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Living on Law Student Loans


$247.32. That was the price tag of my 2009 Yankee postseason. $247.32. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if I had actually gone to any games. From what I saw on StubHub, it may have actually been a pretty good deal. But no, I didn’t make it to the Bronx in October. Instead, somehow, I managed to spend $247.32 watching games at the bar across the street.

Now, before you judge me too harshly I want to point out that the bar across the street serves food, so it’s not like I spent all of it on beer. Also, there were fifteen games in this post season. Sure, I didn’t watch every single one of them at the bar (one night, for example, a friend very inconveniently decided to have a birthday) but I saw most of them. Plus, the bartenders are super cute, and I like to compensate for that when I tip.

But still, $247.32? To watch games on basic cable? You would think I actually have an income or something. Which I don’t, since the ABA/my law school says, “Oh no honey, I don’t think so.” Instead I have loans. Lots and lots of loans.

My understanding of the loan process is that each school provides the government and private lenders with an estimated cost of living for students in that area, and students are allowed to borrow up to that much (plus tuition). I, of course, decided to take out the maximum amount I could. Since New York City is widely regarded as a really reasonably priced place to live, students at my school can get up to 20k for the calendar year. Which sounds pretty sweet, but there are some fixed costs to take into account.
For example, New York rent and utilities generally cost about a thousand a month, so right away you’re down to eight thousand for the year. Consider another grand for books, and you’re looking at seven. I estimate that other really basic needs (groceries, laundry, household/personal hygiene supplies, etc.) probably cost about two hundred dollars a month. So this leaves a law student with around $4600, or $383.33 a month, to spend on everything else.

Again, $383.33 really doesn’t sound so bad. I mean, New York is an expensive place, but you would think that four hundred dollars should cover most forms of entertainment and self-indulgence. And I have definitely changed my spending habits since going back to school. Activities like taking cabs, ordering in dinner, and shopping for clothes has gone from being commonplace to almost non-existent.

At the same time, I’m only human and I still have my weaknesses. Watching sports games with fellow fans while enjoying a beer and burger is one of them. But post season only happens once a year, at most. In the end, it’s those little daily things that get me. Especially these three vices, which I can’t seem to shake:

Coffee Addiction: Like everyone else in this city, I have a serious coffee problem. Yet I can’t deal with the inconvenience of travel coffee mugs and filters, so I refuse to make my own. Instead I find myself dashing into various delis and overpriced coffee chains, shouldering through the tourists to shout out my order. Depending on where I go and whether I’m in the mood for straight up coffee or some coffee based-whip cream concoction, the money I spend averages out to about $120 a month.

Lonely Café Lunches: I really enjoy eating lunch alone. It’s nice to relax, not have to talk to anyone else and people watch or catch up on my reading/blogging/Facebook stalking. But, for some reason I don’t understand, the labor cost associated with putting some cheese on a baguette seems to be ridiculously high. How else could they charge eight dollars for some bread and cheddar? Add coffee and tip and I can’t seem to walk out of a café without spending at least $12. I try to limit myself to 2-3 of these treats a week, so 10 x $12 = $120 a month.

Listerine Pocket Paks: I’m addicted to these things. I’m a big fan of all gum and mints, but find these particularly appealing because they actually make your breath offensively fresh. It’s like I’m old man winter. Pop one of these and people will actually stop talking to you to avoid the overwhelming assault of mint. I easily go through a pack a day. $2.38 a pack x 30 = $71.41 a month.

Suddenly, my $383.33 is already down to $71.92. If a New York sports franchise is in the post season, I’m operating in the red. (Luckily, now that baseball season is over, that shouldn’t be a problem). The worst thing is that most of my money is spent on little pointless things that just add up. And how is a girl going to get her drink on, if her debit card keeps getting denied? It’s a hard life I lead…

With that in mind, I’m wondering what other people living on loans (or soon to be living on loans) are wasting their money on. What’s sapping the life out of your wallet, and do you think you’ll be able to give it up?