Can One Bad Decision Cost You $450,000?

Bad decisions are inevitable.  Nobody is perfect.  But can one bad decision cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars?  The recent season finale of the TV show Big Brother has me wondering.

Note: The post below contains spoilers for the recent season of Big Brother (USA version), which ended on September 21, 2016.  You have been warned.

Big Brother: My Guilty Pleasure

Reality TV is not at all my thing, with one notable guilty pleasure, and that is watching Big Brother.  My wife got me into it over 10 years ago, and it’s something we enjoy.

Some might be familiar with the show, but for those who aren’t, here’s a very quick run-down: 16 ‘houseguests’ start off living together, and one houseguest per week is voted out by the other contestants.  There are a few mental and physical competitions each week, with the winners having the opportunity to pick who is up for vote, and everybody else getting to decide.  After roughly thirteen weeks, there are only 3 people left going into the finale.  The winner gets $500,000, second place gets $50,000 and third place gets nothing.

The whole show is pretty trashy, but it’s a whole lot of fun.

Finale Time

We watched the show all summer and when it got down to the finale, the three people remaining were:

  • Paul – A pretty strong player who won a lot of competitions but who had a hand in voting a lot of people out
  • Nicole – Another strong player who laid low for most of the summer and then kicked it into gear at the end
  • James – A weak player who is a lot of fun, but who won pretty much nothing all summer long.

Now, the way the finale works is that, first, the three get whittled down to two.  This is done by:

  • Competition 1: All three players compete and there is one winner.  They get a break in the next face-off.
  • Competition 2: The two ‘losers’ of competition 1 square off
  • Competition 3: The winners of the first two competitions compete.
Image via Morguefiles courtesy of Alvimann
Image via Morguefiles courtesy of Alvimann

The winner of Competition 3 is assured at least $50,000 and they also get to determine, of the remaining two players, which one stays and which one goes.

How The Competitions Were Won

The way it worked this year is that Paul won Competition 1 and Nicole won Competition 2.  Neither of these surprised me as everybody pretty much knew that James was a weak player and probably wasn’t going to win.   And he didn’t.

Now, the dynamic above has played out before in seasons past, where you have two strong players and one weak player.  See, it’s not an accident that a weaker player makes it.  Why?  Simple.  The strong players want a weaker player sitting next to them as that increases their odds of winning.

So, when Competition 3 started, I assumed that when Paul or Nicole won, that either of them would take James along.  This means that a strong player ends up with nothing, but it’s one of the quirks of Big Brother.

Competition 3 is done live during the finale, and I think that just about everybody was as shocked as I was when he picked James to leave, meaning that he would be facing off against Nicole.  Another strong player.

Well, since you read this far and you saw the title, you probably already guessed what happened.  He lost.  The way that it works is that the 9 most recent houseguests that are evicted (including James) get to cast the final vote.  Nicole got 5 votes and Paul got 4.

Did Paul Cost Himself $450,000?

I’m convinced that had Paul done the smart thing and brought James along that he would have won $500,000.  Paul said and did some mean things in the house, and that tipped the scales against him when he was against another strong player who wasn’t as mean, but I think against a weaker player, his better play would have trumped that.

Now he won $50,000.  That’s not too bad for 3 months or so worth of work.  But, after he has time to reflect, I’m sure that knowing that he potentially left $450,000 on the table by making one poor decision is going to eat at him.

Wwhile a bad decision isn’t going to cost most people $450,000,any decision has the potential to be a ‘game changer’.

Readers, what do you think about Paul’s decision?  What would you have done in his shoes?  

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The School Supply List And Gratefulness

My wife had with a conversation friend, that quite frankly, rubbed me (and her) a little bit the wrong way.

They talked about the school supply list that was sent home, which contains a list of supplies that each parent is asked to get and send in.  Many of the items are shared between kids in the classroom, while some are kept individually.  I think this proportion changes as the kids get older.

My wife was a little taken aback at one point.  The other mom kind of laughed and said, “Well, you don’t really have to sendmb-2016-09-list anything in.  They’re just suggestions, and really, the school is supposed to make sure everything is supplied.”

Here’s the thing, actually a few things.

Schools Aren’t Sitting On Cash

Our district, like many in Michigan, and probably many across the country, doesn’t get an excess of money.  Back in the days when the Great Recession hit the country, Michigan had already been in one for several years.   The Great Recession battered an economy that had already been taken to the woodshed.  The state cut school funding levels many times, and the amount per pupil that is distributed is still at or below levels from the early 2000’s.  This doesn’t even factor in inflation, which probably puts them back to levels over 20 years ago or pretty close.

Point being, while funding levels have steadily been increasing over the last few years, it’s not like districts are swimming in money.

People Can Afford The School Supply List

My wife’s friend can definitely afford to grab the list of supplies and send them in.  They’re not 1%’ers but they’re definitely not hurting.

