i The Frugal Law Student | 2007

Law School
Frugality
Personal Finance
Productivity
Nutrition

The Best of Frugal Law Student 2007

Written by Brett McKay

It’s been an amazing year at The Frugal Law Student. It has grown considerably. At the beginning of the year, FLS had maybe 50 subscribers. Now it’s sitting at 744. Daily traffic averaged about 50 a day; now FLS is averaging 500. FLS has even gotten some main stream media press in the Tulsa World and the ABA Journal! I never imagined that this little hobby of mine would have gotten so big when I started it last year.

And I owe a large part of FLS’s success to my readers. Thank you for reading my blog, submitting ideas, and passing along the word to others. You all keep me motivated to keep producing killer content.

And now, for a review of this spectacular year at The FLS, I present “The Best of Frugal Law Student 2007.” Enjoy!

January

Is Netflix worth it?
Save $ 375: Fill Out Your Bar Exam Application Early
Stop the Junk Mail and Phone Solicitors
25 Ways to Cook an Egg
Personal FinanceTips From Tijuana

February

This Semester… I’m Going to Improve My Writing
Tightwads and Spendthrifts Are Both Screwy, in Different Ways
New GTD Law School Productivity Forms
Google Talk as GTD Capture System
How Eating Out Can Kill You and Your Budget

March

How to Get Rich Quick Meaningfully
GTD and Your Finances: The Weekly Money Review
11 Free Video Games That Will Develop Your Business & Personal Finance Skills
Summary of MTV True Life: I’m In Debt
Free Magazines For The Rest of Your Life

April

5 Things You Should Never Buy New
What Does It Mean to Be Frugal When You’re Wealthy?
Battle of the Sexes: Who Spends More?
Do This, Retire Rich
“Super Suppers:” Not So Super

May

180 Money Saving Tips to Turn Your Financial Life Around 180 Degrees
Massive Personal Finance Resource List
Who Are The Joneses and Why Are We Keeping Up With Them?
Increase Your Buying Pleasure With Tantric Shopping
5 Financial Pitfalls of Part Time Law School

June

10 Ways to Make Money And Save Money On Facebook
Frugal Experiment: Brushing Teeth With Baking Soda
When To Go With The Brand Name and When To Go Generic
Better Than Netflix
What Do All Those Expiration Dates on Food Mean?

July

Personal Finance Advice From Kanye West: “If you aint no punk holla ‘We Want Prenup!’”
How To Make Your Credit Score Suck
The Best Personal Finance Advice I’ve Ever Received
Why Personal Finance Books Suck
Symptoms of a Frivolous Purchase

August

Is Your Personal Finance Physique Out Of Balance?
Make Your Resume Pop With These Resume Writing Tips
Personal Finance Books That Inspire Personal Finance Bloggers
Should Professional Students Use Welfare?
Make Yourself Stick With These First Impression Tips

September

12 Meals that are Easy, Cheap, and Healthy
12 Ways To Save Money On Your Wedding
The Frugal Law Student’s Free Soundtrack For Maximum Productivity
Save over $1440 A Year By Brown Bagging It
Do It Yourself Pottery Barn Halloween Countdown Calendar

October

10 Personal Finance Blogs You NEED To Subscribe To
4 Things To Do When You Don’t Want To Do Anything
The Ultimate Tipping Guide
Hack Your Pocket Moleskine Into A Wallet
13 Ways To Kill A Cold Without Killing Your Budget

November

10 Ways To Be An Excellent House Guest
27 Holiday Gifts for Law Students That Are Under $25
10 Ways to Look Hot Without Breaking the Bank
The Garage Sale Without a Garage: Declutter Your Life & Make Money on eBay
Getting Clean Done: Effortless House Cleaning For Busy People

December

Free Classic Christmas Cartoons in the Public Domain
When Mind Hacks Won’t Work: Brute Force Memorization
Redefine Organization As Search
Are Coupons Worth Your Time?
No More Excuses! 3 Tactics To Start the Saving Habit

No More Excuses! 3 Tactics To Start the Saving Habit

Written by Brett McKay

dreamstime_2262154.jpgAmericans are the world’s worst savers. Nearly a quarter of American consumers have no money left over after paying for their essential living expenses and spending discretionary money. Instead, we’re take on more and more debt. Poor savings not only hurts individual consumers it also hurts our national economy.

Why aren’t more American’s saving? We give plenty of excuses why we don’t. Further analysis show that these excuses are bunk.

