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Your Credit Card Calls: When To Buy Now And Pay Later

Finance

When making a purchase, the ultimate decision when you open your wallet is to decide whether to use cash or pay by credit card. While credit cards can provide benefits through rewards programs and building up credit, credit cards can be the gateway to heavy debt if improperly used. Cash may be king, but if you stick to a cash-only rule, you could be doing your credit score a disservice.


The Convenience Factor

If you are looking for the convenience factor, using your credit card may come in handy. If you are consistent in paying your credit card balances in full each month, and you are properly budgeting to ensure that you are on track with timely payments, then putting some purchases on your card is an easy and convenient way to make transactions. For example, making purchases online using a credit card that may be saved on file could give you a quick check-out process. However, if you tend to run high balances or can't pay your credit card balances in full, you should probably use your debit card instead; which is also convenient but functions as cash. If the purchase you want to make is on sale, and you use a credit card that carries a balance, this may negate any savings you might get with the interest that will be incurred.

Using Cash May Be Cheaper

In some cases using cash may get you a better price. For example, when you are ready to fill up your gas tank, you may notice that if you pay by cash, you will get a cheaper price per gallon.

Some restaurants may also give discounts for cash paying customers, so if you are dining out, it won't hurt to ask! Paying for purchases using cash instead of a credit card will also save you from accruing interest on your next credit cards bill if you are unable to pay your entire monthly balance in full.

Cash And Carry

If you like to have cash on hand at all times, consider making your ATM withdrawals at the beginning of each week. Decide on an amount to withdraw that fits within your budget. You don't want the temptation to overspend because having cash in your wallet is so easily accessible. You can also try leaving your debit card at home if you would prefer to make purchases during the week with the allotted cash amount. The cap you give yourself will not only keep you in line with your budget, but it will also put you at less of a risk of overspending. Using cash tends to force us to be a little more frugal about parting with our money because it's so tangible.

Your Credit History And Reporting

While carrying cash is a great option to avoid credit card interest, it won't help improve your credit score or build credit if you stick to an “all cash, all the time" rule. If you use your credit card responsibly and pay your credit card balance in full each month and on time, you will size up a healthy credit score.

A good credit score is an important tool in creating a positive financial future. Utilizing cash as your only payment option and not having any activity on your credit cards, could keep you from obtaining a car loan, mortgage or an apartment rental. Also keep in mind, that if you are traveling and want to rent a car, it can be very inconvenient to do so without a credit card as most car rental establishments won't accept cash deposits upon rental.

The Safety Component

Keeping a combination of both cash and credit cards is an important element to your personal safety or even the safety of your loved ones. You may be put into a situation in which cash is your only option to get you out of a predicament. Should you be put into an emergency situation, having both cash and credit cards on hand could keep you from making your situation more difficult. Keep cash as a back-up even if you don't intend to use it. Your credit card company can also offer you protection against identity theft and fraudulent transactions. Again, when renting a car when traveling, your credit card company may have benefits that would cover you in case you get into an accident. Before embarking on your travels, find out what travel benefits your provider offers.

So what's better to use: cash or credit? There is no definitive answer as it actually depends on where you are and what type of purchase you are going to be making. With proper budgeting and using cash and credit in combination responsibly, you'll stay in good financial shape now and into the future.

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Politics

Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.


When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.