Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Debt Vultures

with 45 comments

Total Black: $191.73
Total Red: 226,391.08

Ah blogdom.  Truly a brave new world where nearly anyone can swoop in start plucking apart your innards.  At least in the days of print media commenters had to take time to put their thoughts in a letter to the editor.  And invariably the mad rantings of strangers got filtered out.  But now you open yourself up to anyone out there, including any vultures swarming, looking for a kill.  A few comments received earlier today on Cold Feet prompted me to write a reply.  After three paragraphs, I opted to turn it into today’s post.

But first, let’s review.  Commenters only get up in arms about a few topics: work, spending, and debt.  Generally work tends to elicits just a few comments, typically of the you-work-too-hard-so-[fill in the blank] ilk.  Usually the blank is filled with move-away, get-a-full-time-job, quit-temping, etc.  A few here and there tossed the one-off comment to quit the theatre gig or leave the doc review world because it’s dying.  But that’s mostly empty, unsolicited “advice.”  Great.  I should quit my job.  And then what?  It’s a Great Recession out there.  Anyone who knows long-term unemployment will hold on to what they’ve got until something else comes through.  Any port in a storm.

As for debt—plenty of people comment on that topic.  A few like broken records stating the obvious: that my debt hasn’t moved much in six months (not exactly true since at its highest it was $230K and it’s now down to $226K (not counting the loan from my mother, of course, that gets a few hot under their collars)); that I need to seek out debt counseling (as if that will address $150K in student loan debt or the $42K borrowed from my mother to help pay off IRS debt and to help float me during the months after being unemployed, or the additional $25K owed to the IRS—collectively clearly the lion’s share of my debt).  Then there’s also the random incensed inquiry as to how I could have amassed this much debt (even though even a quick stroll through past posts would reveal my days of accounting entries and answer such questions).

But spending.  Now there’s the nail and the head.  And under spending comes apartment/living and also food/drink.  Fodder for commenters.  Running a search through comments for “apartment” produced thirty-five results.  Everyone is in agreement that a $2,000 a month apartment is a financial albatross around my neck.  Even I agree; as I’ve repeated for some time now.  Yet readers seem to think that switching apartments is as simple as changing underwear.  Despite everyone seeing total black—every day—people seem to think I’ve got some secret stash hidden away that I’m just refusing to use to cover moving costs, first and last month’s rent, security deposit, etc.  I don’t.  And now, once again, any decisions about the apartment must be suspended until I find out whether I’m staying in New York.  It would be irresponsible to get a roommate or switch apartments (read: sign a lease—a legally binding document) if I have to leave New York in a month.  So it’s a stand-still until the judges make their decisions.

But not all comments are incensed rants repeating other posts.  Commenters got me to cut cable, especially once one alerted me to TVPC.com.  But it’s spending outside the home where people start breathing fire.  Despite any other suspicions, my money mostly goes to few sources: rent, utilities, food and drink, and bills.  And since my coffee or lunch purchases elicit such heated responses, I figured I’d put some facts on the table related to my food-purchases.

My AmEx card food-purchases for the past thirty-days:

03/22/2010 CAFE CHARLIE 9.53
03/20/2010 CAFE CHARLIE 2.99
03/20/2010 DUANE READE 15.31
03/17/2010 CAFE CHARLIE 6.67
03/17/2010 CAFE CHARLIE 13.47
03/17/2010 DUANE READE 8.70
03/17/2010 HALE & HEARTY SOUPS 11.31
03/16/2010 CAFE CHARLIE 4.85
03/16/2010 CAFE CHARLIE 9.82
03/16/2010 MCDONALD’S 7.39
03/15/2010 CAFE CHARLIE 10.99
03/15/2010 DUANE READE 6.27
03/15/2010 SEAMLESSWEB FOOD ORDER 19.62
03/14/2010 CAFE CHARLIE 6.80
03/14/2010 STARBUCKS USA 1.63
03/14/2010 STARBUCKS USA 8.43
03/12/2010 HALE & HEARTY SOUPS 11.97
03/10/2010 CAFE CHARLIE 11.97
03/10/2010 LA FONDA RESTAURANT 22.05
03/10/2010 LA FONDA RESTAURANT 24.60
03/10/2010 MCDONALD’S 7.17
03/08/2010 SEAMLESSWEB FOOD ORDER 17.07
03/03/2010 SEAMLESSWEB FOOD ORDER 3.27
03/02/2010 CAFE CHARLIE 6.48
03/02/2010 CHIPOTLE 8.50
03/02/2010 DUANE READE 33.24
03/01/2010 CAFE CHARLIE 13.07
03/01/2010 STARBUCKS USA 7.51
02/26/2010 SEAMLESSWEB FOOD ORDER 47.97
02/24/2010 SEAMLESSWEB FOOD ORDER 17.65
02/23/2010 SEAMLESSWEB FOOD ORDER 21.09
397.39

I’ve erred on the side of over-inclusion; and redacted to only include food purchases.  I don’t recall La Fonda restaurant, nor why I would have purchased $46 in two orders on the same day (probably posted on the same day but I still don’t recognize it; gotta check on that one).  Duane Reade is a New York City-area pharmacy so not every purchase there was food.  But I’m sure I used cash a bit over the past month, so it’s probably a wash.

