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dog_costume
While its comical syntheses of reality shows and GIF-ridden compilations provide the perfect workday relief, Buzzfeed has more frequently provided informational insights into front-page worthy news stories.  This past week, the social media platform honored World AIDS Day (December 1) with a feature list titled “9 Things That are More Expensive Than Curing AIDS.”

According to a UNAIDS study, it would cost about $5 to $7 billion per year until 2020 to cure AIDS. And while the United States is a world leader in combating the debilitating disease, there are still many things on which this country are spending a great deal more.  In what is this nation investing that is more valuable than AIDS? Buzzfeed offers the following list:

1. The annual chocolate expenditure: $12.6 billion

2. The annual expenditure on supplements and herbal remedies: $14.8 billion

3. The annual expenditure on “alternative veterinary care”: $12.5 billion

4. The annual expenditure on cigarette advertising: $8.37 billion

5.  The annual beer expenditure: $99 billion

6. The annual expenditure on Valentine’s Day: $18.6 billion

7. The annual expenditure on McDonald’s: $27.5 billion

8. The annual expenditure on Halloween Costumes: $6.9 billion.

9. The annual expenditure on toilet paper: $6 billion

Given this list, it is clear that there is room for some reallocation of funds – some might agree that a little less could be spent on Big Macs, and more on preventing new HIV infections.  This additional spending on research and prevention could save more than 7.4 million lives before the year 2020.

For more information on AIDS and how to donate, please visit http://www.one.org/us/.

Mallory Thayer

Sources: Buzzfeed, UNAIDS
Photo: International Business Times

 

college_textbooks_rising_prices
As any college student knows, each semester’s course load brings with it the dread of buying textbooks.  In recent years the stress of purchasing expensive books that might only be used in a single class has eased with the proliferation of rental and free online options.  Despite such developments, the cost still forces many students to take out separate loans just for the books.

The average post-secondary student spends about $1,200 per year on textbooks, up 812% in the past 30 years.  Not only has the cost per year skyrocketed but it has risen faster than tuition, health care costs and housing costs in the same amount of time.  Furthermore, each of those costs has increased faster than inflation.  With over 21 million people enrolled in post-secondary educational institutes, the amount spent in the U.S. on textbooks each year adds up to approximately $25.2 billion dollars.

Quite a lot could be purchased with $25.2 billion, particularly food, another college student focus.  In fact, the average person in the U.S. spends $2,273 on food each year, less than twice the expenditure on college textbooks.  In comparison, the average expenditure on food for someone in Venezuela is $1,378, in Vietnam is $345, and in Pakistan is $415.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service compiled information on 91 countries, calculating expenditures based on locations (e.g. for home cooking or at restaurants), type of food (e.g. snack, meal, or alcoholic beverage), per capita expenditure, and food expenditure as a percentage of income.  It is important to note that all food expenditures quoted in this article exclude alcoholic beverages.

The findings demonstrate that generally, as countries develop the percentage of a person’s income spent on food decreases.  The U.S. is one of the highest spenders on food per person, but, of the countries surveyed, uses the lowest percentage on food: only 6.6%.  Meanwhile, Venezuela spends 18.6%, Vietnam spends 35.9%, and Pakistan spends 47.7% of expenditures on food.  For a visual representation, check out Washington State magazine’s compilation http://wsm.wsu.edu/researcher/WSMaug11_billions.pdf.

One way to compare textbook spending and food spending is through the basic amounts.  Each year the average U.S. college students spends almost the same amount on textbooks as a person in Venezuela does on food, 2.9 times more than a person in Pakistan and 3.4 times more than a person in Vietnam.  Another option is to compare book costs to the overall expenditures per person in each country.  The U.S. average per capita expenditure each year is $34,541, therefore student’s textbook purchases equal 3.4% of total expenses.  In comparison, U.S. textbooks would consume 16% of Venezuelan expenditures, 124% of Vietnamese expenditures, and 137% of Pakistani expenditures.