“I don’t have enough money to save.” Hogwash! You don’t need hundreds in access dollars to start saving. Most banks allow you to start a savings account with as little as $25. Some require less. Even if you saved small amounts each month, it’s better than nothing.

“I’m focused on paying off my debt.” Paying down your debt is an admirable goal, but its not wise to do so at the expense of saving . Without savings, you might find yourself going back to credit cards when an emergency hits.

It’s too late to start saving. If you’re in your twenties and thirties and you’re giving this excuse, you need to be smacked across the head. You’ve got plenty of time for the wonders of compounding interest to work for you. If you’re older and are giving this excuse, you should be smacked, too. While you don’t have as much time for compound interest to work for you, having a solid savings built up will protect you from any financial misfortunes you might face- job loss, hospital stays, ect.

How to Start the Savings Habit

If saving money is not a habit for you, here 3 tactics to make it one.

Start today. Not tomorrow, not next week, today! If you don’t have a savings account, go down to a bank and open one. It takes about 15 minutes. If you already have a savings account, but are looking for a better interest rate, check out some of the online banks like ING and HSBC. (If you’re interested in ING, shoot me an email and I’ll send you a referral that will give you $25 for free when you start an account.) After you open your account, start looking for ways you can start filling it.

Automate. There’s no better way to make saving money a habit than making it automatic. Go down to your employer’s HR department and ask to have a percentage of your paycheck deposited in your savings account automatically. If saving is new to you, start small. Try 5% at first. Gradually build yourself up until you can save between 15 and 20 percent of your paycheck each month. After you set up your direct deposit, forget about it.

Save the difference. Next time you use a debt card, before you enter the amount in your registry, round up to the next dollar. So, if your total is $12.24, enter $13 in your registry. At the end of the month, your actual balance will be more than you have in your check registry. Take the difference between the amount actually in your checking account and the amount in your registry and stash it in to savings.

What tactics have worked for you in developing your saving habits? Drop a line in the comment box.

Are Coupons Worth Your Time?

Written by Brett McKay

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One personal finance tip that you see pop up over and over again is to clip coupons. Some people claim to save hundreds of dollars each month just by clipping coupons. There’s an entire site dedicated to helping consumers get the best deal on their groceries using coupons.

I don’t clip coupons for groceries. Never have and I’m not sure I ever will. I’ve tried clipping coupons on Sunday, but usually give up after 5 minutes. I just don’t think it’s worth the time investment. Here’s a quick break down why I think clipping coupons is a waste of time.

Coupons for stuff I don’t buy. Every time I’ve sat down to look through coupons on Sunday, I mainly find coupons for stuff I just don’t buy. I haven’t eaten a Lunchable since 4th grade, so I’m not interested in getting two for the price of one. We have to remember that coupons aren’t printed because food manufacturers want to help out our budget. Coupons are a marketing strategy to get consumers to purchase something they wouldn’t buy in the first place. I’ve also noticed that coupons get issued for stuff that’s already overpriced to begin with. I can save 15 minutes of my time and save the same amount of money buying the generic brand than clipping a coupon for the name brand.

Coupons can increase travel time. Some coupons are valid only at certain stores. Instead of doing your grocery shopping in 45 minutes in one store, in order to get the good deal with your coupon, you might have to drive across town, extending the amount of time of your errand. In addition to wasting time, the extra driving to get the deal wastes expensive gas. After you factor in the cost of gas, the extra effort to get the good deal will probably be mitigated.

Extra clutter. Clipped coupons means just one more thing to keep track of. I’m really trying to reduce the amount of stuff in my life and extra pieces of little paper floating around won’t help. I’m sure many people have established awesome systems to organize their grocery coupons. If it works for them, more power to them. Personally, I don’t think establishing such a system would be worth the time investment.

While I don’t clip coupons for groceries, I will clip coupons for restaurants. Restaurants offer great deals in the Sunday paper. My wife and I have had several cheap date nights thanks coupons from restaurants. Our favorite breakfast place, IHOP, often has coupons in the paper for buy one meal get the other free. You can’t beat that.

What do you all think? What’s been your experience with coupons? Any suggestions on making coupon clipping worth it? Drop a line in the comment box. I’m looking forward to you suggestions!

Image by BigFreaky

6 Painless Ways to Save $100 a Week

Written by Brett McKay

Some people just aren’t ready to take the plunge into full flung frugality. If you’re not ready to take the plunge, here’s a quick list of 6 painless things you can do to save $100 bucks and get your feet wet for frugal living.

