? Or any number of other gifts that somehow or another dominated the December discussions in schoolyards all over America and caused parents to go out of their minds—and sometimes drop thousands of dollars—to get that year’s sold-out, must-have toy?

This year, “Frozen” items and certain Lego sets are among the gifts that are sold out or hard to find because supply has been unable to keep up with demand. Yet by and large, because today our interests are so varied, kids increasingly want tech more than traditional toys, retailers are better at anticipating sales, and online marketplaces make it possible to find even sold out items in seconds, it’s much rarer for there to be a single must-have toy in any holiday season.

That doesn’t mean that the holidays are bereft of sales surprises. In fact, a handful of oddball items have seemingly come out of nowhere to surge ahead of the pack as bizarrely hot-selling holiday purchases. Perhaps most surprising of all, none of them are toys, nor—one would hope—are they intended as gifts for children.

Here are five of the season’s strangest hot sellers, several of which it’s nearly impossible to buy now, assuming you might actually want to buy them.

  • Beard Baubles

    141222_EM_WeirdGifts_5
    AP Images

    Good luck getting your hands on this totally absurd gift for the bearded hipster in your life. Beard Baubles, which are tiny ornaments meant to adorn one’s facial hair as if the beard were a Christmas tree, have been sold out for weeks. The idea was reportedly cooked up by an ad agency in London, with the profits going to charity. If you’re truly desperate for a set of beard ornaments, some are being sold on eBay in the UK. Alternately, as one observer suggested, you could just go to a crafts store and make your own.

  • L.L. Bean Duck Boots

    141222_EM_WeirdGifts_1
    Courtesy of LL Bean

    Though far more practical than beard ornaments, the idea that many styles of classic L.L. Bean boots are out of stock, sold out, or otherwise hard to buy is still a head-scratcher, especially considering the winter is only getting started and a retailer such as L.L. Bean banks on big sales every holiday season. What happened? Apparently, L.L. Bean boots became extremely popular with teens and millennials recently, and because the boots are hand-crafted and stitched, the manufacturer hasn’t been able to churn out new pairs fast enough to keep up with the surge in demand. The hot boots phenomenon is reminiscent of last season, when $89 Giant hoodies were deemed the “it” piece of apparel and were backordered for months.

  • iPod Classic

    141222_EM_WeirdGifts_2
    Alamy

    The iconic iPod Classic was discontinued last fall, which wasn’t all that surprising because, what with so many other options for storing and listening to music, fewer people were buying the descendant of the original iPod. Apple also said that it was becoming increasing more difficult and expensive to find parts needed to make the iPod Classic. Now that the gadget isn’t sold in stores, however, the killed-off iPod Classic is being appreciated anew by consumers eager to get their hands on one. On eBay, auctions for new iPod Classics are starting in the high $300s, and some sellers are asking “Buy It Now” prices of upwards of $499. The Guardian reported that some sellers in the UK have been listing iPod Classics for up to £670 (roughly $1,050). The last time the gadget was sold in Apple Stores, mind you, the retail price was $249.

  • Ugly Christmas Suit

    141222_EM_WeirdGifts_3
    Courtesy of Shinesty

    The traditional ugly Christmas sweater would make the perfect complement to a beard decorated in ornaments, but this year, hipsters were given another ironic fashion option in the form of three different Ugly Christmas Sweater Suits from a company called Shinesty, based in Boulder, Colo. The suits, which came with a jacket, tie, and pants, each featuring bold colors and loud matching prints (Christmas trees, snowflakes, snowman), all sold out on Cyber Monday, though they’re available for 2015 preorder right now.

