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How to Save Money and Time, Suggestions

The ABA Law Student Division recently published 50 Ways to do More in Less Time in its Student Lawyer publication. The sectional titles include: “Time Management,” “Save Money,” “Managing Your Email,” “Smartphones,” and so forth. I have scrimped and scraped money my entire life and have been very proud of this fact. Now in law school, my fiance and I survive on my student loans, and I have become even more inventive while still enjoying a large presence in the digitally-enabled masses (i.e., I have an iPod touch, a Blackberry, and a Kindle, plus a nice laptop). I have certain time management approaches that work for me too. Below are my suggestions, but without the distinct titles:

1) Know how much interest your loans accrue. Grad PLUS loans are about 8% while undergrad loans are about 6%. When purchasing anything, especially fancy food or awesome holiday gifts, remind yourself of this. For everything you purchase while living on loans,  consider if you would buy it if it cost 6-8% more.

2) Smart phones – iPhone charges a lot for the simple service of using it. Are you mostly a texter? Do you really need/use the apps? Are you usually on a computer anyway?

– I started with a Blackberry, but applications, including BarBri review (Bar review course for those that do not know) only function on the i___ devices. Instead of trading up my Blackberry (which I was still contracted to use anyway) for an iPhone, I waited until Mac Stores had a sale and I bought an iPod touch. It has the same functionality as the iPhone in every way except the phone, but you do not have to pay monthly charges. You do need to be in a WiFi spot.

Google Voice is downloadable on the iPod and it turns your iPod into a phone. It also allows texting for free (it sets you up with a phone number). If you can go with “just a phone” but want application capabilities, the iPod or iPad on WiFi is much less expensive per month

3) Do you think you need an unlimited plan because you text a lot or make a lot of phone calls? You’re wrong. Again, Google Voice and other application allow you to do those things without paying for them. I have Google Voice on my Blackberry. Instead of paying for an unlimited plan, I text through Google Voice. Google Voice can also record voicemails and transcribe them for you.

– I also lowered my monthly cell phone bill by dropping my minutes to only 700 minutes/month between my fiance and myself. I still get free minutes after 9pm and on weekends, and I use iChat and Google Talk and email to supplement my minutes. I can call people for free on my laptop (new laptops, especially Macs, come with cameras and microphones, but microphones and video cameras can be acquired cheaply at dollar stores. You can recoup the loss form those purchases in two months by lowering your minutes on most plans). I can video-chat with my family for free.

Skype is a great calling system too.

4) My fiance and I share our house with a roommate who goes to the Tech College. She rocks, and it lowers our overall rent and utilities while allowing us to live in a house. The added benefit of a roommate? She helps out with the “kids,” our dog and cat, so I we can remain at school and work longer and know our animals and house are okay. We even split dinners sometimes.

– When living with roommates, it’s important to stay economical and green: when someone is heating water on the stove, s/he can ask if anyone else wants hot water (saves on propane/electric/oil); we have a special location to put dishes that we will use later in the day (no one will clean them or load them in the dishwasher); we only wash clothes and use the dryer when people are home (keeps the bathroom warm without turning up the heat); we always ask if anyone needs something from the store and try to plan trips to West Leb, New Hampshire or Burlington when at least two of us can go, and so on.

5) Grains, Legumes, Beans, and other such food stuffs are good for you and you can cook a lot of the item to provide you with meals or meal additions for the rest of the week. Because you can by these things in their dried form, you do not have to worry that they will go bad. Beans and Legumes, for example,are cheap in the cans too, but better for you in the dried form and all you have to do is soak them and leave them until you are ready to boil them (easy cooking!). Keep these on hand.

6) Fruit getting a little soft? Pit cherries, cut up brown bananas, even apples and grapes and throw them into a container and freeze them. Anytime you open a can of fruit or fruit salad pour the juice over the fruits, and keep freezing. Some weekend, get out your blender, drop in the mix of frozen fruits, add milk/soy milk/rice milk and honey, and you have yourself a delicious and nutritious smoothy! AND you didn’t waste any food. Refreeze in an easy-open container. You now have a sorbet-type healthy treat for late night snacking.

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7) Set up a Desktop organizer, like iGoogle. Incorporate time-saving apps like Google Reader/NewsCrawler/Shrook to keep you in touch with top news stories and add in your favorite RSS feeds (Climate Wire, BBC, CNN/Fox News, etc.). Add your calendar, a To-Do List app (e.g., Sticky Note) and set this as your homepage. Whenever you log in, everything that you need to do or read for the day should be staring at you. If you’re not a digital organizer, save used envelopes and every night before you go to bed, write down everything you need to do the next day – wash dog, take walk, make lunch, Con Law pp. 30-56, take car to shop, etc. Try to put it in order of how you see yourself taking care of the items. If you finish all your chores for the day, you get to recycle the envelope.

-Lists can also give you peace of mind so you can actually go to sleep. I keep an envelope and pencil by the bed just in case something is nagging at me. I can write it down and know that I will not forget to do it.

8)Set up a digital calendar like iCalendar/Google Calendar/Outlook and make it convenient for you to access (put it on iGoogle or your desktop for example). Put reminders that go to your email (email may also go to your phone if you have a smart phone or you can sync your calendar to your phone) for deadlines, classes, meetings, and other duties and chores. Giving rent to your landlord or paying your credit card bill should be one of the things you add.

– In law school you will be bombarded by emails that are inviting you to things or telling you when exams are or what room a meeting is in. Deal with these quickly and swiftly by copying them into your calendar immediately and deleting the email. On most digital calendars, you can have more than one calendar too, i.e., Appointment, Meetings, Personal, Work. in Google Calendar, you can “Hide” the calendars that you don’t want to see. During heavy work load weeks, hide the calendars that include things like lectures and club meetings. School comes before those other things.

9) Keep your study space tidy. It is easier to procrastinate by “needing to clean.” If you feel the need to procrastinate, do the other things that you need to be doing (i.e., organizing the minutes from a school club meeting, sending emails to friends, or calling your bank). Getting things done that involve thinking or doing can help move your mind into the “working” mindset.

10) Noise – music is often a hindrance, no matter what people say about how they study. This means it is ruining your time management. If anyone is singing words, you are not focusing on your task. Try music that has no words, or provide yourself with background sounds. For example, put in a load of laundry.

– I can’t study in the library because it is too quiet, so I place myself in an area where lots of people are walking by. If I notice that I keep looking up to often at people passing by, I put in my headphones with a wordless soundtrack. At home, I like the space heater, laundry machines, or closing the door and letting the drone of the TV be just that, a drone.

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