June 27, 2021

Law Job Considerations Besides Salary

Law Job Considerations Besides Salary | brazenandbrunette.com

Hi I'm Nikki and my toxic trait is blogging once a year and then suddenly a whole bunch :) But for reals, I'm starting to feel less busy in life and I want to get back to blogging because I truly do love it. Today I wanted to write a little post for all your new JD's or even 3L's who are job hunting. When I first started job hunting, I only cared about salary, which I now see was a mistake. I'm lucky that the job I ended up in right after law school just so happens to be a job that I love and I have been at since graduating law school. Now that I'm coming up on my third year at my job, I wanted to share some wisdom with y'all about what else to consider besides the money when looking at a job.

Office culture/The Vibe

I'm starting off here because this is actually why I chose the firm that I'm with but also because I think it's one of the more important things I'll talk to today. My interview was with the firm owner and a senior associate at the firm. The owner was wearing a pink polo shirt and the senior associate asked what I thought of him wearing pink. I was caught off guard and said I thought it looked fine, then the senior associate said, "Really? Because I don't think pink is his color!" The owner started genuinely laughing and turned red and the senior associate said, "See! Look! He's already pink enough!" and they both started laughing at each other. I instantly felt more comfortable and relaxed knowing that the attorneys in this firm had that kind of relationship with one another. And now I'm here getting burned by that same associate attorney weekly, and I talk shit to him all the time.

If you feel comfortable, just go for it. This job was offering much less than I originally wanted to be paid, but I knew that there are a lot of toxic firms out there with terrible work environments and I'd rather be happy with just a little less. On the flip side, if you don't feel comfortable, consider that. Sure, one thing I learned going through recruitment was that what you're shown isn't always what it's like, but trust your gut. 


Okay now less fun, more adulting. So, I walked out of the above-mentioned interview, and on the way to my car I saw I had another interview offer with another law firm that paid a little more. I called my sister conflicted because I loved the firm I had just interviewed with, and now I had this seemingly-better job offer. But there was a catch-- this other job couldn't offer any benefits. My sister is an office manager so she really understands employee benefits and wisely told me that health insurance is costly so while this job may pay more technically, I'd probably end up with less money at the end of the month after paying for personal health insurance. 

She was right! I've since learned that it's a lot easier to ask for and to receive a raise than it is to ask for and receive health insurance. And there's more benefits than just that! My job actually covers my insurance 100% for me and my family, meaning that 0% of my paycheck is reduced to pay for my health insurance, and when Ryan and I got married, I could add him to our insurance for free. Ryan was able to negotiate that with his job and have them increase his take-home pay for 50% of what they used to pay for his health insurance so it was a win-win. I also get 401(k) matching. YOU WANT 401K MATCHING (or a similar program like 403(b)).

Mentors and Growth

One of my law school friends told me once about how she hated her job. Everyone there had been there for forever and no one really cared about her. She felt that no one took the time to teach her anything, but everyone was quick to point out her mistakes (with no constructive criticism on how to do better next time). You can imagine how long it took her to start considering other job opportunities. Asking about mentor opportunities in an interview is great because it gives you a sense of the firm's hierarchy and shows your eagerness to learn.

Another big tip is look into areas for growth. What is this firm's structure like? I talked with a girl that my job was considering and I asked her why she wanted to leave her job, because it paid over double what our attorneys made. She straight up told me because she was stuck at her job. The firm only allowed for raises or promotions when an attorney above you left, and no one had left that job in over 15 years. That is great for the firm overall, but that meant that no matter how great she did, she wouldn't be compensated unless someone quit, retired, was fired, or died. That can a terrible position where you're stuck hoping for someone's downfall just so you can finally get some recognition. 

Paid time off

I learned this tip from one of my mentors from my externship and it is so smart! This is another negotiating tip that benefits you and costs your company very little. Most jobs have a policy that you have to work there for so long to earn PTO or you only start out with so much PTO, but sometimes that can be a flexible policy! 

My mentor of my externship revealed to me that before accepting her job, she asked for an extra half-week of PTO, and asked that her PTO be available immediately. She didn't actually need this time off, but her salary was something the company was already paying for, and why not enjoy a day off sooner rather than later? It's also great to have as a backup just in case something happens in the first few months of your job to prevent you from having to take unpaid leave. This also is a good time to negotiate paid maternity/paternity leave for future you. 

Bar costs

Fun fact: you have to pay bar dues. And CLE's cost money. This is something very easy to inquire about, because it's common for firms to pay for these. That may not sound like much, but when you're a baby lawyer with your student loans drying out, that couple hundred bucks to get you squared away with the bar really help!  This is especially true once you start calculating that bar dues and CLE's are annual expenses that could easily add up for you.

My job also sends me to a CLE conference on the area of law that I work in, which saves me gas and hotel for a 3-day trip. If you can save money, why not? 

The work load

When I first started my job, I was talking with a coworker about why he left his old job for this one. He told me that his old job used to have ridiculously long hours and tasks were always being dropped on his desk last minute. Not only did he feel that he lived at his job, he also felt that he could never take a vacation because there was always something new piling up. Yes, we all know that big-paying law jobs require a shit ton of hours. You just have to consider what is worth it to you. 


You may remember how I shadowed a judge the summer after my 1L year. What you may not remember is that I had to pay $3 for parking every day I was with the judge. That adds up real fast! I actually learned in my negotiations class that paid, covered parking can be a negotiation tactic. A hiring attorney might have a hard time justifying why newly-licensed you should be paid as much as their attorney who has been there for a year, but it's easier to justify why you should have a parking spot (well, this one asked and the other didn't). It can save you a lot of money over time and is really easy for your job to accommodate for little-to-nothing to them. 

