i The Frugal Law Student | 2007 | March

Law School
Personal Finance

This Is (My) Spinal Tap

Written by Brett McKay


I apologize for the lack of posts this week, but I came down with some weird infection and wound up in the hospital Wednesday. During my lovely stay at the hospital I had the pleasure in having a spinal tap done. I was so out of it, I don’t remember it hurting too much. Thankfully, the spinal tap showed that I didn’t have meningitis, which would have been horrible.

Anyway, I got out of the hospital yesterday afternoon. I’m still feeling… blah. It might be awhile before I start posting regularly again because I have to play some catch up at school. So, please be patient. During my recovery time, why not check out my archive pages?

Make Extra Money by Becoming a Mechanical Turk

Written by Brett McKay

The New York Times had an interesting article on Sunday about businesses paying people to do small tasks that computers can’t. For example computers can’t look at a picture and count the number of happy people in a picture. Neither can it easily recognize the difference between a picture of an oak tree and a maple tree. These differences can be important when organizing information. What many search engine companies are doing is outsourcing this work to humans, who can do these kinds of things easily.

Amazon.com has created a site called Mechanical Turk (a mechanical turk recalls a famous 18th-century hoax, where what seemed to be a chess-playing automaton really concealed a human chess master.) where people can sign up to take on Human Intelligence Tasks (HIT). A HIT might consist of looking at a photo and telling if it contains a pizza parlor. A computer would have hard time doing this, but a person can do it in a matter of seconds.

Most HIT’s reward just a few cents for each task, but it all adds up. The article discussed a disabled former military officer spending two hours a day on HITs. He earns about $100 a week. Not too shabby.

Being a mechanical turk seems like an easy way to earn some extra cash while in school. It’s not going to make you rich, but it can at least give you some extra money to pay those bills.

Hat tip to my lovely wife for telling me about the article.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Written by Brett McKay

Andrew from Legal Andrew tagged me in a new meme that’s going around the blogsphere. This one is about what you want to be when you grow up.


When I was younger, I wanted to work for the CIA. I obsessed about spies. I had Spy Gear, I would make invisible ink with lemon juice to make secret messages, and I was obsessed with James Bond.

After I found out that working for the CIA would require me to be away from the family a lot, I decided that wasn’t a good idea.


I then went through a magic phase, like I think most kids do. David Copperfield was a mulleted god to me. I watched his specials religiously. My mom would take to me the library and I would check out every book on magic that they had. I joined the International Magicians Association. Going to a magic shop was like making a pilgrimage to a holy site.

Why didn’t I become a magician? I can’t palm a coin. No matter how much I practice, I could never master the skill that every magician needs. Oh, well.


Sometime around high school I got the idea of being a lawyer. My AP U.S. history teacher really inspired me. He’s an attorney. He had a pretty decent sized practice before he became a teacher. He kept a few of his clients and still worked with them while he taught. I thought that was pretty cool. Also, he was incredibly smart. I figured if wanted to be that smart, I needed to be a lawyer. I then met more and more attorneys and was impressed with all the good stuff they were doing. Some made lots of money doing, others didn’t. But they all enjoyed their work. That always impressed me. So, now I’m in law school working on become an attorney.

The future?

My goal is to practice law and have some sort of side business going on at the same time. It would fulfill both my need for stability and entrepreneurship.

Tag, you’re it!

This is my least favorite part of these memes. I can never think of people to send them to. I’ll tag my big sis, Shannon Bolt. Here you go, Shan.

GTD and Your Finances: The Weekly Money Review

Written by Brett McKay

I’m a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. It’s helped me get more out of my time than any other time management system I’ve used. A key element for the system to work is the weekly review. During a weekly review you should:

  • Pull out all loose papers, receipts, post-its, etc., and put in your inbox. Process your inbox.
  • Process your notes.
  • Review previous and upcoming calendar data to trigger next actions.
  • Mind dump – empty your head of everything not already in the system. Process it as you would your inbox.
  • Review next-action lists, project lists, waiting-on list, and someday/maybe list.
  • Review your goals.

The idea is to clear your head of all the stuff going on in your life, so you don’t have to worry about it.

