Budget Friday: Submission 9 – Final!

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And we’re back with the final budget for Tom’s Epic Law School Adventure! If you didn’t check out the initial post, Tom is an aspiring law student who has a set budget, and has to live cheaply in New York City. Like, on only about $2,200 a month! YIKES!!! Since I’ve never been to New York (or law school, for that matter), I put a call out to my AWESOME READERS for a suggested budget, and got some great responses. I then put those suggested budgets up for a vote, and now we have a winner! DRUMROLL PLEASE!!!!!

And the winner is…..Caitlin!

Thanks you ALL for your submissions, and each one had some unique suggestions and money saving tips that Tom can glean from and use to enjoy and survive his first year of law school! And with further ado (I don’t even know what “ado” is…do you?), HERE’S THE WINNING BUDGET:

Total Income $  2,277.00
Total Expenses $  2,200.00
Projected Ending Balance $        77.00  
Monthly Income $  2,277.00
Total Income $  2,277.00  
Rent $  1,000.00 (You can definitely go below $1300 if you’re living with roommates, but you still don’t want a crazy commute because you’ll likely be either living in the library or wanting to socialize with classmates. If you’re going to NYU, try to live in Brooklyn in a cheaper neighborhood – if Columbia, look to Harlem).
Electric $        50.00 (this is a high estimate)
Natural Gas $        60.00 (likewise – most NYC apartments run on radiators)
Cell Phone $        50.00 (try to get on a family plan. I know you could do a pay as you go phone, but really you’ll probably want a smart phone because you’ll be checking your email constantly)
Internet $        60.00 (if you share, if can go lower)
Transportation $     140.00 (Just over $100 for a monthly metrocard, and the rest is for taxis, because there will be late nights where you don’t want to wait for the train)
Total Bills $  1,360.00  
Food $     250.00 (some think this will be high, but you may be buying more convenience food than you expect, and there will be socializing)
Spending Cash $     200.00 (socializing – yes, this is a priority in law school. even if you’re going to a highly ranked school, you are going to need to make friends during that crucial 1L year)
Pets – $0? (He didn’t mention a pet)
Total Necessities $     450.00  
Entertainment $        50.00 (I lumped most entertainment into misc spending and food)
Restaurants $     100.00
Gifts $        20.00 (always good to save up for Christmas/holidays)
Clothing $        20.00 Editor’s Note: I added this in because she mentioned maybe needing some nicer clothing at some point
Textbooks $     200.00 Editor’s Note: I added this in because textbooks are expensive. Hopefully he can use the library and other options for this and not use all this money)
Total Other $     390.00  
Total Expenses $  2,200.00  

Caitlin’s Commentary

I’ve lived in NYC so this comes with some experience, but as always, take it with a grain of salt! I’m also a law student, so have some experience in the common expenses. (Note: He should NOT have to pay for Lexis/Westlaw – they generally provide that for free to students in law school).

I noticed one big hole in the budget: TEXTBOOKS. Those suckers are crazy expensive. The best thing to do is buy used on Amazon and then re-sell (you will probably never need your first year contracts casebook again) OR, ideally – see if your school library keeps some on reserve, and then check them out on an as-needed basis. The first semester, I bought all my books because I was freaked out and needed the reassurance, but I’ve gradually moved to an all-library strategy to save money.

One final hole: Professional clothing. You may already have a suit or two from before, but if you don’t you will likely need one in anticipation of your summer job. That will likely run you around $300. You will probably wear pretty relaxed clothing for class, but you’ll also need it for any oral arguments or moots that you do.

Another smart thing to do is realize that Westlaw and Lexis give you points for using their search engines, because they want to win your loyalty. Make sure to rack up those points/do promotions, because you can cash them in for Amazon gift cards or other prizes, which come in handy during the holiday season/for gifts.

This adds up to $1980, so probably aim for $2000 to be safe. (Ironically, this is my budget for when I plan to return to NYC, although it’s allotted somewhat differently.)

Comments: What do you think? Do you think he can survive his first year of law school? I’d love to hear from those who lived SUPER cheap during your college days. Also, seriously, what the crap is “ado”?

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

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