Location, location, location

If this job is in another city, will they pay for relocation costs? What about a deposit on your apartment? Also, just consider the location in general. How many hours of your life will you spend in traffic? How early will you have to wake up to get there on time, and how late will you get home each evening?

This was also a big thing when Ryan and I were house hunting, because our offices are over an hour away in opposite directions from one another. Any house that was close to one job was far away from another. This means we're now both 30-45 minutes away from our job. Oh, and we both have to pay tolls every day. These things add up, so consider them. 

Little things

Once you take a job, don't be shy. My job actually paid for the frames for my diploma! Again, doesn't sound like much but saving you a couple hundred bucks really helps out when you're just starting out as an adult. 

My job also pays for my phone plan! That got me a new phone because I was a new line added to the plan, and saves me hundreds of dollars each year! Sure, if I leave I'll have to find something new, but that's still worth it to me. 

Oh, and don't forget about student loan reimbursement! Your job can pay towards your debt, and usually get a tax break while they're at it. Student loans are becoming more and more common, so don't feel shy asking about what they offer to help with law school debt. 

Okay, I'm out of wine and out of ideas lol! Really, I just wanted to open y'alls eyes to the jobs you'll be looking at. I say this because I did take a lower-paying job that had a helluva lot of other benefits that I've greatly enjoyed. And I got these benefits and then a raise so I ended up getting the salary I originally wanted, plus some! I am truly truly happy I looked at more than just the pay when I chose my job, so I want y'all to consider that too! 

June 20, 2021

Why I Chose My Area of The Law + Tips for Baby Lawyers

Why I Chose My Area of The Law + Tips for Baby Lawyers | brazenandbrunette.com

Hellooooo! It's been a hot minute, so thank you to anyone who is actually still reading this. I'm currently procrastinating work + laundry so I remembered that I have this blog. I've been meaning for over a year to talk about being a lawyer but have been so busy that I haven't sat down to write this until today :) 

Let me take you down the twisted path of how I ended up in my area of law. The too long; didn't read version is trust God's plan. To backtrack, I spent my entire last semester of law school working with the in-house counsel of Interstate Batteries in Dallas. I loved it and left wanting nothing less than working in-house counsel, even though I knew these jobs were very selective and competitive. Then I took the Bar Exam and honestly I felt lost after the Bar. I spent all August and September after the Bar feeling lost and unmotivated and only survived off of my remaining law school loan money and the generosity of Ryan. I of ended up working for my now-fiancé's mom as her assistant because she's the CEO of her own company in October. This job was a huge wake up for me because, even though I didn't have my bar results yet, I knew I wanted to be doing something with the law. 

So I started job hunting (hi, procrastination!) and applying to in-house jobs with no response, then I applied to other corporate jobs with no response, and then I broadened my applications. I can still remember sitting on our balcony with a glass of wine and crying to Ryan as I realized I was at a fork in the road for my career. I had seen the job posting for a workers' comp attorney and honestly I wasn't very on board. I knew if I applied for and/or took this job, I was sabotaging my chances of going in-house. And I felt like workers' comp felt as unglamorous and low-life as it gets like Saul from Better Call Saul. I really didn't want to apply for the job but Ryan talked it through with me and we decided any job is better than no job and to just apply.

After I got my bar results back, I sent a follow-up email to everywhere I had applied to and mentioned that I would now be a licensed lawyer. My current boss called my like that next day for a phone interview, and then we scheduled an in-person interview for the end of that week. To be transparent, it was the first firm that called me back. It was a small 7-laywer firm that only handled the non-sexy workers' comp. But during my interview, I just felt so at home and at ease! I instantly loved it and when they offered me a job on the spot, I tried to stall and told them I needed to think about it before committing so I didn't seem desperate. 

As luck would have it, as I was leaving the interview I got an email from another law firm that was an area of the law closer to in-house counsel that invited me to interview but warned that they couldn't offer health insurance, 401k, or other benefits at the time. I called my sister and she wisely advised me to not bother with a firm that couldn't offer benefits. I had lunch with Ryan who wisely advised me to take a job if I felt so excited about it. So, later that same day I officially became a workers' comp attorney.

I've been at my firm for over 2 years now, and I fully intend to stay here for as long as possible. My gut instinct was right  my boss provides guidance and feedback but isn't harsh and we actually really get along; each and every attorney above me has acted as a mentor and has helped me be a better lawyer and more successful in my own firm; one attorney specifically took me aside and told me what to do to get a raise and then championed for me to get that raise; I've been given opportunities to gain new experience without being thrown into something unprepared; and I've already doubled my starting salary. 

Constantly, I think back on that night with my wine and tears and Ryan and am so glad that I didn't let my pride and idea of a "dream lawyer job" prevent me from applying to my firm. My job is stressful, as all lawyer jobs are (which is something you really can't understand until you have clients of your own), but I am very grateful with where I ended up and I am lucky to say I love my job. I still talk to my law school friends so I've heard the stories of the ones who change jobs every 6 months because they can't find a job they like, or the ones who has a boss/company culture that could care less about you or your success, or the ones who just hate their jobs but they need the money. I'm just very happy in the circumstances that I'm in.

