i The Frugal Law Student | Clothing

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This Man Was Right…

Written by Tony Marrone

I posted recently over at Wise Bread about my exorbitant dry cleaning weekly bill. If anyone can relate to spending too much money to clean clothes you don’t even really like to wear, it must be law students. Whether you’re schlepping back-and-forth to your externship with a judge, or wearing a suit to try to impress the partners at the firm you’re interviewing with, dry cleaning can put a serious cramp in your budget.

I’ve gone through many dry cleaners, and the retirement of my most recent dry cleaner (real old-fashioned Italian guy who was in the business since his father opened up shop in 1933) prompted me to take a serious look at the need for dry cleaning.

Most personal finance blogs do not go in-depth on how dry cleaning can hurt you financially, but I have found that I sometimes spend in excess of $500 a month on dry cleaning. With that in mind, I’ve developed a two-step plan to relieve my dry cleaning woes:

1. Dry Cleaning At-Home Kits

Dryel is the first product that popped into my head. I’ve seen their commercials, and it seems Dryel has the market cornered on at-home dry cleaning kits. These seem straightforward, and I have it on good advice that the Dryel product is much more environmentally-friendly then the stuff used by most dry cleaners. Also, even when you factor in the cost of running the dryer a couple extra cycles a week, this type of product should save me tons of money on dry cleaning sweaters, vests and polo shirts.

2. Professional Grade Steamer

Rowenta makes the best irons, so they must make the best commercial steamers as well. The prices might seem a little steep, but I think this product will pay for itself in less than a month. My friend has a steamer that he uses for suits and dress shirts, and he swears to me that he doesn’t even use an iron. I already have a pants press (recycled from my parent’s garbage) so the steamer, coupled with the Dryel kit should complete my trifecta of at-home dry cleaning products.

I’m interested to hear what you have to say. Who among us spends way too much on dry cleaning, and are you willing to give up the cleaner for a do-it-yourself solution? What are some other products/services that law students pay way too much for?

5 Ways To Save Money On A New Suit

Written by Brett McKay

For attorneys, a nice conservative suit is the required uniform. If you haven’t started law school yet, you’ll want to include a new suit in your list of back to school supplies. You’ll not only need it for job interviews, but if you plan on taking part in moot court, you’ll have to wear one, too.

But at $200-$300 a pop, suits are expensive, especially for a starving law student like yourself. Here are 5 tips on how you can save tons of money on your next suit, but still look like a million bucks.

  1. Buy suits on sale. Read the department store newspaper inserts religiously. Stores like Dillard’s or JC Penny have suit sales quite regularly. You can easily score a sharp looking suit for less than $200 if you keep your eyes open.
  2. Avoid add-ons. Remember that department store salesman are paid on commission, so they’re going to try to up-sale you with belts, socks, and cufflinks. Buying in store will set you back. Say “no thanks” and go to a discount department store to buy your accessories.
  3. Stick with classic designs. Don’t buy trendy suits for two reasons: 1) law is a very conservative profession. If you show up in suit that looks like it should be on a run way model, you’ll probably get funny looks from judges; and 2) trends come and go. If your suit goes out of style, you’ll probably be tempted to fork over more money to buy another. Go with a classic. You’ll never go wrong.
  4. Don’t have your suit custom made. Custom made suits will have to wait when you are charging clients $400 an hour. In law school, saving money comes before luxury. Just buy your suit and have them tailor it in store. You’ll get the same custom made feel for a fraction of the price.
  5. Buy a gently used thift store suit and have it tailored. Finding a nice thrift store suit will take a lot of patience and time; however, if you have both, you can save big bucks. I found a really sharp looking suit at a consignment store for $10. I took it in to a local men’s clothing store and they tailored it to my measurements for another $10. Total cost: $20.

