The Data-Driven Life
Living life by the numbers

Data-Driven Sites of the Month: December 2018

Last month, I wrote about how the most popular posts on this site were to the things that directly gave you, the reader, a chance to immediately profit or benefit in some way. Let’s keep that going once again this month with 3 additional money-making opportunities you could exploit this very minute.

  • Healthy Wage: Does your weight tend to go up during the holidays? Exploit that to your advantage by committing to a weight-loss challenge on HealthyWage.com. Between now and January 3rd, start a 6-month challenge (which will end when you naturally would tend to weigh less anyway), and you can win an additional $50 above and beyond the normal prize money if you go through this link.
  • 1Q: Willing to answer a single question for 50 cents? Maybe even just 25 cents? If so, 1Q is for you! 1Q is an app (for Apple or Android) that will alert you whenever you have a paid question ready to answer. You won’t get rich, but I’m up $11.50 from this app over the past few months.
  • Shoptracker: Companies like Facebook are always trying to monetize your data. Want to monetize it yourself? If you’ve got an Amazon account, you can get paid $3 per month to share your data with the Harris Poll. A more complete review of this opportunity can be found here.

More opportunities to come each month. If you want to make sure you don’t miss anything, please subscribe to this site in the box on the right-hand side of this page. In the meantime, if you see some other +EV opportunities worth sharing, please feel free to drop me a line at mark@thedatadrivenlife.com, or just mention your new find in the comments below.

Data-Driven Site of the Month: November 2018

Out of the previous posts on this site, the one about which I’ve received the most feedback has been this one about making money through the Michigan Lottery. A number of people who live in Michigan took advantage of the free money (which still is available at the time of this writing), and I received emails from people in other states asking about different games and +EV (positive expected value) opportunities in their particular state.

I can take the hint: What people want is an ongoing list of resources where they can personally profit or benefit from the data-driven thinking described throughout this blog.

So without further ado, here is the #1 new site I recommend for November 2018. This is a +EV opportunity like the Michigan Lottery, but it works in 25 states plus the District of Columbia, not just Michigan. (Eligible states are AK, AR, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, IL, KY, MI, MN, NE, NM, NC, ND, OK, OR, RI, SC, SD, TX, UT, WV, WI, and WY.)

The November 2018 Data-Driven Site of the Month is MyPrizePicks.com.

PrizePicks is a daily fantasy sports site where you choose whether players will go above or below a certain number of points to win cash. You can guess 2 over/unders to win 2.5 times your wager, guess 3 to win 5 times your wager, or guess 4 to win 10 times your wager.

Don’t watch sports? It doesn’t matter. Here’s how to guarantee a profit on that site:

1. Register on MyPrizePicks.com using referral code 014205. You will immediately get a free 2-player entry that would normally be worth $10. Guess two NBA over/unders (even if just by clicking randomly), and if you win (which should happen just less than 1/4 of the time, because ties lose), you’ll get a free $25. There’s a free $6.25 of EV right there.

2. Only deposit money when they offer you a 100%+ bonus. Offers for a 100% or even 150% deposit match bonus come from them fairly regularly. This past week, for example, they sent out an offer where you could deposit up to $1000 with a 100% match bonus and also receive a 50% rebate on NBA losses that same day.

I see an asterisk. There’s always an asterisk. So what’s the fine print?

Their next to last line has a typo but is saying that you must play through your deposited money once before withdrawing anything. Another interesting thing to know is that you can only wager $1000 per day on their site, and you can only bet up to $100 on any individual wager.

So the optimal play here is as follows: deposit $500. They will match it. Spend all $1000 on 2-player NBA games, but bet ALL FOUR POSSIBLE WAYS on the same 2 players. That is, bet on both players to go over their predicted scores, bet both to go under, bet the first to go over and the second to go under, and bet the first to go under and the second to go over. (Edit: this method is now banned on their site. Playing normally still results in the same +EV expectation, but with more variance.)

In this way you will win one of the four bets for certain unless a player ties their exact amount predicted. To mitigate that risk of a tie, I recommend spending $62.50/bet (so $250 to cover all four bets) and then repeating that four times with four different pairs of players. If you avoid all ties, your $1000 in bets will win $625, and you will also get a rebate of $187.50 (since you will have lost in $375 worth of real-money, not promo cash, games).

