Written by Brett McKay
With Christmas just a month away, its time to start Christmas shopping. If you have a law student in your life and are having trouble coming up with frugal holiday gift ideas, here’s 27 thoughtful gift ideas that cost less than $25.
A box of pens. Every semester I buy a box of Pilot G2 Mini. By the end of the semester, I’ve used them all up. The G2 mini writes well and are small enough to carry around in a pocket easily. This would make a great stock stuffer. Cost:$5 for a pack of four.
Highlighters. Law students read. A lot. And they go through highlighters like gangbusters when reading. Office Depot sells a big tube of 24 highlighters for about $15. This would definitely last the entire year.
Thumb drive. Thumb drives come in real handy at law school. Law students use them all time to transport digital files to other computers. Cost: Varies on the amount of storage space you buy. You can get one with 2GB for about $13.
A yearly planner. Part of effective time management is writing things down. Help your law student start the year off right by buying them a planner for the new year. There are tons of planners to choose from. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Cost: $10-$20. At-A-Glance makes great planners for about $13.
Stapler. My mother-in-law gave me a stapler last year as a stocking stuffer. It was one of my favorite gifts I received. I use it all the time in law school. Cost: $10. Swingline always makes a great stapler.
Personalized stationary. This past semester I wrote a lot of thank you notes after my job interviews. It would have been nice to have some personalized letter head or thank you cards to send to my employers. Over at VistaPrint you can get 30 custom made thank you cards for $20.
|Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Success in law school depends on effective time management. Getting Things Done by David Allen is a great book that sets up an efficient and effective time management system. The idea behind GTD is clearing your mind of all the stuff you got going on in your life and capturing it somewhere else. Once you’ve collected all your information, GTD sets up an efficient system so you can process it all and get things done. I got this book last year and found it to be extremely helpful. Cost: $8|
|Law School Confidential (Revised Edition): A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience: By Students, for Students. This a great book for the soon to be law student. The author covers every aspect of the law school experience-taking the LSAT, surviving first semester, internships, the bar, and finding a job. In addition to describing what the law school experience is going to be like, the author gives practical tips on what a student can do to succeed in law school. For example, the author has a section in which he gives advice on how to study for exams. Cost: $10.|
|What Can You Do With a Law Degree?: A Lawyer’s Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law. Some people aren’t meant to be attorneys. Many find this out while in law school. This book suggests tons of career options one can take with a law degree that doesn’t involve being an attorney. If you know someone who’s in law school, but doesn’t want to be a lawyer, this is a great gift for them Cost: $10.|
|Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text With Exercises. Good legal writing is supposed to be so simple that any non-attorney could read a lawyer’s writing and understand it completely. That’s hard to do. This book can help. In addition to the great tips it gives, it also has exercises you can do to help lawyers write more clearly. Cost: $10|
|Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time. Success in the legal profession requires effective networking. This is probably the best book I’ve read on networking. Lots of great practical advice. Cost: $14|
I’m suggesting if you by DVDs, buy them used. There’s no need to buy new. They won’t care. Prices on used DVDs vary on Amazon, but generally they’re about $5.
