January 14, 2019

How I'm Paying Off My Law School Debt

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Happy 2019 everyone!! I wanted this post to be my first post of the year because my New Years resolution is to get on top of my financial situation and take on my debt head on. 

If we're being honest, my debt really annoys me sometimes. I look at how much I owe and think about the cute little house I could buy with it instead, or the crazy nice car I could get myself, or the trip of a lifetime flying first class around the world and staying in some nice ass hotels with the money that I've spent on a law degree. I look at my friends who graduated without debt and see all the fun things they get to do because they can afford to go to brunch every weekend and fly home to surprise their parents or buy that thing that they really want, because every though I make more than them, they have more money to blow each month. So, that's hard. BUT, I do think that it was worth it to go to law school and although my debt is a huge thing in my life, I'm still very glad I went to law school.

So let's talk about my debt. How much it actually cost me to go to law school, how I helped my debt while I'm in law school, and my plan to not die still owing money!

My law school debt

First off, how much I owe...

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I keep track of my debt using this app

Yep. It's a pretty big number. But I am grateful that my parents were able to support me through college so my debt is only law school and doesn't also include college debt too. Also shoutout to my dad for helping cover my MPRE fee and my Barbri fee. My loans are made up of the maximum amount that I could get from FASFA (government loan) and whatever FASFA didn't cover was paid for by Sallie May (private loan). My government loan definitely gave me much better interest rates than my private loan, but sadly my 1L year my FASFA wasn't even enough to cover my tuition.

Related: How to get a student loan for law school

A big part of why that number is so high is because my 1L year I went to a private school which cost almost double than the school that I went to my 2L/3L year. This is kind of a bummer because it means that my biggest loan has been accruing interest the longest, but it is what it is. 

Another reason why that number is so high is because I used student loans to pay for everything— tuition, books, housing, groceries, gas, everything that I had to spend money on for 3 years came from loans.

Related: A breakdown of my 0L, 1L, and 2L expenses

How I minimized my law school debt

The easiest way to minimize your law school debt is to look for scholarships!! Try to get as many scholarships as you can before law school, and then after every semester 1) go in to the financial aid office and try to negotiate a better scholarship [assuming you have decent grades, if you need help with your grades go here], and 2) see if you qualify for any external scholarships. 

One thing I started doing after my 1L year was to take out my scholarships after each semester instead of one big loan at the beginning of every year. The idea is that if you take out say $15k in August and another $15k in January, then the spring semester $15k isn't sitting there accruing interest while it's not being used during the fall semester. I haven't done the math to see how much it actually saves, but I do feel like it helps. One downside though is that doing this means more "hard credit checks" on your credit score so it might lower your credit score a little (idk by how much) which might make your new interest rate higher for your private loans. Ask your parents or someone who's good with math help you calculate it and find the best option for you. 

Probably the thing that felt like helped me the most with my debt was working during the summer between my 2L and 3L year and for the whole fall semester of my 3L year. This helped make the money that I was taking out stretch so much further. In fact, I was very excited that I was able to save enough both semesters of my 3L year that I had enough leftover money to pay for 2 months' rent and groceries during the Bar so I actually didn't have to take out a Bar prep loan!

The last thing that I did to help my debt while I was still in school was that I signed up for automatic payments on my loans each month. It wasn't much-- I think I paid like $200 a month of my private loans and like $75 a month of my government loan. I realize it sounds absolutely counter-intuitive to use loan money to pay off your loans but hear me out. First off, I was able to choose a better interest rate from the start by agreeing to opt-in to pay I think it was $25 a month on each private loan (I chose to pay extra each month). Secondly, this helped keep my interest rate down by juuuust a teensy bit. Yeah it's not much but hey if it helps, I was all for it. Third, it boosted my credit score to be consistently paying on my debt so with each new loan that I took out (remember I took out 5 private loans [1 1L, 2 2L, and 2 3L]) I qualified for a better interest rate. I ended up having an interest rate on my last loan be about 1 full percentage lower than on my first loan! 

