As I write this I keep hearing that lyric “mo’ money, mo’ problems.” Yet, during bar preparation I had nearly no money and a bar study problem. At the outset, I would like the record to reflect I am in no way an expert on how to manage money. This article comes simply from my finger tips to your eyes as someone who penny and dimed it during bar prep.
There are many different approaches to managing your budget during the time you are without a steady income. Even if you do hold down a part time job (kudos to you), it can still be a bumpy road until you are fully employed. Either way, I hand over my tidbits on a platter.
Your own situation will help you determine how much you will need to pay attention to this article. A source of income during bar prep can come from multiple different places. For example, if you graduated with a job lined up, some law firms give their incoming associates a stipend or “bonus” which in theory should last approximately 3 months before they start full time. If you aren’t so lucky, you may have to start thinking of putting something into a savings account, applying for bar study scholarships, or even taking out a personal loan (I’m looking at you Sally Mae). Either way, something will work out, and you will have money in your pocket. The key is making that money last so that you can eat at least a ramen every night for dinner to fuel that brain to take on the Rule Against Perpetuities.
Before thinking about personal life fees, what I find snuck up on my budget were the fees you have to pay before you can even sit for the bar exam. This is money that absolutely has to be spent and early on. These types of fees include the application fee, character and fitness fees, laptop fees (*eye roll*) and even the documents you have to collect for your character and fitness application like unpaid parking tickets. In my experience, these costs were upward of $2,000 that I did not fully understand. So, sit down and do some research before you start thinking of whether you have enough money to spend on extra bath bombs at Lush.
While many articles talk about costs during the day of the bar exam, or costs related to the bar exam, not many people think about the requirement to still live your life. I’m talking about eating, sleeping, a good Netflix show right before bed – all of those cost money. So, I’m here to help although I will keep it brief because everyone’s situation is so unique.
A helpful tool in my experience was sitting down, pen to paper, and listing the things I without a doubt will have to spend money on. These include things like:
Pen & Paper It
It really was a short list. I know what you could be thinking, but I promise you there are ways to cut down if it comes down to it. For example, I need to exercise. However, my $90 per month gym membership isn’t a necessity to exercise. Instead, I opted for runs outside and extra pushups before bed. Is it ideal? Maybe not. But it was a way to save some money down the road. If a gym membership is a must for whatever myriad of reasons, then by all means keep it. But there are other areas I’m sure could be cut. A Starbucks splurge is definitely a pick me up, but do you really need that $7 Grande soy latte every morning? That is a savings of at least $35 if you go Monday through Friday. Food for thought, or in this case, coffee.
Spend with Cash
Another helpful tool for budgeting is to take out cash every week. This was especially helpful for me because I find I can absent mindedly swipe my card and not understand the impact of spending $13 at Walgreens for no good reason. Having to go to an atm and withdraw cash not only makes you look at your bank account weekly, but physically seeing the amount of money and feel it drift from your finger tips is a better reminder of what you are spending the money on than the quick swipe of a card.
TL;DR there really is no easy solution especially given everyone’s situation is different and the ease of mind that comes with each. But these tips and tricks are bound to help regardless of where the money is coming from. If you do find there are some incidentals that are necessary, think about going in together with some friends on things like a Netflix subscription, or those Critical Pass flashcards all of the kids are raving about these days. Every penny counts in times like these.