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Interview With Legal Andrew About Managing Law School Debt

Written by Brett McKay

Andrew Flusche is the creator of the excellent blog Legal Andrew. Andrew just recently graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law and is preparing for the bar exam. (Boo.) He will be working for the public service group, American Life League, doing something he’s passionate about. Andrew is one the most passionate bloggers I’ve met. He always produces quality posts on legal productivity and improving your blogging. He also has the coolest blog layout I’ve ever seen. Andrew was kind enough to answer some questions on what he is doing to mitigate his crippling law school debt.

1) How much law school debt have your racked up?

My total education debt amounts to a small mortgage. The grand total approaches $140,000. About 9% of that is undergrad; the rest is from law school. I believe that’s a bit above average, even for UVa Law. We encountered some medical expenses in the past three years (such as my spontaneous pneumothorax), so we received some extra loans to help with that.

2) What action or habit do you think saved you the most money while in law school?

Taking the bus to and from school. As you know, sharing one car with your spouse is a great way to save money. My wife and I have had only one car since we got married (right before law school). Our apartment is right on the city bus line. I take a city bus for 15 minutes, then switch to a university bus for another couple of minutes. Everyone affiliated with the university gets to ride all the buses for free. It’s a shame that more people don’t take advantage of it. If you’re looking for a place to live, really think about public transportation options. You just can’t ignore free transportation, especially with gas prices these days. Besides, you’ll help the environment a bit.

3) If you have student loan debt, when would you like to pay it off? How do you plan on reaching your goal?

I’d like to pay it off before I die. I say that laughingly, but the men in my family don’t live too long. A 30-year repayment plan might not reach my “before I die” goal. In reality, I’m extremely lucky. UVa Law has a great loan forgiveness program. Since I’m going to be in public service, the school will pay my law school loans for me. I’ll put my law school loans on a 10-year repayment plan. Assuming I stay in public service for 10 years, the school will keep on paying. I have to contribute some, if my salary is over $35,000. But it’s still a great deal. My undergrad loans will be on a 15-year plan, but I’d like to knock them out in 10 years as well.

4) What other personal financial goals have you set for yourself?

My biggest finance goal right now is to start saving. As soon as I start working full-time, we’re going to setup automatic savings debits, as well as contributions to a retirement account. They might start out at only $20 a month, but it will give us a start. I think that’s important; save regularly, even if it seems like chicken feed. Other than that, we want to buy a small starter home. This might be a year or two away, but it’s definitely a goal.

5) What is your weakness in regards to your personal finances and how do you think you can improve it?

Food. You’d be surprised how much two people could spend on food, between groceries, eating out, coffee, snacks, etc. A “good” month of food expenses for us is about $900. The main problem is dinner. If you can find the perfect way to have affordable, easy, tasty meals, you’d be a rich guy.

6) I know you’re big into GTD. How do you manage your finances? Do you have a system like GTD? Is there a particular software you use to keep track of your money?

I don’t know how closely my financial system resembles GTD. We track everything with Microsoft Money, so we can review spending habits and stay on top of bills. I try to follow the “2 minute rule,” by paying bills as soon as I open them. This keeps them from piling up or accidentally being paid late. Receipts get entered a couple times a week. Paychecks are on direct deposit, so they’re in the bank without effort.

7) What do you think is the biggest money mistake law students make?

This will sound hypocritical, but buying food at school is nuts. I’ve bought my share of soft drinks, but buying lunch there every day could easily amount to $30-40 per week. It’s much cheaper to bring a sandwich or some leftovers from dinner. Heck, even a Stouffer’s frozen dinner would save money.

8)Do you have any suggestions to other law students regarding their personal finances?

Cut back on unnecessary expenses. Do you really need to buy a new car with your summer associate earnings? Do you need the latest and greatest cell phone? Heck, do you need a cell phone at all? I’ve lived without one just fine. What about cable TV? Try Netflix or something instead. And look for casebooks on Amazon or ask to borrow them from a friend. That can save a couple hundred bucks a semester, if you’re lucky.

Thanks, Andrew for taking the time to answer these questions! Stop by Legal Andrew today and look around his site. You’re sure to find something useful and informative.

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[tags] Legal Andrew, law school, debt, saving, frugal[/tags]