So, I just can’t understand why they are going to decide to draw the line here.

Supplying Is Helping Others

There are some families who are hurting.  Our district is relatively small from a pupil count perspective.  It covers a pretty big geographic areas that includes a pretty broad mix of economic scales.  Simply put, there are a lot of families that simply do not have the means to supply that list.  Maybe there are some circumstances where refusing to subsidize people who might be too poor to afford to chip in is appropriate, you’ll never convince me that it is justifiable when it comes to children, especially when it’s a pretty nominal amount.

The whole conversation kind of bummed me out and I think actually helped contribute to my recent case of the money blahs.

See, we’d never considered, and even after the conversation my wife had, nor would we ever consider skipping out on the supplies.  My wife and I count as one of our blessings that we can afford this cost.

Would we rather spend the money on something else?  Of course we would.  Who wouldn’t?  But that isn’t the point!

Between the transmission problems on the car and laundry list of things we had done to the camper, we dropped over $1,000 just like that.  Would saving school supplies helped offset the sting of that?  Sure.  But would I ever go there? Not a chance!

In my last post, I talked about how I started to get out my money blahs by taking time to see how blessed we actually are, and I look at the fact that we can contribute the full school supply list as a blessing.  (Well, my son did leave two boxes of tissue on the bus so while it certainly ended up at the school, it may have ended up in a different classroom…but that’s OK *lol*)  We’re directly helping make a positive environment for both of our kids.  Plus, we may even be helping others as well.

Isn’t that worth the cost?  I think so.

My wife never followed up on the conversation as far as I know.  It’s very possible that her friend sent in all the supplies anyway.  Who knows?  Maybe this post is sort of a moot point.  I hope so!

I just wish more people saw their sending the supplies as what it is: A blessing.

Readers, do you have a suggested list of supplies to send to school?  What is your take on the matter?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

The Neighborhood Bully Is Quiet, For Ten Months Anyway

In 2014, I agreed to join our HOA.  I took on the role of Secretary and agreed to do so for a two-year term.  This brought me front and center to dealing firsthand with a long standing member that I’ll call Howard.  He was one of the first owners in the neighborhood when it was built in the mid-1990s and has been on and off the Board for most of that time.  I’d dealt with him before when I made some inquiries to the Board.  I knew that he had an aggressive personality, but it was only when I joined the Board that I saw him for what he is.  A bully.


Our Board is made up of five positions, but it was very clear from the first time we got together that he felt he ruled the show.  He probably felt even more comfortable trying to take charge since three of the other four of us were brand new to the board at the time.

When One Board Member Has An Agenda

Howard immediately set out trying to get his personal agenda fulfilled, which was tied to a personal vendetta that he had with a neighbor a few doors down from him (and it’s worth noting that he has or has had at least half a dozen vendettas with other neighbors).  What did this neighbor do?  Well, they built a house that Howard didn’t like.  The house was built way after any other home in the neighborhood (a fire destroyed the previous home on the lot, and the owners did not rebuild) and Howard did not like that.

I’ll admit, the property that Howard had a problem was an issue with many neighbors.  It was right at the entrance to the neighborhood so everybody saw it.  The house took about two years to complete, and over a year to landscape.  So many neighbors did have an issue.  However, by the time I joined the Board, things had been complete, but Howard still did not like it.

He didn’t like the number of bushes and plantings they put around the perimeter of the house.  He didn’t like that they didn’t regularly edge the grass around the sidewalk.  There were a few other things that he didn’t like and he wanted the Board to address them.

When Issues May Not Be Actual Issues

The only problem?  Most everything that Howard wanted the Board to send letters and issue fines about were not actual violations.  Like many neighborhoods, we have bylaws that cover things like fences, swimming pools, sheds, and other things that are commonly addressed for suburban neighborhoods.  But, none of the things that Howard wanted us to go after these neighbors about was tied to an actual bylaw, nor was it tied to a city ordinance.

Would it have been nice to see a bit more landscaping?  Sure.  Would it be nice to have a clean cut sidewalk?  Yeah.  But the problem is that the Board has no right to address these types of things with neighbors when they aren’t actual rules.

When the rest of us took it upon ourselves to look at the rules and realize that they weren’t actually being violated, we sat down at a meeting and discussed it with Howard, who already had a letter crafted and was ready to go.

He didn’t care.

He wanted to send out the letter anyway.

The rest of us, wisely, voted No.

He sent e-mails about how horrible it was to work with the rest of us.  None of us responded.  He tried again.  We still said no.  Another e-mail about how awful we were.

This continued until his term expired.  His position only had a one year term so he decided to ‘retire’.

Uh-huh.  Sure.

From Retirement To A Bully Wannabe

Well, a year passed, he was quiet, but then elections were up for most of the positions.

I decided not to run again as did two other people, leaving three of spots open. Sensing blood, Howard jumped at the chance to join.  Two brand new residents filled the other spots.