I posted this information to inject a dose of reality into the discussion.  Of course, commenters will instead see red—pun intended—and swoop in for the kill.  Yes, at first glance $400 a month for food seems a lot.  But note that I didn’t buy groceries this month—and any I did buy would have been picked up at Duane Reade.  And when we break down the total by weeks, it works out to $100 a week.  Let’s not forget I’m working seven days a week.  So when we break it down even further by day, it works out to $13 a day ($400 divided by 30 days).  In Manhattan, $13 a day for two (or more) meals really is nothing.  Hell, Subway sandwiches are just over $5.

Without a doubt, I can reduce that amount significantly by buying groceries and bringing my meals to work.  But probably only by half; groceries aren’t very cheap in Manhattan.  And I only end up buying meals when I’ve run out of groceries; or out of money to buy them.  The problem, however, has been an internal disconnect: that spending $7.51 for Starbucks is ok but not $150.00 on groceries.  Illogical; it’s the size of the expense that made me apprehensive.  But I’ve identified that problem and by addressing it here it’s being resolved.  Yet the way I, and certainly my commenters, go on about my Starbucks purchases, for example, or the one-off brunch, one would think we’re dealing with a cocaine addict.  Let’s keep some perspective.  I’m not off buying CDs every week or new shoes . . .  or ties (perhaps a more guy-appropriate example).  I’m not taking extravagant vacations.  Yes, I do allocate a portion of my money for a monthly gym membership.  And I’ve been guilty of treating myself to a few too-many massages in the past.  Not lately.  But the bulk of my money goes to rent and food.  And bills.  And if we take away the $1.63 coffee, what do I have left?  Commenters come off as if I’m out having $40 steak lunches each day.  Trust me, I’m not.  If I’m earning $1,500—rougly—a week from my job, $6,000 a month—spending $400 a month on food works out to 6% of my monthly income.  That’s not a lot and yet I agonize over every lunch purchase.  Trust me, you don’t need to.  Not a healthy way to eat, with a sour stomach welcoming your soup.  But now that I see the numbers, it’s time to stop.  See, something else is at work here.

Human beings need some sort of reward.  Yes, a $2 latte might mean a $2-delay in getting to debt freedom.  But we can say that about any attempt to reach a goal.  People should starve themselves because they’ll lose weight faster and reach their ideal weight sooner.  People should spend five hours at the gym every day because they’ll bulk up faster.  People should sleep less because it’s vital time away from their goal.  But reaching a goal is about pacing yourself along the way—not sprinting every second of the race.

I suspect if I were living with my mother, and thus freed of $2,000—or any amount—in rent, commenters would still circle back with the same screeching admonitions: “you have $225K in debt.  You may not have rent, but you can’t afford that $2 coffee.  That could go to your student loan payment this month.”  Instead, I suspect what may be at issue here is really a symptom of the larger societal view of people in debt: that we need to be punished—we don’t “deserve” to “reward” ourselves because that’s what we did all along, which is what got us in this situation.  That’s why, I suspect, commenters claim I feel entitled to an $18 brunch or a $2 latte.

That’s incorrect and inaccurate.  Entitlement implies receiving something by grant or decree.  A spoiled brat thinks she’s entitled to a car because daddy is rich.  She hasn’t earned his money.  She hasn’t worked for that car.  But she feels she deserves it.  Just because.  That is not my situation.  I am not entitled to a Starbucks latte because I worked hard in law school and life owes me.  Instead I buy myself a coffee because I worked for that money.

I don’t take offense to honest people expressing honest feelings—whether I agree with them or not.  But I get extremely frustrated and irritated by commenters who lash out at me for the sheer thrill of it.  Or by those who think I’m just so thick-headed I can’t see reason.  But instead of pointing out some disconnect: “you said X and now you’re doing Y”—they swoop in like some Debt Vulture, anxious to pick me apart.  If I listened to every commenter, I’d be hungry, unemployed, and homeless.