|Legally Blonde 2 – Red, White & Blonde (Special Edition). Reese Witherspoon plays a stereotypical blond who gets into Harvard law school. Hilarity then ensues. This is a fun movie to watch when your brain needs a break from studying. Cost: $5 used|
|The Paper Chase. This is a good movie to give to soon-to-be-law student if you want to scare the bejesus out of them. The Paper Chase is about a Harvard law student who finds himself the adversary of the school’s most harsh professor. The professor tears students to shreds with the Socratic method. The story becomes more complex when the student learns he’s fallen in love with the daughter of his nemesis, the contracts professor. I haven’t had any law professors like the one in the Paper Chase, but I think the movie does a good job in showing how engrossed law student can become with the law. Cost: $5 used.|
|The Rainmaker. The Rainmaker, starring Matt Damon and Danny DeVito, is based on the John Grisham novel of the same name. This is your typical David v. Goliath story. Matt Damon plays a young attorney who, having just passed the bar exam, represents a family whose son is denied treatment for leukemia by their insurance company. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Cost: $5 used.|
|A Civil Action. A Civil Action, starring John Travolta, is actually based on a true case. The story revolves around industrial pollution in a New England town that has contaminated the drinking water. Consequently, children start getting sick and die. John Travolta plays the attorney who takes on the polluters. The movie does a good job portraying how civil procedure can be used win or lose a case. Cost: $5 used.|
|A Time to Kill. A Time to Kill another movie based on a John Grisham novel. The film stars Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey (I think he keeps his shirt on the entire time during the film), Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey. Set in Mississippi, Samuel L. Jackson plays a father who takes justice into his own hands and kills the two men who raped his daughter. Sandra Bullock plays an idealistic law student who assists Matthew McConaughey in defending the vigilante father in this racially charged court drama. Of course you can expect Samuel L. Jackson to yell alot, because that’s what Samuel L. Jackson does best. Cost: $5 used|
|The Pelican Brief. Hey! What do you know? Another lawyer movie based on a John Grisham novel. A law student (Julia Roberts) discovers evidence of a conspiracy to kill two Supreme Court Justices. She teams up with an investigative reporter (Denzel Washington)and the two are hunted down by those who don’t want the plot revealed. If only being in law school were this exciting. Cost: $5 used
|Rounders (Collector’s Edition). Matt Damon plays a law student who likes to play high stakes poker. He tries to quit so he can focus on law school and his girlfriend, but we know that’s not going to happen. Cost: $5 used
|Inherit the Wind.This is a classic lawyer movie about the Scopes Monkey Trial. It’s a fictionalized account of the trial, so you can expect some over dramatization. Lots of good actors in this one: Gene Kelly, Fredric March, Spencer Tracy. Even Daren from the classic TV show Bewitched is on it! Yeah! Cost: $8 used|
|12 Angry Men. This is a dramatic tale of standing up for what you believe in, even though everyone else is against you. Henry Fonda plays a juror who somehow convinces his fellow jurors that a murder suspect should be acquitted. In the process, Henry Fonda breaks the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Cost: $5 used|
|To Kill a Mockingbird. Movie based on the popular novel by Harper Lee. You can’t help but get pumped up to defend truth and justice after watching this film. Atticus Finch is the man. Cost: $5 used
|Runaway Jury (Widescreen Edition). This movie’s got a stellar cast. John Cusack, Gene Hackman (the man), and Dustin Hoffman. The story is about jury manipulation in a gun case. Cost: $5 used
|The Client. Brad Renfro (what happened to that guy) plays a kid whose life is in jeopardy after witnessing the death of a Mob lawyer. An attorney (Susan Sarandon) decides to look after him. Cost: $5 used
|The Firm. Tom Cruise plays a recent Harvard grad that takes a job at a prestigious firm. Associates at the firm start dying and the Feds ask Cruise to spy on the partners. Begin suspense. Cost: $5 used
Just For Fun
|Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney If your law student owns a Nintendo DS, then get this game for them. The games consists of five cases that Phoenix takes on. Present findings from the investigation, listen to testimonies, examine witnesses, and determine the truth to prove your client’s innocence. Cost $20 used.|
5 Cubes of 24 Pack of Diet Mountain Dew. I love Diet Mountain Dew. It’s the nectar of the gods that keeps me going in law school. I’ve noticed that a lot of other law students enjoy drinking it as well. What better gift than to give your law student boxes of the drink they love! You can buy a 24 pack of Diet Mountain Dew for about $5 each. With our $25 budget, you can buy 5 cubes. That’s 120 Diet Mountain Dews! That’s enough to last an entire semester if your law student just drinks one a day. Awesome. Cost: $25.
Magazine subscriptions. Law students do a lot heavy reading during the day. Every now and then its nice to read the fluff you find in magazines. You can find some good deals on magazine subscriptions on the internet. Here’s a quick list of places you can check:
Once you make the subscription, go to book store, buy a copy of the magazine, wrap it in a box, and put in a note telling your law student that you’ve given them a subscription. You’ll be their favorite person. Cost: $10-$25
Any other frugal gift ideas for law students? Law students, what kind of gifts would you like to have sitting under the Christmas tree? Drop a line in the comment box!