Hunger is one of the leading problems in the world, with about 870 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment.  The UN World Food Programme (WFP) cites numerous causes, foremost poverty, but also conflict, unstable markets, food waste, weather and agricultural problems.  Comparing U.S. textbook expenditures and global food expenditures (as well as overall spending) sheds light on the vast inequality that exists.

The $25.2 billion textbook expenditure each year in the U.S. could easily cover the WFP’s projected $3.2 billion necessary to reach the 66 million hungry children in school via school meals programs started by WFP.  Thirty-eight countries have taken over WFP-founded school meals programs, using them as incentives for children to attend school as well as for clear nutritional benefits.  Another WFP program provides cash or vouchers to those who lack financial access to food.  In 2011 there were 51 cash and voucher projects across the globe distributing the equivalent of $208 million.  The $25.2 billion in textbook spending would provide 121 times more cash and vouchers.

With more alternatives to regular, new textbooks becoming available, the question arises, where will that $25.2 billion be spent instead?  It would certainly make a dent in the problem of global hunger and malnutrition.  Though not calculated in this article, the money could be used to better transport food to areas with insufficient access, or towards more efficient and sustainable agricultural practices: twenty-five billion dollars has quite a bit of spending power.

– Katey Baker-Smith

Sources: WFP, WorldHunger.org, The Economist, USDA, NCES, Student PIRGS, Huffington Post

boots_made_for_walking
Living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world ideally means full-access to core tenants of liberty – democracy and freedom. Indeed, American citizens exercise their freedom in a multitude of manners, quite notably exercising their freedom to consume.

Women, in particular, dole out about $370 per year, adding up to approximately $25,000 spent on footwear in a lifetime. Additionally, the average woman owns up to 469 pairs of shoes within a 67 year period, averaging about seven pairs per year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $146 is an adequate budget in order to feed a family of four a healthy diet per week. Thus, the amount of money that a women, on average, spends a year on shoes is enough to feed a family of four for almost three weeks. Furthermore, the amount of money a woman invests in footwear over the course of her lifetime could have sustained a family of four for 171 weeks, or over three years.

The amount of money that Western women spend on shoes could also have been used to purchase a first-hand car or invested in higher-education. A study by Mintel indicates that men surprisingly spend more money on shoes than women do. Why is this? Although women may purchase more shoes, Colin Chapman of The Guardian decrees that “[…] men’s fashion items are often investments — a good suit, a great overcoat, and a decent pair of shoes have never been cheap to buy, but were built to last season upon season.” Therefore, this statistic does not imply that men buy more than women, but that perhaps men are more concerned with higher-priced durability as opposed to quantity.

Collectively, Americans annually spend about $100 billion on shoes, jewelry, and watches, while $99 billion is allocated towards obtaining a higher education. Furthermore, Westerners annually allocate $100 billion toward purchasing shoes, while the United States designates $50 billion for foreign aid – half of the amount that people spend on footwear yearly.

Perhaps Western spending tactics on footwear gives a glimpse into the massive global wealth inequality that is very much extant in modern times. While 50% of the world survives on less than $2.50 a day to garner food, shelter, clothing, and medical assistance, Westerners collectively spend billions of dollars on luxuries such as footwear and accessories.

Phoebe Pradham

Sources: World Bank, Huffington Post, Psychology Today, The Guardian, Glamour, USA Today, Sodahead, TIME
Photo: Web Stock Pro

starbucks_logo
Perhaps it’s time to start looking where your money goes, and even further where your money could be going. According to Accounting Principal’s 2012 survey, the average American worker spends more than $20 a week on coffee, adding up to a yearly average of around $1,092. For java-lovers, this may seem like a hard habit to kick. However, by even simply making your own coffee at home, you can both save calories and spend that money in a more useful way – combating global poverty.

If more Americans skipped their morning Starbucks and instead donated that money, two things could happen. 1. American obesity would significantly decline 2. Global poverty would significantly decline. Of the roughly 315 million people in the United States, if simply 30 million (about 1 out of 10 people) put their coffee money toward combating global poverty, it could be entirely eliminated.

