i The Frugal Law Student | 2007 | June

Law School
Personal Finance

How To Jump Start Your Car

Written by Brett McKay

You jump into the car and turn the key. Nothing happens. You look up at the dome light and notice it’s on the “on” position. Doh! You left the dome light on all night and now your battery is dead. How many times has this happened to you?

Are you afraid of trying to jump start you car because you think you’ll blow your car up? In this post, I’ll give a step-by-step guide on how to jump start a dead battery so you won’t be left hanging next time you leave your car lights on.

  1. Always carry jumper cables with you in the car. You never know when you’ll need them or when someone else will need them.
  2. Make sure both cars are turned off.
  3. Connect one end of the red (positive) jumper cable to the positive terminal on the stalled battery.
  4. Then connect the other red (positive) cable clamp to the positive terminal of the good battery.
  5. Connect one end of the black (negative) jumper cable to the negative terminal of the good battery.
  6. Then connect the other black (negative) cable to a clean, unpainted metal surface under disabled car’s hood. Do not connect negative cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery, unless you want to see some sparks and possibly an explosion.
  7. Start the car that’s doing the jumping, and allow it to run for about 2 to 3 minutes before starting the dead car.
  8. Remove cables in reverse order.
  9. Keep jumped car running for at least 30 minutes to give the battery sufficient time to recharge itself.

I Am 26 Years Old and My Mom Cuts My Hair

Written by Mrs. FLS

My mom has been cutting my hair since I was knee high to a grasshopper. And she cuts it still today, although I can now crush that grasshopper with a 26 year old’s foot. She still cuts it the same: straight across. Up through high school she also cut my bangs, also straight across. Eventually I realized that my straight across bangs, complete with a cowlick in the middle, were doing nothing to help my already stilted social progress. And so the bangs were grown out. Then I had my mom cut my hair shorter, but still straight across. So then I looked like a knight from the round table. Did I mention the stilted social progress?

There was a period in college when I had shorter, hipper hair, you know the kind with some style as opposed to straight across. And this required a regular visit to the hairdresser. So a few years went by without mom taking the scissors to the hair. But then I grew tired of short hair and I grew my hair out longer.

So I went back to mom for my trimmings. My hair is fine and straight, and there is just not much style that could be put into it, regardless of who cuts it. So mom just gives me regular trimmings-you guessed it-straight across. These days I have been itching for a change, something shorter and more stylish. But since money is so tight, long, straight hair will have to do. I simply won’t plunk down $25 every six weeks at this point in my life. And shorter hair on women shouldn’t be attempted at home. So while my hair is rather blah, it is really just cut with the latest “frugal style.”

If you are currently into sporting the frugal style than you too should find a friend or family member to cut your hair. Another very cheap option is to have your hair cut by the students at a beauty college, although the results can be mixed. Never cut your own hair, unless you are using a Flowbee. And if you are middle aged or older, you should go the “gray braid” route. My friends and I always joked about becoming “old gray braids” when we were older. Although my hair is really not thick enough to pull off a proper hippie gray braid.

So there is my confession. I am 26 years old and my mom cuts my hair. Perhaps this should be embarrassing to me, but the fact that I am also living with my hairdresser is more so.

I Hate Cars

Written by Brett McKay

Yesterday, I had to drop down a chunk of change into our car. First, we had the window replaced that was smashed last week. That set us back a little more than $150. After that I took the car in to get new break pads put on. The back wheels were making a horrible grinding sound, so we had some definite metal-on-metal action going on. Because of the grindage, we also had to replace the passenger side rear rotor. Total cost plus labor: $430.

The worst part was the amount of time I had to spend. I probably sat in that place for 5 hours. Not only did I have enough time to watch World’s Most Amazing Videos, I was also able to watch Dances With Wolves in its entirety.

Needless to say, I was ready to leave when they finally finished with my car. However, when I put the car in reverse, the stick shift was making this horrible grinding noise and wouldn’t let me change gears. I went in to tell the mechanic dudes and they said I had to wait until the manager got back. Commence waiting 20 minutes.

