i The Frugal Law Student | Holidays

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Holy Ice Storm!

Written by Brett McKay

I apologize for the lack of posting this week. Oklahoma was hit hard with an ice storm on Sunday night and I’ve been without power since Monday. So blogging and checking my email have been a challenge. The only chance I have to do so is at school. Unfortunately, when I’m at school I’m busy studying for exams.

I’m not sure when my power or internet connection will be available again, so it might be a while before I can start posting regularly again. Please be patient during this time. For now, here’s a list of great holiday gift giving guides for those on a student budget brought to you by Jamie from Surviving College Life. Enjoy!

Holiday Gift Giving On a College Budget
Inexpensive DIY Gift Roundup #1: For the Ladies On Your List!
Inexpensive DIY Gift Roundup #2: Gifts for Guys
Inexpensive DIY Gift Roundup #3: Gifts for Kids

Free Classic Christmas Cartoons in the Public Domain

Written by Brett McKay

When I was a kid, a holiday tradition my family was watching old Christmas cartoons. We had a VHS with a bunch of cartoons from the 1930s and 40s that are in the public domain. We watched it so much, the tape wore out and we had to chuck the video. It’s been years since I’ve seen these charming Christmas cartoons, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I’m able to recapture a piece of my childhood.

Because these cartoons are in the public domain, they’re freely distributable. No worries about copyright. I’ve gathered all the cartoons here for you to view. This is a great (and frugal!) way to help get yourself in the Christmas spirit. Sit back, relax, sip a cup of cocoa, and enjoy this bit of Christmas nostalgia.

Christmas Comes But Once A Year

This one is my favorite! This cartoons stars Professor Grampy from Betty Boop. He makes Christmas merrier for an orphanage using his ingenuity.

Somewhere In Dreamland

Two poor and hungry children have a dream of a magical land filled with chocolate rivers and popcorn fields. When they awake, a feast awaits them supplied by a some kind merchants.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

This rendition from of the classic story was done in 1948. As a kid, I always thought the Santa in this cartoon sounded like James Earl Jones.

Santa’s Surprise

Kids from all over the world somehow sneak a ride to the North Pole on Santa’s sleigh. While Santa sleeps, the kids join forces to clean his workshop. Like so many things from the 1940s, this cartoon is full of what would today be considered offensive racial stereotypes in what was probably an attempt at diversity. Still, the cartoon is charming.

Jack Frost

A young grizzly bear ignores his mother’s warnings about the coming winter and heads outside only to meet Jack Frost himself.

Snow Foolin

Anthropomorphic animals enjoy the winter weather. Can someone explain how a kangaroo ended up in a winter wonderland? Best part: singing “Jingle Bells” by following the bouncing egg.

Hector’s Hectic Life

A dog named Hector has a hectic time cleaning up the messes of puppies left at the doorstep at Christmas time. If his owner finds finds out about the messes, Hector will be thrown out to the cold.

27 Holiday Gifts for Law Students That Are Under $25

Written by Brett McKay

With Christmas just a month away, its time to start Christmas shopping. If you have a law student in your life and are having trouble coming up with frugal holiday gift ideas, here’s 27 thoughtful gift ideas that cost less than $25.


A box of pens. Every semester I buy a box of Pilot G2 Mini. By the end of the semester, I’ve used them all up. The G2 mini writes well and are small enough to carry around in a pocket easily. This would make a great stock stuffer. Cost:$5 for a pack of four.

Highlighters. Law students read. A lot. And they go through highlighters like gangbusters when reading. Office Depot sells a big tube of 24 highlighters for about $15. This would definitely last the entire year.

Thumb drive. Thumb drives come in real handy at law school. Law students use them all time to transport digital files to other computers. Cost: Varies on the amount of storage space you buy. You can get one with 2GB for about $13.

A yearly planner. Part of effective time management is writing things down. Help your law student start the year off right by buying them a planner for the new year. There are tons of planners to choose from. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Cost: $10-$20. At-A-Glance makes great planners for about $13.