You heard correctly. The United Nations estimates that it would take nearly $30 billion a year to put an end to world hunger. Therefore, this small and easy adjustment could save the lives of millions worldwide. Is your cup of coffee really worth more than the lives of people everywhere?

There are many ways to start taking steps to make a change toward combating world hunger. While going cold turkey and saving the money for donation is definitely an option, there are other alternatives as well. A basic Keurig Coffee Brewer costs about $120, and including the price of the coffee that goes in them (an extra $180 a year), you can still have your coffee and save the difference between buying coffee every day. While the total is slightly less, it gives coffee-lovers an option to still enjoy their brew but also fight for a good cause.

You may think your contribution won’t make a difference- but it does. Talk to friends, family and encourage them to give up buying a daily cup of java and instead save the money to donate to poverty-groups. This way, we can save the world, one coffee been at a time.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: ConsumeristBorgen Project, LA Times
Photo: Consumer Channel Dynamics

xbox_one
With the release of Microsoft’s Xbox One the most recent era of next-gen gaming is fully upon us. Following Nintendo’s release of the Wii U, and Sony’s release of the PlayStation 4, Microsoft released its third generation of Xbox. Sporting cutting edge software and hardware, these consoles will allow gamers all over the world to play the most sophisticated modern gaming titles to their heart’s content.  And with the holiday season fast approaching, it seems everyone is clamoring to get their hands on one.

The cost of an Xbox One here in the U.S. is about $500. But with the limited amount of Xbox’s available at release not everyone will be able to buy a machine in-store before Christmas. As is usually the case, individuals who absolutely must have one can find a heavily marked up Xbox One on places like Amazon, Craigslist and Ebay. The costs are variable but can range from $600 to $1,250 as sellers range from opportunists to outright extortionists. So, all told the average cost for a Christmas morning console with one game is right around $800.

Over one million units of the Xbox One were sold in the first 24 hours after it launched. And while the Xbox has different price points for the 13 different regions it was released in, the cost is either the same or greater. Thus it’s safe to assume that consumers have spent approximately $800 million on Xbox Ones to date.  Nearly a billion spent on entertainment.

By contrast, the cost of helping rebuild homes in the Philippines is $10.25 million. Habitat for Humanity is taking donations now in an effort to help rebuild homes that were devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan. They currently have raised nearly $200,000 of an estimated $10 million needed. According to their website that equates to 53 homes rebuilt.

Though 53 homes is a good start, one wonders why it takes so long to raise the funds for a project of this importance. Assuming one consumer per Xbox, it would take a donation of $10 from each Xbox One owner to finish raising funds and get this vital project underway. Moreover it would only take 24 hours if people felt as enthusiastically about playing video games as they do about saving lives.

This is not meant to dissuade people from purchasing an Xbox One. Rather, this Christmas when purchasing an Xbox One, try donating $10 dollars to help disaster relief as well.

Pedram Afshar

Sources: Bloomberg, Habitat For Humanity
Photo: CNet

graton_casino
On November 5, the usually serene fall days of Sonoma County were disrupted by an enormous influx of people from all over Northern California. The highway patrol was prepared for this and had stated they would be on “natural disaster’ status alert and capacity.

Graton Casino, the latest and greatest Indian gaming casino, opened in Rohnert Park CA, to an enormous crowd early that Wednesday. Rohnert Part is a tiny town squeezed between Santa Rosa and Petaluma, about an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The expectations had been high, and buzz around the Bay Area had been noticeable leading up to the opening. It’s primary marketing slogan ’43 minutes play from the bay’ that bombardes a viewer who catches one of their commercials, attempts to paint it as the mini Vegas for Northern California.

Yet no one foresaw the lines of cars and sheer quantity of gamblers that would be pushing their way into the casino parking lots and floor that morning. The frenzy was beyond expectation, so much so that they reached capacity at 10:45 am and began turning people away.

