Written by Brett McKay
Long time friend and Frugal Law Student reader, Mike, asked this question in last week’s post on law school repayment programs.
“Did you use supplementary study materials? What are your thoughts on hornbooks and other supplements from a frugal perspective? They are quite expensive, but seem like a worthwhile investment. “
Great questions, Mike! I did use supplementary study aids extensively and still do. I don’t know if I would have understood the law as well as I did if it weren’t for them. However, they can get expensive. Here’s a quick list of some of the study aids that I used during my first year.
- Hornbooks. In law school, you’ll mainly be reading a case book. Case books are designed to give you examples of the law, but often they don’t spell the law out for you. Hornbooks are like text books. They’re written by experts in a particular field of law. They tell you what the black letter law is, examples of application of the law, and also policy arguments in favor or against the law. I found hornbooks to be extremely helpful, especially in my contracts class.
- Examples and Explanations. Examples and Explanations (E&E) are another amazing study supplement. First, they give you a great summary of the law written in plain non-ivory towerish language. But that’s not the best part. At the end of each chapter, the author includes several hypotheticals (examples) and answers to these hypotheticals (explanations). These come in handy for working on exam writing skills. At the end of each week, I would do all the examples on the topics we covered in class. By the time finals came by, I had literally written hundreds of short essays on different legal topics.
- Law in a Flash. Law in a Flash are flash cards that include questions on black letter law. They also have short hypotheticals so you can learn how to apply the law. The hypos can be pretty funny, which helps in remembering law.
- Gilbert’s and Emmanuel’s Outlines. These are ready made course outlines. I used these, but sparingly. Each professor is different and will test on different things. You want to study from an outline keyed to your professor. Use it as a supplement to your OWN course outline
- Crunch Time Series. These are produced by Emmanuel’s as well. They’re basically condensed commercial outlines. What I found useful about them is that they offer strategies on how to approach different types of issues. They also have several practice multiple choice and essay questions.
- Sum and Substance CDs. Sum and Substance are audio lectures. I would listen to them while in the car or while working out. I don’t think they helped me immensely, but it didn’t hurt listening to black letter law over and over again. If you do decide to use CD’s in our study program, speed them up on your MP3 player so you can get through them quicker.
How to save money on these supplements
- Use the library. All of these supplements can be found at your law school’s library. I would often just check them out for an hour after each class to help me put together my outline. The cost to me is nothing. The only drawback is that you can’t mark them up. I love to make notes in the margin while I read and highlight. You can’t do that with library books, unless you want to get the stink eye from your librarians.
- Shop online. If you’re the type of person who likes to mark books up, consider buying supplements used online. Amazon, Half, and Ebay always have law supplements for sell.
- Take advantage of school organizations. One campus organization I belong to has a locker at the school filled with study supplements for its members to use. I usually check it out at the beginning of the year to see if there’s anything I can use.
- Become a student rep for publishing companies. This year, I’ve started working as a student rep for Aspen Publishing. Part of my compensation with Aspen are discounts and vouchers on study supplements. If you ever see any of these companies hiring student reps, jump on it. You can save tons of money on supplements.
Written by Brett McKay
This is a guest post by Chris Longman, a 1L at Gonzaga. If you’re interested in writing a guest post at The Frugal Law Student, contact me. Thanks, for the great post Chris!
Over the last two weeks my wife and I have been trying to find the best ways to arrive at a “presentable” rental home. What we learned about furnishing on a tight 1L budget has really surprised us: Craigslist isn’t always the best deal, the cheaper something is the more likely it is to break during moving, and the most fun way of acquiring an item is often the cheapest.
We’ve been using the following pricing guide to decide what we’re able to spend on each room:
Presentable and family-friendly: $100-$350
Need something that the parents can sleep or eat on when they come visit? Some stores offer relatively quality furniture for not much more than you would spend on a few new casebooks. If you live in a decent-sized city and have room in your budget for a nicer couch or table, try out BigLots!, Target, or Fred Meyer. Our big splurge was an overstuffed leather couch that we’ll probably have for ten years, but payed less than $300 for. Some smaller department stores may also have closeout deals on older beds and lights. Generally in this price category you will still have to assemble things yourself, so keep that in mind when you purchase something that you’ll want to use that weekend. Given the typical 1L budget you probably won’t be able to buy more than one or two items at stores like this, but you’ll appreciate the items you do buy that much more.
Furniture stores, surprisingly enough, are usually a poor value for law students. Keep away from any showrooms (furniture, auto, or otherwise) until after you’ve passed the bar and made a dent in your loan payments.
Functional and comfortable: $25-$100
This category is a great one to fill out with items from a mixture of sources. Craigslist, eBay, and your law school’s internal classifieds are good candidates in this price range. If you like your furnishings new, be sure to check out local stores for sales or hidden gems. For example, my wife and I were disappointed in the selection of sub-$75 desks on Craigslist, but luckily found workable “student desks” in the back corner of Office Depot for $50. If you don’t mind second hand, you can furnish many of your rooms by stopping at three or four yard sales with a total budget of $75. Check Craigslist or the local newspaper for notices of yard sales and get there early; the competition can be vicious!