So, this whole life story and humble brag can now lead to lessons I would tell new law school grad Nikki.
  1. Don't box yourself in to one area of the law, you never know what area you might like more.
  2. Benefits are the same as money. If a job can't give you health insurance, retirement, etcetera, remember that this is something YOU will have to pay. So the salary they're offering will actually be much less because you'll have to be paying a lot out of pocket.
  3. If you're interested in a job, let them know. My boss actually told me that his excitement for me actually decreased when I didn't accept the job immediately because it made him feel like I wasn't fully committed. 
  4. Be humble. Looking back on it, it was VERY arrogant of unlicensed and inexperienced Nikki to turn her nose down at the thought of workers' comp. 
  5. Be open minded. I obviously had pre-conceived notions about what law I did and didn't want to do, but now I absolutely love the area of the law that I do. It's very convenient that my worst subject in law school (evidence) isn't really even used in my area of the law. And I originally wanted to be a doctor, and now all I really do is read medical records for a living. Plus, I obviously really like helping people and now that is the majority of my job! You never know what random job will end up being perfectly designed for you. 
  6. Do what makes you happy. Money is nice, but talking to my friends who hate their jobs makes it very easy to comprehend that there is no price for your mental wellbeing. If you like a job, don't worry about the money and instead choose your happiness. Again, I fully expected my job to be low paying for life, and now I make six figures. 

June 13, 2021

Ultimate Wedding Post

Ultimate Wedding Post | brazenandbrunette.com

Hi friends! I try to keep this blog law-school centered, but today we're taking a detour to talk about what I've learned wedding planning. This won't be a whole lot since that's not the point of this blog and let's be honest I'm too lazy to write out everything, but here's just some thoughts :) Oh and wondering how Ry and I met? Here ya go!

Wedding Tips

I have a lot to say so I'm just going to do several quick bullet points to keep this post relatively short.
  • As soon as you get engaged (or even sooner if you know y'all are heading to an engagement) pick a travel credit card and start saving points. I already had a Capital One Venture card for over a year and we were able to use points to book a week long stay at an all-inclusive 5-star resort in a swim-up suite. I had to pay about $300 for taxes and fees, but $300 for a week isn't bad! Then I got the Chase United card for flights. I referred Ryan and they gave me like a 10,000 points bonus. We used my card points for the flight there and his card points for the flight back, and were able to book business class direct flights round trip from Houston to Punta Cana for only like $150 fees and taxes. Each card also came with 2 club passes so for each flight we didn't have to wait at the gate. Not bad to pay less than $500 for a luxury honeymoon with an upgraded flight and hotel room. 
  • Start first with Pinterest. There's two camps for this: either you have no Pinterest wedding board/a sparse Pinterest wedding board or you have a mammoth of a wedding Pinterest board. If you have too many pins, like me, start by deleting all the outdated pins (bye mason jars) and narrow down to ideas you truly will implement. If you don't have much, or any, wedding pins saved, start saving ideas. A tip I learned on tik tok isn't to search for "blue wedding" because you'll get inconsistent results. Instead search for "agate aesthetic wedding" and you'll get more specific results. 
  • Make a separate wedding email. Almost every vendor requires an email to send you a quote. This helps by keeping your personal email from getting blown up after you're on all these stupid mailing lists, and it makes it so much easier to go back through and find a quote when you don't have to sift through all of your personal emails to find a wedding-related email. Ryan and I both use the standard Apple mail email app for our personal emails, so instead of adding our wedding email to that, we both just downloaded the gmail app separately just for wedding stuff. This makes it easier to remove from our phones after the wedding, keeps wedding and personal emails completely separate, and helps make sure we're both seeing wedding-related emails. Ours was basic with our names: ryanandnikkimillerwedding@gmail.com but I've also seen people use their wedding hashtag so we could've used loveyounomillerwhat (but I created the email address long before the hashtag). 
  • Use your new wedding gmail to create a Google Drive for your wedding. This way you can easily save invoices and receipts that are emailed to you, and you can share your Google Drive with your parents and planner (see next bulletin). Our folders were broken down as:
    • Budget
      • An excel sheet of what we've spent that kept track of our remaining money
      • An excel sheet to keep track of who was paying for what (both my parents and Ry's parents contributed to the wedding)
      • An excel sheet of what is due when and when deposits were paid
    • Checklists
      • General wedding checklist
      • Purchase checklist
      • Packing checklist 
      • Month-of calendar
    • Contracts
      • All contracts for each vendor, saved by vendor type rather than company name for quick locating
    • Engagement photo ideas (shared this with our photographer)
      • Outfit ideas
      • Pose ideas
      • Location ideas with logistics (we had to rent one venue)
    • Guests
      • Ry's side's guest list
      • My side's guest list
      • Seating chart
    • Honeymoon
      • Flight and hotel confirmations (go to print an email and when you chose a printer it should have the option to save as a PDF, save as PDF, upload to this folder)
      • Copies of our passports & driver's licenses
      • COVID requirements for entry to our honeymoon destination and return entry to the US w/ testing locations
    • Idea board
      • Ceremony (actual venue photos for reference, top Pinterest photos for inspiration, detailed list of what I did/didn't want)
      • Cocktail hour (same)
      • Reception (same)
    • Timelines
      • Hair/makeup timeline
      • Photographer's timeline
      • Planner's master timeline 
      • Ryan's sister's wedding timeline for reference 
      • Screenshots of timeline tips I found on tik-tok 
  • Most venues require you to hire at least a day-of coordinator. Ryan's mom offered to hire us a full-service planner and she was great, but honestly we hired her about 7 months out so I felt we didn't get much more use out of her than if we would have paid for partial planning. Do consider a planner/coordinator, but consider your timeline when you're making decisions about how much help you'll need. If it's not in your budget, honestly The Knot has all the tools to keep you on track. 
  • Book your "only one wedding" vendors first. For example, a videographer usually will only have time to film one wedding a day, but a bakery can make cakes for multiple weddings all happening on the same day.
  • Order your wedding dress sooner rather than later. This will save you from stressing or having to pay rush shipping. Don't forget that once your dress comes in, you'll probably need it to be altered. Take LOTS of pictures of your dress from just about every angle imaginable when you say yes to it and at each alteration appointment (on an iPhone you can hide these photos from your camera roll so your fiancé doesn't accidentally see it!). As I was showing my friends photos of my dress, I realized that when we brought the straps up so the dress fit me properly, it accidentally turned by scoop-neck into a boatneck neckline and made an appointment to have it fixed. 
  • Copy your guest list into an excel sheet and then print it to have your guests easily numbered. Then, use those numbers to number the back of your RSVP's with a blacklight pen. This helps both with RSVP's which people forgot to include their name (happened to us) and RSVP's where their handwriting is illegible (also happened to us).
  • If you use Minted for your wedding, sign up for the mailing list to get a 20% coupon (see why you'll need a separate email??) but DO NOT use it for your save-the-date's! Invitations can cost hundreds of dollars but save-the-dates cost only a few hundred dollars, so save that coupon for the bigger purchase!
  • Save money on return addressing!!! You will have put your address on save-the-dates, invites, RSVP's, bridal shower invites, rehearsal invites, bachelorette invites, thank you cards, whatever. This can be like $40 EACH time. Or you can buy a $20 stamp & add your return address yourself (in literally less than 10 minutes) and have something to last you for years. Since we started using this before we were married, I just made the stamp say "Nikki and Ryan."
  • You can save a lot of money on your wedding items on Vistaprint instead of going through Etsy. We ordered magnetic save-the-dates, welcome bags, itinerary cards, hotel door hangers, and coasters from them. If you can, wait until around the holidays when they have big sales to entice people to order Christmas cards through them. I used Canva to design our logo & put it on everything to make our wedding look fancier than it was. 
  • Going off that, if you can, wait until major holidays to make major purchases. Ryan's sister taught us this when she and her husband got their wedding bands on discount during a mother's day sale at their jeweler! Etsy has big sales for Black Friday, Amazon has lowered prices for Prime Day, and I just mentioned how printing companies offer the best discounts during holiday card season. 
  • Make personalized timelines for each member of the bridal party (parents included) and text them out 2 weeks before the wedding. Everyone will know exactly what they are supposed to do and it will save you the headache of answering the same question 5 times.
  • Download apps like Hopper and Skyscanner to help you know the best days to book the cheapest flights for your bachelorette/honeymoon. And set a Google flight alert to help. 
  • The Bach App is great for planning bachelorette parties, especially if there's a lot of details to coordinate. 
  • Buy clear storage boxes for organizing wedding items. You can write on the boxes with dry erase marker and then later wipe that off with an alcohol wipe or hand sanitizer. For example, I had a "ceremony" box with our ring bearer pillow, flower girl basket, & unity ceremony glasses all together and a "photographer" box with our rings, my perfume, my heels, my earrings, my hairpiece, and my "something old" all together for my photographer. By pre-labeling boxes, it saves you from having to dictate which boxes go where on the morning of your wedding. 
  • Start upping your diet/exercise, teeth whitening, skincare, and haircare regimen now. It will help you feel prepared in time for your engagement photos and you won't be rushed later. I used Latisse through Rory and was so happy. 
  • Make a separate wedding Instagram. Again, ours is just @ryanandnikkimillerwedding (go check it out for vendor reviews). I actually found it so much easier to find vendors on Insta than The Knot. Just start by following venues you like and you'll see that they'll tag or be tagged by vendors and you can go down the rabbit hole! Having a separate wedding Insta helped me get lots of good recommendations from the algorithm and keeps things organized. Make folders for vendors you like and save photos to those, and make folders for things that you want to incorporate in your wedding or photo poses you like.


