All posts by Janet_Al

The Real Cost of Going to the Sochi Winter Olympics

What a Trip to the Winter Olympics Will Cost You :: Mint.com/blog

The excitement of attending the Sochi Winter Olympics is palpable: Hair-raising, gravity-defying stunts performed by world-class athletes on snow and ice raise our heart rates and leave us wanting more.

But like any major sporting event, going to Sochi will cost you a pretty penny.

When you factor in the added costs of a visa, overseas travel, and multiple events, the cost could be a real shocker.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Transportation

Let’s assume you can’t take 2-3 weeks off just for the Olympics, but that you do want to enjoy at least several days’ worth of events.

For this hypothetical example, let’s say you’re gone for a week, including two days of travel.

A search conducted a few weeks ago shows average economy-class airfare from NYC to Sochi of around $2500 for the dates Feb17-24.

That’ll give you five days in Sochi to enjoy, amongst other things, the closing ceremony.

Airfare from other U.S. cities is considerably higher, although travelers who booked well in advance probably snagged better deals. So, let’s call it an even $2000.

You’ll also need a rental car to get around the city, however, and recent searches show economy vehicles averaging $500 for that time period.

Visitors who booked in advance or use a different class of vehicle can expect price variations.

For our purposes, let’s say airfare + rental car = an average transportation cost of about $2500-3000.

Hotel

Hotels in Sochi, like many tourist destinations, vary widely in price, comfort level and convenience.

Our search showed an average nightly price of about $200 for mid-range accommodations.

Higher-end hotels, if not already sold-out, easily exceeded $500 per night.

5 nights hotel at a mid-range hotel: $1000. 

Visa

An expedited Russian Visa can average approximately $200.

Food & Entertainment

Making the most of the Olympics means taking part in the fun and games – both on and off the slopes.

Partaking in the festivities means sampling the local culture and nightlife, in addition to the cuisine.

Mid-range travelers can expect to part with an average of $50-150/day for food and non-sports entertainment expenses.

That budget, however, likely won’t afford you access to the most star-studded clubs or cafes.

Mid-range food and non-sports entertainment budget for five days: $500

Sporting Events Tickets

Surprisingly, unless you’re springing for the best seats, the actual Olympic sports events tickets aren’t likely to be your biggest expense.

Let’s say you’d like to attend short track speed skating, figure skating, speed skating, and the Olympic Closing Ceremony in mid-level seats.

These will run you (converted from Russian Roubles), anywhere from $86 to $345 per event, averaging a total of about $650 in “C” class seats.

Mid-range tickets for four sporting events/ceremonies: $650

Total Sochi Price Tag: $4,350

This is just a mid-range estimate, of course.

You may want to stay longer, eat more cheaply or lavishly, and attend more events or in better seats. The total cost you pay would vary accordingly.

Still, attending Sochi – or nearly any global sporting event, such as next year’s World Cup – is likely to set you back several thousand dollars.

But there’s more to it than that.

Did you have a better use for that $4000-5000?

Could it have been used to pay down high-interest credit card or student loan debt? Could it have been invested, instead?

If you estimate an 8.5% return (not atypical for stock investments over the long-term), over 30 years that $4350 could’ve added up to over $50,000, if you’d stuck it in an index fund, instead.

Going to Sochi would undoubtedly be a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Some might even say it’s priceless.

But every opportunity has its costs, and going to Sochi might cost more than you bargained for.

Join the Forum discussion on this post

Do Friends and Family Want to Borrow Money? Here’s How to Handle It

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If your friends or relatives ask to borrow money, here are a few pieces of advice on handling the sensitive discussion.

Lend Only What You Can Afford To Lose

J.D. Roth, founder of Get Rich Slowly, writes on Time.com that when you lend money to family or friends, you might never see it again. You could adopt the attitude that the money is a gift, and if the person pays it back, it’s a gift to you. Never put your family in financial jeopardy by cleaning out your bank accounts to bail out a relative or friend.

Look For Other Sources Of Money

Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey says 57 percent of people in a money-etiquette survey indicated they’d had or seen a relationship ruined because one friend or family member didn’t pay back the other. If your relative hit you up because he knows you’re good with money, offer to help him find other sources of cash. He might have liquid assets he can cash in, or he might qualify for a short-term payday loan.

Define Your Personal Loan Terms

If someone asks to borrow money, you have a right to ask what it’s for. There’s a difference between someone borrowing to cover a one-time shortage and someone borrowing because their monthly expenses exceed their income. A one-time personal loan is not going to solve the latter’s problems. Suze Orman says to treat the loan as a business deal and clearly spell out the terms. Put it in writing, if you need to. NOLO.com has a free promissory note template that will help you make the loan official.

Get Your Spouse’s Consent

Gerri Detweiler writes in Credit.com blog that bad blood created by money issues can last many years and run very deep. If the borrower fails to pay you back, how will that affect your relationship? Are you willing to risk the relationship to help out this friend or relative? Detweiler shares the story of a father who recorded a lien against his daughter’s car in case she failed to repay a loan. If she defaulted, he had a legal right to repossess the car. The more official you make the loan and the more clear you are on the terms, the more likely your spouse will feel better about loaning money. According to CashNetUSA, many divorces are a result of financial disagreements. Make sure you are your partner are on the same page before you lend out any mutual money.

The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial or any other advice. The information in this article is general in nature and is not specific to you the user or anyone else.