I exchanged some e-mails with the person that took my position and he asked for any advice and I gave him a few tips about the position but also gave him a simple tip “Don’t get pushed around.” I didn’t name any names or give any detail, but just left it at that.

Well, even though I left the Board, I was asked and agreed to make updates to the subdivision website and to monitor the general e-mail box.  There was a few questions that had come up via the general e-mail that I sent to the individual members.  Everyone responded, and one of them told me that “Howard is no longer on the board.”

This was less than two months after the elections, so I knew something was up.

Standing Strong

I got to be pretty close to one of the other members, and so I sent him a note and asked what had happened. mb-201403mower Apparently, Howard wanted to send a letter to all residents about the conditions of yards and lawns and such.   He had drafted a letter and basically sent it out saying that he was going to send it out.  From the sounds of things, it was pretty strongly worded and would certainly have ruffled a lot of feathers.

Again, he probably hoped that the two members wouldn’t know any better and would agree, giving him the majority.  Fortunately it didn’t work out and they told him that the Board needed to meet to discuss.  First of all, the wording was very strong.  Too strong.  Second, the same thing as last year was in play, that the items were not violations.  Third, it’s just a bad time.  We’ve had virtually no rainfall since June, probably one quarter of what we normally get.  So, the fact of the matter is that most people have lawns that simply don’t look that great this year, including mine.  It would take probably $300-400 per month in water bills to keep the grass green.  Howard retired as a VP for a well established company, and it sounds like he had a good career, so this is not a problem, but for many others in the neighborhood, myself included, that extra expense just isn’t going to happen.

Still, he didn’t care, and when the rest of the Board voted him down, this time he didn’t wait until his term ended, he quit.

And I know all of others feel it’s good riddance.

Future Bully?  We’ll See

So, we’ll see what happens next spring when two of the positions open up again.  Maybe he’ll try again though it seems like, after so many years of offending neighbors, he might have run out of potential allies.

Ah, the joys of suburbia.

Readers, what is your version of the neighborhood bully and have you been able to effectively neutralize him/her?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

A Good Sales Pitch Makes All The Difference

We’ve lived in our house for nine years now, so I was at first a little surprised when, a few weeks ago, my wife told me that she wanted to learn how to cut the lawn.  There are very few hard and fast responsibilities on who does what in our house, but taking care of the lawn was one of few that existed, and I had no problem with that.

At first I was bewildered, though I quickly came to a conclusion about why she was asking: Her new Fitbit.  I’ve had a Fitbit for a while now, but my wife recently got one just several months back.  While we’re not cutthroat about it, there is a little bit of competitiveness between us as to who can get the most steps daily and over a running seven day period, both of which are readily available on the app.

Cutting the lawn adds about 7,000 steps, so her cutting it instead of me could swing the difference a full 14,000 steps in her favor.

When I confronted her about her motivation, her quick blush told me that I had hit the nail on the head as to why.  So, I pretty much just ignored the request.  It helps that I actually enjoy cutting the grass.  It’s one of the few chores that really doesn’t seem like a chore.  It’s good exercise.  It lets me listen to music.  And after I’m done you can see the difference.

She asked a few more times, and each time I sort of deflected it with different reasons.  I pointed out how busy she was or how I was already dressed to go out and do it, or some other way of getting to go outside and just keep doing it myself.

It all worked until she finally came up with….

The Perfect Pitch

One day I was heading out to go cut the grass and she asked me again if I’d teach her.  I gave her my standard chuckle and comment about Fitbit steps when she stopped me with a new angle.

She commented that I should teach her because it gives us more options in case I couldn’t do it or if we were restricted on time.  She even used examples of when we had to do it before a vacation and rain had stopped us or made it where I had to do it at a really weird time (I think once I was outside around 7:45am getting started).

This made sense.  It was, in essence, the perfect pitch!

I realized that she had me.

So, I told her to go get shoes and socks on and an hour or so later, she had cut the grass.   I even had her fill up the mb-201403mowermower with gas before she got started.  After all, preparation is everything!

It reminded me that, sometimes, you can’t just sell the idea that you have and point out how it will benefit you, but you have to point out how it will help the person you’re pitching it to.  Once she did this, she had me!

Applying The Perfect Pitch In Life

Think about it, this principle applies in many areas:

  • Applying for a job
  • Applying for a promotion
  • Making an offer on a house
  • Proposing a new purchase

The list goes on and on.

So, because of the perfect pitch, my wife knows how to cut the grass.  Some might wonder if I’m worried that she’ll now start doing it regularly and take control of the Fitbit steps.  The answer to that is, of course, no.

Why am I so confident?

Well, I can always hide the gas can.  🙂

Readers, have you ever failed to convince someone of an idea until you changed your strategy?  Have you ever tried to highlight how it would be of benefit to the other party?  Let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.