  • Poop

    141222_EM_WeirdGifts_4
    Courtesy of Cards Against Humanity

    As you may have heard, Cards Against Humanity, the “party game for horrible people,” somehow convinced 30,000 customers to pay $6 apiece for a box of bull feces. How did the company pull this off? Simple. On Black Friday, it posted on its website that it was plainly selling “Bull****” and thousands of people jumped on the offer. The gag gift—which buyers may or may not have actually known was a gag—isn’t anywhere near being one of the season’s hottest sellers. But considering the steaming pile of “merchandise” in question, any sales whatsoever would seem like a shock. Perhaps less surprising: Bull poop boxes are being posted on eBay, and they’ve been selling for three or four times the original ridiculous retail price.

MONEY Odd Spending

‘The Interview’ Poster Now Listed at $1,000 on eBay

141219_EM_Interview
Would you pay $1,000 for this poster? © Columbia Pictures—courtesy Everett Collection

After Sony cancelled the release of the controversial Seth Rogen movie The Interview, some collectors are thinking posters of the film are worth big bucks.

The Interview may make no money whatsoever at the box office, and it could wind up costing Sony Pictures over $100 million after the decision was made this week to cancel all screenings amid widespread threats to theaters. Still, the film—a comedy that depicts the assassination of North Korea leader Kim Jon Un, and which appears to be the impetus for North Korea’s involvement in a devastating hack of Sony, the production company behind it—could wind up earning some folks a pretty penny.

The Huffington Post noticed on Thursday that posters from the canceled movie had begun surfacing for sale on eBay, with asking prices in the neighborhood of $500. Pop culture experts forecast that these posters will be worth “$15, maybe $20″ in a year, when, presumably, all the hubbub about The Interview and the Sony hack are old news.

Still, this hasn’t stopped entrepreneurs from trying to milk the movie’s moment in the spotlight for quick and easy profits. At last check on Friday, there were around 500 results on eBay for “The Interview Poster.” Some sellers are asking $1,000 or more for vinyl 5′ x 8′ posters of the controversial film.

The highest price paid on eBay for one of the posters appears to be $787 for a 27″ x 40″ double-sided theatrical print that received 59 bids in an auction that ended on Thursday. The market appears to cooling off significantly, however. As of Friday morning, very few posters listed at eBay auction had been bid up beyond $250, and dozens of new listings had no bids whatsoever.

MONEY Odd Spending

Top 10 Strangest Things Marketers Tried to Sell Us in 2014

Our look back at some of the year's strangest products may seem laughable or a sad source of embarrassment—depending on whether you actually bought any of them.

Check out 10 of the strangest things marketers tried to talk us into buying in 2014. A few of them, we’re sure you’ll agree, were quite literally hard to stomach.

  • Dewitos

    Doritos and Mountain Dew
    Scott M. Lacey

    Following on the heels of Doritos cheese sticks and Doritos tacos, this fall PepsiCo began doing taste tests of the most frightening Doritos mashup so far: Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew, a.k.a. “Dewitos” or “Dewritos.” The innovation has been called a “new frontier for fast food,” with a flavor best described as “liquid cheese,” only with lots of caffeine.

  • Quarters for Doing Laundry

    rolls of quarters
    George Diebold—Getty Images

    Over the summer, a startup launched on the premise that people would pay a premium for a subscription service for quarters, which would be delivered so that you wouldn’t have to go round up up the on your way to the laundromat. The service charged $15 per month for a once-a-month delivery of a $10 roll of quarters. Needless to say, the site folded nicely and neatly—not unlike properly handled laundry—after about one week of existence.

  • Burgers for Breakfast

    Person holding BK Whopper
    Karl-Josef Hildenbrand—picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

    The battle for fast-food breakfast customers raged in 2014, with Taco Bell and McDonald’s launching ads, special promotions (like free coffee), and new products to beat out the competition. Burger King joined in the fracas with the laziest fast-food concept in recent memory: Burgers for Breakfast, in which BK made Whoppers and other burgers available during early morning hours. The idea reportedly flopped with customers; burgers were not on the restaurant’s national breakfast menu at last check.

