How to analyze a nonprofit Form 990 with a spreadsheet

“The more you give, the more you get, that’s being alive” – The Money Song, Avenue Q

Charitable giving serves a valuable purpose  in  our society. It allows organizations in health, education, social services and others to provide benefits to people who otherwise couldn’t afford them. It allows people who have built up wealth to give back and make a difference. The federal government even subsidizes charitable giving by allowing donations to be deducted from income reported for taxes (effectively kicking in up to 39.6% of each donation). It’s a great system that is meant to fund those people and organizations in need. At least that is how it should be. Continue reading

Why don’t elite universities expand their enrollment?

For high school seniors, January 1st marks the college application deadline, the culmination of months of high stakes essay writing, testing, and filling out applications. This is then followed by four months of anxious waiting for the decisions to come back. Having applied to college over 15 years ago, I’m always shocked at how much harder getting into college appears to have gotten – acceptance rates for top schools have fallen to just 5-8%.  With lower acceptance rates comes increased stress and pressure to perform. Continue reading

Build a marriage tax penalty calculator spreadsheet

Summer and Fall are generally regarded as “Wedding season,” a time when love and celebration are in the air. December, on the other hand, could be regarded as “Should we get legally married for tax reasons before the end of the year” season, a slightly less romantic affair. Continue reading

Build a Spreadsheet to help you choose a healthcare plan

Will you save more with standard PPO or a high-deductible PPO Saver plan with a Health Savings Account?

It is currently Open Enrollment season at many workplaces, which is when employees choose their medical insurance and other benefits plans for the upcoming year. It’s also the time of year when people grumble “why is the US healthcare system so complicated” and just elect whatever plan they had in the prior year. Building a spreadsheet can help someone compare the costs and benefits of each of the plans under a variety of different assumptions about tax rate and healthcare expenditure. Continue reading

Pick up basketball: Should you shoot more 2 pointers or 3 pointers when you play winners’ take?

The NBA basketball season just started last week, and the three point shot is having its moment. Despite some high profile doubters, the Warriors are the reigning NBA champions due to very impressive three point shooting. Also, the total number of three pointers taken in the NBA has steadily risen over the past 35 years.

Is it better to take a three pointer or a two pointer? The theory behind this is pretty simple, and can be done without a spreadsheet. Because a three pointer is worth 50% more than a two pointer, if a team can hit three pointers with at least 2/3 the percentage that they hit two pointers, then they would be better off taking more three pointers. Continue reading

A Simple Fantasy Football Auction Draft Spreadsheet

Last year, we demonstrated how someone can make a fantasy football draft spreadsheet to help make the best decision in each round of a traditional snake draft.  While most leagues use snake draft, eventually you might be faced with a league where someone suggests an auction draft.  They might cite something like this article to make their case.  At  first you might feel intimidated, but once you remember that every auction round is just a data driven decision, and that spreadsheets are great at solving data driven decisions, you can build something to give yourself the best chance to succeed! Continue reading

Do you want the stock market to go up or down?

At first glance, it sounds like an obvious question – surely it is better when stocks go up, right? From watching the ads on CNBC, it would seem that higher stock prices directly translate into more steak dinners and golf vacations while lower stock prices mean bringing your own peanut butter sandwiches to work (jelly is for bull markets). Continue reading

Personal Finance Made Easy (with Spreadsheet Modeling!)

Use a spreadsheet to help see the effects of three key personal finance tips: Earn more, spend less, invest wisely

A quick search for “personal finance” on Amazon.com will reveal a vast amount (100+ pages of results) of literature on this important topic.  We imagine that a fresh 22 year old college graduate could easily get overwhelmed by the chorus of advice and opinions.  For them, we offer this post on how to use a spreadsheet to forecast your financial future, and see how your decisions will affect your finances in future years.  Continue reading

How to Steal Baseball Signs with Spreadsheets

Back when I was in 11th grade, I was one of the benchwarmers on the high school baseball team. Aside from needing to be ready to go in for pinch running duties, we also got assigned various tasks like statkeeper, 1st base coach, foul ball retriever and batboy (that one was the worst). Everyone left over got assigned the vague job of sign-stealing. Usually our attempts to steal signs were futile – between the wide array of touches, wipes and tugs, there was just too much going on to really keep track. But what if there were some way of using spreadsheets to enhance our sign-stealing efforts?

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What would the Lakers’ record be if Kobe Bryant was an average shooting guard?

The Lakers are off to a rough start this year – through 9 games they are 1-8, good enough for last place in the Western Conference. In this spreadsheet problem solving example, we’ll use spreadsheets to answer a pertinent question – if the legendary Kobe Bryant played like an average shooting guard, how would the Lakers have fared this year? Continue reading

Create Study Index Cards in a Spreadsheet

Index CardsI’m studying for the SAT, ACT, or GRE exam and need to boost my vocabulary. I’m trying to remember important concepts for my chemistry test. I’d like to remember a few algebra formulas (like the Pythagorean Theorem) or geometric proofs. I want to better prepare for my foreign language quiz. Well, we’ve got something for each of you. With the school season well underway, let’s check out effective study tool tailored to your specific goals – all created with a single spreadsheet!  Continue reading