Frugal Tips From Ralph Nader

Written by Brett McKay

ralphnader_-_nader_ralph.jpg

You might not agree with his politics, but you have to agree that Ralph Nader is one frugal guy. While Nader has assets in the millions, he still lives like he’s a starving law student. Here are a few tips we can learn from Mr. Nader’s life

  • Don’t own a car. Ralph Nader hasn’t owned a car since 1955. I guess he swore off them after he wrote Unsafe At Any Speed.
  • Live in a boarding house.
  • Don’t upgrade your technology. Mr. Nader still uses a black and white television. I can’t remember the last time I saw a black and white TV.
  • He isn’t married and he doesn’t have kids. I plan on having a family. The money savings don’t outweigh the joy of family life. However, I can see how not having kids would save me a ton of money. Clothes, sports camps, food, and education costs can add up. As my father-in-law says, “Kids are money sucking leaches.”
  • He buys clothes at the Army Surplus Store. Nader wears socks that he bought 20 years ago an Army surplus. Not only are the clothes cheap at surplus stores, they’re made to last.
  • He buys his clothes at thrift stores. Sure, Ralph doesn’t have the latest fashion, but he never looks like a schlump. You always see the guy in a suit and tie. However, instead of spending hundreds of dollars on his wardrobe, he’s only spending a few bucks.

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[tags]Ralph Nader, frugal[/tags]

How To Remove A Clothing Stain With Products From Around The House

Written by Brett McKay


Stains happen. If you don’t get stains on your clothing on a regular basis, it means you’re not living. If done properly, stains can be removed quickly and effectively. While you can buy several stain removing products from the grocery store, these products can be expensive. Additionally, when you really need the product, you don’t have time to go buy it. This post will give you tips on how use products from around the house in order to nip stains in the bud. By following these tips, you’ll not only save your clothing, you’ll save your money as well.

General Guidelines

  • Work on the stain from the wrong side of the fabric. This keeps you from pushing the spot into the fabric instead of out of it.
  • Always blot. Never rub.
  • Consider the type of fabric you are working with. Delicate fabric requires a gentle approach.
  • Catch the stain while it’s fresh. It will make it easier to remove.
  • Never apply heat or put a piece of clothing in the dryer until you are sure the spot is removed

Stain Removing Arsenal

  • Ammonia. Fights those gross yellow stains under your armpits.
  • Alcohol. Great for grass stains.
  • Hydrogen peroxide. 3 percent hydrogen peroxide is great for removing blood stains. For stubborn stains, combine ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide with 1 teaspoon of ammonia. This is safe for whites and colorfast clothes.
  • Denture cleaning tablets. Great for white table linens with food stains and white cottons with stains. Dissolve one tablet per ½ cup of water. Pour directly on the stain and let sit for 30 minutes.
  • Shampoo. Work the shampoo into the ring around the collar for quick removal.
  • Shaving cream. Just moisten the stain with some cool water and rub the shaving cream in. Flush with cool water. If it doesn’t get rid of the spot completely, you’ll at least have a head start on it.
  • Club soda. Apply to any fabric that can be treated with water. Club soda will keep spots from becoming stains.
  • Meat tenderizer. To remove protein based stains like milk, blood, and egg, apply cold water to spot and sprinkle on the unseasoned meat tenderizer. Let it soak about an hour and launder as usual.

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[tags]clothes, household tips, stains[/tags]

Iron Your Shirt Like a Pro

Written by Brett McKay

woman_ironing.jpg

You’re set for a big interview with law job of your dreams. You have the suit and your belt matches your shoes. However, you have a wrinkly shirt. Don’t think you can hide the fact that your shirt is wrinkly by putting your suit coat over it. People can tell you have a wrinkly shirt on, which means the person interviewing you can tell that you have a wrinkly shirt on. In interviews, details matter. If you want the job, you better look like you have your act together, which includes a well pressed dress shirt.

The Iron Prep

  • Set the iron temperature. For all cotton fabrics, set the temperature for high; lower for part (or all) synthetics. High temperatures can melt synthetics. You don’t want a melting shirt in addition to a wrinkly one.
  • Iron on a padded surface. It makes ironing easier.
  • Dampen the shirt. The key to good ironing is to have a slightly damp shirt. Take the shirt out of the dryer before it completely dries. If the shirt is already dry, spray a down with some water until slightly damp.

