i The Frugal Law Student | 2007 | June

Law School
Personal Finance

TEXT “Biggest Waste of Money” to 75794

Written by Brett McKay

As regular viewer of MTV and VH1, I take notice of the advertisements that are shown regularly. The ones that seem to get the most play are the commercials hocking cell phone ring tones or horoscopes/jokes/numerology sent to your phone. The way these commercials work is that viewers text a message to a number, and instantly the viewer has the content advertised.

However, the commercial keeps the price of these useless services in the fine print. So, some hapless teenager or oblivious parent will be spending money on a product that they didn’t know cost money. Today, I tried to get a glimpse of how much it would cost me to have my horoscope sent directly to my cell phone. According to the fine print that was at the bottom of the screen for maybe two seconds, a month of horoscopes would cost $5. There were also some hidden fees that I couldn’t make out, so it probably costs more. I can’t believe people spend $5 dollars to get something they could get for free online.

Every time my wife and I see these commercials we always ask ourselves “Who actually buys this crap?” My guess is clueless teenagers. I’m glad I’m not a parent who has to pay a cell phone bill.

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Free Bar Review Lectures Online

Written by Brett McKay

Austin from CALI’s Pre-law blog has posted about FREE, that’s right free bar review lecture MP3’s online. The Charleston School of Law has been posting them at their CALI Classcaster site.

If you’re not taking the bar yet, you’ll still find these lectures useful. They pretty much go over black letter law, much like the Sum and Substance CD’s do. Listening to these lectures are a great way to review or study for law school finals.

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What’s the Difference Between a Credit Report and a Credit Score?

Written by Brett McKay

You see the commercials all the time on TV. You call a 1-800 number and you get a free credit report. Then the commercial mentions something called a credit score. If you’re not paying attention, you might think that a report and score are the same thing. Well, they’re not. Today we’ll discuss the differences between a credit report and a credit score and why those difference matter to you as a consumer.

What’s a credit report?


Credit reports explain what you do with your credit. It states when and where you applied for credit, whom you borrowed money from, and whom you still owe. Your credit report also tells you if you’ve paid off a debt and if you make monthly payments on time.

Federal law mandates that all three major credit reporting agencies have to give you a free credit report each year. So, when those TV commercials talk about getting a free credit report, you’ll find out the information discussed above when you apply for one.

There are several sites out there from which you can get a credit report. FreeCreditReport.com and AnnualCreditReport.com are examples of those sites.

What’s a credit score?


You credit score is determined by the information in your credit report. Credit scores are used by companies and banks to evaluate the potential risk posed by lending consumers money. Your credit score determines if you qualify for a loan, what your loan’s interest rate will, and what your credit limit is.

The company that came up with the idea of a credit score was the Fair Isaac Corporation. That’s why you’ve probably heard credit scores referred to as a FICO score.

Credit scores range from 500 to 850. If you have a FICO score of 500, you’re going to have a hard time trying to get a loan extended to you. Even if you manage to get one, the interest rates will be high. Any score above 720, you’ll receive the best rates available.

Unlike credit reports, which are free, credit scores cost you money to get. They cost about $15 to get access to and you’re given the offer to purchase your credit score after you get a credit report. Bankrate, however, offers a free FICO score estimator. The estimator asks you 10 questions about your loans and credit card balances and then spits out an estimate for your credit score. While not 100% accurate, you’ll at least have an idea of where your score is at and make adjustments in order to improve it.

How your credit score is determined

When coming up with your FICO score, credit reporting companies look at several factors. In no particular order here are some of those factors:

  • Payment record. If you have a record of bills being paid late, your credit score will go down.
  • How much credit you have and how much credit you’re using.
  • How long credit accounts have been open. The longer you have a credit account, the better your score will be.
  • “Hard” Credit Pulls. A pull is a type of inquiry into your credit. Hard credit inquires are made by lenders for the purpose of extending you credit. Inquires by lenders lower your score because lots of hard inquires is a signal that you’re looking for loans and are possibly a poor credit risk.
  • Signs of responsibility and stability. Pay your bills on time, keep your job for longer than two years, and enjoy a higher credit score.


OK, so the difference between a credit report and credit score boils down to two things: a credit report shows what you’ve done in your credit history; a credit score determines your creditworthiness. A credit report is free; a credit score costs money.

There, now you know the difference between the two. No more getting confused when those commercials come on.

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Additional Resources

There are many ways in which your Credit can be effected, from various bill Payments, like car loans and heating bills to your Business Credit Cards. Your credit score can even be influenced by store credit and Gas Cards that you may have for miscellaneous purposes.