Mr. Manager got back and took a look at it. His diagnosis was the clutch must have snapped and I would have to take it somewhere else to get fixed. Meanwhile, my wife had to be at work in half an hour. I was pretty livid by this time and started to raise some hell. Mr. Manager said it was just a coincidence that the clutch went out while it was here. Right… I continued my needling. Because the place didn’t do clutches, they had to tow my car down the street. Mr. Manager paid for a tow truck to come pick up my car.

We took my car to some Podunk car shop. KC, the old shop owner, took a look at my car. Apparently, on my car, the break system is somehow connected with the transmission. When the first place replaced some tubing, they forgot to make a connection for fluid to get to the clutch. All they had to do was make a cut. It took KC 5 minutes to fix it, plus it was on the house. I was back on the road.

By now, I had been out doing car stuff for about 7 hours. Mr. Manager from the first shop called me to apologize again. He’s offered to give me a bunch of coupons for free oil changes at any of the chain’s locations in the Tulsa area to make up for the inconvenience. That’s pretty awesome.

I hate cars. They’re the biggest money pits. If it were feasible to get rid of ours I would. Alas, Tulsa has a crappy public transit system, so we’re stuck with it. Now we have to go pay to renew our registration. That’s another $80. Did I mention how I hate cars?

Freeganism: Shopping For Free From Your Local Dumpster

Written by Brett McKay


Here’s an interesting article in the New York Times about a growing movement called freeganism. Freegans are dumpster divers. While some do it for economic reasons, most dumpster dive for political reasons. By living completely on the trash of others, freegans claim they aren’t contributing to big corporations and they’re helping reduce their impact on the environment.

Freegans aren’t just dumpster diving for old home furnishings. They are also dumpster diving for food. Now, before you say ewwww, they’re not eating half eaten food with maggots growing on it. Many grocery stores throw out products when they pass the sell by date. But as I discussed earlier, just because a piece of food has passed the sell by date, doesn’t mean it’s bad. Because food is well packaged these days, freegans don’t worry about contamination while sitting in the trash. From what I’ve read, it looks like bakeries are the places to hit up. Because bakeries want to sell only the freshest product to their customers, they throw out bags of perfectly good bread on a daily basis.

I find the idea of freeganism very intriguing. Not only is it frugal (it’s free stuff), it would be way to buck the system. However, I think the biggest problem with freeganism is the time commitment. If you really want to find good stuff on a consistent basis, you have to go dumpster diving a lot. It also takes a lot of time rummaging through trash to find the good stuff. Going to the super market and handing over cash is definitely more time efficient.

For more information about freeganism, check out freegan.info.

So, would you all ever consider taking on the freegan lifestyle? If you’ve ever dumpster dived, what was your experience like?

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When To Go With The Brand Name and When To Go Generic

Written by Brett McKay

One of the easiest ways to save money is to avoid brand name products and go for the cheaper generic brand. In many cases you’re getting a product with the same amount of quality as the higher priced brand names; however, in some instances you should go with the brand name for the sake of quality.

Things You Should Buy Generic

  1. Milk. There isn’t a huge difference between store brand milk or brand name milks. The government regulates the production process for both types, so both are safe to drink.
  2. Medications. Many pharmaceutical companies distribute generic brands of their products which can cost up to 50% than the name brand. And they work just as well.
  3. Canned Goods. Opt for the generic canned good items. You won’t notice a difference between the name brand and the generic brand.
  4. Bottled water. First, I should note it’s cheaper to avoid bottled water all together. Just get a water filter and fill up a bottle yourself. However, if you must buy bottled water, go with a generic brand. Why spend $1.50 for the brand name water, when you can get it for $.50?

