Updated on 07.30.14

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Caucus Edition

Trent Hamm

As many of you know, I live in Iowa, so tomorrow night my wife and I will be participating in the caucusing process. We’ve both already made up our minds who we’re supporting, both as a first choice and as an alternate, but I wanted to mention the caucus for one reason. If you live in Iowa or New Hampshire, please take the time in the following week to determine which candidate best matches your views and vote for that candidate, no matter how they’re polling or anything else. Iowa and New Hampshire set the tone for the rest of the primaries, and in such small states, your votes really count. Just do it.

12 Strategies for Saving Money While Paying Your Bills I find that simply using online bill pay saves me both time and money over and over again, but the rest of these tips are interesting, too. (@ the digerati life)

5 Ways to Dodge Peer Pressure to Spend This is a topic I touch upon regularly here – your peers often encourage you to spend in ways you shouldn’t. These are nice tips for avoiding that pressure. (@ wise bread)

Income Tax Is a Blessing! This is the kind of “glass half full” attitude that makes life good. (@ money smart life)

Money Management is Simple: Don’t Listen to the Noise I find that my financial life goes much more smoothly if I just focus in on the basics and don’t sweat the complex stuff. (@ online savings blog)

Charity Navigator: Your Guide to Intelligent Giving This is an extremely useful resource. My only complaint is that when you start digging into smaller charities, the coverage is somewhat spotty, but if you want to know more about a “big” charity from an impartial source, this is the way to go. (@ get rich slowly)

Our Best and Worst Wedding Registry Experiences (Hint: Avoid Sears) This made me think of our own experiences. We had much more success going with stores with lots of retail locations, because our family and friends were widely distributed between urban, suburban, and rural areas. Don’t burn the time – just get ones at a few big retailers and let it be. (@ lazy man and money)

Small Time Philanthropy: The Charitable Gift Fund This is a brilliant idea for people who want to donate but have a hard time figuring out what to donate to. (@ consumerism commentary)

Why Married People Are Richer Getting married was the best financial move I ever made – we financially support each other in countless ways. (@ dual income, no kids)

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  1. Andrea says:

    For those of us who keep track of the primary process, but may not quite understand the caucus process, could you explain in a little more detail what it really is? I think Iowa and New Hampshire have a very interesting process and many people don’t fully understand the difference between a caucus and a primary election. Good luck to whom ever your candidate(s) is/are.

  2. Lana says:

    Trent! I’ve been a big fan of yours for a long time. Imagine my surprise when you link to my very first personal finance article published online? Thanks for the support. This made my day.

  3. catfood says:

    Someone in Des Moines wrote up this description of the Iowa caucus system for Daily Kos last February. It’s really good.


    I went to college in Iowa (go Pioneers!) and took five years to graduate, thus being in town for the 1984 and 1988 caucus seasons. It’s an amazing, fascinating process. I want to reaffirm our host’s urging for Iowans (at least) to vote for the candidate you truly want–because in the Iowa system, second and third choices really do count.

    Say you’re an Xist. You want the candidate who is the most X of all, but you don’t expect her to win. Fine, you go to the caucus and vote for X. She’s “unviable” so you go join the candidate who is second-most X. Good outcome.

    On the other hand, if she’s “viable” but later on in the primary season drops out, you have already elected a strong pro-X delegate to the county and/or district conventions. That pro-X delegate will be voting for the “next best” candidate on your behalf. Again, a good outcome.

  4. rocketc says:

    The peer pressure to spend – especially at Christmastime – is incredible. Some of the added pressure comes because we know if we say, “We can’t afford that” our friends and relatives will take pitty on us and buy it for us. We are not poor, just frugal – we don’t need this item.

    Sometimes we end up spending money that we don’t have so that someone else doesn’t feel pressured to buy it for us.

  5. Stu says:

    voting is useless since the electoral college really controls who will sit in the hot seat anyway regardless of majority vote of the people.

    I agree with voting (in australia its compulsory for us to vote), but its very flawed here in the us (I tell my wife she has to vote tho since I cant! hehe)

  6. plonkee says:

    Actually the electoral college has proved to be a very good proxy for the popular vote. When you consider that in 18th century communications between the states weren’t all the fast, it’s not surprising that they didn’t pick the simpler direct vote for president system.

    On the other hand, there’s always a case for not treating your political systems as if they were set int stone.

  7. Amanda says:

    That article about the income tax is just sick. I agree with Trent re: the importance of caucuses in small states, though. Go out and vote!

  8. Kathy says:

    “Why Married People Are Richer” was the most horrible, narcissistic, ignorant thing I’ve read in a very long time. According to this guy, if you are single, it is because you are a loser.
    Life has a lot to teach this young man, and believe me, it will.

  9. vh says:

    Even though it’s sorta off-topic (not really, because the leadership of this country ultimately will bear on everyone’s personal finances), I also would welcome an explanation of what the caucus system is about. This morning’s NY Times reports that because it’s so time-consuming (you have to show up in person and you may have to be there for one or two hours???) it tends to cut working people out of the process. Why? What’s going on that would require two hours of your time?

  10. guinness416 says:

    So basically selection of your party’s candidate is being influenced by a bunch of retirees in Iowa, vh? That’s comforting …

  11. brent says:

    It blows me away that, in America, you don’t just exhort each other to vote wisely… you exhort each other to vote AT ALL…

    …I can’t believe that you have a ‘democracy’ where not everyone has to vote. Voting is a responsibility, not a right.

  12. Rick says:


    Voting is indeed a responsibility, a responsibility for the voter to educate himself/herself on the issues that we face as a country, and the field of candidates, and which candidate can best address the issues we face. Unfortunately, most people do not do this. They are too busy, or they simply don’t care. The problem with compulsory voting is that it would be more of a popularity contest rather than a real election. Too many people simply don’t take the time to educate themselves on the issues, and so if required to vote, they’ll just vote on the name the media perpetuates the most. Even as it is, we let the media perform our election for us.

    The reason we have to exhort each other to vote at all fits in with the above description, but it’s also because the politicians are so out of touch with the needs and desires of their constituents. Most of the time, politicians don’t work for the best of the people; they do whatever they can to keep and increase their power.

    Every election brings much of the same. I am a registered Republican, but in both the ’04 election and the ’08 election, most of the candidates are power-hungry lying scumbags who simply want the power of president, rather than the best for this country. Sorry for the inconsiderate language, but it’s true. That is why Americans don’t want to vote. There is nobody worthwhile to vote for. It’s always the lesser of multiple evils.

    Fortunately, this year there is one candidate I can back. I don’t know if Trent wants political spamming on his blog, so I won’t name him. But I would encourage everybody to really research all the different candidates. Don’t just imbibe whatever the mass media feeds you, but really, actively research the different candidates and read what blogs and other social media on the Web say about them. And don’t believe that just because someone has low rankings in the polls, he’s not worthy of voting for.

    ** Vote for your own values, no matter what, and let’s take back America.

  13. Thanks for the reminder Trent — I only recently became naturalized, and am happy to be able to have a voice in the election process. I used to get pretty worked up about politics a couple of years ago, but I found that it seemed to “divide” my family somewhat since different members backed different candidates. I’ve since laid low on the subject just to keep the peace… but I’m still voting with my heart and voting to reflect my values.

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