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A Broccoli Floret a Day Keeps the Doctor, and the Debt Away

Written by Mrs. FLS

Today there was a interesting article on “MSN Money” about how adopting a vegetarian diet can save you money. The article notes that this sometimes seems counter intuitive since produce can seem pricey and the Junior Whopper on the dollar menu, is only, well, a dollar. But generally speaking, while chicken breasts and ground round cost around $3 a pound; beans, lentils, and rice cost less than a $1 a pound.

Of course man (or woman) cannot live on lentil soup alone. And fruits and veggies don’t come cheap. To save money the vegetarian shopper should choose produce that is in season, look for deals on locally grown food, and buy frozen items because they can be cheaper, and best of all do not go bad before an urge to snack on those asparagus spears strikes.

Vegetarian shoppers should avoid products that are meat product posers-you know the veggie “hot dogs” that wouldn’t even fool someone who’s sense of taste had been horribly managled in an accident. In all honesty there are some tasty meat replacements out there (delicious BBQ “riblets” anyone?) but many can cost more than $5 a pound! The meat may be fake, but the hit to your wallet is very real. Also, if you have been free basing “Chik Nuggets” it is worth looking into the dark side of too much soy.

By sticking to the basics-things like oatmeal, rice, beans, and lentils bought in bulk-and accented with fruits and vegetables, a vegetarian can live frugally and deliciously. And what really saves them money in the long term are the benefits to their health. Some studies have shown that a plant based diet can add years to your life, and ward off ailments like cancer, heart disease, and dementia. By not having to pay the big hospital and doctor bills that come with these diseases, you can save a ton of money in the long term.

So put down that drumstick buster! Your wallet, and your body, will thank you.

The Frugal Law Student Month In Review-July 2007

Written by Brett McKay

July was a good month for The Frugal Law Student. We had 6,851 visitors during the month of July. This was a decrease from 12,000 we had in Jun, but that was expected given traffic has died from the hoopla the Massive Personal Finance Resource List caused. On the plus side, we reached the 300 mark for RSS subscribers. Thank you to all my readers as well as fellow bloggers who have helped spread the word about The Frugal Law Student

Most Popular Posts

Here are June’s most popular posts based on the number of visits:

  1. Massive Personal Finance Resource List– The Massive Personal Finance Resource List was the top post again. This is what helped generate the 12,000 plus visitors last month. I’m glad so many people still have found it helpful.
  2. Festival of Frugality #84- I hosted my first blog carnival this past month. It was a lot more work than I thought it would be, but it was fun reading all the great frugality posts.
  3. 180 Money Saving Tips That Will Turn Your Life Around 180 Degrees– I wrote this in May, but it’s still a popular one. Again, I’m happy that people are still finding this post helpful.
  4. 10 Ways To Make Money and Save Money On Facebook– I wrote this back in June. Facebook applications have gotten a lot of press lately, so I’m sure that has something to do with the popularity. If you want to learn more about Facebook applications, make sure to check out my other blog Best Facebook Applications.
  5. The Best Personal Finance Advice I’ve Ever Received- In this post, I write about the personal finance advice I received from my friend and mentor, Charles Smith.

In Case You Missed It…

Here are a few of my personal favorites from the month:

  1. Top CEOs Don’t Read Getting Things Done– If you want to be an innovator in your field, read other books besides Getting Things Done.
  2. Crouching Debt, Hidden Credit Card Fees– Learn about hidden credit card fees and how you can avoid them.
  3. Why Personal Finance Books Suck– A rant on why I find personal finance books so annoying.

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Ideas for Homemade Father’s Day Cards and Beyond

Written by Mrs. FLS

Father’s Day is Sunday. Have you bought a card for your dad yet? Well I hope not….because you should make one instead! I have always been really into making homemade cards. Not just because it is frugal-which it is-but because they are so much better than store bought cards. Why buy someone a card with a canned sentiment that doesn’t really express how you feel? “Dear Dad, my heart swells with love and gratitude as deep as a rolling river on this Father’s Day.” Ick. Most people, both those who buy the card and those who receive it, barely even read the inscription because they know someone they have never met, toiling away in Hallmark’s offices, wrote it. A homemade card allows you to write your own message and most importantly it tells the recipient that you cared enough to take the time to make something yourself with the person in mind. People seriously love homemade cards. No joke.

