I stumbled onto this post from FindLaw.com just recently. It's entitled "29 Ways to Minimize Law School Loan Debt," and I was wondering how I stacked up regarding its strategies.
1. Look at your portfolio before you start.Â Is it the right time to go to law school? 2. Minimize your pre law school debt. 3. Pay off your credit cards before starting law school.Â Then hide them from yourself.Hmm, seeing as I had nothing in my portfolio and was starting at zero, it was the right time to do anything. Â Perhaps law school wasn't the best idea, but here I am. And I've never used credit cards, just a checking card. Three for three so far.
4. Apply for scholarships.Â Before 1L. And after.Oops. Â I don't know why I've never been big on this. Lack of willingness to put the time and effort in? Fear that I'm not a qualified enough as a candidate? Probably a little of both. I'll do some research on this later. Oops, three for four.
5. Find and use gift cards & discount cards.Â AAA discount please!Discount cards? Â I think the only ones I've used are the grocery cards and the Kerasotes movie theater Five Buck Club card, which got you into any movie for $5, so long as the movie had been out for more than two weeks. Perhaps I'll look into this later, I'm sure gas stations have something similar. Â I'm not going to sign up for any store credit cards though. Okay, four for five.
6. Don't skimp on health insurance.The year before law school I was abroad, and had no health insurance. Â And I was without it my 1L year and most of my 2L year as well. I finally did get it, just in case. In all that time I've had yet to use it however, although I have been putting off an optometrist's appointment. I'll count it, five for six.
7.Â Find financial savvy.Â Meet with a financial planner, read a book, talk to people about short/mid/long term strategiesÂ for managing debt.I'm trying to do this now! That's partly what this blog is about. Six for seven.
8. Borrow as much as you need.Â Not more!Oops. For my 3L year, I've actually managed to not get more from the financial aid office than I actually need. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the first two years, when I took out the maximum. There were some good reasons (had to buy plane tickets, needed living expenses while doing an internship/studying abroad, money for bar prep courses) but also some bad ones (I thought it would be easiest just to take out everything, "living expenses" for frivolities like eating out). I will be kicking myself about this for a while. Six for eight.
9. Think about your debt payback strategies before J.D. graduation dayWell, I'm trying to do this now, but my primary concern is what I'll be doing for a job if I'm NOT going to go the legal route. And you can't pay back anything if you don't have a source of income. Â So I'm going to hold this one in abeyance, because while I might technically be thinking about this, I don't have any plans as of yet. Six for nine.
10. Consider consolidating loans.Â It may or may not be the best option for you. Investigate further.Okay, I'm going to investigate, I'll do one of my next posts on this, but won't count it just yet. Six for ten.
11. Garage sale what you don't need.Â Less stuff means less stuff to move, to store, to clean.I'm not really a stuff person, but things do tend to pile up anyway, and it would do me good to get rid of what few things I do have lying around. I've been thinking of doing a a-thing-a-day challenge, so today I'll start with...a folder fool of random notes, outlines, and handouts from two semesters ago. I only tend to be a pack rat when it comes to things from school, but I have to admit that of the many things I've saved, I've never looked at old coursework. Â So this will just yet another periodic purge. Â But since I'm only starting this challenge today, six for eleven.
12. Sell your books after the final.Â Before the edition changes. And buy used.Yeah...this is a big one that I don't do. Â I just can't give up books! Â Ah, and I'm not going to change. But despite that, my bigger sin is preferring to buy new. Â I'm not doing that from now on. I'm going to buy used books and give them a new home for a lifetime. But until I do that, six for twelve.
13. Live at home or with roommates.Easy, I live with myÂ fiancÃ©e. Seven for thirteen.
14. Barter. 15. Find free.Â Harness the power of free.I don't think I've ever bartered for things, and I've never gone out of my way to get free things. Also, the link provided here is worthless to non-lawyers and law students. Seven for fifteen.
16. Use online financial planning tools (like Mint.com) to create and stick to a budget.Okay, I do use Mint.com, but I don't think I've actually ever set a budget. So I'm not giving myself any points for this one. Seven for sixteen.
17. Pay the minimum on your debts, then pay off the highest interest debts first. 18. Create an emergency fund to get you through 6-12 months of Bar studying/job searching after graduation.Â Another option is a bar loan.Well, no money, no paying back debts. The pressure will really start ratcheting up when I get the bills in the mail, but that's not until December of next year. But based on the fact that I haven't been able to pay anything back yet...no points. And there is definitely no emergency fund that has been created, is in the process of creation, or will be created. No points there either. Seven for eighteen.
19. Potluck.Â Food and friends. You can tip yourself.I'm guessing that what they're aiming for is saving money by not going out to eat. I'll buy that, and I haven't done it enough in the past. No points, seven for nineteen.
20. Tutor.Â Earn while you learn. 21. Work at your law school library.Â Learn where everything is and study when it's not busy.No, I haven't done any tutoring. Â What do they mean by this? Tutor other law students? Tutor students in your undergrad major? Tutor the LSATs or something? Tutor elementary school kids? Aside from the first option there, I don't see how you "earn while you learn" anything relevant to your legal studies. Nevertheless, point taken that you can make money tutoring, and I don't do it. Seven for twenty-one.
22. Look for paid legal research positions on campus.Â Â Build connections, gain research experience, and get paid.Doing this, although perhaps I'm not putting in as many hours as I should be. And even though I'm only getting $8/h, at the very least I should be able to pay off a portion of the interest I've accrued by the time I finish up law school. Hopefully, eight for twenty-two.
23. Graduate early.Â Summer school orÂ study abroad can get you there. Faster.I don't know how other schools count this, but at my school, while graduating early is possible, itrequires taking a summer semester, and there aren't any fees that are waived. Â You're in it for the whole six semesters of tuition. So I'm not going to count this against me. Nine for twenty-three.
24. Look into loan forgiveness options.Â Public interest law careers & debt-free living are possible. Build your network for success.I wonder about this. Â I'll do some more research about the types of jobs possible, since I don't really want to go into a law job. From what I've read thus far, you need to make 120 monthly payments without fail at whatever public interest job you work at before the loan is forgiven. Â That's 10 years of something that will probably bore me after two. But since I'm leaving it open as an option, nine for twenty-four.
25. Keep investing even throughout law school.Sure, I guess. Except I don't have anything to invest. Nine for twenty-five.
26. Craig's List it.The only thing I've gotten on Craig's List since moving to the Midwest was the very computer monitor I'm looking at, and it actually was a good deal. Ten for twenty-six.
27.Â FAFSA is a friend.Is this just the federal student loan thing? Is there something else I'm missing? If not, this one's done. Eleven for twenty-seven.
28. Understand theÂ recent student loan reform measure that cuts out the middleman.Well, all I've heard is the ten percent of income cap on monthly payments, but I know that there are certain requirements for eligibility. I'll do a post breaking that down, or at least find a set of links that are relevant. Eleven for twenty-eight.
29. Accept that there will be debt. Keep moving forward.Done and done. Twelve for twenty-nine. Not so great, and it looks like there are a bunch of things I can improve on. I think that I will do my best to take these recommendations under consideration and I'll report back in a year and see what's been happing. In a year!