 

 

 

 

Fun Dates Under $20

If you go on a typical dinner and movie outing even once per week, you’re probably shelling out hundreds of dollars per month unnecessarily. Heck, even a cheaper dinner at the likes of TGI Friday’s and two movie tickets is likely to set you back $50-60. Do that four times a month, and you’re talking $200 plus dollars! As Five Ten Twenty Club members know, if you’d socked that money away, instead, it could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars by the end of your career.

Here are some fun date ideas under $20 my partner and I enjoy regularly. We use the money saved to pay down debt faster and invest.

Dessert Date

Sometimes, leaving the best part of the meal for the end isn’t as satisfying as making it the main course. Instead of paying for an entire meal at your favorite restaurant, just order dessert. Even at fine dining establishments, dessert prices are often low enough to enjoy for under $20.

Many cities even offer dessert-themed restaurants, such as Houston’s famed Chocolate Bar or NYC’s Spot Dessert Bar. Beautiful, gourmet desserts in fanciful surroundings average $5-8 each, and create every bit the romantic experience.

Still want a full meal? Check out our 6 Easy Hacks for Saving on Fine Dining.

Drive-In Movies, Matinees, and Art House Cinemas

Yes, drive-in movie cinemas still exist, and you’d be surprised by how charming (and low-cost) the experience can be. Enjoy the romance of yester-year for a fraction of traditional cinema costs. Search here for drive-in cinemas near you.

Don’t have any nearby? Then consider seeing a matinee or catching non-Hollywood fare at your nearest college or art house cinema; tickets for two typically average under $20.

Chuck E. Cheese, Dave & Buster’s, & Game Arcades

$20 buys you a whole lot of fun at game arcades. If videogames, Skee Ball, and whack-a-mole don’t get your date’s heart racing, you might do well to check their pulse. ‘Nuff said.

Museum Happy Hour Nights, Art Walks, and More

If culture is your thing, then you’re probably aware most major city museums offer extended evening hours (often at lower cost) one day per week. At Miami’s fabulous, newly-opened Perez Art Museum, you can visit for free until 8 P.M. on Thursdays. After viewing the Boteros and other fine art on display, enjoy a couple of glasses of wine at their gorgeous bay view bar. Take in the twinkling lights of South Beach and Fisher Island for under $20.

In Chicago, The Museum of Contemporary Arts offers members tickets to its First Friday music & arts bash for just $10 a pop. At The Art Institute of Chicago,  Illinois residents get free entry every Thursday until 8 P.M. (The museum is actually free for locals every weekday through February 12, making it a perfect winter date destination.)

When I lived in notoriously high-priced San Francisco, finding cheap date activities was a bit of a challenge, until I came across the cool events listings at http://sf.funcheap.com/. Lectures, stand-up comedy, festivals, and more could often be had for free.

 

Do you have any favorite low-cost date or activity ideas? Share them in the comments section below or on our discussion board!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Economy’s Up! So Why’s the Market Now Tanking?

Unemployment figures are down – by some estimates, we will have regained all the 7.9 million jobs lost during the recession by next spring. GDP numbers, too, are up; the economy grew at a sharp 3.6% pace in the third quarter, faster than even most experts had anticipated. So why has the stock market lost over 2% of its value this week? Shouldn’t this good economic news be boosting stocks (and our 401ks)?

Opposites day

In these market conditions, up is down and down is the new up. Since the Fed began pumping money into the economy to fight the recession via a process known as quantitative easing (QE for short), markets have been accustomed to the extra support. But now that the economy seems to be on the mend, it’s likely the Fed will soon begin unwinding QE, and markets are scared of going without the extra boost. So in a bit of a twist, good economic news is now sending stocks down, while disappointing numbers can send the market on a tear.

Is it really so scary?

There’s an ongoing economic debate about the underlying health of the economy. Once QE is gone, will it falter and dive into recession again? Are the good GDP and unemployment numbers inflated due to QE? Are stocks now overvalued?

True, the market has been on a tear since its 2009 lows, but its growth has been typical of post-recession market increases. Company profits, too, have been growing at a healthy clip, up 39% from their recession lows, and most stock valuations do not seem to imply a bubble – yet.

Plus, Janet Yellen, the incoming successor to current Fed chief, Ben Bernanke, is committed to using the Fed’s available tools for boosting employment. That means QE is likely to continue at least through next spring or summer, and that any unwinding will be gradual and measured.

But is it enough?

Still, valid questions remain regarding the market’s reaction, and as the famed investment manager, Bill Gross of PIMCO notes, it really could go either way — but not as abruptly as you might think. He argues that an unwinding will probably be gradual, as would be a market reaction.

So, does that mean you should get out? Sadly, I (like everyone else) don’t have a crystal ball, but indications are that a full-out collapse is unlikely. There’s too much momentum in the underlying economy, a few more safeguards in our economic system now than there were in 2008, robust corporate profits, and a Fed determined to avoid it. That doesn’t mean we won’t experience declines — perhaps even sustained – but simply that barring hysteria or other unforeseen events, any declines will probably be more muted. And if you believe that the economy is healthy enough to withstand the removal of QE, there’s even an argument for continued growth.

Unless you’re an active trader (which we don’t recommend), this is all a moot argument, however. Someone invested for the long-term is unfazed by market gyrations. Just remember: If you’d pulled all your money from the market in 2008, you would have never experiences the dramatic 160%+ gains since. Staying the course on a strategy of index funds with some diversification based in your risk tolerance remains our recommended approach, no matter which way the stock market winds blow.