I think I have a knack for homemade cards. But I know that some people struggle to come up with good/funny ideas. So I thought I would share some ideas I have used in the past. Some of them are good for Father’s Day, and some are for other occasions or any old time. These cards are so easy, you will be finished making it in the time it would have taken to drive to Walgreen’s and back.

The easiest way to come up with a homemade card idea is to think of a funny pun. Don’t worry if it is cheesy or silly, the cheesier and sillier the better. Then you just build the card around that pun.

For example: Cut out a gray circle from construction paper. Glue a little string to the “top” (inasmuch as a circle has a top). Then draw a little flame, cut it out, and glue it to the top of the string. On the back of the circle, write “I hope your Father’s Day/Birthday is the BOMB!” Or, since bomb is rather “out” these days, write “I hope your ____is a BLAST!” Cheesy and delicious.

The easiest source of puns is food for some reason. I have this non-realistic dream of manufacturing a line of greeting cards called “Comfort Foods.” Since this is never going to happen, here are some of my ideas you can make at home. Note: for all these ideas, you can either cut the actual card into the shape or object mentioned, draw it, or what is even easier for the non-art inclined, simply find the picture online, print it, cut it out, and paste it on the front of card.

1. For example cut the card into the shape of a pickle or draw or paste a picture of a pickle unto the front of folded paper. On the inside write “You’ve always been there to help me out of a pickle. Happy Father’s Day!”

2. Cut/Paste/Draw a picture of a bunch of grapes. Then inside write “Hope you have a GRAPE Father’s Day/Birthday/Ect.

3. Cut out a white circle. Color a yellow circle in the middle. On the back write “Hope you have an Egg-cellent Father’s Day/Birthday/Ect.

4. Cut/Paste/Draw a slice of pizza. On the back write “You’re the best slice of life! Have a good……”

5. Cut/Copy/Draw a wedge of cheese. Write on front “I know this may sounds cheesy…” and then on the back write “but you’re the best dad/husband/friend in the world!”

Or for a more complicated variation on this theme: Draw a cob of corn on yellow construction paper. Cut it out. Cut out some green paper husk leaves. Attach them to the bottom of cob so they cover the bottom and the corn cob sprouts out. Write on the outside of the leaves “I know this may sound corny….” And then they bend back the husk leaves, and on the inside of the leaves or on the part of cob that was covered you have written “But you are the best __________ in the world!”

Current Events and Pop Culture are also fertile sources of ideas for puns for your card. For example for a love interest:

1. Find a picture of Kim Jong Il, dictator of N. Korea, print it, cut it out, and paste it on the front of folded paper. Draw a red heart around him. On the inside write “I just wanted to tell you that I’m CRAZY about you!”

2. Or print and cut out a picture of Mr. Peanut. Paste it, and on the inside of the card write, “I’m NUTS about you.” This would also work with a picture of a squirrel.

3. When the “The Secret” had just hit it big in the news and on Oprah, Brett made me a card in which he drew The Secret’s symbol on the front and wrote inside “It’s no secret I love you a lot.” Or when I was into watching the Bachelor reality show (it was a guilty pleasure, so sue me!), he made a card with a rose on the front, and inside it, it said “Kate, will you accept this rose?” Funny, ironic, sweet. What more can you ask for?

If you want to do something more involved, here are a couple of ideas:

1. A good Father’s Day “card” for kids to make is as follows. Draw a very little picture of your dad and cut it out. Stuff it inside a blue balloon. Blow up balloon and tie it off. Tape some green construction paper continents to the outside. Present the balloon to dad to pop. When he does, the little picture of himself will fall out and you will have written on it before insertion, “You are the best dad in the world!” Classic.

2. Here is a good one for a love interest. Cut/Draw/Paste a picture of a fisherman. Attach a string to his “pole.” At the end place a construction paper fish. On the fish write: “You are such a catch! I love you!”