The Iron Plan

Don’t just iron randomly. It’s less efficient and less effective. Follow these 7 steps for ironing nirvana:

  1. Collar. Lay it flat, wrong side up, pressing from the points towards the center. Then press it on the right side.
  2. Yoke: The yoke is the panel that covers the shoulders. Lay it over the widest part of the ironing board to do the job.
  3. Cuffs: Iron the insides, then the outside.
  4. Sleeves: Smooth the sleeve flat with your palm and iron it, then flip it over and do the other side. Then do the other sleeve. Use the seams as a guide on how to flatten it.
  5. Back: Lay it on the wide part of the ironing board, too.
  6. Front panels: Start with the pocket, then do the panels. The little grooves on your iron help you press around buttons.
  7. Retouch: Retouch the collar and cuffs if they need it

The Iron Finish

Hang the shirt on a hanger. Don’t put it in your closet until it’s cool or it will just get wrinkly again.

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[tags]homemaking, clothing, ironing[/tags]

180 Money Saving Tips to Turn Your Financial Life Around 180 Degrees

Written by Brett McKay

Here’s a list of 180 money saving tips that can turn your financial life around 180 degrees. These are things that I have learned while reading blogs or other books. I’ve tried to provide links to blog posts and other articles that elaborate more on the tip. This was a fun exercise. While I personally don’t practice every single tip listed, it was a good way to find out how I can do better on saving money.

Automobile/Transportation

  1. Wash and vacuum your car at home.
  2. Buy a used car. New cars drop significantly in value as soon as you drive off the lot.
  3. Get rid of your car. If you’re married, just have one.
  4. Keep your tires inflated at the correct pressure.
  5. Do not carry unneeded weight in your vehicle. Excess weight puts a heavier load on the engine.
  6. Accelerate slowly and smoothly. Avoid jackrabbit starts. Get into high gear as quickly as possible.
  7. Use your air conditioner only when absolutely necessary.
  8. Avoid unnecessary stopping and braking. Maintain a steady pace.
  9. Do not rest your foot on the clutch or brake pedal. This causes needless wear and poor fuel economy.
  10. Keep the front wheels in proper alignment. Improper alignment not only causes faster tire wear, but also puts an extra load on the engine.
  11. Rotate your tires regularly. Rotating tires slows down tire wear.
  12. Wash your car regularly. A dirty car can damage paint.
  13. Avoid heavy traffic. You’ll save on gas by not idling as much.
  14. Change your own motor oil.
  15. Observe speed limits. You’ll save money on gas and avoid costly speeding tickets and the resulting increase in insurance rates.
  16. Pay your auto insurance premiums annually instead of every six months. You’ll get a lower rate.
  17. Use the bus to get to school or work.
  18. If possible, ride your bike or walk to your destinations.
  19. Carpool with co-workers.

Clothing

  1. Find an image consultant in your town and ask if you can have the clothes their clients get rid of.
  2. Don’t buy into trends. Keep a wardrobe of classic pieces, so you don’t have to update your clothes every year.
  3. Buy clothes at a thrift store.
  4. Wear clothes more than once before washing them. You’ll reduce wear on your clothes and save energy by not washing so often.
  5. Shop at outlet stores.
  6. Avoid buying clothes that require drying cleaning.
  7. Cut dryer sheets in half to double the value of each box.
  8. Buy your winter clothes at the end of winter/beginning of spring. Buy summer clothing at the end of summer/beginning of fall.
  9. Shop at discount stores like TjMax and Ross.