45 Responses

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  1. Actually, if you listened to your readers, you’d be closer toward your so-called goal. See what looking at total expenses did (which I’ve been urging you to do)? Caused you to rethink your purchases. You should go back and do this from Jan. 1 to the present – roughly 3 months. Perfect amount of time to give you an accurate picture of where your money is going, and then you can’t brush some expenses away by saying “I was crazy busy at work.”

    Also, think how much healthier you’ll be if you put more thought into your food. Looking at this list makes my dtomach queasy. No wonder you’re low on energy.

    Anon

    March 23, 2010 at 18:29

  2. I just stumbled across your blog from tom the temp’s blog. I am also an ex-BIGLAW laid off attorney, a few years your senior, who recently, after over a year of masturbating while the wife was away and then jumping from (thankfully non-doc review) temp attorney jobs, found a full time position in the NYC metro area as a, gasp, attorney.

    I have to say that I am probably the cheapest human you will ever come across. let me give you some advice. Do not EVER buy coffee at a place with “Cafe” or “Starbucks” in the title. You are overpaying for coffee, latte, espresso, whatever, by at least 500%. If you must have gourmet coffee (frankly, dunkin donuts should suffice in your position), buy yourself a 10.99 grinder and buy your own beans at whole foods and pick up a french press or old fashioned coffee brewer. If you absolutely must inhabit the local cafe to look at ass and exhibit your ennui, just don’t buy anything. Its a waste of money. Moreover, NEVER order in. In your position, you HAVE to do your own grocery shopping. I suggest COSTCO, there’s one in BK. In that you live in BK and not Manhattan, I’d guess that you have a bit more closet space and can store dried goods. Also, NEVER go to bars. they are rip off parlors. If you must drink, go to Trader Joe’s. Don’t even buy six paxks at the local bodega. they are huge rip offs as well.

    Moreover, rip up your AmEx and/or do not EVER use it. You’ll never attack debt paying on credit.

    You seem to have lived well prior to getting with BIGLAW as you’ve mentioned your world travels. As for myself, I lived like a miser, lived in a basement apartment in Jersey for $250 a month and never left the country until I was in BIGLAW for 4 years. You cannot act like you still make $250 a year. You dont. Frankly, even when you did, and if you do again, you should act like you make 50K. Thats what I do. Good luck to you.

    The Dude Abides

    March 23, 2010 at 18:51

  3. Did you also pay for food with your debit card in addition to cash? If so, your bare minimum eating out was $400 – it’s actually higher. You REALLY should keep track of all your expenses. Use that fancy iphone and find an app.

    Also, when you buy things on credit and money borrowed from your mother, you simply can’t say you deserve them because you worked for that money…..because that money isn’t yours, and you didn’t work for it.

    You have Dom tastes on a Natty Lite budget, and your inability to tone down your spending is costing you your future.

    Anon

    March 23, 2010 at 19:43

  4. I’m one of the commentators referenced above who keeps kvetching about the loan to your mother. By your own admission, you started out six months ago with $230,000 in debt. Now, you are ‘only’ $226,000 (forgetting Mom again). So, you’ve paid off $4,000 in debt in 6 months. August is 5 months away and you plan to pay off your entire debt by August. How do you plan to do that if you are only managing to pay down the debt at less than $1,000 a month.

    While I have the floor, so to speak, I might add that some commentators do not intend to annoy or harass you. I personally read your blog because I’m fascinated on how you intend to achieve your goal. Why? Because I know of several individuals (non-lawyers) who are in a similar situation and I was hoping to give them tips and advice from your experiences. That’s not likely to happen because you seem to disregard any advice that is inconvenient or uncomfortable.

    I was also the individual who recommended debt counseling. Contrary to your assertions, debt counseling is not intended to make your debt disappear. It is intended to give you an opportunity to work out repayment plans with creditors (including the loathesome IRS) on terms that are favorable to you and your financial situation. Again, you disregarded that advice without doing any research. With a scant amount of research, you would realize the intended purpose of debt consolidation.

    “The Dude Abides” provided sound advice and tips on pointers for living within a budget. I’m curious to read your response.

    Although it is not stated, you seem to think some of us have an axe to grind with BigLaw attorneys. I don’t – I’m an accountant and thankful that I never went near the LSAT.

    Donnelly

    March 23, 2010 at 19:51

  5. I understand LoL’s illustration that the food expenses don’t add up to extravagant spending on eating out, and he’s right. 6% is not outlandish by any means.

    Here’s the thing… if you’re spending is more or less reasonable in your eyes, and if you’re earning more than you will at the clerking job, how are you going to change things up if you take the clerking job? After all, if most of your money is going to food, debt, and monthly bills, the only decrease you’ll likely see by moving is the difference between current rent and future rent.