Carnival Roundup- June 27, 2007

Written by Brett McKay

This week I participated in my usual blog carnivals: Carnival of Personal Finance, Carnival of Money Stories, and Festival of Frugality.

Carnival of Personal Finance #106 was hosted by The Digerati Life. Silicon Valley Blogger presented the submissions in a cryptozoology theme. It was lots of fun to read and the images were cool to look at. By post on when to go generic was included.

Carnival of Money Stories #15 was hosted by Retire Young and Wealthy. They were kind enough to include my rant about car expenses.

Festival of Frugality #80 was hosted by Money For The Rest of Us. My post on freeganism was included.

Go by and check these carnivals out. There are tons of useful and interesting personal finance articles. While you’re at it, make sure to subscribe to each blog hosts’ RSS feed. All of them provide quality content everyday. Don’t miss out on any of it. I’ll even make it easy for you by providing the links to their feeds:

Subscribe to The Digerati Life

Subscribe to Retire Young and Wealthy

Subscribe to Money for the Rest of Us

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[tags]carnivals, personal finance, frugality[/tags]

How To Leave The Perfect Voicemail

Written by Brett McKay

I’m not a big fan of voicemail. I don’t mind leaving voicemail messages; I just hate having to listen to them. For some strange reason when people know their voice is being recorded, their brain short circuits. What normally would take 30 seconds to say, now takes 2 minutes.


I don’t mind it so much for people I know. I have to deal with them on a daily basis, so I can’t hold voicemail grudges against them. However, if someone cold calls me or it’s just an acquaintance that calls, a crappy voicemail annoys me and leaves a bad impression.

I know. It’s superficial, but I’m human. But a prospective employer or client is also human, so there’s a good chance that crappy, unclear, and long voicemails annoy them too.

So, for your consideration, here are 8 tips to help you leave the perfect voicemail and, consequently, a good impression.

  • State your name first. You would think this would be so basic that it shouldn’t even be mentioned. However, I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten voicemails where people go on and on and I don’t even know who’s talking to me until the very end. Pretty annoying.
  • State the purpose of your call. In as few words as possible, state why you’re calling. Is it in regards to an interview appointment? Are you following up on a previous meeting?
  • Find some common ground. If you’re cold calling someone, your voicemail is your 30 second chance to make a connection and leave a good impression. One of the best ways to make a connection in that short amount of time is mentioning a mutual acquaintance. You could also mention a shared affiliation with an organization.
  • Be brief. Don’t make you listener resent you by leaving 5 minute long messages. People are busy. Listening to 5 minute phone messages is not on the top of their priorities.
  • Leave a specific request. What do you want your listener to do? Sure, you want them to call you back, but why? To answer a question? To set up an appointment? People will appreciate it if you give them specific actions for their call back. That way they’ll know they won’t be wasting a lot of time on the call back trying to figure out what you want.
  • Leave your contact info slowly and clearly. You’ve gotten this far, don’t screw it up by muddling the very information that will allow your listener to get back to you. Go slow and be clear.
  • Consider leaving your e-mail in addition to your phone number. People like choices. Some people like to have conversations on the phone, while others prefer communicating through e-mail. You don’t know what kind of person your listener will be, so leave the option on the table. For many, e-mail correspondence is less threatening and might actually encourage them to reach out to you.
  • Be Brief. Did I mention be brief? Yeah? Make sure to do it.

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Tijuana Health Care

Written by Brett McKay

I recently found this article about how to get your teeth fixed in Mexico. The author explains how he saved a bundle of money crossing the border to get his teeth capped. Instead of paying $750 for each tooth in the US, he paid $250 for each tooth at a dentist in Tijuana. He goes on to explain how impressed he was with the Dr.’s know how and technique.

The story reminded me of my experience living in Tijuana. During that time, I had to make a few visits to the Dr. I‘ll admit that when I first went, I was expecting crappy health care. Mexico is after all a third world country. To my chagrin, I found the health care in Mexico to be awesome. The doctors were really knowledgeable and friendly and the facilities were comparable to many American Drs. offices. The best part was that it was hundreds of dollars cheaper than in the United States. Medications were also cheap and easy to get a hold of. I also liked how you could buy many medications without a prescription. Yeah, I’ll concede that a system like that is open to abuse, but when you know what medication you need to take for certain illnesses, why spend the money so a Dr. can tell you to take it?

Have any of you been to Mexico to have medical treatment done? Would you consider it if it would save you a ton of money?

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