For myself 

If you're recently engaged, allow this to be your excuse to #treatyoself. On the other hand, if you have a friend who is recently engaged, these would make great gifts!
  • The first thing I bought for myself after we got engaged was this personalized wedding planning wine glass. I use it every time we sit down to wedding plan and I love it, but it did start my aversion to vinyl stickers on drinkware because that makes it hand wash only, so I do encourage you to also look at etched wine glasses.
  • I really wanted a personalized ring box to keep as an heirloom. I got one to match my color scheme and while it is totally unnecessary, I just had to have it.
  • I didn't like any of the over-priced garters at the salon where I got my dress, so I ordered this garter set off Etsy. I have this body tape measure that I use to measure myself for online ordering/track my weight loss and was able to order the perfect size.
  • The bridal salon quoted me over $300 for a veil. My veil was like $50 and looked almost identical. Another money-saving tip would be to ask your mom or future mother-in-law to borrow theirs as your "something borrowed."
  • Not so much a treat yo self, but the straps on my wedding shoes slipped just a teeeny bit so I got these strap cushions. They are actually intended just to make the straps more comfortable but they added just enough thickness to prevent the straps from slipping down. I just waited until after our photographer did flat lay shots that included my shoes before adding them on. And as an added bonus, they really did make the straps more comfortable. I also got these heel protectors to help me be able to walk in grass for photos.
  • Instagram ads got me and I ended up LOVING this embroidered and pearl-studded jean jacket! I wore when our rehearsal ended up colder than I expected and loved wearing it on our honeymoon. I disagree with their sizing guide (which is a surprise because that thing was detailed) and ordered my normal size (2 sizes smaller than what they recommended) and my jacket fit perfectly.  
  • I definitely loved wearing this white lounge set the morning before our rehearsal. I planned for that day to be a massage at Massage Envy for Ry and I followed by a trip to Drybar for me before getting ready for the rehearsal and felt so comfortable yet still bridal. It was also great to lounge in on our honeymoon. 
  • Not purchases, but a few treat yo self items because YOMO (you only get married once) really got to me. I got waxed from the waist down + my underarms the Tuesday before our wedding and had zero regrets being so smooth and not having to worry about shaving on my honeymoon. A few tips- use an exfoliating scrub that morning, spray Dermoplast like 30 minutes before your wax appointment, and the morning of your wedding exfoliate & then shave for max smoothness like you've never experienced. I also got a lash lift/tint which basically curls your eyelashes & perms them that way & then dyes them black. I chose that over false lashes because I didn't want to worry about them falling out or my eye not handling the weight of them. They actually made the false lashes on the day of my wedding better because they were already curled perfectly and looked so great! And then my eyelashes looked so great effortlessly during our honeymoon. 