Playing through that $187.50 in a similar manner would lead to an EV result of $117.19. Thus you should end up with a withdrawable total of $742ish, for an overnight profit of $242 on your $500 investment.

(The reason depositing $1000 is not optimal in the example above in my opinion is because you can only spend $1000 per day, and your promo balance spends first, so you would not get any rebate. Avoiding ties, you would win $250 from this method, but there would be twice as many chances for ties. I recommend the $500 route instead.)

3. Only play the NBA games. As mentioned, all ties lose, and because of the way their scoring systems work, ties (where the player gets exactly the number of points you are betting the over/under on) happen far more often in other sports than they do in the NBA.

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I know that’s a pretty dense read, but if you register for MyPrizePicks.com (for free) with referral code 014205, you can use the free game to get acclimated to the site. Then you could just try depositing something like $50 the first time they give you the 100%+ match bonus, and you can figure the system out with smaller stakes before ramping it up to the max +EV possible.

If you know of other sites that offer +EV opportunities, please share them in the comments below or email me directly at mark@thedatadrivenlife.com. I’d love to take advantage of them with you and would love to highlight them in future posts as well.

Why “Rigorous” Math Mandates are a Failure

Think about the math instruction you received in school, especially at the secondary level. If you had a typical experience, you probably studied things like algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. And, if you’re like most people, you don’t use the vast majority of that type of math very often at all.

Everyday math involving things like real-world data analysis and statistics (e.g. “Does this study really prove what it asserts?”), probability, interest rates, and personal finance usually receive very little focus in school — sometimes none at all, or perhaps just a brief mention in a separate (and sometimes optional) “life skills” class.

This should be reversed. The normal math track in high school should devote extensive time to statistics, probability, personal finance, and real-world math applications. Classes like trigonometry and calculus should be electives meant for students who plan to use those forms of math in their careers.

Andrew Hacker wrote a famous New York Times article back in 2012 arguing that algebra and advanced math should not be required of all students. In that article, he wrote:

“A definitive analysis by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts that in the decade ahead a mere 5 percent of entry-level workers will need to be proficient in algebra or above.”

He went on to support the importance of a focus on statistics in our math classrooms instead:

“Being able to detect and identify ideology at work behind the numbers is of obvious use. Ours is fast becoming a statistical age, which raises the bar for informed citizenship. What is needed is not textbook formulas but greater understanding of where various numbers come from, and what they actually convey.”

(If you’d like to dig deeper into this, a 10-minute interview with Mr. Hacker from two days ago, where he expounds on this view, can be found here.)

This blog, The Data-Driven Life, aims to fill this gap — showing people real-world math and data applications they can use to their benefit in everyday life. But we would all be better off if everyone came out of school already having been taught the types of math they need to thrive as informed citizens (and savvy shoppers) in their daily lives.

Top 8 Must-Reads for the Data-Driven Life

Looking for additional reading to help you live a Data-Driven life? I highly recommend the following:

1. Factfulness (by Hans Rosling): The world is better than you think. Despite the constant bombardment of negativity in the media, things are demonstrably, measurably, and significantly improving across a wide array of measurements. This book is designed to familiarize you with those optimistic statistics while also training you to think in a more data-driven way. The TED talk below is from this same author.

2. Thinking, Fast and Slow (by Daniel Kahneman): Why do we think the way we do? This book is designed to give you insight into what drives your thinking, helping you to correct course when necessary.

3. Unscripted (by MJ Demarco): This book focuses on the invisible “scripts” we tend to believe and follow in our lives, with a particular emphasis on financially self-limiting beliefs we would do well to cast aside.

4. The Miracle Morning (by Hal Elrod): The best way to live an intentional life is to start each morning off right. Instead of waking up and immediately finding yourself overwhelmed, The Miracle Morning will show you how to start your day — and spend your time throughout the day — with intention and purpose.

5. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (by Daniel Pink): There’s a perfect time for everything, and Daniel Pink lays out the science behind how to optimally schedule your time. If you’re in charge of others, this book will also teach you how to manage the time of those you serve, in order to create a more successful work, school, or home environment.