For a Thank You card to someone for sending you money:

1. Cut/Draw/Paste a picture of a cow. On the back or inside write “Thank you for the Moooooola.”

2. Cut/Draw/Paste a picture of someone spreading butter on a slice of bread. Inside or on the back write “Thank you for spreading the love.”

So here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Give dad something funny, personalized, memorable, and from the heart this Sunday. And save a couple bucks in the process!

Cheap Treat: Mexican Sweet Bread

Written by Brett McKay

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As many of you know, I lived in Tijuana, Mexico for two years as a missionary for my church. During that time, I developed love for Mexican food, especially pan dulce. Pan dulce is a delicious sweet bread. I ate this stuff like it was going out of style while I was on my mission. If I ever found money in the streets, I would stop what I was doing and head directly to the nearest panaderia to buy something. Thankfully, because I walked all the time, I didn’t gain any weight from eating so much sugar, flour, and egg.

Since I’ve been home, my consumption of pan dulce has decreased dramatically. It’s hard to find a good panaderia in town. Thankfully, last night my wife and I found a great panaderia close to where we live.

It felt like I was right back in Mexico. The setup in this panaderia was just like the ones I frequented in Tijuana. Their selection was amazing. They had everything: conchas, mantecados, chilendrinas, and my personal favorite, puerquitos. The quality of puerquito is how I judge a panaderia. A puerquito is a ginger bread cookie in the shape of a big. They’re big, soft, and chewy. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

We picked out about a half dozen items. Pan dulce was cheap in Mexico. Because I was on a super tight budget as a missionary, it was a cheap, albeit unhealthy source of food. I figured because we’re in the States, the prices would be more expensive. To my surprise, they weren’t. We left the store spending $1.90 for six BIG pieces of pan dulce. That would be about 19 pesos in Mexico. If I remember correctly, that’s how much I usually spent on pan dulce while in Mexico.

Pan dulce makes a great desert. It’s also a delicious breakfast and goes well with a glass of milk. Pan dulce really fills you up because the portions are huge. You won’t find any dainty overpriced pastries like you do at Panera Bread. So, next time you have a hankering for something sweet, but you don’t want to spend too much, go buy your local panaderia. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

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[tags]Mexico, Tijuana, food, pan dulce[/tags]

Interview With A Strange Bird About Managing Law School Debt

Written by Brett McKay


Strange Bird is the author of I Am Running With Scissors. While she’s not in law school yet, she’s already contemplating how to leave law school with as little debt as possible. From what I’ve read on her blog, it looks like she’s already doing a great job in mitigating her law school debt.

1. How much student debt have you racked up during undergrad? How much more do you plan on taking on during law school?

I attended a public university for undergrad, and with the help of a big scholarship and some part-time jobs I was able to get my B.A. without any debt. For law school I will again be attending a public institution on a scholarship, so I expect that my debt will be less than most law students’, but not insubstantial. The University of California law schools are almost as pricey as some of the private law schools now.

2. What actions are you taking now to mitigate your law school debt?

There are three major ways I’m working now to mitigate my law school debt. The first was negotiating with the law school on my financial aid package, which will save me at least $25,000. Another is saving what I can now, before I start, to minimize my borrowing in the first year. The third is educating myself and planning accordingly. It’s one thing to know that law school is expensive, and another to know exactly how much extra per month living alone would cost me once my loans are in repayment. I think it’s a matter of establishing priorities.

3. When would you like to pay it off your student loans? How do you plan on reaching your goal?
I hope to pay off my loans within five years of graduating law school, which I wrote about here. I would have to adjust my goals if I were to take a public interest job or work for a year or two as a judicial clerk, but assuming I were to work at a typical large law firm right away in my hometown, it wouldn’t be impossible. That is, of course, provided I am able to resist the temptation of expanding my lifestyle to match my salary and diligently pay my loans instead of splurging because “I deserve it.” I would deserve it! But that’s not a good enough reason to blow the bank when I have other goals I want to meet.