Bridesmaid proposal boxes

None of my bridesmaids lived in the city where I do, so I had to ship all of mine. It took some logistics and it cost a LOT to mail all of them.
  • I found a lot of cute boxes on Etsy that were kinda pricey, so I went to Amazon and I found these bridesmaid boxes (it's a set of 5) which I loved. I would recommend buying superglue to glue the corners together because after assembly the little sticky sides don't really stick and the boxes would collapse when they open. Other than that, it is a thick material and it has a nice magnet. 
  • I used this crinkle paper as a filler for the bridesmaid boxes. I recommend ordering 1/2 pound for every 2 boxes you make. 
  • I also included these bride-themed scrunchies in my box. It comes with a white one for you and I LOVE mine. You could also use it for a bachelorette goodie, but I wanted to include some small things in my bridesmaid boxes. 
  • I got these engraved tumblers on Etsy which I like so much more than the vinyl sticker tumblers because you don't have to worry about the stickers coming off in a dishwasher. 
  • I loved these engraved bottle openers because they seemed unique and I hadn't seen anyone use them before. Just be careful placing them in the box because they show scratches easily. 
  • If you're going to include champagne, I suggest the mini Korbel bottles. They have a beer bottle-type lid instead of a normal cork which I felt more comfortable shipping. Just buy a lot of cheap tissue paper to wrap around it and place a lot of crinkle paper around it to keep it from moving.
  • For shipping logistics, the large flat rate USPS boxes fit the Amazon bridesmaid boxes perfectly. I did add layers of bubble wrap to keep the box from rattling too much since I was mailing a carbonated drink in glass. I think it cost me a flat-rate $16 per box to ship.
  • Last, I ordered these proposal Polaroids to include in my box. Truthfully, knowing what I know about Canva, I do think I could've easily done this myself for free.

Bridesmaid gifts

The biggest regret/lesson I learned on these is if Black Friday falls between your engagement date and your wedding date, WAIT to order bridesmaid gifts. It was soul-crushing to see things go 25% off a month after I got my order in. If things don't go on sale, I recommend spreading things out and buying one gift a month, because when you're buying for a group it adds up fast.
  • I ordered these personalized champagne glasses after I attended a wedding where all the bridesmaids kept losing track of their drinks and it was a germ disaster. I got one for all of my bridesmaids + the moms and I loved the look of the iridescent diagonal names, so now everyone can keep track of whose drink is whose. I will say that getting "Mrs. Miller" on a diagonal was a bad idea, however, because the name was so long it looks weird. But all the other first names look great. If you want to do something special for the moms, there's also these MOB/MOG wine glasses that are just adorable.
  • Of course I am a basic bitch so I had to get everyone these personalized bridesmaid hangers
  • I spent wayyyy too long debating whether to get my bridesmaids robes (are a little over done), sleep shirts (can wrinkle easily), or pj's (can be thin fabrics). In the end, I knew I wanted a robe so I decided to get my bridesmaids robes to match, but get my MOB/MOG and flower girl sleep shirts since they are a little more modest. For myself, I got the Robed with Love Alana robe, and although I loved loved the sleeves, I didn't like where the seam was on my but and think I might have liked the Hildy robe more (PS these go on major sale around each holiday so wait if you can to order one). I also got this slip to go underneath so I wouldn't flash anyone. 
  • You'll also want to get personalized tote bags for your bridal party. Give these out on the morning of your wedding, not before, so they're not forgotten. Whether your bridesmaids show up in cute matching PJ's/robes or sweats, they're not going home in that! They'll need something to throw their clothes in when they change into their bridesmaid dresses.
  • A getting ready item that I noticed was really overlooked was footwear. Either bridesmaids are going around barefoot with cold feet, or mismatched socks show up in photos. That's why I got these matching fuzzy slippers for everyone.
  • I knew I wanted to get my bridesmaids portable phone chargers so they could snap photos all day without having to worry about their phones dying, plus it makes a great gift for later! I grabbed these cheap mini cords to go with them so that they'd have everything they needed.

Groomsmen gifts

I feel like not enough is talked about for the boys, and Ryan totally agrees. For some reason they're just totally forgotten about! Which really sucks. So let's here it for the boys...

  • Ryan got these personalized whiskey stones and glasses for his groomsmen proposals because he fell in love with the whiskey stones I threw in as a stocking stuffer last year. I'm surprised how many people have never heard of them, but they work great for iced tea or white wine too!
  • Once I ordered champagne glasses for my girls while we got ready, I realized guys probably had the same problem too. The guys could only drink beer while they got ready so I got these personalized koozies so the guys didn't have the same problem of losing their drink.
  • We also got the guys these drawstring backpacks so they have something to carry their change of outfits in after the wedding.
  • I also went ahead and got the groomsmen portable phone charges and loved how these chargers came in a black and white set so the whole bridal party matches. The pack of mini cords that I ordered had more than enough cords for all my groomsmen and bridesmaids. Oh and don't forget to charge them up the night before!

