i The Frugal Law Student | 2007

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Are You Going Broke Applying For Jobs? 3 Easy Things You Can Do To Save Money & Time & Still Get the Job

Written by Brett McKay

Right now, it’s interview season for law student across the country.  During the first week of school, I was busy sending out resumes, cover letters, and transcripts. What I discovered during the process is that sending that stuff out gets expensive when you have to buy paper, envelopes, and postage. It also takes a lot of time. In the high stakes game of law school, you often don’t have enough time in the day to fit in sending out resumes. Here’s a list of 3 things I learned during the process of sending out resumes that can help save you time and money.

  1. Don’t buy the fancy resume paper. Most people think that if you want to get the job, you have to get the nice thick marbled resume paper. This stuff can cost something like $13 a box for 100 pieces of paper. While $13 isn’t that much for 100 sheets, I wasn’t planning to send out 100 resumes. I sent just out 9 to different firms in Oklahoma City. So those nine pieces of fancy resume paper would have cost me about $1.44 each. (That’s $13 divided by 9). No way The Frugal Law Student was going to do that! I just use the normal white printing paper my school has in the library. It was free (I guess it wasn’t technically free, my tuition paid for it), and it was convenient. “But Brett, won’t printing on just normal paper leave a bad impression with your future employers?” I haven’t had a problem with it. In fact, I’ve heard that many employers prefer just normal paper because it copies better. When you send your resume in, employers are going to make copies of it. When the background is some marbled, ivory color, it doesn’t copy as well. Also, white paper makes reading text easier. Employers skim resumes, so making your resume as easy to read as possible will them out. So just stick with normal white printing paper. You not only save time, but you also save money. Also, consider making a PDF file of your resume. Most of the firms that contacted me asked that I send them my resume electronically so they can easily distribute it to the attorneys that I’ll be interviewing with. You never know what kind of word processing program other people are using. Because PDF is universal, you won’t have to worry about someone not being able to open up your resume. Being able to create a PDF also shows you’re tech savvy, which is a plus when looking for a job. I use CutePDF to create my PDF files. It’s free and super easy to use.
  2. Buy envelopes in bulk. Last year when I sent resumes out for summer internships, I would just buy manila envelopes as I needed them. But the problem was that each package cost $5 and only had 5 envelopes. Not only did I use these envelopes for resumes, but I would also use them to send books to people on Amazon. It started adding up quick. What I did during the summer is I bought a box of 100 Office Depot Brand manila envelopes for $7. I’ve used almost half of them already. I’m sure I’ll use them up by the of the year. Let’s say I’ve used 50 envelopes so far in the past three months. That comes out to around $.14 an envelope. That’s much better than $1 per envelope I was paying before. I’ve also saved time because I don’t have to drive to the store anymore when I need an envelope. I just go to the closet where I keep them, pull one out, and address it. Easy.
  3. Buy printable labels. I didn’t do this, but I wish I did. Instead of addressing your envelopes by hand, just buy a package of printable address labels. You can get a good deal on these if you buy them in bulk. Like manila envelopes and unlike the resume paper, you’ll actually use these latter on, so it’s worth it. You’ll save yourself a ton of time by doing it. Plus, it just looks better than handwriting. I had to spend a lot of time carefully writing the address of 9 different firms. I wanted everything to be nicely centered and clearly legible. Let the computer do that for you.

There you go. Those are my three things I learned during the job application process that can save you money and time. What do you all do to save money when sending resumes out? Drop a line in the comment box and add to the conversation.

11 Cheap Date Ideas

Written by Brett McKay

Last week, I asked my amazing readers for ideas for cheap dates and the readers really came through with some great ideas. As usual, I’ve included the name of the submitter next to the idea, and if that that submitter has a site, I’ve included a link as well. Thanks to all those who participated. If you have any more ideas, let me know, and I’ll add it to the list.