    Then, decrease that by a car lease (I assume you can’t purchase one), car insurance, and gasoline, and how much actual savings is there going to be? And on less overall income, as well. But, I’m sure this is one of the things you’re thinking about as you make your decision.

    One scenario, as uncomfortable as it is to admit, is that you’re in a situation that is unmanageable. In other words…you’re in too deep.

    Personally, I don’t believe that, if you can maintain your current income or something close to it, but I do believe it is unmanageable if you refuse to seek debt counseling and do some consolidation/deal making/etc. And I shouldn’t even need to try to convince you of that…just look at your total RED, and add in the recent loan to your mom in the RED total (not just include it as a side note).

    You’re a smart guy, and it doesn’t take a smart guy to do something for 7-8 months to see that it’s not really working all that well.

    Another thing you have to realize, and which I’ve mentioned in the past, is even IF and AFTER you seek some help, you’re looking at at least a decade to pay off your debt, and that is without taking on more (such as a home mortgage, etc.).

    Only you can decide if taking the clerking job is in your best interest, but I think we all know that there are an abundance of out of work lawyers out there. Will a one year clerkship be your ticket to future job stability? I hope so, for your sake, but I wouldn’t count on it.

    At this point, maybe you should apply at the NYPD or NYFD. Does that count as public work that would offer you loan forgiveness after 10 years? You need to try to get into something that will allow you to make minimum payments for 10 years then have it wiped away. I just don’t see those six figure legal jobs coming back in abundance in time to save you from this crushing burden.

    And hell, if you’re willing to move 1600 miles away to the middle of nowhere, USA (possibly) for less money, why not just relocate to another country altogether. You’re well-traveled; surely there was somewhere you wouldn’t mind escaping to…maybe something to think about once your mom passes, if you’re total red is still north of 200k.

    T

    T-Bag

    March 23, 2010 at 20:46

  6. Donnelly:

    I appreciate your advice and counsel. I also appreciate that you speak humanely to me. You and T-Bag were two that came to mind when I wrote “I don’t take offense to honest people expressing honest feelings—whether I agree with them or not.” I don’t suspect anyone of having an axe to grind with BigLaw. I’ve moved past that. Other than BigLaw’s treatment of human beings, I don’t really care what it does. Fool me once—as the saying goes.

    But as exasperating as my situation must seem to others on the outside, it is just as exasperating to me to hear over and over the same advice—especially to dump my apartment. My hands are tied on that point—unless I were to hit my mother up for another loan and I don’t even think she has the room on the line of credit to pull enough to help me get a cheaper apartment. Not to mention it was bad enough needing to ask her again.

    One way I had intended to help get deeper into the black was by commuting from my mother’s house. I could sublet my apartment for the summer, freeing up $2,000 a month (minus $500 or so for the monthly commuter pass). That would amount to about $5,000 right there that I’d have to pay down debts. I could start doing that now, but I’m in limbo until I find out about the clerkships—unless I just unilaterally forgo them because it wouldn’t be financially sound.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 23, 2010 at 20:47

  7. “Mr. T” (I’m assuming you are a Mr.): Is the debt cram down/payoff provision available for public school teachers? I’m not familar with the student loan forgiveness that you are referencing (my clients are small businesses, not individuals).

    I know that urban pubic schools can be terrifing, but not all schools are the same. I’m not sure if NY has charter/magnet schools like we have in Philadelphia, but I know some older attorneys who took teaching positions after they were laid off a few years ago. Two chose not to return to law (they got used to having summers off), and the other one has a part time law practice. All three are happy.

    Donnelly

    March 23, 2010 at 21:05

  8. That’s urban “public” schools, not “pubic”!!!

    Donnelly

    March 23, 2010 at 21:06

  9. Your post came through just as I was replying to Donnelly. I’m really at the point where I’m wondering if either clerkship would be financially-sound.

    I know I’ll take whichever comes through. But I don’t know if it’s the right decision for right now.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 23, 2010 at 21:07

  10. I think some commentators are right – maybe it’s the fact that you struck it big once makes you feel that you will again and it will all work out – [that you are smart and hard-working and will make it happen] – and so you keep spending on phones and an expensive apt etc. I went to a good school, did very well my first few years in NYC – and that confidence/chip on my shoulder remained even when I was down and out. I spent like I knew money – and a lot of money – was going to come in. And it did. Because I worked hard. But this time it’s different. Even I am scared. The last year has been like nothing I have seen before – and I have finally let go of thinking that the big bucks will roll in again. I understand where you are coming from – and the occasional Starbucks. I used to do that too when I was working a lot and needed a reward or just something to make me feel like I was living a “stylish” life. But then I bought some organic coffee, organic milk and a steel mug [from Starbucks!] and now take my coffee with me in the morning. Not only is it cheaper it tastes a WHOLE LOT better!! Starbucks is fun – but it is a huge rip-off. I also learned to make their passion tea lemonade drinks for 50 cents which they sell for $4.40 and I may be opening up “Ladybugs” soon.

