How Far to Drive for Cheap Gas? Where Do Your Taxes Go? Why So Many Damn Movie Trailers Lately?

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As is usually the case, I’ve got more questions than answers. Luckily, somebody has answers — to these and other puzzling questions.
How far is it worth driving to get cheaper gas? Use the BankRate calculator to find out. How does it work? You plug in the numbers—the size of your car’s gas tank, its mpg, the cost and distance of two different gas stations—and the tool tells you how much you’d save by driving the extra mile(s) to the cheaper pump. For example, you’ve got a car with a 20-gallon that gets 20 mpg; one gas station one mile away charges $3 a gallon, while another station 5 miles away charges $2.75. You’d save $4.40 by driving to the second station. Then again, you’d be using up an extra 10 or 15 minutes of your time—and only you can put a value on that.

What in the world are early adopters thinking? Early adopters buy the newest, coolest products knowing full well that it’s extremely likely that prices will drop in the near future, and that newer, cooler products are likely to be right around the corner. So is the early adopter a trendsetter or a sucker? The NY Times says that for the most part, such consumers are actually just behaving logically: Buying new gadgets makes them happy, so why wouldn’t they buy them? I’m not going to argue with that logic—especially because it’s the early adopters who help get those initial high prices out of the way, and help bring overall costs down for the rest of us who are willing to wait.

Where does your tax money go? Jess Bachman has the answers in his annual Death and Taxes poster, a six-square-foot graph detailing the federal budget’s 500-plus programs—$5.377 billion for the forest service, $28.979 billion for the Marine Corps, $0.14 billion for the Office of Government Ethics, and so on. Also included: the percentage increase or decrease in spending over the last ten years for each item, and the fact that the average taxpayer pays $5 for every billion dollars in federal discretionary spending. Fascinating stuff. But good luck if you’re trying to figure out where your local taxes go. This is a federal-only thing.

What is it that makes gambling so addictive? According to researchers, it may be the thrill of nearly winning more so than the actual winning of money, according to the Economist.

How much should you trust ‘Consumer’ awards? Every year, Consumers Digest—which is different than Consumer Reports—chooses a few dozen cars for its “Best Buy” awards. But, as the WSJ pointed out, auto makers (GM specifically) pay $25,000 or $35,000 for the right to use that “Best Buy” label in advertisements—raising major quid pro quo questions and other concerns about the entire award procedure.

Will the recession make us smarter? In the same way that the Great Depression sent millions of students with few job prospects back to school (or kept them from dropping out), the Great Recession has caused a flood of students to enroll in community colleges, and the results could be one of the best educated populations in quite some time, per the NY Times’ magazine.

When in the world will the movie start? No, it’s not you. It is taking longer and longer for the movie theater to actually begin the movie proper. The Hollywood Reporter says that theaters are routinely being paid to play trailers—so play trailers they will. It’s fairly typical today for a movie-goer to be subjected to a half-dozen or more trailers, along with seven or eight commercials for other products, before the movie they paid to watch begins.