1. Stay in one weekend a month. A night out on the town can easily set you back $50. Restaurant, drinks, and a movie all add up. Instead of going out, buy a frozen pizza and a liter of soda and check a movie out from the library. You can have just as much fun without having to spend so much money.Savings:$50
2. Skip Starbucks once a week. There’s a reason why Starbucks is a successful company-their coffee is super expensive. A cup costs $4 and if you’re like most people, you’re probably picking up a $3 pastry to go with your joe. If you can’t live without Starbucks in the morning, try to go at least one day without stopping by. Make your coffee at home or just drink the coffee at work.Savings:$7
3. Buy no-name brands at the grocery store. I’ve written about when to go name brand and when to go generic before. Buying generic can save you a ton of money at the grocery store. There usually isn’t a difference between the store brand and the name brand except for the packaging. Savings:$20
4. Brown bag your lunch once a week.Eating out everyday is killing your budget. A lunch at a simple burger place will cost you at least $6. Instead of heading out with your co-workers, bring you own lunch. Not only will brown bagging it save you money, it will also help your health. Restaurant food is full of unhealthy calories.Savings:$6
5. Skip the vending machine for a day.The last time I went to a vending machine I was shocked how much things cost now. A soda is $1.25 and a bag of donuts costs more than a $1. If you make more than one trip a day, you can easily spend $3. Bring your own snacks from home. It costs less and is healthier.Savings:$3
6. Set aside $10 a week.Each week make it a goal to find $10 that you can put somewhere so you can’t spend it. This can be pretty easy. After you break a $20, take $10 and set it aside. Piece of cake.Savings:$10

Redefine Organization As Search

Written by Brett McKay

One of my goals during the winter break is to revamp my organizational system. This past year, I’ve tried implementing Getting Things Done and had moderate success. My biggest problem was that I had way too many inboxes and complicated file systems that I spent more time trying to figure out where I put stuff and maintaining my system than I did getting things done.

Thankfully, Leo Babauta from Zen Habits produced a stellar eBook called Zen to Done that gave me some great ideas on how to simplify my organizational system.

While not in his book, one thing that I’m doing to simplify is stopping my filing system on the computer. On my computer, I would create these complicated nested mess of folders for each area of my life. I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out where they should go and I always seemed to forget where I put the file when I needed to bring it up.

My Gmail account was the same as well. I had separate folders for different kinds of email and the email automatically filtered to their respective folder. I started to notice that with this system, I would miss emails. Plus it was annoying to have to click through each folder to check my mail. I hate useless clicks.

The solution:Quit filing and start searching

I’ve stopped filing completely on my computer. Instead, I leverage Google’s search capability for my computer organizational needs.

Organizing your computer. I’ve installed Google Desktop on my computer. This amazing app makes searching your computer as easy as searching the web. It does a full text search of all your documents, music, and videos and brings you the most relevant searches. It will also bring you emails and webpages that are relevant to your search.

Organizing Gmail. I’ve gotten rid of the different folders on Gmail. I now just use the main inbox. It makes going through my email much more easier than having to check four different folders. When ever I want to save an email, I just Archive it. When I need it again, I just use Gmail’s search function and type in a few words that I remember the email being about. Simple.

Organizing paper documents.Unfortunately, Google has not entered the realm of organizing paper documents, so I’m using a simple file box. I’ve thought about digitizing my paper documents so I can take advantage of Google Desktop’s search feature. However, because the scanner I have is old, digitizing would be a chore. Mark Shead of Productivity 501 has a great write up on how to go paperless.

How do you all organize your computer? Do you have any ideas to make digital organization more efficient? Drop a line in the comment box.

Holy Ice Storm!

Written by Brett McKay

I apologize for the lack of posting this week. Oklahoma was hit hard with an ice storm on Sunday night and I’ve been without power since Monday. So blogging and checking my email have been a challenge. The only chance I have to do so is at school. Unfortunately, when I’m at school I’m busy studying for exams.

I’m not sure when my power or internet connection will be available again, so it might be a while before I can start posting regularly again. Please be patient during this time. For now, here’s a list of great holiday gift giving guides for those on a student budget brought to you by Jamie from Surviving College Life. Enjoy!

Holiday Gift Giving On a College Budget
Inexpensive DIY Gift Roundup #1: For the Ladies On Your List!
Inexpensive DIY Gift Roundup #2: Gifts for Guys
Inexpensive DIY Gift Roundup #3: Gifts for Kids