    Ladybug

    March 23, 2010 at 22:35

  11. TVM, people, time value of money.

    LoL, it’s not ‘just $2’. It’s $2 plus the interest on $2 for the time it takes you to pay off your entire debt. Maybe it’s $3. Maybe it’s $10. Whatever it is, it is the highest interest $2 in debt you have, it’s the last $2 in debt until you’re free, and it’s all the interest in between. That is how to think of your spending going forward.

    Likewise, commenters who carp LoL has “only” paid $4k towards debt in 6 months are wrong. He’s paid off $4k in principal. Meanwhile, he’s paid all of the interest that accrued during 6 months. That is a significant chunk more than ‘only $4k’.

    spaces

    March 23, 2010 at 23:13

  12. If you keep going down this path, you’ll be 40 and wondering if you can afford a big opportunity…and then 45…and then 50…and you’ll find yourself worn out and broke, without retirement or other savings, just a pile of bills you can’t pay. Do you want this to be the story of your life? Never being able to get your debt below $200K and unable to do anything but temp…risking that temping is going to be a viable alternative in the years to come, even though rates continue to lower as overseas temps get more and more work? If not, then you need to make some fundamental changes because this plan isn’t working for you.

    Anon

    March 24, 2010 at 08:59

  13. Cafe Charlie is a deli. So that can be anything: sandwiches, burgers, yogurt, etc. Seamless Web is a delivery service.

    That calm your queasiness a bit?

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 24, 2010 at 10:39

  14. That’s a valid point, but I think most people grasp the concept of the time value of money in that basic sense of “any X dollars I fail to spend on debt I will continue to pay interest on at Y rate”.

    The problem is that it is not reasonable to look at something like $230k of debt in such black/white terms. Not very many people will rent a room in the slums and eat nothing but beans and rice just because the $500 extra spent on debt now will reduce the interest paid on that $500 for the next several years. That is one extreme…the other is to pay nothing on your debt (principal) or even increase it.

    LoL is closer to the latter example, as the stagnant Red figure shows, and sure, any step closer to the other end of the spectrum would be a positive move. But nitpicking a $2 coffee or bagel isn’t the place to start here. I think that’s the reason so many people mention larger expenses like RENT, or even the $150 iPhone bill.

    To LoL: If subletting is an option upon moving, why not look into it now (if you decide not to move) and look for a cheaper place? I don’t know just how low rent you can go, but there are roommate finders online (I provided a link in an earlier post), so you probably wouldn’t have to come up with such a large amount right off the bat (first and last, sec. deposit, etc.).

    I know it seems a hassle to go through the effort of finding a new place AND finding someone to sublet your old, but it is something you are going to do eventually. Each month earlier you can do it will likely net you an extra $1000 toward the principal on your debt.

    I’ve never lived someplace as expensive as NYC, so I guess I don’t truly understand what it takes to live there. The closest I’ve come was living outside of Philly for a year, which I’m sure doesn’t match up.

    Anyway, good luck with whatever you decide. IF you take one of these clerking jobs, I’m very curious to see how things work out, debt-wise, so I hope you’ll continue on with the blog.

    T

    T-Bag

    March 24, 2010 at 12:05

  15. Come on now. No one orders anything healthy from an online ordering system.

    Anon

    March 24, 2010 at 12:26

  16. Sushi? In fact, my total amount spent for the month might even be less because two of those orders for Seamless Web were group orders that I placed and got the cash for. And we ordered sushi.

    Sorry–you don’t win that one.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 24, 2010 at 14:12

  17. Ca-CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW
    Debt vulture here.

    Don’t buy sushi when you owe 200k.

    Anon

    March 24, 2010 at 15:43

  18. I’m sorry. I forgot that I should be living off bread and water.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 24, 2010 at 15:57

  19. I agree. And usually I get my coffee at work for free. But—as I’m sure you know—when you spend 14-hours of the day sitting on your ass, you need a break and walking around the corner to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or a Coke at the deli, helps break up the monotony.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 24, 2010 at 16:00

  20. Good onomatopoeia btws. 😉

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 24, 2010 at 16:03

  21. Sorry, long day at work. Should have tossed in “LOL” or a smiley face in the last post.

    It’s your money, spend however you want.