Bachelorette party outfits & gifts 

My bachelorette party was a long weekend in Austin. It was really fun, but it made me realize that I'm getting too old to party and in hindsight a relaxing spa weekend sounds lame but would have been just as nice.

  • For outfits, I got this Bride swimsuit. I agree with the reviews that the torso is VERY short so go 2 sizes up. They have a lot of different font options, so you can pick what matches your vibe!
  • This ruched mini dress was very sexy yet so so comfortable! It is tight though, so if you have too many white claws and start to bloat it will show so be careful haha. 
  • I had purchased this white jumpsuit pretty early on in my engagement and just knew I'd find a time to wear it. It is so comfortable I'm definitely going to wear it on our honeymoon (more of that below).
  • For the drive in, I wore this cute white bodysuit with jeans. It is very thick so don't worry about it being see-through. 
  • This 4-pack white earring set was perfect because I had earrings for daytime and nighttime, and really just about any scenario! 
  • I knew I wanted to be able to get white girl wasted without worrying about my ring, so I bought this CZ ring for the weekend. It looks great on and no one could tell that it was fake (except for my friends who knew that my real ring is oval shaped).
  • If you haven't heard of Liquid IV, I suggest you jump on the bandwagon! They really do help you feel more hydrated! I bought the passionfruit flavor because I like passionfruit La Croix, but this wasn't my favorite flavor and I prefer the lemon-lime. 
  • I got the girls these bride tribe fanny packs for our day out and they actually hold a lot. Fanny packs are great for bachelorette parties because you don't have to worry about getting drunk then setting your purse down and leaving it somewhere. I'm packing mine for our honeymoon too to wear on the beach.
  • Sad Nikki is sad because she put these matching rose gold bride tribe beer koozies and rose gold bride tribe white claw koozies in her cart, but forgot to checkout. So, please use these so I can live vicariously through y'all! If you'll be making mixed drinks, this Mrs. tumbler is also great because you can use it long after your bachelorette. Or these drink pouches are perfect for no-glass areas.
  • One of my bridesmaids brought a faux veil for me, but if you're brining your own I recommend a headband bachelorette veil because the comb ones aren't comfortable for drunk shenanigans. 

For the honeymoon

Don't worry this is totally PG! So, I've had this vision for years to have an "all white" honeymoon look. Idk why it just was always something that I wanted to do, and really when else could I wear this much white? I think it works out having a lot of white because it's a timeless color that can mix and match for a lot of different outfits later on.
  • I actually had this criss-cross onepiece suit for well over a year before our honeymoon! It is SO flattering without being boring and the reason why I ended up getting it was because practically every blogger ever was raving about it, which it lived up to the hype. The mesh stripe accents make your waist look smaller and the top is very secure and comfortable for bigger chests.
  • I bought this mesh V-neck onepiece suit for our New Year's trip to Cancun with plans to re-use it for our honeymoon. It's from the same company and again is very flattering and doesn't feel like a Mom onepiece. It is very sexy without being too much. If you're between sizes, size down.
  • I basically just love the Tempt Me swimsuit collection! My last onepiece is this cutout suit that again is so cute. The straps are very comfortable, and again the waist detail really flatters your figure. 
  • One more one piece was this cute ruffle one shoulder swimsuit that I thought was so fun and flattering.  
  • I didn't get only one pieces and did actually get bikinis too. I loved this simple white bikini set because it felt sporty and I loved that I didn't feel like I was falling out of the top. I also got it in the olive green because I love it so much.
  • I was also excited to wear this bow bikini set on our honeymoon. It is pretty revealing in the front, but the back support helped prevent it from being unsupportive or uncomfortable.
  • And just to have something a little spicy, because it is a honeymoon after all, I got this cut out bikini.
  • This tie-waist monokini technically is pink and white so it stays a little from my "all white" theme, but it was just too adorable not to pack!
  • This crochet swimsuit skirt was another item I found because it seemed every blogger had it. It is definitely more of an accessory than an actual coverup, but it is very cute.
  • I saw this lacey bikini coverup in a Tik Tok video loved it for our honeymoon. It is a very thin material and I'm sure a snag is inevitable, but it looks amazing for the price and is very soft.
  • If you want something more sporty, this crochet tunic is another great coverup.
  • And because I have a history of melanoma, I also had to grab this wide-brim sun visor. I loved how it was open top so I could wear my hair up or down with it and I think the bow detail is so cute. It also comes with a hidden elastic loop so you can easily roll the visor up and travel with it. Or, if you really wanted to go for the Bride theme you could get this Wifey sun hat or this personalized sun hat with your new last name for your honeymoon.
  • I also loved this fun beaded headband to throw on as an accessory with both swimsuits and my casual dresses.
  • I really wanted to go with the "bridal" theme and wanted at least one lacey white dress and found the perfect one that was beachy but sexy and flattering.
  • This v-neck white dress is less formal because I knew we'd have some casual nights on our honeymoon. I recommend sizing down because if it is too big, it looks like a sleep shirt.
  • I grabbed this strapless ruffle dress to wear for casual days around our resort.
  • For something a little swankier, I also got this high-slit spaghetti strap dress for dinner and drinks.
  • I've had this lacey spaghetti strap top since before our honeymoon, but I brought it as an option to pair with shorts for a casual lunch or just as a bikini coverup. 
  • I also packed this front tie-knot spaghetti strap top as a causal top to lounge around in our honeymoon suite and while getting ready for dinner. Outside of our honeymoon, I wear this shirt A LOT because it pairs well with so many outfits. 
  • I wore this lacey halter top for wedding planning days and re-wore it for our honeymoon. It is so cute for brunch and I love the details!
  • This white romper was perfect to throw on for a casual lunch by the ocean and was lightweight enough to be comfortable sitting outside in the sun in.
  • Kate from Lonestar Southern recommended this cute scalloped crop lightweight sweatshirt on her Instagram so I grabbed it to wear both over my swimsuit for when it gets windy/chilly at the beach and for the cold plane ride. For the plane, I paired it with my favorite high-waisted leggings and my favorite yoga bra
  • For the casual days, I packed these jean shorts and these white jean shorts.
  • I knew we'd be doing some water sport activities during our honeymoon and ordered this silicone ring to wear so I wouldn't have to worry about losing my diamond in the ocean.
  • Ry and I both got new Chacos for our honeymoon because I'm convinced they're the ultimate vacation shoe. You can wear them to the beach as normal sandals, as water shoes in the ocean when it's rocky, parasailing because they have straps, or as hiking shoes. I got a new pair because I had the Z2 (has a big toe loop) with 2 little straps and wanted a Z1 (no big toe loop) with 1 big strap to make it easier to put on and off. 
  • Lastly, I wore this all white lounge set for lazy days just laying around and feeling myself. 