Written by Brett McKay
I found out today that the Frugal Law Student has been named one of the top 100 blogs by the ABA Journal! What an honor! The fun doesn’t stop there. From now until January 2, people can vote on which blog is the best in its category. The Frugal Law Student is listed under “JDs in Training.” So if you happen to check out the top 100 blawg site, you’ll know where you can find me. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.)
Written by Brett McKay
Editors note: This is a guest post by Jennifer Barnett and Chrissi Nimmo, two of my classmates in my Environmental Law class at the University of Tulsa College of Law. Thanks for the great post!
So, you want to buy a vehicle with better gas mileage. Perhaps a vehicle that is “good” for the environment? But where should you look? Commercials and news reports peak your interest, but you just aren’t sure if you have all the correct information. This article addresses these concerns and more, and will highlight some sources of information that will help you with the decision of which fuel-efficient car to buy.
What is a fuel-efficient car?
One of the most important things to consider when researching fuel-efficient cars is the vehicle’s miles per gallon (mpg) rating. Fuel-efficient cars create lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, one type of greenhouse gas. Burning one gallon of gasoline can produce 20 pounds of CO2. (www.epa.gov) A car that gets 25 mpg, as opposed to 20 mpg, can save the production of 10 tons of CO2 over the vehicle’s lifetime. (www.epa.gov) In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will amend its fuel-efficiency ratings to more accurately reflect today’s driving habits, which are much different than 20 years ago. Consumers have complained that the mpg on the car’s sticker doesn’t match how the car performs. As Dan Edmunds explains, “[t]he reason why fuel economy estimates have been coming out too high is simple: the EPA-specified testing and reporting method has not been updated since 1985.” (www.edmunds.com) A lot about car-driving has changed since ’85 – for example, maximum allowed highway speeds are now up to 80 miles per hour (as opposed to 60 mph a couple of decades ago), and this affects the vehicle’s true mpg. So, note to the buyer: don’t be surprised if you are comparing sticker mpg between a 2007 and a 2008 fuel-efficient car. 2008’s sticker will look like it has a much lower mpg, but will more accurately reflect fuel usage. For the buyer who wants the greenest car they can buy (assuming that the electric car isn’t a real option), the source to turn to is the EPA’s SmartWay green vehicle rating system. (www.edmunds.com) Cars are rated on two separate scales from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. The two scales are: traditional tailpipe pollutants and the amount of CO2 produced per mile. This means that to qualify as SmartWay rated, a car must receive a 6 and a 7 rating, (the minimum combined score must be 13). The Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid are two examples of cars that have achieved the SmartWay rating, with scores of 18 and 19, respectively. For cars, like the Prius and Civic, that earn a score of 9 or higher in each category, the ultimate green rating is bestowed: the car is SmartWay Elite. Other Elite cars include the 2-wheel drive Ford Escape Hybrid and the 2-wheel drive Mercury Mariner Hybrid. (www.edmunds.com)
Which cars are the best-rated?
Across the board for the 2007 year, the Toyota Prius dominated the fuel-efficient car ratings. At 60 city and 51 highway mpg, this car is an efficiency dream. When re-evaluated using the new 2008 EPA standards, the Prius dropped to 48 city and 45 highway mpg. But remember, this is still the best in its class, and is probably what the sticker should have listed in 2007. Other comparable vehicles for fuel efficiency were the Honda Civic Hybrid (in 2007, 49/51; in 2008, 40/45), and the Toyota Camry Hybrid (in 2007, 40/38; in 2008, 33/34). (www.fueleconomy.gov) For trucks, the Ford Escape Hybrid led the pack with 36/31 mpg, followed by the Mercury Mariner Hybrid at 32/29 mpg. (www.edmunds.com) (1)
An important caveat
The buyer who truly wants a car that leaves the least footprint should consider every facet of the fuel-efficient car propaganda, because nothing is ever as it seems, right? Take the Toyota Prius – great mpg, looks pretty good, much better for the environment than, say, a Pinto – right? Well, maybe. If you, the buyer, truly want to be “green,” there’s something you should know. The Canadian plant that makes the batteries in the Prius (the special batteries that allow the Prius to have that awesome mpg and SmartWay rating) pours out poisonous sulfur dioxide fumes that have so totally destroyed once beautiful terrain that it looks like the moon’s craggy surface – astronauts use it to test vehicles slated for lunar exploration. That’s not very green. On the other hand, the Ford F-150 plant is pretty damn green. Sedum on the roof filters rainwater, and the plant boasts several energy-saving techniques. The Ford F-150 may have lower fuel-efficiency rating, but it isn’t destroying the environment around the plant like the Toyota Prius plant. (www.edmunds.com)
Are they safe?