  • A Fake “Mona Lisa”

    Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, oil on wood
    Is it real...or is it a Mark Landis? Fine Art Images—Getty Images

    No, no one actually tried to sell the original Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. But to celebrate the launch of a new documentary about Mark Landis, an infamous and prolific art forger, Landis’s forged version of the Mona Lisa was hung in a coffee shop in New York City with an asking price of $25,000. Apparently, no one wants to pay that much for a fake—not even a masterful fake by the likes of Landis. “After all the hype, there wasn’t much real interest or a sale,” a spokesperson for the coffee shop told us.

  • Derek Jeter’s Used Socks

    New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter #2 during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards August 11, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles defeated the Yankees 11-3.
    New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter #2 during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards August 11, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles defeated the Yankees 11-3. Tony Farlow—AP

    Throughout the course of Derek Jeter’s final season for the New York Yankees, ticket prices soared when #2 was in town, and an astonishing and varied amount of Jeter collectibles were marketed and sold. Among the oddest pitches: $400+ for one of Derek Jeter’s socks (game used, of course).

  • Seven Weeks of Unlimited Pasta

    Olive Garden pasta
    Joshua Lutz—Redux

    In September, the Olive Garden restaurant chain rolled out one seriously odd food offer: The Neverending Pasta Pass. The potentially cost-effective (also: potentially nauseating and potentially weight-altering) $100 passes gave users as many pasta dishes, breadsticks, and Coca-Cola soft drinks as they could stomach over the course of seven weeks. Only 1,000 of the passes were offered, and they were quickly snatched up by the masses—a few of whom recorded the good, bad, and ugly of eating at Olive Garden week after week.

  • Ebola Fashion

    man in hazmat suit in front of house
    PM Images—Getty Images

    The Ebola outbreak stoked fears around the globe, while also serving as a boost for an array of products, some understandable (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, anti-germ protective gear), others downright bizarre (Halloween costumes, fashionable masks that retailed for $20). Yet another entrepreneur was trying to sell Ebola.com for at least $150,000 this year; he’d purchased the web domain in 2008 and has been waiting for an opportune moment to sell.

  • Pot Edibles That Look Like Hershey’s Candy

    Marijuana leaf
    allOver images—Alamy

    Soon after the sale of recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, shops began selling a range of smokeable and ingestible products. Among the edibles was a brand of marijuana-infused candy called TinctureBelle, which made pot treats like Ganja Joy and Hasheath—with labels that looked eerily similar to traditional Hershey’s candies Almond Joy and Heath. Understandably, family values advocates and Hershey’s didn’t like the imitation versions, and the candy company sued last summer. The case was settled in October, and the pot candies that resembled Hershey bars have been recalled and destroyed.

     

  • Caffeinated Underwear

    caffeinated underwear
    iStock

    File this one under the category of products making outlandish claims that are just too good to be true: In 2014, the FTC ruled that a pair of companies that made and marketed caffeine-infused underwear must stop advertising that its products aided in weight loss. There was no scientific evidence to back up the claims, and customers who were coaxed into buying the caffeinated skivvies were granted refunds.

  • Bigger Butts

    Jennifer Lopez performs onstage at the 2014 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A.
    Jennifer Lopez performs onstage at the 2014 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Kevin Mazur—WireImage

    In 2014, marketers were more than happy to help convince women that they should try to enhance their physical assets to resemble Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez in one particular way. Hence the increase in butt implants and lift surgeries, as well as the sharp sales rise of products such as padded underwear, which give the appearance of a larger backside.

MONEY Odd Spending

4 Things to Know About (Legal) Cuban Cigars

A box of large cohiba Cuban cigars.
A box of large cohiba Cuban cigars. David Curtis—agefotostock

For the time being, it still won't be easy to procure legal Cuban cigars.

In 1962, President John Kennedy reportedly stockpiled 1,200 Cuban cigars before signing the decree to cut economic ties with Cuba. Now that President Obama has reestablished diplomatic ties and lifted the outright ban on cigars, you might be eager to build your own stash.