    Anon

    March 24, 2010 at 16:06

  22. Here is what I suspect is animating many of those who comment. $6000 a month is $72,000 a year. While that certainly isn’t a lot in NYC, it is a ton of money elsewhere. Here in KY, the avarge salary of an attorney is about $35,000. Thus, your dining and coffee expenses seem excessive to people with a different frame of reference.

    But, you do have to question how truly committed you are to debt reduction. Gym membership, coffee, eating out. Out here in the hinterlands, those are the first things to go when really, really trying to reduce one’s debt. How committed are you to the goal?

    dknights

    March 24, 2010 at 16:47

  23. LoL,

    I disagree with a lot of the comments on here. While I understand the commenter who stated that every $2 is $2 that could be put toward your debt I think people have to remember that you still have to live your life in a way that is not totally awful. While working as hard as you are, you need to eat well and you need to have those breaks, which sometimes will mean $2 to Starbucks and sometimes it will mean brunch with friends who get your mind off of things. You know what will cost you a whole lot more money in the long run? Being sick and worn down and acquiring some kind of degenerative disease because you didn’t take care of yourself, eat right or rest properly.

    That being said, it is still a good idea to sit down and look at your spending for the last few months and decide what major factors you can give up and what you cannot. You may need to readjust your goal since it seems pretty unlikely you will be able to discharge $230K in less than one year. When I put myself on a financial diet, I tackled the “big” expenditures first. I prioritized and then committed to paying a sum of money above my minimum payments every single month, without fail.

    Good luck and congratulations on your job opportunities! I hope you don’t stop posting after your new employment.

    S

    March 24, 2010 at 18:15

  24. I totally get it Laid-Off. One has to break the monotony – plus the people hanging out at Starbucks are cute. And I certainly don’t mind getting an eyeful of young energetic good-looking people as opposed to the boring freaks I am cloistered with in a room with all day. It’ nice to have a break that pumps you up – I don’t think an occasional cup of Joe is going to make you homeless. A guy’s gotta live a little too.

    Ladybug

    March 24, 2010 at 18:55

  25. You’re the one with the blog, buddy. And yes, $2 minimum per cup of coffee adds up. Whenever I buy something in the non-necessity category, I extrapolate what that cost would be should I become accustomed to regular periodic intake of that item, as well as the opportunity cost of the expenditure thereon.

    I know coffee and a hero sound like little things, but their repeated purchase adds up.

    As to an I-phone, another waste of money. i’me sure that in addition to an I-Phone, you have an I-Pod, laptop, and a number of other gadgets.

    To those coddling this guy as to his “creature comforts”, frankly, you’re enabling him. That’s fine, but if you want to change your financial habits, I’m telling you what it takes to amass savings. And realistically, spending money, frankly, on anything, is counter-productive.

    try this, and I used to do this all the time (after reading an article about ted Truner years ago)– See how long you can go without spending ANY money. Not on transportation, not on coffee, not on food. Ted Turner, in the article, crowed that he had spent $1.35 that day, and this guy was and is a billionaire.

    think about spending money like that. Saving money is not punishment. It SHOULD be a virtue. And all those expensive habits you got yourself into while at BIGLAW (i.e. taking cabs, Starbucks, Hermes, etc…) – disabuse yourself of those. They are all an illusion.

    While I was at BIGLAW, I literally saved every dime. I’m no genius I assure you, but I’ve got a buttload of savings (and thankfully, because I;ve gone from making over $300K to making $60K last year, and luckily around $130K this year.

    The economy has changed DRAMATICALLY. So should you.

    The Dude Abides

    March 24, 2010 at 19:41

  26. Yes, for the eligible loans, it applies to public school teachers. Here is some info on it, but there apparently are restrictions on which loans fall under the plan and none can have been in default: http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/attachments/siteresources/LoanForgivenessv4.pdf

    T-Bag

    March 24, 2010 at 19:43

  27. Don’t forget, Dude, that when one works for BigLaw—more often than not—food is provided. You get fed at various lunch meetings / trainings and you can always order in and bill the client for your food. That doesn’t happen when you temp or work any other form of non-white-collar job. So how do you propose that I eat, then? If I’m to follow your advice to the letter and not spend? Should I start eating spoonfuls of sugar at home because I’m supposed to eat up whatever I have still left in my apartment and not buy anything—per your advice?

    Really—this whole conversation has devolved into something not worth anyone’s time or mental effort.

    That said, however, you raise an interesting point: I was just thinking about earning $1,500 a week—about $6,000 a month—and wondering where that money goes. Besides rent, of course. I’m certainly not spending $4,000 a month on food!