While the weekly review is an awesome time management tool, it can also be an amazing personal finance tool. By doing a weekly review of your personal finances, you’re more likely to maintain your budget and accomplish your personal finance goals. A suggested personal finance weekly review would consist of:

  • Pulling together all receipts, bills, ect collected from purchases during the week
  • Processing those receipts, bills, ect in your personal finance tracker
  • Reviewing total income and expenses during the week.
  • Review investments and adjust them if needed.
  • Review upcoming bills and expenses to trigger next actions (i.e. paying the bill)
  • Mind dump- think of the things you’ve been thinking about when it comes to your finances. Is there an investment you’re looking in to? Do you want to set up an automatic savings deposit? Do you need to talk to your kids about spending? Write it all out.
  • Use your mind dump to come up with your next actions and project lists. If you wrote down set up automatic safety deposit, turn that into a project, with the first action being find number to bank so you can call them.
  • Review your financial goals. Reviewing goals consistently is key if you want to accomplish them.

You’re weekly review doesn’t have to take that long. If you keep track of your spending daily, you’ll have fewer receipts to process. If you’re not including this in your weekly planning start this week. You’ll see an amazing increase in the sense of control over your finances.

Carnival of Personal Finance #93 Up At Tired But Happy

Written by Brett McKay

Carnival of Personal Finance #93 was hosted by Tired But Happy. They were kind enough to include my post on 11 free video games that will help you develop your personal finance skills. Thanks Tired But Happy! Now on to my quick picks of my favorite posts this week.

My Name is Brett McKay and I’m a B.A.D Blogger

Written by Brett McKay


Yesterday I had the privilege to talk to Liz Strauss, author of the Successful Blog. When I signed up to be interviewed as a B.A.D blogger, I was expecting a kind of run of the mill interview about why I blog and what I’ve learned through blogging. However, if you read any other B.A.D blogger interviews, you’ll quickly see that interviews with Liz aren’t like that. Instead of interviews, Liz practices the art of conversation. Here’s the summary of our awesome conversation.

When I answered the phone, Liz immediately asked me what I would be doing on a Saturday morning if I didn’t have random people from Chicago calling me about blogs. Right away I knew this was going to be great phone call.

I asked Liz if she was running herself ragged getting ready of SOBCon07, to which she responded yes. She’s been working late nights, often into the early morning, only to wake up a few hours later to start working again.

She asked me if I was coming and I told her that I didn’t have the money to get out there. Liz immediately asked how she and others planning SOBCon7 could help me get out there. Liz then started talking about how they’ve been looking for sponsor’s to help people come to the conference. She asked if I knew anybody who could help me go. I said I really didn’t. But Liz wasn’t satisfied with my answer. She kept pressing. “What can we do to get people here?” I then came up with an idea to approach a local law firm to sponsor me. Liz said that was a great idea.

I told Liz that I really didn’t know how to approach someone to sponsor me. Liz gave some great advice. She suggested that I offer to come back and teach the attorney’s what I learned in return for the sponsorship. We both agreed that law firms could benefit greatly from blogs. Thus, offering to teach firms about blogging would be a great way to encourage sponsorships. Liz suggested I blog about my progress in getting a sponsorship and I told her I would. At this point I was stoked. This idea could actually work. Going to SOBCon no longer seemed to be wishful thinking, but a very possible reality.

The conversation then drifted to being a blog consultant. I told Liz I’ve thought about being a blog coach for awhile now, but didn’t know how to get started and that I was worried I didn’t know enough to provide the service. Liz kindly gave me tons of great advice on how to start a blog consultant job and encouragement that I could do it.

I asked Liz how she got to where she is today and she told me her story. She peppered her story with inspiring anecdotes of lessons she’s learned along the way. One thing that stuck out to me was how Liz emphasized business should be fun. You should always be having fun. Sometimes business will be hard, but it should be “hard fun.”

I told Liz how I’m really excited about the ideas we’ve come up with today. She told me “that’s the beauty of a good idea. It sounds good in the beginning and keeps sounding better and better the more you talk about it.”

We ended our conversation, but I told Liz that I would keep her updated about my progress in getting to SOBCon.

Like I said at the beginning, I went into my B.A.D interview expecting just a bunch of questions. But to my very pleasant surprise I found good conversation with a warm and generous person. Additionally, I got some great coaching on how to start blog coaching business! I’m still excited about all the possibilities that Liz helped me uncover. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to have talked with her.

My name is Brett McKay and I’m a B.A.D blogger. Watch yourself sucka!