Another concern of people tempted to buy a hybrid may be the safety of these vehicles. Many of them are much smaller than your average car and may give green-minded people nightmares about driving in rush hour traffic surrounded by huge SUV’s. The Toyota Prius, the smallest of the “mass market” hybrids, has a surprisingly good crash test rating. (www.motortrend.com) The Prius receives 5 out of 5 for side impact collisions and 4 out of 5 for front end collisions. (www.motortrend.com) This is comparable to similarly sized gasoline compacts and even better than some of Toyota’s other gasoline models such as the Matrix. (www.motortrend.com) The bottom line on most of these cars is that they are as safe (sometimes safer) than their purely gasoline-driven counterparts.
However, what about the really “green” (and small) cars? The Smart Car, available from Daimler Chrysler and available for sale nationwide in the U.S. beginning in 2008, is very small. It is a mere 8.8 feet long and 5.1 feet wide. (www.smartusa.com) The web site boasts that you can fit two of these cars in one parking space! (www.smartusa.com) So, they are small, but are they safe? As the owner of a small car myself (a Toyota Corolla, which measures 14.85 feet long and 5.57 feet wide, www.toyota.com) and the typical skeptic, I jumped at the recent chance to test drive one of these funny little cars during a national tour stop in Tulsa. As my partner and I had already decided on this paper topic, I took the test drive very seriously, asking questions and taking notes. The promoters assured me that the car had many advanced safety features, such as the “tridion safety cell” (which basically means the entire passenger compartment is made from a unified steel cage). While the SmartCar was fun to drive around city blocks, I think I would be a little nervous to drive this glorified golf cart down the expressway next to a tractor trailer rig. However, because I live downtown and do most of my driving in town, I could see myself in this little car, it definitely has enough “get-up” for city driving and I would always be able to find a parking space!
Everyone wants to help save the environment right? But can the average American afford to go green? The SmartCar, mentioned above, is surprisingly affordable. The base model starts at just $11,590, making it one of the cheapest new cars, green or otherwise, available for purchase. (www.smartusa.com) However, most hybrids are much more expensive than their counterpart gasoline models. For example, the 2008 Honda Civic hybrid has a base price of $22,600 and gets 45 mpg, while the base price for the gasoline model with the same features is just $15,810 and gets 36 mpg. (www.motortrend.com) (www.automobiles/honda.com) So, is the initial difference of $6,790 worth it? Well, $6,790 worth of fuel in the gasoline-only model would get you 90,869 highway miles, whereas in the hybrid, it would get you 113,587 miles, and save you from burning 504 gallons of gasoline, which according to the estimates from above keeps you from emitting 10,080 pounds of CO2 into the air. (Author calculations using the current gas price of $2.69 per gallon). In addition to the gasoline savings, almost all hybrid cars qualify for a federal, and in some cases state, including Oklahoma, income tax deductions. The federal tax deductions range from $650 to $3,150 dollars depending on the model. The above mentioned Civic qualifies for a $2,100 federal income tax deduction. (www.hybridcars.com; www.irs.gov)
The hybrid cars are as safe as pure gasoline models, comparable in price, and have far better fuel economy, so the big question is why everyone isn’t buying them. We think the answer to that question, is they will. (Some of these cars/dealerships even have waiting lists, see www.smartusa.com). Remember, the hybrid car has only been available nationwide in the U.S. since 2004 (the first models, introduced in 1999, had only limited availability). (www.motortrend.com) It seems that as the fuel efficiency, options, and availability of these cars increase, so will their sales. The bottom line is to find the car that fits all of your needs: price, safety, reliability, and “greenness.”
