Thrifty Law Student on Life

By Jamie Bence

In my last post, I talked about back to school shopping for the thrifty law student. Today’s topic deals with all the day-to-day stuff.  The more you can lower your monthly base expenses, the less stress you will feel when your car breaks down, your computer crashes, or you have a medical emergency. In law school as in life, these things happen, so it’s important to pace yourself during a time when you might not have any income.

Food:  Before law school started, I thought the grocery store was the only store I could go to and get anything I wanted without thinking much about it. After all, food is essential! However, there are many things you can do to save, including thinking carefully about where you shop. Law school might be the time in your life where you shop at a less exclusive store, clip coupons and watch sales for items that you really like. It’s hard to think about these things when you’re cramming in assignments, but once you get the hang of it, coupon-ing can be pretty easy.

Lunches during the week are another opportunity to save. You probably won’t have time for a nice lunch anyway, and most cafeteria options aren’t exactly healthy. I ate a lot of sandwiches and leftovers. It wasn’t always delicious or fun, but I saved a lot of money by packing. On the downside, it takes time in the morning or evening, but if you’re making dinner anyway, it’s not too hard to box up some leftovers. However, sometimes law school feels like a long time without much to celebrate. So it can be fun to mark special achievements- the end of a semester, procuring the summer job- with a nice meal out.

Utilities:  It was not my favorite way of cutting back in law school, but I did not subscribe to cable. I don’t have enough free time to justify paying for it, and when I had free time, I wanted to spend it out with my family and friends, not sitting around more than I already was. When I want to watch something, I just use Netflix, which is considerably less expensive. Think about how much free time you really have before committing to costly subscription services, from magazines to online subscriptions.

Staying healthy is incredibly important law school, so I make this suggestion with the caveat that if you need a gym membership to work out, then you should probably keep it. However, while your membership fees might have just seemed like normal monthly expenses before, on a fixed income they are a substantial cost. You will probably get membership to your school’s gym with your law school tuition, and if it’s feasible to use it, you might try to use that. There are also home work out options that are far less expensive than a monthly membership.

Also, when thinking about the cost of rent in your building, don’t forget to check whether utilities are included or not, and whether there is a suitable gym on site.

Travel: Car pool can be a great way to get to law school. If your school is near where your spouse works, you might also consider commuting with them. Gas and transit costs are incredibly high right now, and even if it’s only a few days per week, getting up early or staying late at school might be worth the savings. Plus, it might help make you more accountable- if you know you have to leave the library by 6pm to commute home, you may be more likely to finish your assignment.

You should also consider the cost of your commute with reductions in rent. While it might seem smart to take a long commute in favor of a cheaper apartment, the cost of getting to and from your destination each day might outweigh the reduction in rent. As boring and tedious as it is, when you consider apartments, also look at the transit costs you will incur each day.

Fun: When I started thinking about my law school budget, I felt like it would be three years where I wouldn’t be able to enjoy much. However, you will have time and money to go out and have fun, especially if you plan well. It could be as simple as looking for inexpensive happy hours, or nurturing an interest in free activities, like hiking. Today, there are also mass discount deals that are available on everything from movie tickets to salon services.

As long as you know your budget and choose your purchases carefully, you will be able to enjoy life, even without the benefits of a full time job.

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1 Comment »

  1. sfmarrin said,

    July 27, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Thanks – about to start in the fall and looking for new ways to cut back. Cheers.

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