Food

  1. Forage for food. Check out a book on local edible plants and start stocking up on them.
  2. Buy a water filter and make your own bottled water.
  3. Buy bread at the bread outlet store and freeze excess loaves.
  4. Make meals that are left over friendly, like soups and casseroles.
  5. Join a food co-op.
  6. Make dinners in a crock pot
  7. Buy in bulk.
  8. If you buy soda, buy 2 liter bottles instead of cans. It’s much cheaper per unit price.
  9. Have potluck dinners.
  10. When you eat out, share meals. Most restaurant meals are big enough for two people.
  11. If you don’t have someone to share it with, split the meal and half and put when half in a to-go box for next day’s lunch.
  12. Skip the soda when you go out to eat, and drink water.
  13. Quit smoking.
  14. Make your own coffee. Better yet, stop drinking coffee.
  15. Quit drinking alcohol.
  16. Quit drinking soda.
  17. Find cheaper café’s and restaurants to go to.
  18. Cook your own meals.
  19. Take a list when you go shopping and stick to it.
  20. Buy generic brand products at the supermarket.
  21. Bring your lunch to school or work instead of buying it.
  22. Grow your own vegetables.
  23. Use coupons and loyalty cards at grocery stores.
  24. Reduce meat consumption.
  25. Eat cereal instead of fast food. It’s cheaper and usually healthier.
  26. Have a late lunch/early dinner when going out to eat. You can save on lunch menu items.
  27. Buy cheap food coupons on eBay.
  28. Join clubs at school and take advantage of free food at meetings.
  29. Don’t buy prepackaged cheese or meat. Go to the deli and have them slice it for you. You can get more for you money.
  30. Collect vegetable scraps in a bag in the freezer. As soon as it’s full, make a soup out of them.
  31. Buy whole roasted chickens. When you have used all the meat, throw the bones into a soup.

Housing

  1. House sit. Older affluent couples often leave their house for months at a time for vacations and need someone to watch it while they’re gone. Not only can you get free rent, you might get some extra cash.
  2. Become live in help. Some older people need help around the house, someone to cook meals for them, or just someone to talk to. You can live rent free this way.
  3. Relocate to an area with a cheaper cost of living.
  4. Share an apartment. Better yet, move in with your in-laws.
  5. Make an extra mortgage payment each year. You can save money on interest.

Household

  1. Buy furniture at a consignment store.
  2. If you need a tool, see if you can borrow it from someone before you go out and buy it.
  3. Don’t throw away “dead” batteries. Remove them from your radio and use them in quartz clocks. These clocks take such a small amount of power that batteries too weak to run anything else may have enough power to run a clock for a while.
  4. Wash and reuse plastic bags.
  5. Clean your own carpets. You can rent carpet cleaning machines for about $10.

Health Care

  1. If you take a prescription medication on a regular basis, ask your doctor to write a three month prescription. Instead of paying three co-pays, you only pay one.
  2. Go to the dentist at your local dental school. Students need people to practice on. You can get all your dental needs fulfilled at a reduced cost.
  3. If your doctor gives you a prescription, ask if he has samples that he could give you.
  4. Use your local park’s playground as a workout station. Monkey bars can be used for pull-ups and leg lifts. The park will also have a trail where you can run.
  5. If you go to school, use the school’s gym. It’s free.
  6. Brush and floss your teeth. You’ll save on dental expenses.
  7. Eat right and exercise daily. You’ll reduce health costs.
  8. If you join a gym, find one that offers a month to month contract. That way if for some reason you stop going, you won’t be stuck with a 1 year contract that you have to pay for.

Beauty and Hygiene

  1. Use baking soda for toothpaste.
  2. Use baby shampoo for a makeup remover.
  3. Buy makeup online.
  4. Use makeup samples.
  5. Don’t throw out small pieces of bar soap. Wet the small piece and the new bar and stick them together.
  6. Add water to your shampoo to get more uses.
  7. Stop using shaving cream. Shaving cream’s purpose is just to keep your beard wet. You can maintain a wet beard in the shower.
  8. Cut your own hair.
  9. Simplify your beauty products. Do you really need 5 different types of body lotions?