1. Depending on where you live, making use of scenery is a great tool for cheap dates. I adore buying a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and walking on the pier. It’s traditionally terribly romantic and you get fresh air. One of the best dates my boyfriend and I ever shared was when I took him to a creek near my house and we had a picnic. After a little bit of hiking, we found the perfect spot and spent hours beneath the canopy of the foliage laughing and drinking wine. [Vixen]

2. My wife and I enjoy being at home, we live just out of the city so after a week of being busy with work and running around town we really don’t feel like ‘going out’. We have fun on a Friday night staying home and watching our favorite shows from the week on our DVR and I make dinner. Here is an interesting touch I added last week- my wife really loves the Pasta Milano dish at Macaroni Grill. I spent some time Googling and found the recipe and made it for dinner. It turned out really well (helps if you like to cook anyway). That’s like a frugal ‘night out’ instead of spending $20 at the movies and $50 at dinner. [Financeandfat]

3. Restaurant.com. We use that often, as well as finding out which restaurants have specials on certain nights. The movie theater near us has a $5 movie card – it makes it cheap enough to see a movie. There are also things like HotTix that offer half-price tickets to plays and other shows in our area. [christine]

4. My husband is still in school, and I have only been out for a few months. He has long days at school, so we try to figure out things to make his “school nights” more bearable. We have the Blockbuster Total Access deal, where you get movies in the mail and can trade them in for store rentals (instant gratification!). Its a good deal for us because we were renting a couple a week anyway. [Jamie]

5. One of our favorite weeknight dates is easy and fun-the Baskin Robbins by our apartment has $1 scoops on Tuesdays, so we walk over there and each get a scoop. Delicious and fun, and it gets us out on a walk so we can talk to each other.[Jamie]

6. Amateur sporting events are usually a cheap date…high school football, Little League Baseball, etc. Typically little to nothing to get in, concessions are reasonably price, and you could even take your own snacks. This is all given your wife/girlfriend enjoys sports. [Jeff]

7. My boyfriend and I like to cook dinner and watch a Netflix movie together as a cheap date idea. We get quality time to chat while we’re cooking, and we enjoy it on the coffee table in front of the TV to watch a movie. [strangebird]

8. We also try just going out for ice cream instead of a meal on a weekend night, or going to a restaurant happy hour for a drink. [strangebird]

9. Sometimes during the daytime we’ll go to the park, each with a book, and sit and read together. [strangebird]

10. Brett and I like to go to Borders together and sit and read the magazines and books. Fun and free. [Katie]

11. Making pizza is always a fun date. Pizza and a movie. [Christine]

Can You Afford An Emergency?

Written by Brett McKay

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Sure, you know you should have an emergency account, but are you actually doing it? I’ll admit I’ve been one of those people who has known, but hasn’t acted. My wife and I have done a great job living within our means; however, for a time, we failed to build up a cushion in case something unexpected happened.

As is always the case, something always happens when you least expect it. We’ve had several instances where an emergency has happened, but we didn’t have the money at hand to pay for it. For example, we had the windows on our car broken by burglers and had to replace three tires.

We’ve learned from our mistakes and have started an emergency account. I feel much more comfortable knowing if an emergency strikes, it won’t pinch us as much financially.

Are you ready for these common emergencies?

Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. Some are huge (like a car accident) and others are small (like replacing your tires). But even the small ones can hurt (especially if you’re a poor student). Here’s a short list of common emergencies that can definitely hurt your pocketbook.

  • Replacing four tires on your car. Look to spend about $450 for that.
  • Trip to the emergency room. I had to go to the emergency room last spring and it cost about $300 for the visit.
  • Replacing break pads: $450
  • Filling a cavity. Without insurance- $145. With insurance- $90.

How to set up an emergency account

First, determine how much money you want in your account. Most experts agree that you should aim for three to six months of basic living expenses. Figure out how much you spend each month and multiply that by three. That should be your goal. It may look overwhelming (especially if you’re a broke student like me), but I promise you that you can reach that goal. It will just take some time.

Second, open up an account. I suggest getting an ING Electric Orange checking account for two reasons. First, it has a nice 3.5% interest rate. That’s better than a lot of banks’ savings account interest rate! Your emergency fund will be growing even when you don’t put anything in it. The second reason is that it gives you easy access to your money when you need it. An ING Electric Orange comes with a debit card, so whenever an emergency hits, just whip out the card. The last thing you’re thinking about in an emergency is transferring money from savings to checking.

Third, set up an automatic savings plan. Decide how much you can afford each month to set aside in your emergency fund. It doesn’t have to be much. Just get started! Once you decide, set up an automatic deduction plan from your checking account to your emergency fund. ING makes this super easy.