4. What other personal financial goals have you set for yourself?
Aside from paying off all student loans by 2015, I expect to also be able to buy a home within five years of graduating. My other goals are a bit softer–saving 10-15% for retirement, living below my means, and retiring early enough to enjoy the fruits of my labor!

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

I think I have a few big weaknesses in regards to personal finances. I’m a bit of a hoarder. It feels really reassuring to have a lot of money sitting in the bank (in a higher-yield online savings account, but still!), but I know that’s not the best way to make it work for me, because I neither can spend it to enjoy it, nor can I invest it properly. I’m also a little bit of a control freak, which makes the idea of investing money (where I can’t control what will happen to it) seem really daunting. I think the only way to get past this is to become more informed. The more I learn about personal finance and investing, the less intimidating it seems, and hopefully at some point I’ll reach the threshold where I no longer feel like stuffing cash under my mattress (figuratively speaking, of course).

6. How do you manage your finances? Is there a particular software you use to keep track of your money?

I use Quicken for the budget and expense tracking features. When I see that I’ve spent 50% of my budget for eating out for the month and it’s only the 8th, I get back on track really quickly. It keeps me a lot more honest than just watching the balance on my account fall. I don’t necessarily recommend that everyone run out and buy Quicken, though–I could just as easily do this with Excel, but a trial version was installed on my computer when I bought it in 2002. I don’t even know what features I can’t access, but I don’t seem to miss them.

7. What do you think is the biggest money mistake or misconception a future law student make?

Since I’m still only a future law student myself, it’s hard to say–I may be making that biggest mistake!–but I’m pretty sure the most dangerous trap to fall into is not really considering the costs of attending law school and living expenses before signing the promissory notes. For example, at my law school, the Loan Repayment Assistance Program will only cover $60,000 of your loans, but the total cost of attendance is closer to $150,000. If someone plans to become a public defender after graduating from a UC law school, she will have to come up with some creative ways to finance her education in order not to be overly burdened by the debt (and live frugally, besides!). Even someone making a salary of $100,000 or more per year will have to make some sacrifices in order to pay back that kind of debt. So it makes sense to be aware, and not live like you’re earning the money instead of borrowing it, because everything you buy will cost that plus 6.8-8.5% (or more!) interest afterwards. Most things won’t be worth it, in retrospect, so forget retrospect and just don’t buy it.

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

KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTING YOURSELF INTO. Whatever is motivating you to go to law school, you should be aware of the financial consequences, because they are not inconsequential. People will tell you that a law degree will pay itself off, but it won’t–YOU will pay it off. Make sure that you know exactly how much it will cost, how you will pay for it, and if you are willing to make the sacrifice.

Thanks, Strange Bird, for that awesome interview! Stop by Strange Bird’s blog, I Am Running With Scissors, today to read some of her great content on saving money on law school before you start law school.

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[tags]law school, debt, saving, money[/tags]

10+1 Easy Ways to Make Yourself Look Like a Blogging Newbie

Written by Brett McKay

In the spirit of trying to stop driving traffic away from my blog, I present to you Court’s 10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself Look Like a Blogging Newbie.

I’m guilty of number four on his list:

Change your blog’s theme and layout every 13 hours, that way people will know with absolute certainty that you have no idea whatsoever what you want your blog to look like. Tweak your theme relentlessly so that your readers get a chance to see each ‘mess up’ you make in the process.

In fact, I was screwing with my theme a bunch today. To my credit, I wasn’t tweaking for the sake of tweaking. I installed the Text Link Ads plugin on my blog and all hell broke loose. Error messages were all over the place. I ended up scraping my theme and uploading it again. Thankfully, I have things back on track again.

I would add “Write posts with tons of typos” to Court’s list. As I posted earlier this weekend, I’ve had to learn the hard way that typos make you look like a complete newbie. Typos are a red flag to readers that they’re dealing with a blogger who has no idea what readers want when they read blogs. Readers not only want original and helpful content, they want their content presented to them professionally.

If you’re interested in improving your blog, stop by Courtney’s site. You’ll find plenty of great articles filled with useful tips.

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[tags]blogging, miscellaneous blogging tips, Courtney Tuttle [/tags]