Stapler. My mother-in-law gave me a stapler last year as a stocking stuffer. It was one of my favorite gifts I received. I use it all the time in law school. Cost: $10. Swingline always makes a great stapler.

Personalized stationary. This past semester I wrote a lot of thank you notes after my job interviews. It would have been nice to have some personalized letter head or thank you cards to send to my employers. Over at VistaPrint you can get 30 custom made thank you cards for $20.


Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Success in law school depends on effective time management. Getting Things Done by David Allen is a great book that sets up an efficient and effective time management system. The idea behind GTD is clearing your mind of all the stuff you got going on in your life and capturing it somewhere else. Once you’ve collected all your information, GTD sets up an efficient system so you can process it all and get things done. I got this book last year and found it to be extremely helpful. Cost: $8
Law School Confidential (Revised Edition): A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience: By Students, for Students. This a great book for the soon to be law student. The author covers every aspect of the law school experience-taking the LSAT, surviving first semester, internships, the bar, and finding a job. In addition to describing what the law school experience is going to be like, the author gives practical tips on what a student can do to succeed in law school. For example, the author has a section in which he gives advice on how to study for exams. Cost: $10.
What Can You Do With a Law Degree?: A Lawyer’s Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law. Some people aren’t meant to be attorneys. Many find this out while in law school. This book suggests tons of career options one can take with a law degree that doesn’t involve being an attorney. If you know someone who’s in law school, but doesn’t want to be a lawyer, this is a great gift for them Cost: $10.
Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text With Exercises. Good legal writing is supposed to be so simple that any non-attorney could read a lawyer’s writing and understand it completely. That’s hard to do. This book can help. In addition to the great tips it gives, it also has exercises you can do to help lawyers write more clearly. Cost: $10
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time. Success in the legal profession requires effective networking. This is probably the best book I’ve read on networking. Lots of great practical advice. Cost: $14


I’m suggesting if you by DVDs, buy them used. There’s no need to buy new. They won’t care. Prices on used DVDs vary on Amazon, but generally they’re about $5.

