i The Frugal Law Student | 2007 | September

Law School
Personal Finance

The Frugal Law Student Month In Review- September 2007

Written by Brett McKay

September was a great month for The Frugal Law Student. The biggest news was the redesign of the site. This was the first time I heavily customized a website using CSS, but I think it turned out great. During September we had 8,454 visitors. That was an increase of over 1,000 since August. RSS subscriptions fluctuated wildly during September, but I maxed out at 448! My goal this month is to reach the 500 mark in subscriptions.

Plans For The Frugal Law Student

I’ve been brain storming on how to make the blog better and create more sense of community on the site. Here’s a list of actions I plan on implementing on the site in the next month:

  • I’ve had requests to bring back my debt progress graph. If any of you read my blog since the beginning, you’ll know I had a graph charting my progress paying back my law school debt. Readers expressed that seeing someone else’s progress motivated them in their quest to pay back their debt. I also think people are just interested in other people’s money. 😉 Nonetheless, the chart will be back. I haven’t decided, yet, whether to put it in the sidebar or have it’s own separate page called “The Damage.” What do you all think?
  • Commenter created tips posts. Each week, I’ll pose a problem or question and ask readers to submit their best tips for solving that problem or answering that question by way of commenting. It would be great if readers suggested topics as well. At the end of the week, I’ll collaborate the tips posted in the comments and create a post out of it. I want my readers to take an active part in creating content on The Frugal Law Student and assisting in the direction of the blog. What do you all think?
  • Daily links. Yay or nay? What do you all think about the daily links? I like doing it because 1) it allows me to easily support other bloggers by promoting their articles; 2) it’s a great way to provide my readers with information that they might find useful; and 3) it’s a great way for me to promote old posts that I’ve written. But I’ll stop doing it if enough people disapprove.

Most Popular Posts

When I updated the site, I forgot to put the Google Analytics code in. Consequently, I don’t know what the most read posts were. But here’s a quick list of posts you should definitely check out.


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How the College Cost Reduction and Access Act Affects Law Students

Written by Brett McKay

This is a guest post from Philip G. Schrag, professor at Georgetown University Law Center

[Yesterday] morning, President Bush signed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 (H.R. 2669), which includes two provisions that will make it much easier for law students who graduate with high educational debt to have long-term public service careers.  The bill includes a section creating an income-based repayment (IBR) plan that enables graduates to make much smaller monthly payments when their incomes are low: the IBR formula caps repayment at 15% of (AGI minus 150% of the federal poverty level).  Interest not paid because of the IBR limit is capitalized for later payment, but if any funds are still owing at the end of 25 years, that amount is forgiven by the federal government.

Even more important, if the borrower spends ten years in full-time public service while paying through IBR, the remaining debt is forgiven at the end of those 10 years rather than 25 years. The new law defines public service in terms of a long list of types of jobs, plus a catch-alls that include all government jobs and all employment by all 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations.  Loans that qualify for IBR payment and forgiveness include nearly all the loans that most law students use: Stafford loans and Grad PLUS loans, whether they are government-guaranteed or government-extended.  If the borrower has government-guaranteed (FFEL) loans, they must be consolidated into a federal direct consolidation loan before a repayment counts toward the ten years of IBR repayment before forgiveness occurs.  For federal direct loan recipients or those who have consolidated into federal direct consolidation loans, the ten years can start on Oct. 1, 2007, but the IBR formula doesn’t start until July 1, 2009.  Meanwhile, graduates may use income-contingent repayment (ICR), which also qualify for forgiveness.  ICR payments are higher than IBR payments but much lower than standard ten-year repayment requires.

I have written an article for the Hofstra Law Review explaining this new law in depth and criticizing two of its features.  It is posted at http://www.law.georgetown.edu/news/releases/documents/Forgiveness_000.pdf and also on SSRN at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1014622

Students and graduates may compute exactly how the law will affect them by consulting the calculators at http://www.finaid.org/calculators/ibr.phtml (IBR) and http://www.finaid.org/calculators/icr.phtml (ICR).

Philip G. Schrag

Georgetown University Law Center


Do It Yourself Pottery Barn Halloween Countdown Calendar

Written by Brett McKay

This is a guest post from my sister, Shannon Bolt.

Many people, including myself, saw the cutest Halloween Countdown Calendar last year in the Pottery Barn Catalog. But I’m sure many people, including myself, were not willing to fork over $60.00 plus shipping for this cute decoration- not when you know you can make it yourself for way cheaper and not pay shipping-BONUS!! So, after a few pictures from my cousin’s rendition of it, I made mine. It is a little time consuming, but so worth the effort when it’s done. Here are my instructions. Warning: They may be a little too basic for some, but you can make yours however you want.

Here’s What We’re Going For


This is what the $60 Pottery Barn Calendar looks like. Pretty cute, huh? BUT IT’S $60!! We’re about to DIY on this bad mamajama. Get ready.

Download the instructions for printing.

Gather Your Materials

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Felt glue
  • Rotary cutter or scissors (I found that a rotary cutter works best, but scissors will do.)
  • 1 ½ yards of orange felt
  • 1 ½ yards of black felt
  • 2 pkgs large orange ric rak
  • Various colors of craft foam with sticky backs (I used purple, lime green, yellow, black, red, white)
  • 1 sheet of sticky back orange felt
  • 1 sheet of sticky back white felt
  • Halloween craft foamies
  • Black embroidery floss
  • Needle
  • Dowel rod
  • Halloween ribbon
  • Alphabet/Number stencils 1″-2″

The total cost of supplies is probably at most $20. Much cheaper than the $60 Pottery Barn is charging.

It’s Construction Time!