Not so fast. Here’s what the new rules actually mean for you.

1) Cuban cigars are still not legal for sale in the United States.

President Obama reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba. He did not lift the embargo on Cuba—that will take an act of Congress. While the United States will soon ease restrictions on travel and banking, for the time being, the ban on trade remains in place. Which means you won’t be able to buy legal Cuban cigars from American retailers anytime soon.

Current law says the penalty for importing Cuban cigars is up to $250,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison. Under the new rules, travelers to Cuba can bring back $400 worth of goods, only $100 of which can be cigars and alcohol.

2) Only “licensed travelers” can get them.

If you want legal cigars, you need a license to cross the straits of Florida. The White House says the government will allow Americans to travel to Cuba to visit family, to conduct official government business, to produce journalism, for professional research, for educational activities, for religious activities, for public events, to support the Cuban people, for humanitarian projects, to act on behalf of private foundations, to transmit information materials, and to conduct “certain export transactions.”

That said, the Associated Press reported that 170,000 Americans visited the country legally last year. If you’re thinking of traveling to Cuba now that the United States has restored full relations, here’s what else you should know.

3) Yes, Cuban cigars really do taste different.

Cuban cigars been contraband for half a century. So are they really as good as people say, or does the “forbidden fruit” taste sweeter?

Aaron Sigmond, founding editor of The Cigar Report and Smoke Magazine, says yes: Cuba’s terroir—its soil and climate—does produce different tobacco. “The Dominican Republic and Nicaragua both make exceptional cigars, but nothing is like Cuba,” Sigmond told Bloomberg. “It’s analogous to wines. California, Oregon, Italy all make exceptional vintage wines, but the wines of France reign supreme simply because of the terroir in Burgundy and Bordeaux.”

Researchers agree: One study found judges could distinguish between Cuban and non-Cuban cigars, and judges consistently ranked Cuban cigars higher, Vox reports. That’s significant, since previous studies have found that people struggle to distinguish expensive and inexpensive wines.

But if you’re not a cigar aficionado, you might not be able to tell. Many people are snookered by counterfeits. “Most people are not getting what they think are Cuban cigars,” Roland Boone, tobacconist for the Buckhead Cigar Club in Atlanta, told Bloomberg. “Many are made in Mexico, with a facsimile of a band that appears like a Cuban band.”

4) If you want to try a real Cuban, it’ll probably run you $10 to $20 a cigar—or more.

Real Cubans are expensive. Slate estimates that they start at $10 a pop. Sadly, that means the rules could exclude the best Cuban cigars. Stephen Pulvirent at Bloomberg writes:

“While prices vary greatly—not all Cuban cigars are created equal—the $100 allotment will generally cover no more than a dozen high-end cigars from makers such as Partagás and Cohiba. There are vintage and limited edition cigars for which a single stick will still be too pricey to make it into the U.S.”

READ NEXT: Thinking About a Trip to Cuba? 5 Things You Should Know

MONEY Odd Spending

How Much Would Hanukkah Gelt Be Worth If It Were Real Gold?

Bag of Hanukkah Gelt
The gelt we used for this measurement. Sarina Finkelstein

Inquiring minds want to know.

Ever wonder how much that Hanukkah gelt would be worth if it were actually 24-karat gold and not foil-wrapped chocolate? Well, we’ve got the answer.

For those who don’t know, chocolate “gelt,” or money, is a traditional Hanukkah treat for children and often used in the holiday game dreidel. The dreidel is a spinning top with four sides, and depending on which side the top lands on, players get either all of the gelt in the pot, half of the pot, nothing—or have to add another piece of gelt to the pot.

But let’s get back to the question at hand. Of course, you can’t just weigh the chocolate coins and calculate the value of that weight in gold. After all—SCIENCE FACT!—a gold coin the same size as a gelt coin would weigh much more than the chocolate. (Gold is almost three times as heavy as lead by volume.)