Miscellaneous items

I bought a whole bunch of other stuff off Amazon and Etsy because I'm #addicted that I wanted to share. I don't have much to say on it, so I'll just cram it all together.

  • For bridal shower thank you gifts, I bought my hostesses personalized wine glasses and used these cute bridal thank you bags and glitter tissue paper. Don't forget to write a thank you note to your hostesses! Mine were simple and said, "Name, thank you for the love and time you put in to hosting an amazing bridal shower. Ryan and I are grateful for the support you have shown us." 
  • For the ceremony, I bought a small wicker flower girl basket and had our florist add a few of our flowers to match. I also bought these paper flower cones for throwing petals as we left the chapel (tip: get freeze dried petals for throwing, the moisture in the fresh petals make them clump together too easily). If you want fresh loose petals for your ceremony, they are best for the flower girl and ground décor. 
  • At first I didn't want to do a unity ceremony because I wasn't in love with a sand or candle option, but then I saw a Pinterest ad for Unity in Glass and was so excited! You pour crystal glass beads into a vase together just like a sand unity ceremony,  but then you ship it off to this company and they turn it into glass! You can have a glass sculpture or a glass paperweight, but we thought the glass vase would get the most use because Ryan loves to bring home flowers.
  • For our reception, I got these gold table numbers which were such a great price. Ryan's sister insisted we order foam glow sticks after she saw how much people loved dancing with them at her wedding. I got these "wedding slippers" to change in to for our reception (don't listen to the reviews, order your normal size) but I wish I would have known about these convertible shoes earlier! For our guests I ordered a set of Rescue Flats that shipped quick and were a huge success. Sign up for their texts & get a promo code. 
  • Off Etsy I ordered a lucite cake topper and a wooden guest book. I found out last minute that our caterer didn't have anything to cut our cake so I bought this cake cutting set from Amazon.  
  • I got this bluetooth speaker for the bridal suite while we get ready (make a love-themed party playlist!) and to take to the beach on our honeymoon.
  • Travel recommendations: plane phone holder, neck pillow that you can can sleep face-down on, sunglass travel box, and Mr/Mrs eye masks
  • We ordered a set of the Brumate hopsulator trio after our NYE trip to Cancun because Ry kept ordering a beer, then would take a nap, then would wake up & want a beer but his beer was hot by then, and would start the cycle over again! Now we can keep our drinks really cold no matter how hot it is, and we can use it for all our future beach trips :) we also got "mr miller/mrs miller" stickers because I'm extra. 
  • I did do boudoir photos through this photographer, but I will warn you that I got almost the smallest package and it cost almost as much as our wedding photographer. But damn, they look good! Outfit suggestions (or lingerie party ideas) are: red bra and panties from Savage x Fenty (photographs VERY well!!!), mesh bodysuit (comes looking like a tube sock and takes 2 people to put on but photographs very well), white cage teddy with these white stockings (my photographer recommends cage bras because they look great in photos), pink tie-waist teddy (the ribbon is flattering to tummies IMO), black cage bra & panty/garter belt with black stockings (size up to your bra size), black teddy with skirt (size up), and my photographer provided this beautiful faux bridal veil for the photos. I also recommend you bring a lightweight robe to wear while getting your makeup done and in between outfit changes. Pro tip: get a sewing kit with a seam ripper or mustache trimmer scissors and cut out all of the tags so they don't show in your photos. 

Okay, that's all that I can think of and I'm sure all that y'all want to read. I hope this helps you brides get started on planning your wedding, and gives you not-yet brides some ideas for when it's your time to shine :) 

January 3, 2021

How I'm Paying Off My Law School Debt Year 3

Law School Student Loan Debt Repayment Plan Timeline | brazenandbrunette.com

 New year, new law school debt goals! For a quick update, I graduated law school with $145,000 of student loans, and worked really hard to get my loans down to $130,000 in a year. And that brings us here, to year 3 and how much I currently owe...

I can't tell you how happy and proud seeing that number dwindle! It's still a lot of debt, but slowly but surely I'm eating into that. This year I was super jealous of everyone who still had federal students loans and didn't have any interest payments. It sucks that when I refinanced my loans I considered all of the benefits of a federal loan that I would be giving up, but never did a global pandemic come to mind. Unfortunately, my refinanced loans are all private loans and the company I currently have my loan with opted not to stop interest payments on their loans. 