Legally Blonde 2 – Red, White & Blonde (Special Edition). Reese Witherspoon plays a stereotypical blond who gets into Harvard law school. Hilarity then ensues. This is a fun movie to watch when your brain needs a break from studying. Cost: $5 used
The Paper Chase. This is a good movie to give to soon-to-be-law student if you want to scare the bejesus out of them. The Paper Chase is about a Harvard law student who finds himself the adversary of the school’s most harsh professor. The professor tears students to shreds with the Socratic method. The story becomes more complex when the student learns he’s fallen in love with the daughter of his nemesis, the contracts professor. I haven’t had any law professors like the one in the Paper Chase, but I think the movie does a good job in showing how engrossed law student can become with the law. Cost: $5 used.
The Rainmaker. The Rainmaker, starring Matt Damon and Danny DeVito, is based on the John Grisham novel of the same name. This is your typical David v. Goliath story. Matt Damon plays a young attorney who, having just passed the bar exam, represents a family whose son is denied treatment for leukemia by their insurance company. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Cost: $5 used.
A Civil Action. A Civil Action, starring John Travolta, is actually based on a true case. The story revolves around industrial pollution in a New England town that has contaminated the drinking water. Consequently, children start getting sick and die. John Travolta plays the attorney who takes on the polluters. The movie does a good job portraying how civil procedure can be used win or lose a case. Cost: $5 used.
A Time to Kill. A Time to Kill another movie based on a John Grisham novel. The film stars Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey (I think he keeps his shirt on the entire time during the film), Samuel L. Jackson, and Kevin Spacey. Set in Mississippi, Samuel L. Jackson plays a father who takes justice into his own hands and kills the two men who raped his daughter. Sandra Bullock plays an idealistic law student who assists Matthew McConaughey in defending the vigilante father in this racially charged court drama. Of course you can expect Samuel L. Jackson to yell alot, because that’s what Samuel L. Jackson does best. Cost: $5 used
The Pelican Brief. Hey! What do you know? Another lawyer movie based on a John Grisham novel. A law student (Julia Roberts) discovers evidence of a conspiracy to kill two Supreme Court Justices. She teams up with an investigative reporter (Denzel Washington)and the two are hunted down by those who don’t want the plot revealed. If only being in law school were this exciting. Cost: $5 used
Rounders (Collector’s Edition). Matt Damon plays a law student who likes to play high stakes poker. He tries to quit so he can focus on law school and his girlfriend, but we know that’s not going to happen. Cost: $5 used
Inherit the Wind.This is a classic lawyer movie about the Scopes Monkey Trial. It’s a fictionalized account of the trial, so you can expect some over dramatization. Lots of good actors in this one: Gene Kelly, Fredric March, Spencer Tracy. Even Daren from the classic TV show Bewitched is on it! Yeah! Cost: $8 used
12 Angry Men. This is a dramatic tale of standing up for what you believe in, even though everyone else is against you. Henry Fonda plays a juror who somehow convinces his fellow jurors that a murder suspect should be acquitted. In the process, Henry Fonda breaks the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Cost: $5 used
To Kill a Mockingbird. Movie based on the popular novel by Harper Lee. You can’t help but get pumped up to defend truth and justice after watching this film. Atticus Finch is the man. Cost: $5 used
Runaway Jury (Widescreen Edition). This movie’s got a stellar cast. John Cusack, Gene Hackman (the man), and Dustin Hoffman. The story is about jury manipulation in a gun case. Cost: $5 used
The Client. Brad Renfro (what happened to that guy) plays a kid whose life is in jeopardy after witnessing the death of a Mob lawyer. An attorney (Susan Sarandon) decides to look after him. Cost: $5 used
The Firm. Tom Cruise plays a recent Harvard grad that takes a job at a prestigious firm. Associates at the firm start dying and the Feds ask Cruise to spy on the partners. Begin suspense. Cost: $5 used

Just For Fun

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney If your law student owns a Nintendo DS, then get this game for them. The games consists of five cases that Phoenix takes on. Present findings from the investigation, listen to testimonies, examine witnesses, and determine the truth to prove your client’s innocence. Cost $20 used.

5 Cubes of 24 Pack of Diet Mountain Dew. I love Diet Mountain Dew. It’s the nectar of the gods that keeps me going in law school. I’ve noticed that a lot of other law students enjoy drinking it as well. What better gift than to give your law student boxes of the drink they love! You can buy a 24 pack of Diet Mountain Dew for about $5 each. With our $25 budget, you can buy 5 cubes. That’s 120 Diet Mountain Dews! That’s enough to last an entire semester if your law student just drinks one a day. Awesome. Cost: $25.

Magazine subscriptions. Law students do a lot heavy reading during the day. Every now and then its nice to read the fluff you find in magazines. You can find some good deals on magazine subscriptions on the internet. Here’s a quick list of places you can check:

Once you make the subscription, go to book store, buy a copy of the magazine, wrap it in a box, and put in a note telling your law student that you’ve given them a subscription. You’ll be their favorite person. Cost: $10-$25

Any other frugal gift ideas for law students? Law students, what kind of gifts would you like to have sitting under the Christmas tree? 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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The Ultimate Tipping Guide

Written by Brett McKay


Skipping out on a tip is not frugal. It’s cheap. Not sure when it’s appropriate to tip or how much you should tip in certain situations? Here’s your ultimate guide on how to tip. (Note: Tipping guidelines differ from country to country. This guide is intended for those who will be tipping in the United States.)