Things You Should Buy Brand Name

  1. Gym shoes. You’re best bet is to go with a brand name here. Most generic or knock off brands are low in quality. I remember buying a pair of knock off brand shoes and they fell apart after one game of basketball.
  2. Soda. Go with the name brands. There’s definitely a difference in taste between the brand names and generic. I also had a bad experience with generic soda. It gave me really terrible gas. I don’t know why, but that was reason enough for me to stop drinking it.
  3. Cleaning products. Opt for the name brand. I’ve tried using generic cleaning products and they don’t clean as well.

What other items do you buy generic? Are there items that you’ll only buy the brand name? Drop a comment and add to the conversation.

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Interview With Saira Rao, Author of Chambermaid

Written by Brett McKay


Today we are fortunate enough to hear from Saira Rao, former attorney and author the new book Chambermaid. Saira was kind enough to take some time from her very busy schedule and answer these questions. Please join me in welcoming Saira to The Frugal Law Student!

1. How did you go from attorney to author?

I wrote and edited most of Chambermaid while still practicing. So technically, I was lawyering and authoring at the same time. I’d write early, from 6 to 9am every morning before leaving for work, then put in long stretches on either Saturday or Sunday. I think back to the two years I stuck, robotically, to this schedule and remember feeling like an automaton and such a pill.

2. Tell us about your book. Where did you get the inspiration for it? Is it autobiographical in some ways? How do you think federal judges will react to it?

Chambermaid is a comic tale told from the trenches of the federal chamber—the most elite and secretive institution known to the judicial estate. Even the Vatican is more open. The inspiration? I did, in fact, clerk for a court of appeals judge but it is not autobiographical. I’ll leave it at that.

I think (hope) anyone with a sense of humor — federal judge or not and lawyers and non-lawyers — will get a kick out of Chambermaid. Before the book was even released, some people in the legal community expressed outrage over its mere existence — as though having a federal judge as a character in a novel was inherently wrong. Although I think it would be fine for a former law clerk to write a memoir about his or her experiences clerking, Chambermaid is not a memoir. That said, I understand what all the scandal is about. Serving as a law clerk is considered to be the most prestigious job in the legal profession — a gift. Like anything else in life, some people have great clerkships, others have hideous ones. Chambermaid is the dark flip side to an otherwise shiny coin.

3. What are your future career plans? Have you made a permanent move from the practice of law? If so, why did you want to stop practicing?

I am working on a second novel. I decided to stop practicing not because I hated being a lawyer, but because I discovered that I loved to write. Really, it’s the only sort of work I’ve ever done that doesn’t involve me checking the clock every 15 minutes, wondering how much longer until I get to go home (that could also be attributed to the fact that I work from home).

4. Have you started writing your next book yet?

I have. Aside from one somewhat tangential character who is a former lawyer, my new manuscript is law-free (for the moment at least).

5. Now, for the law school finance questions. How much debt did you incur while in law school?

I did take out loans to pay for half of law school. But I was also deeply lucky to have parents who paid for the other half.

6. Have you paid off your debt yet? If not, do you have a goal of when you want to pay it off and how do plan on reaching your goal?

No, I have not paid off my debt. The rate on the loan is too low right now to pay it off.

7. What was your biggest financial mistake during law school?

Spending weeks on end in denial that I was in graduate school and behaving like a member of the gainfully employed. I’d eat out (a lot!) at the same restaurants as my friends who were investment bankers and very solvent. I tried to pretend I was someone-anyone—but a drab grad student.

8. What did you do to mitigate your debt load while in school?

Momentary shame spirals that entailed denial of basic things. These typically lasted hours, not days or weeks. As such, not much was mitigated.

9. Any parting advice to law students about saving money or choosing a career?

Law school is expensive. For some reason, most of us don’t quite grasp that until after the first loan repayment bill arrives. Unfortunately, my best advice is for the prospective law student-know what you are getting yourself into before going law school. Understand that most law graduates end up working at law firms. This, of course, is not at all a bad thing. It’s just the reality.

Thanks, Saira, for that awesome interview. Go and check out Saira’s new book, Chambermaid, available in bookstores now. (You can also purchase it through Amazon using the convenient link in the sidebar.)

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