Law school specials: $0-$25
Sometimes, you just have to be a responsible spender and know your limits despite that huge loan check you just deposited. Right now, I have old camping chairs to watch TV and study in. Tough luck. I’ll suck it up. Someday I’ll be able to afford a real chair or two but until then the $3 camping chairs from the local reused sporting goods store will have to do.
Sometimes you can find the occasional furniture deal on Craigslist for under $25 but prepare to be fast and move it yourself. I would instead suggest you spend your time looking at your schools’ internal classified ads. If you don’t see any ads posted, ask a friendly 2L or 3L if they have any furniture they’d like to give or sell you. Everybody moves this time of year, and everybody ends up with more crap then they want come moving day. You’d be surprised to find how much some students are willing to leave behind when moving out.
If you’re really hurting, free or near-free items can be found towards the end of the weekend at yard sales or at Goodwill. Many of these items won’t be in the best condition, but at least they’ll be functional. You can also try the occasional dumpster dive (the dumpster by Goodwill is often a gold mine) but beware that many cities have ordinances prohibiting dumpster diving. No matter what you see inside, never dive in a dumpster that is locked or is clearly on private property.
The best part of furnishing your home with items in this price range is that it’s not shocking to you or your guests- everybody knows the financial situation you’re in and nobody will think less of a law student that has a card table for a desk. Be proud about how far you can make a dollar stretch today and it will make for better stories in 20 years when you’re furnishing your third summer home.
Rekindled love: Priceless
Just because you’re going to law school doesn’t mean that any of those items you bought during your undergrad are any less desirable. Crappy coffee tables double as TV stands, broken chairs work as bedside tables, and if the stereo stops working you can always use the computer instead. Sometimes you can’t really appreciate the value in something until you find a new use for it- be creative with what you already have and you’ll have and you’ll end up with more money now for books, food, or saving.
Written by Brett McKay
Legal Andrew tagged me with a round of bloggy tag. It took me a while to respond, but here it is.
*** begin quote ***
1. Post these rules before you give you the facts.
2. List 8 random facts about yourself.
3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names (linking to them).
4. Leave them a comment on their blog letting them know they’ve been tagged!
*** end quote ***
1. I had in aneurysm in my head in 8th grade. It wasn’t inside my skull, so I didn’t have to worry about brain damage. It was a small little bump on my template that pulsated. I had it removed during an out patient surgery.
2. I hate menudo. Menudo is cow stomach and is a popular dish in Mexico. (It’s also a famous Latin boy band.) When I lived in Mexico, I avoided it like the plague. The few times I had to eat it, I would put lots of chili sauce on it and swallow it whole. Writing about it is giving me dry heaves right now. Yuck!
3. I quit Boy Scouts just one rank away from Eagle. I stopped doing Boy Scouts at the rank of Life Scout, one shy away from Eagle. I sort of regret not earning my Eagle Scout now.
4. I played center in football. If you were to look at my average 180 pound build, you’d never think I had the size to play on the line in football. However, in high school I was tipping the scales around 230. I dropped the weight after I graduated and have been about 180 since then.
5. I love Futurama. When Futurama first came out, I didn’t give it that much attention. I was more of a Simpsons fan, so Fry and Bender were eclipsed by Bart and Homer. However, now that it’s on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, I’ve become a huge fan. The show is absolutely hilarious.
6. My middle name is Hurst. Hurst is my mother’s maiden name. I’ve always thought it was a spiffy middle name.
7. I always include my my middle initial when I have to initial things. I started doing this during high school after some funny guy noticed my first name and last name initials were B.M.- as in bowel movement. It was funny for a while, then it got annoying. I started to put B.H.M in order to disarm the potential joke.
8. My favorite video game is NCAA Football. NCAA Football is the greatest video game franchise in video game history. I can play that game for hours.
Alright, now I have to tag some people. This is the part of these blog memes that I don’t like. Here’s my list. If you’ve already been tagged, please disregard it. If you don’t want to participate, feel free to ignore my tag.
Courtney, Make Money Online
Shona, Rich Minx
Sulley, Life Learning Today
Mark, Productivity 501
The Dude, Clever Dude Personal Finance and Money
Silicon Valley Blogger, The Digerati Life
Tyler, Married and Broke
Liz, Fitness By Liz
Written by Brett McKay
My wife and I are fortunate enough to have our own health insurance. We’ve been paying about $250 a month for health and dental insurance for the both of us since we’ve been married. We’re thinking about adding a little Frugal Law Student to our family soon, so this past week we added maternity insurance for my wife and our health insurance went up another $100. So we’re now paying $350 a month on insurance. Boo. However, with my new job at Westlaw and the extra money I’ve been taking in with my blog projects, we’ll be able to afford it.
My wife and I have seriously looked into using state welfare in order to cover the cost of having a kid. It blows my mind what the cost of child bearing is. You can easily rack up a bill of over $10,000 for the birth of one child. Yikes! With our maternity insurance, it should cover most of the cost. However, we were reluctant to go the welfare route because of the emotional charge that goes along with being a married professional student on welfare. Here are some common things we hear about it.