  • Housekeeping at the hotel. A good tip for housekeeping is between $2 to $5. Don’t just leave cash on the nightstand. It might not be clear to your maid that the money is for them. Make sure to leave the tip in an envelope marked for housekeeping.
  • Tour guide. Tip between $1 to $5 per person in your group.
  • Skycap or bell hop. $1 to $2 per bag they lug for you. If you’re running late and the skycap books your luggage to your plane so you can get their on time, bump up the tip.
  • Doorman. Only tip the doorman at a hotel if he gives you a hot tip on the best places to eat or visit while in town.

Personal Services

  • Massage Therapist. Give 10 to 20 percent of the total cost.
  • Nurses. Usually tipping nurses at hospitals are not permitted, but don’t tell that to my wife’s grandma. She’s a retired nurse and believes you should definitely tip nurses and other health assistants. Any time she’s at the hospital you can guarantee she’s getting the best service because she gave her nurse “la boost.”
  • Garage parking. $2 for your car. When you valet park, tip the person who brings you the car, not the person who parks it.
  • Baristas/Smoothie Makers/ice cream scoopers. It seems like all these types of establishments have tip jars now a days. Spare change is always appreciated. If the barista starts making your order as soon as you walk in so that its ready for you by the time you get up to pay, tip a little extra.
  • Hairstylist. Tip 15% of the cost of the haircut.
  • Takeout. If you order takeout from a restaurant make sure to tip the cashier a bit. While they weren’t waiting on you hand in foot for, they did have to bust their butt to get your order together and ready. If they help you take your order out to the car, tip a bit extra.
  • Car washer. $3 bucks is good for a basic car wash. If they take extra time in your detailing, give 10% of the cost of the wash.
  • Manicure. 10 to 15% is a nice tip.
  • Tattoos/body piercings. 15% of what the total cost is. If the tattoo artist does an amazing job of capturing what your mother looks like on your arm, tip extra.
  • Tow truck. It depends on what services the person provides. If they jump your car or change your tire, tip about $4. If they tow it, $5 is good tip.
  • Bagger at the grocery store. Now a days people no longer tip grocery baggers. It’s not necessary, but definitely a nice gesture. $1 is a good tip.

Delivery Services

  • Newspaper deliverer. During the holidays, give them a card with $20. My in-laws do this every year and as a result, they have their paper delivered straight to their door instead of just thrown on the driveway.
  • Pizza/Meal delivery. 10 to 15% is customary. If the weather is bad, i.e. there’s snow and ice or a tsunami, tip extra.
  • Furniture/large appliance delivery. $5 per person. If they stick around and help you assemble or rearrange your furniture, tip extra.

Out On the Town

  • Waiters. 15 to 20% is customary. If they do an exceptional job, pay more. If you come in with a large group make sure to ask if gratuity is added into your check so you don’t tip them twice. (Of course, as a former waiter, I always appreciated it when someone give me a little extra in addition to the gratuity.)
  • Bartenders. 15 to 20%. Again, if they do an excellent job give more. If you come during happy hour and down 20 $.99 cent draws, don’t just leave 15%. Bartenders have to bust their butt to get those things poured for you and deserve more than just your change.
  • Casino. There lots of people you could be tipping at a casino. First, you have cocktail waitresses. 15% is customary. Many people tip dealers when they have a successful run.
  • Taxi. Standard tip is 15%. If they get you to your destination quickly, tip extra.


During the holidays, it’s customary to give a little more for the everyday services we receive. Here is just a short list of people you should consider giving “la boost” to during the holidays.

  • Mailman. It’s against federal law to tip to federal employees, but they can accept gifts of less than $20. During the holidays, give your mailman a non-monetary gift valued at less than $20. Baked goods are always appreciated.
  • Garbage/recycling man. These guys have a dirty job, recognize their work around the holidays by giving them a tip. $10 per person is nice. You can also just give gifts.
  • Teachers. If you have kids in school, its usually customary to give their teacher a small gift at Christmas time. It doesn’t have to be big. I remember when I was a kid, I usually gave candles.
  • Babysitter. A gift in addition to their normal pay is nice. Gift cards are always appreciated.
  • Cleaning person. An extra week’s pay or a nice gift.

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.


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!