    Perhaps I should just hold on to my checks for a month and then pay bills every 30 days. Because by drips and drabs I just don’t know where it’s going. I mean, I do. I can check my bank statements. But it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s making any dents. Perhaps one big push once a month might work better than weekly payments.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 24, 2010 at 20:18

  28. Order in and bill the client? On what planet does a client get billed for your order-in lunch in the office. (Assuming the client isn’t at your office as well.) Billing behavior like that will get you reprimanded in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

    dknights

    March 24, 2010 at 20:25

  29. AMEX has a pretty good website where you can track your monthly spending by category? (And you can go back and retroactively search spending as well.)

    Maybe this would be worthwhile? I’ve found it useful and yet disturbing to see the money I’ve wasted.

    You might also give mint.com a chance. Same concept but you can aggregate all credit/debit cards.

    Anon

    March 24, 2010 at 20:41

  30. It is standard in New York—and in BigLaw—to order meals and bill it to the firm, and have it allocated to a client matter number. Routine. Don’t believe me, check this link to Above the Law: it’s a cached version of a December 2008 post. I’m not sure why it’s no longer active on the site. (Archives somehow skip December 2008 altogether.)

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 24, 2010 at 20:46

  31. I can certainly see you billing the firm and assigning a client number, but you’d never see it on a client’s bill as a billable expense here. Believe me, during 2 1/2 years as a general counsel, if I ever saw a line item on a bill from a firm for lunch for an associate that wasn’t related to travel, that woudl be the last bill that firm ever sent.

    dknights

    March 24, 2010 at 21:00

  32. Look, LoL, this is exactly why me and a couple others have been telling you to set up a detailed expense tracker & budget on Excel or any spreadsheet.

    You can make it as detailed (many sub categories) or basic as you want, but that way you can see EXACTLY where every single penny goes.

    While you should have taken our advice and done this months ago, it’s never too late to start.

    You could start out with broad categories like:

    Housing Expenses
    Food Expenses
    Medical Expenses
    Vehicle Expenses
    Insurance Expenses
    Debt Payments
    Savings/Investments
    Misc.

    Then you can break those down as far as you want.

    Do the same with income sources, like:

    Temp Attorney Income
    Theater Gig Income
    Half.Com Income from selling some of your books…
    eBay Sales for some of your electronic gadgets…
    PayPal Donation Income (probably not much of that though)
    etc.

    It is an amazing tool.

    Save EVERY receipt if you pay cash.
    For me, using credit cards is actually helpful because at the end of the month I can see all of my charges itemized (but I pay my balance in full every month).

    So, for me I have, for example:

    Chase Visa: (Total Here)
    Then I break it down for more info:
    Donations
    Groceries
    Restaurants/Eating Out
    Home Purchases

    etc. etc. etc.

    It’ll be a real eye opener.

    Try it out…

    T

    T-Bag

    March 24, 2010 at 21:00

  33. I used to justify spending a dollar here and there for coffee, vending machine, lunch, and other stuff that came up during the day. But if friends were getting together after work for pizza, I’d decline, claiming I was too broke to toss in $15 for pizza and a beer.

    Now, I try to avoid spending on anything during the day (I bring coffee in a commuter mug and make more at work, bring lunch, and try to have everything I need with me for the day, generally much cheaper to get potato chips, cans of soda, etc. at the supermarket than in a vending machine). I happily join folks for the occasional pizza and beer, and kick in if someone’s collecting for a charity, because I have all this “left over” money from being careful with daily expenses. This may not work for you, but if it could, you might not feel guilty about occasional “indulgences.”

    Don’t let anyone try to make you feel bad for enjoying a coffee or going out to brunch, this stuff is a drop in the bucket in terms of the overall debt and you don’t sound extravagant. But having read your various adventures about not having money for food or the subway, improving cash flow might make your day to day life less stressful – maybe you should treat cashflow separate from debt paydown, as you will inevitably have living expenses.

    I know some folks find detailed budgets really helpful, and feel like I should have one, but I have some sort of mental block about it. What I do is stock the kitchen over the weekend so there will be food all week, and give myself a cash “allowance” for the week. When the cash is gone, I spend no more, which makes me plan to spend less early in the week if I intend to do something more costly over the weekend. This makes me feel less like I am depriving myself and more like I am planning for something fun.

    Good Luck!!!

    govtlawyer

    March 24, 2010 at 21:25

  34. LOL: just adding my 2 cents: Nobody should expect you to have the spending habits of a monk. You deserve to treat yourself once in a while. If you don’t spend a little bit on yourself, you may end up splurging. Be nice to yourself once in a while.

