GeekDad Puzzle of the Week Answer: How to Calculate the Optimal Amount to Spend on Any Gift

Hacking the Holidays

This week’s puzzle asked you to use a simple algorithm to split your holiday gift budget across a prioritized list of friends and family (and enemies who, nonetheless, you have to buy for). Here’s the method:

• First write down your TOTAL holiday gift-buying budget.
• Now list all the people you have to buy gifts for.
• Rank the importance of each of these people: write a number 1-10 with 10 being important in front of each person’s name.
• Now add all these ranks: if you have people ranked 10, 6, 5, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, your total would be 39.
• Set up an equation with this total (times a variable) equal to your budget—for me: 39x=$500
• Solve: x=$12.82
• Multiply x back into your priorities list: on someone ranked “10” you spend 10x or $128.20. On someone ranked 6 you spend 6x or $76.92.

I hate to admit that I actually do this. In fact, when I first put this online, a friend who runs the Cornell Outdoor Education program emailed to say he uses a similar method to split the year’s budget across programs. You could also use something like it to prioritize and split free time across a weekend or, really, anything in which you gotta divide a pool of resources across a number of “things” or “tasks.” (I’d love to hear other uses!)

Many of you used this formula wrapped in an algorithm wrapped in an enigma to split your cash this holiday season, and the winner of the $50 ThinkGeek gift certificate — randomly selected from this week’s entrants — is Lynn, who ranked her bosses and coworkers lower than her cats and plans to use her new-found riches to buy geek cookie cutters. A worthy cause, indeed!

Cheers to all who entered and especially to Lynn who is a winner. While the rest of you, technically, are losers, you can still use the code GEEKDAD33NG to get $10 off a $50 order at ThinkGeek.

Come back Monday for Dave G., who will very likely actually write a puzzle as opposed to writing something he thinks is neat and then pretending it’s a puzzle…

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