i The Frugal Law Student | 2007

Law School
Personal Finance

10 Ways to Look Hot Without Breaking the Bank

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.”

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!

Fun and Frugal Thanksgiving Traditions

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.

10 Ways To Be An Excellent House Guest

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Keep your area neat. Before you leave each day, make sure to make the bed and straighten up your room.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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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Welcome Tulsa World Readers!

Written by Brett McKay


Today The Frugal Law Student was featured in this morning’s edition of the Tulsa World. You can see the article here. If this is your first time at the Frugal Law Student, then welcome! Please check out the archives and most popular articles for even more money saving tips. If you like what you see, make sure to sign up for email updates or subscribe to my RSS feed.

My regular readers may have noticed I haven’t posted in about a week. I’ve been cranking away at my law review article hard this past week so I could have it finished before Thanksgiving Break. After several late nights, gallons of Diet Mountain Dew, and lots of help from my wife I was able to finish it last night. What a relief. I’ll be focusing more on studying for finals from here on out, but I’ll be back on a regular posting schedule. Stay tuned!

Photo by  MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World

The Garage Sale Without a Garage: Declutter Your Life & Make Money on eBay

Written by Brett McKay

Garage Sale

One of the things my wife and I do to make some extra money is selling our old stuff on eBay. How do we find stuff to sell? Every 6 months or so, my wife and I take a day to purge ourselves of stuff we no longer use. While most of the stuff is crap and will go to the garbage, every once in a while we will find some great items that can fetch a pretty penny on eBay. Here’s our general method of how we do do our eBay “purge and profit.”

The Purge

Set aside a day for the purge. A thorough purging will take a good part of the day. Set aside weekend where you can devote your self completely to decluttering your house.

Create your declutter attack plan. Plan the order of the rooms you want to declutter. Start off with some easy rooms to get you in the “declutter zone.” If the room has closets, start of with those before you move the rest of the room. If the room has cabinets, purge those first.

Create a “trash” bag an”eBay” bag, and “donate” bag. Have separate bags or boxes for garbage and eBay and sort as you go. Some items, like clothing, are better to donate than sell on eBay simply because they don’t do that well on eBay. Make sure to have bags for donations as well.

Ask the “one year question.” If you’re not sure whether you should get rid of something, ask yourself “Have I used this item in the last year?” If you haven’t it goes; if you have, keep it.

Finish a room before going on the next one. Stay focused on one room at a time. If you try to purge more than one room at a time, you’ll overwhelm yourself and end up quiting before the job is done.

Chunk it or donate it. Take the trash bag and put out with the garbage. Drop the donate bags to Goodwill. Ahhh… doesn’t that feel good?

The Profit

Now it’s time to sell your stuff on eBay. Here’s what has helped my wife and I get maximum profits on our eBay sales.

Research what similar items have sold for. Find out what the eBay market is valuing your item at. If you set too high a price, you won’t get any bids. Just get on eBay’s advanced search to see what items like yours have sold for and how much they are auctioning for now. Take into account the item’s condition when researching as well. If it has some dings and flaws, you should look to start the bid out lower than other items.

Set your starting bid low. Low starting bids attract more bidders. Of course you should base your bids on the demand for the item. If it’s a high demand product, starting low shouldn’t hurt you because more people will be competing for it. If your product is in low demand and you think you won’t get many bids, set the starting price closer to what you actually want to get for the item. This is why researching is so important.

Be descriptive in your description. The more detail you put in your item description the more likely it will sell. Tell how old the item is, how often it has been used, and any flaws it might have. Even if your item has a few dings in it, people will buy IF you’re upfront about it in the description. It shows the buyer you’re an honest eBayer and in the eBay game your reputation is your most important commodity.

Edit your description. Make sure to run a spell check and grammar check on your eBay listing. It just makes you look more legit and boosts that all important eBay reputation.

Create a stellar title. The first thing people will see when searching for eBay items is the title. The key for a good title is description. Try to tell everything you can about the item in the space eBay give your for the title. List things like brand, color, condition, designers, and size. If it’s a book or CD, include the artist. That way if someone searches for the author, but not the title of your book, your item will still come up. Don’t use all caps or punctuations. That just annoys people and shows you have no idea what you’re doing.

Include a picture of the item. Don’t just include one, include several from different angles. Make sure you show any flaws or dings the item might have. Again, if the flaw is minor, it shouldn’t hurt you. The picture of the flaw only shows you’re an honest seller.

Run a 10 day listing. If you start the bid on Thursday and run a 10 day bid, your bid will end on the Sunday of the following week. That means your item will be up for two weekends. More people surf and make purchases on eBay on the weekends, so having exposure on two weekends will definitely help increase the bids.

Be prompt in answering questions. If you get a question from a bidder, answer it quickly. It shows you’re serious about selling your item and only increases your reputation. Plus, it’s just plain courteous.

Be upfront with shipping and handling. Make it clear who’s paying for shipping and handling. One of the biggest scams people run on eBay is selling an item for super cheap, but then charging $15 for shipping. You’ll encourage bids if you’re clear about how much shipping will be.

Don’t use eBay add-ons . I haven’t found these to be very helpful. If you follow these tips, you shouldn’t have to use them.

Ship fast. As soon as the auction is over, head down to the post office and send the package off. Buyers will get to vote on you and how you handle shipping will be taken into consideration. Ship fast to earn a high score!

What are your tips for the eBay “purge and profit?” Drop a line in the comment box!

Getting Clean Done: Effortless House Cleaning For Busy People

Written by Brett McKay


One of my reoccurring goals is to do a better job keeping our living area clean. But because my wife and I are so busy, house cleaning usually gets brushed to the side. Before we know it, the place is a pig pen. Keeping a clean working/living area helps keep stress down and productivity up. Here’s some tricks to help you maintain a clean house with little effort.

  1. Use a timer. You would be amazed how much you can get clean in five minutes. Make it a game. Pick a room, set the timer for 10 minutes, and try to finish cleaning it within the time period. Because you’ll probably running around more than usual, you might actually get a workout from doing this!
  2. Break up house cleaning throughout the week. Instead of doing all your cleaning on the same day, make the task less daunting by breaking it up throughout the week. Make one day bathroom day, another kitchen day, and another bedroom day.
  3. Nightly pickup. Set aside 15 minutes each night to go through the house and pick things up. Once you have everything together, start putting stuff away where it belongs.
  4. Clean as you go. Make cleaning a part of your daily routine so when big cleaning days come up they’re not as hard. For example, after getting ready in the morning take a minute to wipe down the bathroom counter, sinks, and shower. That two minute investment can save you 30 minutes on cleaning day.
  5. Put items where they belong. Develop a habit of putting stuff where it belongs instead of dropping it off in random places. Not only will this help maintain a clean home, it will save you time when you’re trying to find things. No more frantically searching for your car keys when you’re late.
  6. Declutter. Take a weekend to go through your house and declutter. Throw out stuff you don’t use. Less clutter, less to clean.
  7. Clean in between TV commercials. If you watch TV to wind down at night, whenever a commercial comes on, do some simple cleaning. For example, wipe down the kitchen, put things away, or even vacuum. Instead of watching commercials, you can get stuff done, and enjoy your favorite show.
  8. Establish a keep it clean plan. Real Simple has a page with a great plan that shows you how to clean each room in your home in less than 10 minutes. My wife and I are working on establishing this habit. We’re having a hard time, but we’ve noticed that we save lots of time whenever we keep to the plan.