Welcome to Ahead of the Curve, our new series for incoming 1Ls. We’re getting lots of questions about what law school to attend, how to pay for it, and what people can be doing now to set themselves up for success in law school. Stay tuned, and be sure to sign up for our free mailing list and check out the Start Law School Right course to ensure you’re ready to go on Day One!
Some students enter law school planning to go after a six-figure salary in big law, while others dream of changing the world by working at a non-profit, but regardless of where you see yourself after graduation, almost every law student starts the journey needing to save a few dollars. We all know that between tuition, textbooks, living expenses, and that new suit you’ll probably need to buy for interviews, the cost of three years of law school can be enormous. Since most students don’t work at all during their first year, it’s particularly important that you stretch every dollar as much as possible. To help you save some money when starting law school, start budgeting your expenses and follow these tips:
1. Take Advantage Of The Resources At Your School
One of the easiest and most fruitful ways to save money is to research the free and discounted resources available to you through your school and take full advantage of them. They may not technically be “free” since you’re paying tuition, but that’s all the more reason to utilize them as much as possible. Some common resources that schools have available may include:
- Study Aids – Your law library may not only have supplemental study aids available in print for you to check out, but they may also have digital copies that you can access. Ask about whether they have a study aids subscription that students can use and you could save hundreds on supplemental material.
- Computers – Some schools have agreements with vendors to offer their students deals and discounts on new computers or software. If you need to purchase a new laptop before starting school, check with your school first to make sure you get the best deal possible.
- Gyms – Staying healthy is important in law school, but gym membership fees probably won’t do much to help your bank account. Most colleges and universities allow their students, including grad and law students, to use their campus gym for free, so cancel your gym membership and starting working out with the undergrads.
- Medical Services – Even with insurance, medical services are costly, especially to a 1L surviving primarily on student loans. Before law school starts, look into whether your school has a campus health clinic that treats students at discounted rates or an insurance plan that law students can purchase to help defray costs.
There are likely other free or discounted resources available at your school, so don’t be shy about asking around and taking advantage of what they offer.
2. Look For Deals On Textbooks And Supplements
You’ll learn pretty quickly that those big, leather bound law textbooks cost a pretty penny. Buy used textbooks when you can but, for even better prices, look into whether you can rent the textbook for the academic year. Additionally, don’t be afraid to skip the campus bookstore and look for deals online, particularly when it comes to buying supplements like commercial outlines or hornbooks. Speaking of supplements, in addition to following tip #1 above about researching for free study aids, don’t feel compelled to purchase a bunch of supplements up front. Waiting until you’re a few weeks into the semester to buy a study aid is usually the better strategy because it gives you time to see whether you need a supplement at all and, if you do, to figure out which supplement will be best for each particular course.
3. Make Your Meals
Going out to lunch or buying snacks from the school café will eat into both your study time and your budget. The amount you save from bringing your own meals to school each day will really add up, so skip the lunchtime socializing and enjoy a brown bag lunch while finishing your reading.
4. Cut Your Monthly Expenses
Make a list of your regular monthly expenses and brainstorm ways to reduce them. For example, if you’re paying for a costly monthly cable subscription, it’s time to cut your cable in lieu of a cheaper option (you won’t have as much time to watch TV anyway, right?). Another good idea is to call your insurance agent and see what you can do to lower your car insurance payment – they may have affinity deals or safe driving programs that can save you money. Whether it’s your utilities, your cell phone bill, or anything else that you pay for regularly, it’s a good idea to evaluate each expense before school starts and make cuts where you can.
5. Limit Your Travel
Back in my college days, when I was going home for a visit at winter break time, I could fly across the country round trip for $200 – I kid you not. Nowadays, it seems like I can barely get to the next state over for less than that. Travel is expensive so it’s an easy place to cut costs. As much as you might like to go home for a visit during Thanksgiving break, you might be better off staying put. Not only will you save money by not traveling, you will also give yourself more time to study and prepare for final exams.
The more disciplined you are about sticking to a budget and cutting your expenses during law school, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the experience. Use the strategies above to help you save a few dollars when you’re starting law school and save the splurging until after you’ve passed the bar exam!
For more helpful advice, check out these posts:
- Ahead of the Curve: Take the Money or Take a Gamble? Should a Scholarship Determine Which Law School You Attend?
- 5 Money Saving Apps for Law Students
- Fast, Healthy, and Cheap Eating in Law School
- All the Supplies You Need to Start Law School Right
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.