Travel

  1. Pack your travel meals in advance.
  2. Buy snacks at the grocery store, not at roadside convenience stores.
  3. Plan trips where you have friends and family. You might be able to score free room and board.
  4. Go camping.
  5. Stay at a college dorm room when traveling. Many universities rent out dorm rooms at a decent price during the summer.
  6. Book your flights and cruises way in advance. You can get lower prices.
  7. Always negotiate hotel room prices. Hotel rooms are like highly perishable food: if they’re not used that day, they’re wasted. You can almost always get a better deal just by asking, but do it with a nice smile face-to-face when you check in, or with friendly calls direct to the hotels you’re considering. It won’t work if you just call national 800 numbers, because they can’t negotiate. If your flight is overbooked and the airline offers a voucher if you take a later flight, take it.
  8. When flying, bring your own snacks. Airport food is expensive.
  9. Avoid renting a car at the airport. You’ll find more competitive rates, plus avoid extra surcharges at car rental agencies away from the convenience of the airport.
  10. Time your stay for best hotel deals. Plan the timing of your stay according to the type of place you visit. Hotels in cities are usually cheaper on the weekends, when business travelers aren’t staying there, but hotels in resort areas or other places that are popular with leisure travelers are often cheaper during the week
  11. Tourist spots sell everything from film — to capture those special moments — to sunscreen, bottled water and aspirin for prolonging your fun, at a higher cost. Purchase these items before and save.
  12. Travel after peak season. This might not be an option if you have school-age children. But families with infants and toddlers can take advantage of discounted rates by traveling in the fall.
  13. Bring an empty water bottle with you to the airport. Bottled water at airports is expensive. While you can’t bring any liquids past security, you can bring an empty bottle. Put it in your carry on and fill it up as soon as you get past security.
  14. Stay in hostels when traveling overseas. While you do have to share a bathroom and a room, you can stay for as little as $5.
  15. If you need a quick get away with your significant other, spend a night in your local bed and breakfast.

Entertainment

  1. Buy an Entertainment book. The initial investment is about $20, but there’s hundreds of dollars in entertainment savings in it.
  2. Join Gamefly for cheap video game renting.
  3. Trade video games, DVD’s and books with your friends.
  4. Start a book or film club. After reading the book or watching the film, discuss it.
  5. Have a game night with friends.
  6. Attend movies at dollar theaters.
  7. Take advantage of your local university. Colleges often have free entertainment events.
  8. Join the library.
  9. Read magazines for free at bookstores.
  10. Check out DVD’s from the library, rather than renting them from the video store.
  11. Find cheaper hobbies like blogging or jogging.
  12. Go on a hike, take a walk in the park, or go to the beach. Some of the nicest things to do in life are totally free.
  13. See if your local zoos, museums, entertainment parks and water parks have annual passes. Often the annual passes may not cost more than the price of a couple of visits.
  14. Save money on movies by going to the matinée.
  15. Watch amateur sports. High school athletic competitions are cheap and can be just as exciting as the pros.

Banking and Investing

  1. Start an automatic savings plan with your bank.
  2. Use your credit card to make all purchases, but pay it off each month. That you’ll earn cash back or travel points.
  3. Invest in index funds. There are hardly any costs in purchasing and owning index funds.
  4. Open an online savings account. Most online accounts offer a 4% interest rate. That’s much better than the 1% you get at your current bank. E-mail me for an ING referral.
  5. Avoid ATM fees. Only withdraw money from machines approved by your bank. 7-11 doesn’t have a surcharge.
  6. Pay bills by direct debit. You save on postage and avoid the risk of paying late fees.
  7. If you use checks, don’t buy them from the bank. You can get a better deal with other printing companies.
  8. Don’t overdraft on your account. You’ll save yourself money on penalties.
  9. Invest with a cheap online brokerage company like Sharebuilder.

Children

  1. Buy gender neutral baby clothing so you can use them again with the next baby.
  2. Make your kids Halloween costumes. It’s cheaper and more fun.
  3. Buy your baby toys from the thrift store. Toys suck these days. Give your child the gift of old school toys that actually requires an imagination.
  4. Buy your baby’s and tot’s clothes from the thrift store. Your kid isn’t going to notice the difference between a thrift store onezy and a Gap onezy.