1. Author’s note: there are several great websites to visit for research. Consumer Reports gives the reader a very comprehensive list of fuel-efficient car ratings, including top lists of vehicles tested by their researchers. The EPA’s website is also a great place to get the scoop on past, current and future fuel-efficiency ratings, and includes tips and information from the basic to the technical. Dan Edmunds, mentioned above, heads a terrific website for the technically unsavvy buyer. Mr. Edmunds is the Director of Vehicle Testing, and his articles are informative, and his research is broken down into easy to navigate lists of efficient vehicles.
Written by Mrs. FLS
One of the biggest expenses in a women’s budget comes from beauty and cosmetic products. Here are ten ways you can keep looking great without spending a fortune:
Shop at drugstores like Walgreens or CVS. It may seem that it is necessary to shop at big box stores like Wal-Mart to get the best price on cosmetics, but this is not typically true for the following reasons:
- Drugstores offer great sales. Each week, scour the advertisement flyers that come with the Sunday newspaper. Drugstores will often have “buy one get one free” or “buy one get one half off” deals. When a product you use regularly goes on sale, stock up and save big bucks.
- Stores like Walgreens, CVS, or even ULTA, can save you money because of their return policies. These stores allow you to open a cosmetic product, try it, and then return the used product if you don’t like it. Cosmetic products can be hit or miss. It is a huge waste of money to buy something and then abandon it with 90% of the product left.
- I am not sure about other drugstores, but at Walgreens the “beauty advisors” cut out the Sunday coupons themselves and have a stash behind the counter. Buy your cosmetics at the specific beauty counter and ask the cashier if there are any coupons for the products you are buying. Some of the cashiers are lazy and won’t offer them unless you ask.
If you find something you like, stick with it. The cosmetics aisle sings a siren song. There are a myriad of products found there, and each trumpets a different claim (Anti-aging! Anti-acne! Sunscreen! Moisturizing! Firmness!). The endless options can absolutely paralyze you. You will find yourself confused and vulnerable to an impulse buy. Just keep picking the old standards. You know they work. A new product will probably not change your life.
Use a concealer brush instead of your finger. The concealer will go on smoother and offer better coverage. Yet you will use 1/2 to 1/3 the amount you would with your finger.
Buy products that offer “2 in 1” features. These products can save you both time and money. Here are some examples:
- Moisturizers or foundations with sunscreen.
- Facial cleansing wipes that remove your eye make-up and also clean your face.
- Foundations and concealers that offer “shade matching” properties. These are foundations like Covergirl Trueblend that are able to change color to match your skin tone. This is useful because you may typcially have fair skin, but might occasionally be out in the sun and get browner. With a shade matching product, you don’t have to have different foundations and concealers for your changing skin tones.
In most cases, store brand products work just as well as the pricey department store brands. Cosmetic products are not required to prove their efficacy or undergo scientific testing or approval from the FDA. So much of the higher price comes from sleeker packaging, marketing, and ingredients that apparently come from deep water springs in the tropics.
- For example: According to the NYT: “A study of wrinkle creams published last month by Consumer Reports concluded that there was no correlation between price and effectiveness. The study, which tested nine brands of wrinkle creams over 12 weeks, also concluded that none of the products reduced the depth of wrinkles by more than 10 percent, an amount “barely visible to the naked eye.”
- The Consumer Reports study also found that “a three-step regimen of Olay Regenerist products costing $57 was slightly more effective at reducing the appearance of wrinkles than a $135 tube of StriVectin-SD or a $335 combination of two La Prairie Cellular lotions.”
- Even pricey Proactive doesn’t work any better than a drugstore benzoyl peroxide product at taming acne.
Put your face on a skin care “diet.” Many dermatologists say that putting too much gook on your face is counteractive. According the NYT, Dermatologists are “prescribing simplified skin-care routines requiring at most three steps: soap; sunscreen every day, no matter the weather or the season; and, if necessary, a product tailored to specific skin needs, whether a cream for pimples or pigmented spots, or a vitamin-enriched moisturizer for aging skin. Each product, they say, can be bought at drugstores for $30 or less.”