My law school debt repayment plan

So here's my focus for 2019! The first thing that I've already done in 2019, even though we're only like 2 weeks in, is refinance my loans through SoFi. What this means is that basically I have them pay off all of my private loans and then now I owe SoFi for my loans but instead of having 5 loans to pay off that all have different interest rates, I have 1 loan to pay off at 1 interest rate. And because as I just mentioned my credit score went up from when I was a 0L to now, I qualified for a new interest rate that's 2% lower than my highest old interest rate and 1% lower than my lowest old interest rate (I realize this gets confusing because of math but bear with me). This will end up saving me thousands over the course of my repayment plan. If you want to learn more about refinancing with SoFi, use this link and you can get $100 if you sign up.

The second thing that I'm doing this year is that I'm paying every other week on my loans. I received a 0.25% lower interest by signing up for automatic payment on my loan, but I'll actually be paying extra each month. The idea is that if you pay every other week you end up paying a little extra each year because some months have 5 weeks in them, but to you it doesn't feel like you're paying extra. I just set up a reminder in my phone for every other Saturday to pay a little extra on my loan.

And as for my repayment plan, what I've decided to do is the Dave Ramsey approach to debt where I'm going to make the minimum payments on my government loan each month and use any extra money that I have to pay off my private loan first (called the debt avalanche). Using this method, I'll completely put all of my attention on my private loan first because it has a higher interest rate, and then after that's completely paid off I'll turn my focus to my government loan with the lower interest rate. The idea behind this is that if you focus your attention to the higher interest loan first, you'll end up saving money on interest in the long run. 

Let's talk numbers. What does this look like for me. I'm in the 20-year repayment plan for my private loan, which costs me somewhere around $650 a month. I'm in the 15-year repayment plan for my government loan, which costs me somewhere around $750 a month. Ideally, which my debt avalanche approach to debt I wish the year payoff plans were swapped but I'm working with what I was given. Anyways, my plan is to spend about $1000 from each paycheck on my debt— $1k from my first paycheck of the month to my private loan, and then $750 from my second paycheck to my government loan and $300 from my second paycheck to my private loan. To do this, Ryan and I are really focused on our budget  (we each use this app to budget) and we actually live a pretty frugal lifestyle most of the time.

Lastly, my plan is for any raise I get in the future to go directly to my debt. I've read from so many people to just act like you never got a raise (I mean you're already making your salary work for your budget). The problem is that if you use your raise to treat yo self, then it's really hard for you to scale back to being #poor after you've gotten used to the good life (it's called the golden handcuffs problem). Another thing that I'm planning to do is use any tax refunds that I get to go to my loans, for the same reason. When I first started my job and was filing out the paperwork, I actually elected to have less money taken out of my paycheck each month/less or no tax refund just so that I could have more money each paycheck to work on spending at least $2k a month on my loans.

Okay congratulations you've made it to the end! Sorry it's such a long post but also I haven't posted in a while so I guess this makes up for it lol. I'm very much brand new to this whole student debt situation, so we'll see what I end up changing, what works out really well for me, and what else I find out about. Right now, my plan is to do a law school debt update at the beginning of every year because I know these posts can be boring/scary so I think once a year will help y'all see how it's going without being too much. Okay so I guess we'll see where this goes in 2019!!

let's be friends!

December 31, 2018

Top Blog Posts of 2018

Happy NYE everyone!! The one thing I really miss about being a student is the extra long Christmas/NYE break that you get. I'm working a half day on NYE but at least have the first off so Ryan and I are doing a little staycation in a nearby town (it's so cute so I'll post where we go on my Instagram stories). 

Anyways, I can't believe it's been a full year since I did my Top Blog Posts of 2017! This has been a whirlwind of a year and I'm so grateful for what 2018 brought me. This year I spent a semester interning as corporate counsel, graduated law school, passed the Bar exam, became a licensed attorney, and got a job!! It has been a long, long journey to get here but I am so blessed to finally be where I knew I was supposed to be all along. I'm getting sentimental so I'll stop, but I truly do what to thank all of y'all for coming back week after week, following along with my road-to-lawyer story, and sharing yours with me. Honestly, this blog will forever be my favorite part about law school and I have y'all to thank for that!! Okay so now here's a recap of the top 10 posts that y'all loved this year....