Utilities

  1. Use a clothes liner to dry clothes. You’ll save on your energy bill.
  2. Replace old appliances with ones that have Energy Star approval.
  3. Regularly clean the coils on the back of your refrigerator. A clean coil uses less energy.
  4. Make sure your freezer is full. An empty freezer requires more energy to keep cold.
  5. Use washable coffee mug instead of Styrofoam. You’ll save money and help the environment.
  6. Replace all your incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent lighting.
  7. Turn off the lights when not using a room.
  8. Turn off your appliances when not using them.
  9. Don’t use a cell phone.
  10. If you have a cell phone, don’t buy the extra features like text messaging and web access.
  11. If you have a cell phone, get rid of your land line.
  12. Get rid of cable. Who needs 100 channels of crap?
  13. Use the internet at school or the library. Not only will you save money, you’ll save time.
  14. During the winter, leave the oven open after you cook to heat the house.
  15. Sign up for Skype for long distant phone calls.
  16. Turn your heater thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in the summer.

Miscellaneous

  1. Get a digital camera. You save money on film.
  2. Don’t own a pet. You’ll save money on food and shots.

Shopping

  1. Avoid impulse buying. Practice tantric shopping.
  2. Buy as much as you can online.
  3. Negotiate the price on big ticket items like cars, electronics, and large appliances.
  4. Use cash as a negotiating tool. Nothing makes a seller’s mouth water than cold hard cash in their hand.
  5. Before you buy something, ask if the item will be put on sale in the near future.
  6. Don’t buy extended warranties. Eighty percent are never used, and they’re a major profit item for the vendor. That’s why they push you so hard to buy them!
  7. Keep receipts and send in rebate slips. Very few consumers actually return rebate coupons. Which is, of course, exactly what the manufacturers are hoping for.

Low cost ways of making extra money

  1. Sell your old stuff, like CD’s and books on eBay and Amazon.
  2. Turn your hobby into a business. Pretty much anything you do can be turned into a business of some sort.
  3. Sign up with an online survey company like Survey Spot.
  4. Become a mystery shopper. Not only can you make some extra money, you might get some free stuff as well.
  5. Have a yard sell.
  6. Start a blog and put Adsense on it. You might only earn 4 cents a week, but it’s something.
  7. Become a consultant. Do you know a lot about a particular skill? Put that knowledge to work by helping others.
  8. Do freelance work on the side. If you’re a good writer, photographer, artist, or programmer you can make some extra money by selling your talent to companies.
  9. Start an errand Service. Offer to pick up groceries or dry cleaning for others.
  10. Waiting service. People these days don’t have time to wait on the plumber of cable guy. Charge by the hour to do the waiting for other people.

School

  1. Check out study supplements from the library. Don’t buy them.
  2. Buy used text books.
  3. Take advantage of free pens and pencils at business conferences.
  4. Keep track of your pens and pencils. You’ll spend less on them if you don’t lose them all the time.
  5. Buy back packs that your kids can use for years. While they might think the Sponge Bob Square pants one is cool in 2nd grade, they probably won’t think it’s cool in 4th.

Computers

  1. Use open source software like OpenOffice for your computing needs. Here’s a huge list of all the open source software you’ll ever need.
  2. Refill ink cartridges instead of buying new ones.
  3. Print off your documents in draft mode. It’s faster and saves ink.
  4. Use free online storage for all your digital storage needs.
  5. When you buy new computers or printers, keep the old cables. You never know when they’ll come in handy.

Gifts

  1. Make your own greeting cards.
  2. Make your own wrapping paper.
  3. Agree with family and friends to NOT buy each other Christmas presents this year.
  1. Offer to give a service, like a night of free babysitting as a gift, instead of buying stuff.
  2. Give baked goods. Everyone loves cookies!
  3. Learn the art of the re-gift. If you get something that you don’t like, keep it and give it to someone else later. However be careful to keep track of who gave you what. You don’t want to give a gift back to somebody.

Can you think of any more? Add to the conversation!
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Featured Resources

A great way to avoid spending extra Money is by avoiding Credit Card Offers that have a high Interest Rate. When you signup with a new Credit company be sure to check their APR rates and find out if a free Balance Transfer option can help you save money.
[tags]saving, frugality, personal finance, clothing, food, cars, beauty, health care [/tags]