Summer is the perfect time to take care of all the things you put off during the school year. Right now I'm taking proactive steps to streamline my finances and make life easier during the upcoming semester. Not only am I going to reduce the total number of bills I have to pay, but also make sure that I am paying down debt in an intelligent, productive way.
Resources such as Frugal Law Student are a great starting point and offer realistic ways to save money and use your credit wisely. I concentrated on condensing bills and making sure I'm paying off existing debt in a smart way. Eliminating nonessential services is another good idea. I mean, do you need membership in the Gourmet Cheese of the Month Club? Probably not during law school.
Details on how I'm cleaning up my act, after the jump.
I started by looking for redundant bills like the separate cell phone bills for me and my wife. In the age cheapening cellular service, this is not efficient. I'm a "smart consumer" so I hit up various websites looking for good deals on new cell phone plans.
For those that don't know where to look there are a ton of "deal" sites
out there and my favorite is Slick Deals. Members post great deals in the forums and the creme of the crop are posted on the front page. For the
lazy time conscious you can always read dealdump.com.
Deal Dump takes the RSS feeds of a bunch of deal sites and displays
them in an easy to read list so you can same time and money. I
found a deal for two BlackBerry Curve cell phones that made them free
after rebate. I thought the cell phones were a good deal, but then I
found another deal for a family plan that included an extra 100 shared
minutes. I bit on the deal and was able to save money on our net
monthly expenses and now I only have one bill to pay rather than two
separate bills. Fantastic.
Another nuisance is having multiple credit card bills. Credit card debt is a universal truth for law students because (1) we're students and (2) student loans don't exactly cover 100% your expenses 100% of the time. Enter the dangerous prospect of the credit card you occasionally use. The biggest mistake is just charging wildly and assuming you'll make $160K a year right out of law school and be able to immediately pay off everything. We both know this isn't using your credit wisely, and can get you into a lot of trouble.
One tactic I've read about for paying off debt is to pay the minimum amount due on the majority of your debt and focus on paying off your highest balance or interest rate ASAP. Once that high balance is paid off you roll the monthly payments from that account into the next highest balance and continue until all your debt is gone. I like this method, but I'd rather condense all my credit card debt into one convenient payment. After looking around I found a good deal on balance transfers and condensed all credit card debt into one convenient monthly payment.
If any of you have any tips for money management and frugality in law school, please feel free to share in the comments. For whatever reason, this doesn't seem to be a topic law schools talk about much, but for a lot of us students the economic downturn means more than the 75 cent jump in the cost of a slice of pizza. Time to get smart.