To summarize this post, look for a backpack that is sturdy, spacious, and strong. It's funny because I spent 3 years of my life rolling my eyes at people who used the briefcase-on-wheels as their backpack but guess what Christmas present I got really excited for?? Yep.... a briefcase on wheels. But I still stand by my opinion that these are better for carrying a huge case file into a hearing than taking with you to class every day.

Not much has changed between what I bring into work every day now as an actual lawyer and what I brought in as an intern. I definitely don't have time to bring a Kindle and read anymore because my lunches are spent either watching daytime court TV shows with my coworkers and being grateful that our clients aren't like that and actually doing work for my clients because lunch time is when a lot of them have the free time to communicate with me. I originally intended to use my first big-girl paycheck to buy a new purse as a present to myself for this past year, but student loans happened first so instead I'm putting away a little each month.

One of my most-worn work tops is included in this post! This post is actually one of my favorites from this year because it features affordable pieces that a broke law student can afford to help get her lawyer wardrobe going. We've all been there when you have your first interview or 1L competition where you need some professional clothes, but your bank account is saying "bitch, please." If you missed this post, I promise you it'll be worth it to go check it out.

This is advice that I received in 2018 that I still try to live by every single day because it really is super important. As we're starting out our law career, we're establishing a reputation that will follow us for the rest of our career, and you only get one chance to make a first impression. I take this to heart because I want to be respected in the legal community. If you'e a 3L, I highly recommend that you consider what you want your personal brand to be.  

Hopefully you don't need this post, but this is actually really perfect timing to reshare this. If you do need this post, just remember that plenty of successful lawyers were on academic probation at some point and you really can turn your GPA around. But even if you have anything less than a 4.0, this post has some tricks I picked up on how to slowly climb your way up the GPA ladder. 

If you're a pre-law reader, please please please go read this! All the time I'm asked for LSAT advice and while this isn't the advice you wanted, it's the advice you didn't realize you needed. I promise I have plans to do another LSAT related post, but for now read this and send it to your other pre-law friends because it's probably something y'all hadn't thought about yet. 

If last semester started to be a big overwhelming for you, then this post is for you!! I'm a firm believer that the right lists can keep your life on track. I still use every single one of these lists every single day and I swear they help me stay on top of my clients, my apartment, and my budget. I realized that five is probably overkill, but maybe pick just one and make it your 2019 goal to use it daily. You can thank me next December!

This is actually a two-in-one post with the first half giving you some basic tips on how to do your makeup that doesn't scream I'm a millennial!! but still is your style and the second half is some great ways that I organize my makeup. I stayed in a little studio apartment during my internship and finally figured out how to make the most of a small space.

Moment of sadness because I just realized that I will literally never get to graduate again. Followed by a moment of guilt because I just realized that I never blogged about my law school graduation, so I guess that's a post for 2019. Funny story about what I wore to graduation, another one of my classmates wore the exact same dress in the same color and everything! I wasn't annoyed in the slightest because 1) no one would see our dresses anyways and 2) someone wearing my dress just reaffirmed my decision that it was a perfect dress to graduate in lol. 

I have one law school graduation to attend in 2019 and I'm already starting to shop around for what I'm going to wear. What I love about this post is that it's similar to #3 on this list and everything is from.... Amazon! It seems like there's always another graduation to go to for one of your friends or family members. And who else remembers the scene from the Lizzie McGuire movie where Kate screams out "Lizze McGuire you are an outfit repeater!" at graduation?? Still to this day I won't rewear an outfit to two graduation ceremonies lol. So if you're like me and need a bunch of cute outfits for this spring, this post has lots of affordable options.

And we're done! Thank you guys for making these posts your top 10 most read posts! Like I've mentioned already today, I have lots of post ideas that I'm working on for 2019, but the most read posts are the ones that y'all requested because you know what you want to read. So please if you have anything you want to see, go ahead and comment on this post or use the "questions and suggestions" box on the bottom right to email me an idea.