Programs like WIC and Medical Assistance were not designed for graduate students who will be making a decent living in a few years. They are for the truly poor.
These programs are only for people who have hard times because of unforeseen circumstances. One should not plan on using them.
People have no business having children if they can’t afford to bear the cost of bearing and raising that child themselves.
As you can see, the decision to take government assistance is not only an economic one, but also a moral one for many people. But should it be a moral decision?
Take the first common thought about graduate students using welfare: Programs like WIC and Medical Assistance were not designed for graduate students who will be making a decent living in a few years. They are for the truly poor.
This thought carries the assumption that welfare programs were designed only for people who we feel deserve them. Many people feel soon-to-be-lawyers/doctors/MBA grads who will be making tons of money after they graduate don’t deserve welfare. The problem with this thought is that welfare programs are designed for people that qualify for them. If the government wanted to exclude people with certain circumstances, it could do so. It could exclude married people seeking advanced degrees, but it doesn’t. If you match the criteria, the program is designed for you. This thought also carries the assumption that all students seeking advanced degrees will be wealthy when done with school. As I’ve written before, that’s not necessarily the case.
I find it odd that many people who condemn married students using welfare to subsidize the cost of having children don’t have a problem with the government subsidizing their college education. We can make the same arguments about taking student loans that people make about taking on government assistance for child bearing. People have no business going to college unless they can pay the costs for it themselves.
Some may respond, “But an educated person is an asset to society.” So are children. Especially children who are highly likely to pay a lot of taxes over their lifetime, such as children of graduate and professional students.
But government investment in my education was just smart economics. So is government investment in the bearing of children and their subsequent health care and nutrition. More children mean more potential tax payers. Our current tax model in a large part depends on new tax payers being born each day.
In the end, I don’t have a problem with professional students taking on welfare in order to raise a family. To me, it’s an investment that we as a society make into individuals who are likely to contribute more much more to our economy in the long run. The reason Kate and I decided to pay for our own insurance is that we’re on the edge of missing the qualifying monthly income requirement. To be on the safe side, I’m planning on our income to continue increasing. I don’t want to be in a position where we don’t have any insurance at all.
What are your thoughts? Should professional students use welfare? Drop a line in the comment box.
Written by Brett McKay
People are willing to fork over tons of money for a good shave. First, they’ll buy the latest 5 blade razor. A cartridge of four blades will set you back about $10. Yikes! Then, you have to get the shaving cream that was specially made for the 5 bladed razor. Cost-$5. You’re looking at spending between $15-$20 just on shaving every 6 weeks. Well, my friends. There is another way.
The razor. The first thing I did to start saving money on shaving was dump the Mach 3s, and pick up an old fashion Gillette safety razor. I found mine at an antique store in Vermont this summer. Ask your Grandpa if he still has his old safety razor and maybe he’ll let you borrow it. If you can’t find a used one, you can still buy one new. You can buy a new Merkur Classic on Amazon for about $30.
Once you make this upfront investment, your shave will be cheaper. Safety blades cost about $.40 each. I go to Albertson’s and buy a 10 pack for about $4. Each blade lasts about 10 days if you shave every day. In addition to saving money, you’re reducing the amount of waste you produce. It’s frugal and environmentally friendly.
One caveat on shaving with the safety razor. When you first start out, you’ll probably slice the hell out of your face. Shaving with an old fashion razor requires more skill than today’s modern 5 edged contraptions. Some dude who’s a old school style shaving aficionado has put together a series of videos on how to shave with a safety razor. Here are the videos:
Shaving cream. I use Barbasol shaving cream. A can of it costs $.99 and lasts for weeks. I figure if it was good enough for my Grandpa, it’s good enough for me. To make the lathering experience more enjoyable, I apply it with a boar brush. Not only does using a brush make you feel manly, it also does a better job in getting the cream under your whiskers for better shaving. Note to ladies: My wife has started to use my Barbaosl shaving cream to shave her legs. Her report was that it gave her the best shave she’s ever had. So, you too can skip the gel and go with the old $.99 can.
I’ve been shaving like this for the past two months. I’m happy to report that I’ve been having the best shaves of my life. Holy cow! I’m smoother than a baby’s behind! The shaves are so close that I can often skip a day and still look clean shaven. Besides saving money, shaving the old fashion way makes me feel like a bad ass. It’s nice to take part in a morning ritual that bad asses like my grandpa, John F. Kennedy, and Teddy Roosevelt took part in.
Written by Brett McKay
Ann K. Levine, author of the Law School Expert, has put together an awesome list of law schools that offer law school loans repayment plans. Many schools will either forgive your student loans or help pay them back if you decide to go into public service. I think it’s a great idea that will encourage many talented law students to pursue their goal of public service work, instead of taking the big firm job in order to pay back their students loans. Unfortunately, my school, The University of Tulsa, is not on the list. Boo.
Find out more about Law Schools and their various requirements when you peruse various Legal Resource sites on the web. If a traditional Law School isn’t an option consider Earning an Online Degree to get your foot in the door of a law office.