6. The Power of Moments (by Chip and Dan Heath): It feels like the most powerful moments in life only happen spontaneously or by chance. In this powerful book, however, Chip and Dan Heath break down the key hallmarks of memorable moments, with a particular focus on helping the reader learn to intentionally create powerful moments for themselves and those around them. A wonderful read for business leaders, teachers, and parents alike.

7. Make It Stick (Peter Brown): Much of what we think we know about learning is simply untrue, and therefore many of the techniques we use to learn simply don’t work. Make It Stick uses a variety of stories to illustrate various ways we can help ourselves to learn more effectively. Not just for students, this book is excellent for all of us who strive to be lifelong learners.

8. Algorithms to Live By (Brian Christian): Borrowing from the wisdom of computer science, Algorithms to Live By applies programming solutions to real life. When you want to know whether to try a new restaurant or visit an old favorite, or you can’t decide where to park, this book will show you the optimal path to take.

In the comments, let me know: what other Data-Driven books would you recommend?

Customer Acquisition Opportunities

Here’s another fun area in which you can easily make a side income or stretch your existing budget: customer acquisition opportunities.

Companies will pay a premium to get new customers. You can profit from that in two ways: first, by being the new customer; or second, by referring new customers to a business. Let’s take a look at both of these options.

Method #1: Profiting from being a new customer

 This method is pretty straightforward, but effective. Think about what you already spend money on, and then look for a way to become a new customer to get that same service or product much more cheaply. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Cell service: Switch to Sprint (there’s the customer acquisition part) and receive one year of free service on their unlimited plan.

Books: Join Kindle Unlimited by July 31, 2018, and get 3 months of all-you-can-read ebooks for just 99 cents! I recommend that you immediately cancel the recurring subscription so you don’t accidentally end up continuing to pay $9.99 a month for this.

Music: Try Spotify free for 60 days or get 4 months of Amazon Music Unlimited for just 99 cents.

Banking: Becoming a new customer at a bank can make you hundreds of dollars. Chase is especially generous in that regard; you can view their current free offers here.

And so on. Companies trust that inertia will keep newly-acquired customers from jumping ship once their promotional offer expires. As we discussed previously in this post about credit cards, we can use other customers’ sub-optimal behavior as a way to subsidize our own, more optimal behavior. This is another one of those opportunities. Switch companies frequently and take advantage of promotional offers to stretch your budget dramatically.

Method #2: Profiting by referring new customers to businesses

As we’ve discussed, businesses will pay a pretty penny to acquire a new customer. If you can refer a new customer to them, many businesses will pay you a sizable customer acquisition bonus. Here are three great examples of places to do just that.

CJ Affiliate (formerly known as Commission Junction): CJ Affiliate has several thousand different companies, all willing to offer you cash for referring business to them. You can look through all of the options and apply to become an affiliate at any of the businesses that look best to you!

Amazon Affiliate: Amazon’s Affiliate program will pay you a 4-10% commission (depending on the product) to refer customers to their website. You even get paid for any purchases a customer makes once being referred to Amazon from your link.

As an aside, it’s important to note that this is a far better rate of return than Amazon’s famous Amazon Smile program, where just a 0.5% donation is made to charity. So please, don’t use Amazon Smile. Instead, bookmark a referral link of a friend or company you’d like to support (such as this referral link to keep the lights on here at The Data-Driven Life) before purchasing anything on Amazon.

EBates: We’ve been wanting to write about EBates anyway, so here’s a good place to mention it. EBates is a great way to save additional money when you purchase things online. Best of all, they’ve got both kinds of customer acquisition deals we’ve described here. First, you can sign up here to get a free $10 bonus when you spend $25 virtually anywhere online (such as at Amazon). Next, once you’re registered, you can get your own personal referral link by clicking through the “Refer and Earn $25+” link on their page. From there, you can refer an unlimited number of new customers to EBates, and if they purchase something for $25+ from an online retailer, they’ll get $10 and you’ll get $25. You can see that the math is very advantageous on both ends of this customer acquisition offer.

When it comes to customer acquisition, here’s the two-part Data-Driven Mindset to have:

  1. It pays to be a new customer, so for things you plan to purchase anyway, you should strive to be a new customer as often as possible.
  2. It pays to refer new customers to businesses, so find businesses others legitimately would want to connect with, and then help them to make that connection through your affiliate link.

In the comments, please let us know of your other favorite customer acquisition opportunities out there!