Luckily, our firm wasn't really hit by COVID and I was fully able to keep my job and not have to take a pay cut. Because I knew I was pretty financially stable and interest rates just kept dropping, I looked in to refinancing my loans again to try to shave about 1% off of my current rate. I went through Credible again and found a new loan that was calculated to save me about $10,000 over the course of my loan and selected this new loan. I went through the whole loan process, even taking a small hit to my credit score when they did a hard credit pull, and right at the end I noticed all of the disclosures. One of the disclosures included all of the loan fees associated with my new loan-- which would be over $12,000! Refinancing this loan would have actually cost me $2,000 which is why you always read the T's & C's my friends. So, I'm currently still with the same loan provider that I switched to last year, and I'm going to try again to find another lower interest rate. 

But even with my current interest rate, I want to stress that my loans ARE manageable. I get a lot of worried comments from prospective and current law students worried that their massive student loan debts will completely take over their lives. I truly don't think student loans are to be too feared. This year, Ryan and I were able to buy a house and I'm still able to keep paying my loans (but also, thank you COVID stimulus!) 

My #1 tip for paying down your law school debt is DO NOT pay just the minimum, if you can help it.  Paying just the minimum allows your interest to grow and grow your debt, which is how you hear stories of people graduating with $X in debt, paying the minimums consistently for years, and having $1.5X in debt after all that time. With each pay check, try to pay 75% of you minimum, so you end up paying a little each month (so , if you owe $1,000 a month make 2 $750 payments each month, paying an extra $500 without really feeling it). This will help you tackle your interest better and more of each payment will go to lowering your principal, which will lower your interest for next month. I love playing around with this calculator to play around with different amounts of extra payments and how they help me reach my goal faster (it only works on a laptop/desktop and won't show you all of the charts on mobile).

When it was right around the time we were getting our house, I slowed down the extra payments a little so that we could have a little extra for our closing and moving costs. I still paid more than just the minimum, so I didn't feel too guilty. This is another good example of why I believe that when you refinance, you shouldn't choose the highest minimum available. Because if you choose a mid-level minimum, you can always pay extra, but if an unexpected cost shows up in your life, you can easily go down to the minimum without defaulting on your loans.

I will be honest here and admit that I was planning on chilling at a little over the minimum for a while as we got our house in order and had a lot of expenses (so many Home Depot trips!). I was a little wary because I didn't want to get used to spending this kind of money frequently and never getting back the discipline to pay extra on my student loans. Originally I had planned to cut down on loan payments just for 6 months and then get back on track, but thankfully, I received a raise soon after our offer was accepted so I was able to continue paying extra on my loans while still saving for new windows and being able to buy a new hose for our yard worry free.

That's probably the best thing about being a baby lawyer is that there's still room to grow in your income. Ryan and I were very proud about getting a house that was only 3x our combined income (the suggestion is 4x) because we both knew that we were just starting off in our careers and eventually our house would become even more affordable for us as we grew in our jobs and received raises. Now my debt is super high with student loans + a mortgage, but tackling these two debts is a priority to Ryan and I so that is where we are focusing our money.

I currently spend over 1 full paycheck each month just on these 2 loans alone. We got a great rate on our mortgage, so I'm not really concerned about payments on that loan. What's nice about my student loan is thinking about how I'll get such a big "raise" once it is paid off because I'll get so much of my paychecks back and will have more money to spend on other things. I originally was calculated to pay off my loan in 10 years graduation date, but with the way things are going it's looking like I'll actually have them paid off in around 5 years from my graduation date. 

Ryan and I are getting married this spring, so I'm also saving some money to help pay for little wedding expenses and our honeymoon. And I'm sure in a year or so we'll be ready to start a family. But again, with strategic planning I'm able to save for a honeymoon or expect a baby, and not be terrified about money because of my student debt. Instead, I paid off as much as I could before I had a mortgage, and as much as I could before I needed to pay for wedding stuff, and am paying off as much as I can before we start a family. Then, if later on I need to slow down payments, my principal is already lower and I'm already ahead on my payment plan.

I feel in control of my student debt because I'm still using the budget I learned from IWT. Each paycheck, I put a little money in my 401(k), a little in a Roth IRA, a little towards my mortgage, a little towards my student loans, a little in savings, and a little on bills. Then, any leftover money I can spend guilt-free knowing that I've taken care of all of my payments for the month. I treat my credit cards like a debit card and pay them off immediately with each paycheck because I'm trying to get out of debt, not into it-- and this method has helped us rack up massive credit card points to help pay for a lot of wedding expenses. And the day before payday, any leftover money in my account goes to a little extra payment on my student loans because every little bit helps. 

And that's a wrap on my 2020 debt progress. I paid a little more off in 2020 than I did in 2019, and I'm hoping that's a trend that continues. As an update on my 2019 goals, I am very happy to announce that I now make more than I currently owe. Which again, I think law school debt is okay when you weigh what it gets you! My other 2019 debt was to get my loans under $100k, which was apparently a little too aggressive for me last year, so I'm going to re-up that as my 2021 goal! Here's to being in control of our debt, rather than our debt being in control of us :) 

Oh and PS- if you like my letter board from Instagram where I keep track of my debt, here's the link. I like to keep it viewable from the front window of our house so hopefully any would-be robber will see it and have pity on me and not break in and steal anything lol! But if that doesn't work, I do recommend getting a Ring security system as the first purchase for your new house.