It is okay to have a couple of splurge items. There are some rare cases where pricier products do work better than the drugstore brands. For example I once tried a friend’s MAC eyeliner and was hooked. It is by far the best eyeliner I have tried. Yet it costs twice as much as the drugstore brands. My solution? I ask for it as a stocking stuffer each year at Christmas. And it is such a great product, it lasts all year.
What are your tricks for saving money on cosmetics and make-up? Drop a line in the comment box and join the conversation!
I’d like to thank my sister Suzanne, a Walgreens beauty advisor and all-around beauty product guru for several of these tips. Check out her blog for more tips about make-up!
Written by Mrs. FLS
Thursday is Turkey Day, a time of feasting and family. Thanksgiving is a lovely holiday, but it is not surrounded with as many traditions and rituals as Christmas. To be sure, turkey, stuffing, and pie are traditions that carry over year after year, but beyond that, it is often hard to create other Thanksgiving traditions.
I’d like to share one frugal and fun tradition that my family has enjoyed for many years. The purpose of Thanksgiving, as is implied in the name, is to take a day to give thanks for all the blessings and good things in your life. This purpose often gets lost under the groaning spread of Thanksgiving edibles.
Therefore, to bring the focus back to gratitude, my family created the “Thankful Box.” Here’s how to incorporate the Thankful Box at your family gathering:
1. Get an empty shoebox and decorate it. My sister created ours when she was a kid and covered all the sides with construction paper and harvest themed construction paper cut outs. Be creative. When you are finished decorating, cut a slot into the box top. Here is the one we use, endearingly worn from many years of enjoyment:
2. The day before Thanksgiving, or on Thanksgiving morning, set out the box and place a post-it note pad and pen next to it.
3. Invite family and friends to write down things they are thankful for on the post-it notes, fold the note up, and place it in the box. They can jot down things both serious and funny (when we had a pet, someone would always insert a note ostensibly from the pet. For example: “I am grateful for my litter box.” For some reason, this never got old). Keep the notes anonymous.
4. During the Thanksgiving meal, and after people have chowed down for awhile, open the box and begin to pass it around the table. Each person draws a note from the box, reads it, and then passes it to the next person. Part of the fun is guessing who wrote which note.
This is always a highlight of the meal and can be both heart warming and laugh inducing. Most importantly, it takes a moment to focus on gratitude.
Remember, frugality involves more than just counting your pennies; it is about living a life in which you are grateful for what you have.
What are some frugal and fun Thanksgiving traditions that you and your family enjoy? Add to the conversation! Drop a line in the comment box.
Written by Brett McKay
The holidays are coming up and millions of Americans will be traveling to visit loved ones. One of the best ways to save money on your holiday trip is to forgo staying at a hotel and stay with family and friends. However, when staying with others make sure to be the best house guest you can be. Here are 10 simple ways how you can be an excellent house guest.
- Show up on time. If you tell your host that you’re going to come in on Wednesday morning, show up at that time. If you’re running late make sure to give a call and update your host when you’ll be arriving.
- Bring a gift. To show your appreciation for the free room and board, bring a gift. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Baked goods are always appreciated.
- Offer to pay for groceries. If your host will be paying for your food while you stay, offer to chip in for groceries. You don’t want to be a complete mooch. Even if your host turns you down, it will show that you really appreciate their generosity.
- Keep your area neat. Before you leave each day, make sure to make the bed and straighten up your room.
- Help with chores around the house. Always be willing to help around the house. Help prepare the big holiday meals, wash the dishes, and take out the trash. Don’t wait for you host to say no, just start helping.
- Disclose your schedule. Let your host know your schedule everyday and do all you can to stick to it. This will help you host plan when to serve meals and how late they need to stay up.
- Always ask. Remember, you’re a guest. Even if someone tells you to make yourself at home, still ask before you start using things. It’s just good etiquette.
- Don’t overstay your visit. Try to keep your stay shorter than three days. Your host has things to do and they can’t put their life on hold forever.
- Strip the bed before your leave. Your host will likely wash the bed linens after you leave. Help make their job easier by stripping your bed before you leave.
- Leave a thank you note. A short handwritten thank you note can go a long way to show your appreciation.
What are other things you can do to be an excellent house guest? Add to the conversation! Drop a line in the comment box.
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