So, instead, we found the volume of our $1.49 bag of Hanukkah gelt using the displacement method. Then, armed with the easily obtained density of gold—19.32 grams per cubic centimeter—we calculated how much gold coins of the same size as discs of Hanukkah gelt would weigh. Finally, we calculated how much a small bag (containing one large and three small coins) of real gold gelt would cost at the current market price of $38.45 per gram.

The results: All together, the one large and three small coins in our bag would be worth about $7,785. Individually, the big coin was worth $3,373 (rounded to the nearest dollar) and the three little coins were each worth about $1,471.

Happy Hanukkah!

MONEY deals

6 Black Friday Deals So Crazy You Won’t Believe They’re Real

dogs with "adopt me" signs
Jim McKinley—Alamy

Black Friday deals on TVs, tablets, toys, clothing, and jewelry come as no surprise. But how about Black Friday promotions featuring guns, giveaways of cats and dogs, and the requirement to strip down to your underwear?

Here are a half-dozen downright bizarre Black Friday deals:

Free Cats & Dogs
At least one Humane Society (in Oregon) is waiving the usual $50 adoption fee on cats now through December 1. In addition to free cat adoptions, the shelter is knocking $50 off normal dog adoption fees, which generally run $100 to $350. Other humane societies around the country are hosting Black Friday pet deals such as free dogs if they’re black and at least six months old (Kansas) and a promotion of $5 to adopt a cat 5+ years old and 50% off the adoption of rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small animals (in Massachusetts).

Buy a Car, Get It Free If It Snows on Christmas
A car dealership in Chicago has a sales pitch that’s tempting for those who like to gamble—and that could wind up being extremely costly for its promoters. The deal is that all customers who buy a new Buick or GMC automobile at the dealership on Friday or Saturday will get full refunds on their purchases if it snows six or more inches on Christmas. The dealership is calling the promo its “White Friday” sale.

Guns & Ammo
It may not be what your family expects to find under the tree or stuffed in stockings on Christmas morning, but guns have come to be hot sellers on Black Friday and throughout the holiday shopping season. Last year, the number of FBI background checks conducted for each firearm purchase on Black Friday was nearly triple that of a typical sales day. Why are guns hot sellers during this period? Largely for the same reasons that so many other items are hot sellers right about now—because stores have big promotions to attract customers. Walmart is discounting all firearms by 20% for its Black Friday sale, while gun enthusiast websites are filled with firearm and accessory deals—weapons, targets, ammunition, and more—from a wide range of retailers around the country.

Wait Outside in Your Underwear, Get Free Clothes
Among the many early Black Friday sales that have popped up this week, probably the strangest took place on Tuesday at Desigual in San Francisco: As the Consumerist pointed out, the first 100 shoppers waiting outside the store wearing nothing but their underwear received free tops and bottoms from the Barcelona-based fashion retailer.

Buy a Car, Get a TV
The first ten customers to buy new cars at a Toyota dealership in Missouri received free flat-screen TVs thrown into the deal on Black Friday. What’s more, the first ten people in the door at the dealership on Friday were handed $25 gift cards for ham—no car purchase required.

Loans and Online Bank Accounts
Everyone else feels comfortable glomming onto Black Friday for sales and marketing purposes, so why not financial institutions as well? The Utah Community Credit Union, for instance, is advertising “BLACK FRIDAY DOORBUSTERS!” in the form of auto, home equity, and personal loans with supposedly great terms. Capital One 360, meanwhile, is hosting a Black Friday Sale, with bonuses like $100 for new savings and checking accounts and, depending on how much you invest, $150 to $1,250 bonuses for those opening a new online trading account or IRA.

Bear in the mind that even if these offers are truly good deals, taking out a loan or opening a new bank account is certainly not something you decide impulsively because of some flashy promotion. For that matter, no one should go adopting a pet or buying a gun on an impulse either.

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