  1. The first thing you want to do is cut 35 4″ wide x 3 1/2″squares. A quilters square makes easy work of this, but if you don’t have one you can make a pattern out of a paper grocery bag.
  2. Then cut your black felt 44″ long x 25″ wide.
  3. Arrange the 35 squares so that you have 7 down and 5 across. If you want to leave room at the bottom to have your family name monogrammed, leave it. If not, arrange the squares accordingly. The measurement between columns is approximately ¾” and between rows is approximately 1 ¼” to 1 ½”. I say approximately because some of them are not. Just make it look like it’s even. Leave room on the sides, top, and bottom for the ric rac.
  4. Glue the squares on using the felt glue. Let dry.
  5. While it is drying, stencil and cut out your numbers. I used a variety of different styles of stencils. This is totally up to you. If you can free hand numbers, go for it! This is the fun part-where you can truly make this your “OWN”. Also stencil the letters for the “HAPPY HALLOWEEN” title on the sticky back orange felt. I used a 1 ¼” tall stencil, stuck the letter on the white sticky back felt and cut around it leaving about a ¼” border.
  6. When the squares are dry, take your black embroidery floss, and using 3 or 4 strands, sew the squares on. This adds a more homemade look and added security. I completely sewed the orange square to the black felt on the two sides and bottom. For the top I just sewed through the orange leaving the top open for treats.
  7. After the squares were sewn on, I arranged the title at the top. You should just be able to stick it on, but if you want added security use a little of the felt glue.
  8. Arrange your foam numbers and Halloween craft foamies on each square. I used a little felt glue on each just to make sure they stay on.
  9. After it is dry, sew a pocket at the top for your dowel rod to go through, tie some ribbon on the rod and WALLA!! You have your own version of a very pricey advent calendar.

Download the instructions for printing.

The Finished Product

Here’s what the finished product looks like:


And the Pottery Barn version for comparison:


This will make a great weekend project with your kids to help them get into the Halloween mood and you’ll save yourself $60. You can use these same instructions and adapt the theme to a Christmas so you can have your own homemade advent calendar.

How To Use

You can put treats in each pocket and let your kids take one out one each day until Halloween. Just buy some candy in bulk and put some in there. You could also put a special messages to each of your kids each day of the week. Another idea is to make a little skeleton or Frankenstein that can the kids can jump from each day to the next. The possibilities are endless!

links for 2007-09-24

Written by Brett McKay

links for 2007-09-23

Written by Brett McKay

7 Tips To Getting Things Done In Law School (And In Life!)

Written by Brett McKay


To say law school is hard is an understatement. Not only is it intellectually challenging, it is a huge time commitment. I have classes, reading and writing assignments, outlining, job interviews, extracurricular activities, and (somehow) a social and family life to cram into one week. Sometimes it feels like I can never get it all done. But success in law school requires me to get as much of it done as I can. That’s why effective time management is the key to law school success. Here’s a list of 7 things you can do to help you manage your time more effectively in law school and in your life.

  1. Get a planner or calendar. You can’t get by in law school without some sort of calendar or planner. There are tons of options for one to choose from. You can go with a paper based system or a digital one. Each one has their pros and cons. You can find good paper based planners at any office supply store or you can make your own like I did. If you want to go digital, Microsoft Outlook, iCal for Mac, and Google Calendar are great applications for planning. Find what works for you.
  2. Plan and review weekly. After you get your calendar, pick a day each week to review the past week and plan the upcoming one. When you plan, first start with scheduling “hard” appointments. These are items that you have to go to like classes, interviews, or Dr. appointments. Second, plan when you’re going to read each day. Set aside enough time to finish the assignment. Third, plan when you’re going to outline and review notes. Finally, plan when you’re going to work on any writing assignments. At the end of the week, review what you got done, what didn’t get done, and how you can improve next week.
  3. Plan and review daily. Because you’ve already planned your week out, daily planning shouldn’t take that long. It’s basically to review what you got going on that day so you can prepare yourself accordingly. You’ll also be able to make changes to your plan if circumstances have changed.
  4. Write everything down. Don’t trust your brain to remember assignments. Always write things down. Create a place where you can collect information in one spot. If you have notes everywhere, your brain has to remember where you put each one. It does you no good to write things down if you can’t remember where you wrote it down. If you use a planner, that’s a perfect place to collect information. If a planner isn’t your thing, carry around a couple of 3×5 index cards in your back pocket. Whenever you want to remember something, write it down. At the end of the day, review the notes you’ve collected and sync them with some sort of calendar.
  5. Practice the 45/15 rule. If you have trouble with procrastinating or if the thought of reading for 2 hours straight makes you want to stab yourself in the eye, try implementing the 45/15 rule. What you do is make a commitment to work 45 minutes straight without distractions. After 45 minutes, reward yourself by taking a 15 minute break. Surf the web, go to the vending machine and buy a pop, or go talk to someone. After the 15 minutes is up, get back to work for another 45. By breaking up your time like this, you’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed. It also aids in beating fatigue, so you’ll be even more productive when you’re actually working.
  6. Avoid distractions. Distractions can kill any well thought out plan. Find out what your distractions are and kill them. Mine is surfing the web. That’s why whenever I need to get something done, I’ll turn off my wireless so I’m not tempted to surf the web.
  7. Read up on productivity and time management. There are tons of great resources out there on how to be more productive. Two great books are Getting Things Done by David Allen and First Things First by Stephen Covey. They’re both easy reads and filled with practical tips on how to be more effective with your time. On the web, there are tons of blogs dedicated to productivity and time management. Three of the best resources include lifehacker.com, zenhabits.net, and lifehack.org. Also make sure to check out Legal Andrew for articles on productivity from the law student’s perspective. I also write quite a bit about productivity here at The Frugal Law Student, so make sure to subcribe to my RSS feed.

What do you all do to get more done during the day? Please share with the rest of us!