    Donnelly

    March 24, 2010 at 22:45

  35. I would suggest the book ALL YOUR WORTH by Elizabeth Warren. Good luck!

    cc

    March 24, 2010 at 22:52

  36. What can I tell you? I didn’t invent the system. I just worked within it. Probably a symptom of the larger financial and societal ills. I mean, not like Bank of America or Morgan Stanley, for example, cared much about the common person. So, why should they look closely at their legal bills when they too were getting power lunches paid for by that same common person’s over-the-limit fee, for example.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 24, 2010 at 22:59

  37. For pete’s sake, stop being such a freaking drama queen. There are miles in between sushi and bread and water, and you know it.

    Anon

    March 24, 2010 at 23:53

  38. Totally agree. Get an expense tracker app on your iphone and get into the habit of entering every single purchase! You NEED to see the big picture of your spending.

    Anon

    March 24, 2010 at 23:56

  39. LOL– I am not at all attacking you. I haven’t read your site in its entirety, however, I assume you were a 1-3rd year. Your predicament is tough right now. trust me. imagine if you were me and had two, actualy three, mortgages and a family. You’;; get yourself back together but for now and perhaps for a few years you will not be making BIGLAW money.

    You should be crashing on couches or entering into cheapo sublets for $1500 or less.

    Frankly, if you moved to Jersey City, for $2000 you could get a doorman building 1 BR and you’d be closer to Manhattan than Brooklyn. Look around for cheaper apartments. if you’re on a sublet currently, chances are its an unlawful one so the primary lessee is stuck. If not, just tell him you lost your job.

    As to “spoonfuls of sugar”, what has devolved is your analysis of my advice. My primary advisement is to shop in bulk and to not spend money on anything that you could prepare for less. i understand how coddled you’ve become, but out in the hinterlands this is how people live. The sooner you realize this and detach youself from this metrocentric “cooking at home is bad and eating out all the time is good” mentality, the sooner you’ll be able to save money.

    And you MUST MUST MUST prepare a written budget. Without one, failure is assured (sadly). Good luck to you. Believe me, If my layoff had come earlier in my career, I’d be pissed off and poor too. I’m thankful it came later but any layoff sucks. Good luck.

    the dude abides

    March 25, 2010 at 13:34

  40. Thanks!

    Donnelly

    March 25, 2010 at 17:31

  41. Laid off lawyer: “Everyone picks on me! Boo Hoo. I wrote a blog to draw attention to myself, yet when comments hit too close to home I get defensive. You don’t know me, you don’t live my life. Have I mentioned that New York is expensive?” Welcome to the internet. How are you surprised by this? We all read this blog and you make the same mistakes (and complaints) over and over. You shouldn’t take advice from every lunatic on the internet, but you shouldn’t complain about their advice if you post every detail about your life on the internet. You can’t have it both ways. Oh, your debt should be about $230,000.00. You include the other loans from your mom, so why not include the $4,000 one? Unless you don’t plan on paying it back, then more power to you.

    Minnesota Man

    March 25, 2010 at 19:53

  42. So you rarely had to pay for food in biglaw and still managed to run up tons of credit card debt?!

    Anon

    March 26, 2010 at 08:59

  43. Nearly all of this been addressed in prior posts. Go read Venom and Vitriol. That’ll help shed some light.

    Otherwise, much of my debt has been carried along since law school. I returned from the Peace Corps with practically nothing in the bank. Student loans only carry you so far, especially when one law textbook can cost upward of $300.

    Some of it was run up, as you say, while I lived abroad for work for five months. Although many expenses were reimbursed, not all were. I paid for my mother and sister to come visit me. For my boyfriend at the time. Granted the firm covered the flight for the bf and my mother, but I still paid for sightseeing trips, meals, etc. And how much higher on the hog can you live than three of the five months in luxury hotels. Only hindsight is 20/20.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    March 26, 2010 at 09:04

  44. Wow, I’m actually getting motivated by other people’s posts to itemize all of my expenditures and determine where exactly my money goes. I think I have been doing pretty well, have paid off everything other than federal loans and I continue to save a fixed portion every month. Nevertheless, I think I could save more without changing my quality of life much. Project!

    S

    March 26, 2010 at 13:52

  45. Never a bad idea…

    As I’ve mentioned, using a credit card for as much as possible actually helps me in this task. If you forget or lose a receipt, you at least have it itemized on your CC Bill (per place of business), so that helps me. Plus, I’m assuming everyone uses some type of “rewards card” now, so whether it be hotel points, airline miles, or cash, as long as you pay your balance in full after a while it’s a free treat for you.

    T

    T-Bag

    March 27, 2010 at 09:01


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