Simple ways to save for an emergency fund

If you want to reach your savings goal, you’ll have to find more ways to save money. Here’s a quick list of easy things you can do to start saving money for your emergency fund.

  • Brown bag it. Instead of buying your lunch everyday, start bringing it from home.
  • Cut the cable. By getting rid of cable you can save about $50 a month.
  • Entertainment. Instead of going out to eat and seeing a movie, stay in and cook a meal and watch a movie you checked out from the library.

Slash Your Auto Budget With These 4 Car Maintenance Habits

Written by Brett McKay

Cars can be money pits. However, you can reduce the costs you put into auto maintenance by developing a few simple habits.

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1. Wash your car regularly. Set up a weekly or bi-weekly schedule for car washing. Washing your car regularly helps maintain the paint and avoids corrosion. Car washing is especially necessary if you live near the ocean where salt water can have a horrible effect on your car’s body. You don’t have to pay big bucks to have your car washed at a commercial place, you can learn how to wash your car like a pro.

2. Change your oil regularly. Changing your oil ensures good engine health. If you slack on this job, you’ll pay the price by having to replace an engine. Find out how often the car manufacturer recommends you change the oil. This can usually be found in your owner’s manual. As soon as you find out, set up a reoccurring event in your calendar so you’ll never forget when to go change your oil.

3. Rotate your tires. My wife and I have had some bad luck with tires. I’m sure we could have avoided these costs if we had kept a regular tire rotation schedule. This is a job you can easily do your self. You should rotate them 5,000 to 10,000 miles. You can probably do this every time you change your oil.

4. Keep track of your mileage when you fill up. One of the habits my parents have developed is to keep track of their mileage whenever they fill up on gas. Just keep a notebook in your glove compartment and write in the date you filled up, the mileage on your odometer, and how many gallons you filled up. You’ll then be able to compute your car’s fuel efficiency. By being aware of how many miles per gallon your car is getting, you’ll know how to budget for gas in the future. Moreover, you’ll be able to come up with ways to save money on gas.

Ask the Readers: Cheap Date Ideas

Written by Brett McKay

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My wife and I always try to have a date night once a week.  It’s a good way to reconnect after a busy  week of hardly seeing each other. We usually just end up going out to eat. While it’s a nice treat, it’s not always frugal. We’d also like to mix it up some. What are your cheap date ideas? Let us know! Make your cheap date suggestion in the comments below. At the end of the week, I’ll collect all the tips together and write them in a post. If you have a blog, I’ll include a link to your site next to your tip. I’m looking forward to reading your tips!

6 Ways To Save Money On Halloween

Written by Brett McKay

Last week’s ask the reader question was “how to save money on Halloween.” With Halloween just a few weeks away, these 6 tips are timely.

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1. Make your own costume. For example it seems like grapes are always a cheap option for a costume. All you need is a garbage bag and purple balloons. Also my sister was a die (as in singular for dice) one year. My parents just painted a box white with some black spots and cut out some arm holes and leg holes. It was unique, dirt cheap, and cute….although some people strangely thought she was a square cow. Brett told me he once just put a bow on himself, and told people he was “God’s Gift to Women.” Very funny. [Mrs. FLS]

2. We shop all summer at rummage sales for costumes of all kinds and since most stuff is marked between $.50 and $3.00 for little kids things we buy 4-6 outfits. Then we let the kids pick from the pile. This works well against the “but I wanna be…” something elses because they are overwhelmed with selection. Then we tell them they can keep their outfits all year for dress up, there are no complaints and lots of hugs. [Kelly]

3. I always watched for sales on the big packages of candy toward the end of October. I buy a couple of them, plus use coupons which you can find in the Sunday paper. It cost’s me maybe $10.00 for the two which sounds like a lot to pay for candy, but I have over 100 kids come to the house on Halloween night and can hand out two or three pieces. [Helen]

4. Save old clothes, buy after Halloween for wigs, hats, etc. Keep a tub filled with all your finds and keep adding to it during the year. [Helen]

5. Ninja. All you need is black clothes you already own. [Strange Bird]

6. This probably sounds grinch-ish, but I don’t do anything for Halloween, so there’s no expense whatsoever. I know that may not be practical for families with children – but if there are no children at home, I seriously suggest just turning off the front light and not giving out candy. [Marsha]

Thanks everyone for your great ideas! Tune in for the next ask the readers segment!