Heavy resistance from local residents due to fears of increased crime, traffic and alcohol related accidents has combated this day in local government since the project was announced and still persists. The overwhelmingly positive reactions from local businesses, the chamber of commerce and local law enforcement which will receive money every year from the casino, ensured that there wasn’t much that could stop this wave from rolling through.

Reliable data on the impact the casino will have on the local area is still not available as it is too early to have gathered a large enough sample size. However, anyone who witnessed the frenzy that was whipped up in hopes of hitting it big on the casino floor, could not help but notice.

This craze for gambling, easy money and winning big is nothing new to Americans. According to the American Gaming Association in 2012 all gambling forms netted $91.9 billion in revenue. That amount would cover USAID, UNICEF, WFP and UNHCR’s yearly budget with plenty to spare.

$6 billion is lost by gamblers every year, a staggering amount of money that would have tangible impacts towards addressing poverty worldwide. As the California lottery marketing campaign asks in every commercial they make. What will you do with a dollar?

Tyler Shafsky

Sources: American Gaming, Press Democrat, SF Gate, Borgen Project

doctorswithoutborders
The cost of United States elections has always been a subject of much speculation over the years. Questions like how much money is spent, and what the money is spent on, are common inquires among American citizens. Research shows that election costs are at an all time high. The 2012 election cost $6 billion dollars—that’s $700 million more than the 2008 election, according to The Atlantic Wire. The question on most people’s minds is, is this money truly necessary for campaigning, or could it be better spent on other things? Many agree on the latter.

In 1998, election costs were approximately  $1.5 billion dollars. Now, as this number has increased steadily with each passing year, we’re looking at spending possibly more than $6 billion for the upcoming 2016 election. Rather than spending all of this money on elections though, why not donate a portion of it to fight global poverty?

Below are two diligent and impactful charity organizations that could benefit from impressive donations.

1.     Doctors Without Borders

Created in 1971 by doctors and journalists, Doctors Without Borders has provided healthcare assistance to over 60 countries since it’s founding. Comprised of 27,000 volunteers and workers, the organization fights for medical ethics and impartiality. The program also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. Donations to this organization could mean expansion of the program to even more areas and countries at risk.

2.     Habitat for Humanity

Created in 1976 by Linda and Millard Fuller, this nonprofit is a leading frontier in poverty housing development. Habitat is an international organization that constructs and rebuilds houses for poverty and catastrophe stricken people all over the world. For Habitat, more donations could mean more houses for the poor.

Meagan Hurley
Sources: Open Secrets, The Atlantic Wire, Habitat, Doctors Without Borders
Photo: WordPress

badhealthcostcompare

Americans waste money on trivial items every day. Things such as soda, candy, fast food, lottery tickets, and alcohol are all great examples of this. It’s true that the money spent on these items do add up, but what about the more larger scale things that we throw money away on? You may be thinking of stuff like fancy cars and designer shoes—things that do cost lots of money—but have you ever stopped to consider how much money is wasted on bad health?

According to The Economic Collapse, the US spent $2.47 trillion on healthcare in 2009, and is projected to spend $4.5 trillion in 2019.  Approximately 41% of working Americans are also paying on some type of medical debt. In the last decade alone, health insurance premiums have risen three times faster than wages.

Bad health is costing money left and right, but the real price isn’t dollars—the real price is the lives that are being taken by the simple lack of effort being put forth towards good health.

Rather than wasting money, and lives, on bad health, why not just start putting consideration and money into things like doctors visits, annual health screenings, preventative vaccines, and health insurance? Or, for that matter, why not just take simple measures to ensure good health?

If people would eat healthy and exercise regularly, a large amount of money being wasted would already be eliminated. The money that is saved by doing this could then be used for healthcare practices such as insurance and doctor appointments, things that don’t cost nearly as much as hospital bills. Completing these simple practices could then almost eliminate the issue of bad health altogether.

Meagan Hurley
Sources: The Economic Collaspe Blog
Photo: Delta Dental