Tagged: money

What Really “Mattress” And What You Should “Chair” About in Furnishing Your Apartment

So Class of 2018… here is the reality – your new permanent address here in New Haven is 127 Wall Street. That’s where you will be spending the majority of your days and nights. That apartment that you probably just dropped a hefty security deposit on is solely where you store your stuff and sleep.

Given that… there is no real reason to spend your already challenging student budget on furnished said apartment in any type of lavish style.  There are ways to get all the essential furniture you need and still save money

IKEA (located on Sargent Drive in the Long Wharf section) – is probably the go to New Haven “student friendly” destination for inexpensive and yet new furniture.   The biggest time constraint with IKEA is not winding your way through the labyrinths of their massive store  (following their mandated yellow line so that you have to walk through each and every department) but the time you will need in actually putting together the furniture which all comes unassembled  with no written instructions (just pictures) and you r only  tool is the 4 inch allen wrench supplied with each purchase.   There is a reason why IKEA sells a larger $7.99 tool kit close to the checkout counters- invest in that!   My favorite spot in IKEA is actually the “As Is” department which is tucked to the far left of the checkout area. Here you can find significantly reduced display models or slightly damaged furniture and the best part… it’s all pre- assembled!!    No room to fit that purchase in your car? – IKEA also allows you to rent trucks on a daily basis to bring the purchase home. Another budget item  related to IKEA- great inexpensive meals in their restaurant – the signature dish being their Swedish meatballs with  ligonberry sauce.

My other  favorite budget furniture place is Universal  Hotel Liquidators (UHL) located on Rt. 1 in West Haven. Consider the concept… who changes furniture the most often… hotels who are constantly updating  their rooms.  UHL  recognized that and the fact that this furniture for the most part is relatively gently used and as such very resellable. .  Think of it as a “green effort” to recycle furniture that still has a lot of life span left.  It’s an enormous warehouse where you can literally find any type of furniture here that you would find anywhere in a hotel. From the traditional bed sets,  desks, and armchairs to ice buckets, luggage racks and wet bars.  And usually it’s not just one of any given item but sometimes 30 that all came out of the same hotel (so you get to choose which one of the 30 is in the best condition).   Part of the adventure is looking for the identification found somewhere on the piece which tells what hotel  it came from – bonus points if you find anything from the Waldorf Astoria.  Hotel Liquidators will also deliver furniture for a small charge.

For those with a sense of adventure there is always the tag sale/estate sale circuit.  You can find a listing of area weekend sales in the classified of the New Haven register each week (paper version or online) .  If you have a car and can get out to the New Haven suburbs (Orange, Woodbridge, West Haven)  it’s usually some pretty good  pickings.

But why listen to me when he real source of interior design on a budget has to be our own  rising 2Ls and 3Ls who shared these tips:

  •  “I  strongly recommend furniture shopping at thrift stores, though you may want to reserve this for non-upholstered items like tables, desks, and dining chairs. My favorites in the area are Savers and Helping Hands Community Thrift Store (which, as a bonus, has a student discount!). “  [Note- you can find Savers, Helping Hands , the Goodwill Store as well as several private consignment shops all on the Route 1 Boston Post Road strip in Orange].
  • Look for furniture on Craigslist — many of the posts in New Haven are Yale students (sometimes even YLS students!) trying to get rid of their furniture before they move apartments or before new roommates move in, and you will often get furniture at a substantial discount.”
  •   “If you can wait to purchase some furniture (or if you are looking to purchase furniture before moving into another apartment before your 2L or 3L year), watch for posts by graduating and moving YLS students looking to get rid of furniture. Many of them will be giving away furniture (and much more — casebooks, dishware, coffeemakers and other appliances, etc. — the list goes on!) for free or very cheap at the end of the year and you can get a lot of what you need then if you are free to pick up the stuff then. “
  • “The Yale Free & For Sale Facebook group is a great place to get affordable furniture and household goods from other students”

So with these  suggestions, keep in mind  that your New Haven home is still a temporary address.  Really assess what critical furnishings you need to be relatively comfortable over what will be three short years and don’t let your budget fall  flat over the allure of that flat screen television.

Financial Aid Fashion Blogging

So this is my one (and most likely only) chance to join the myriad of “fashion bloggers” out there. Definitely a bucket list item I can now cross off.
So what’s the connection between my real life world of financial aid and the far more interesting world of fashion… budgeting of course (my favorite topic of conversation).

Our 2013-2014 Cost Of Living Survey indicated that on average, YLS students spent $642 on professional clothing last academic year (a significant jump of 18% over what was spent the prior year). That’s a big bite out of the already stretched student budget.

But the reality is that you can indeed “dress for success… for less” as our October 20th Financial Literacy Lunch Workshop proved. Fashion editor Shanelle Rein Olowokere (In Style, Entertainment Weekly, People Style Watch, PEOPLE.com and currently senior fashion editor at Goodhousekeeping.com) brought her fashion sense and sensibility to YLS.

Shanelle Points

Shanelle recognized that YLS students face two distinct challenges- dressing for the nonprofit/public service work environment and dressing for the far more conservative and formal law firm setting. With clothing generously provided by THE LOFT, Shanelle used real YLS models to demonstrate two looks for both the conservative (think firm or clerkship) to casual (nonprofits or new media) work places. Our special thanks to our two models Chelsea Lane-Miller’ 17 and Irina Anta’ 15 for agreeing to walk our makeshift runway (well, okay just the amphitheater stairs in Room 127) . In the photo on the left, Shanelle (right) highlights some of the features on Irina’s “casual work environment” LOFT look , while Chelsea (middle) waits to show a LOFT suit appropriate for “firm wear”. And Shanelle didn’t forget the men- she included in her presentations visuals for optimum casual and conservative looks for them as well.

So here are some of the key takeaways that Shanelle shared-

1) The absolute need to find the right fit- whether that means ignoring the sizing label, making friends with your local tailor or just knowing your body enough to realize what looks right on you!

2) Have a shopping strategy- know how much you can spend (i.e. the all-important budget), know what you need (make a list!), research on line first (saves lots of time browsing through stores) and shop smart (see something you like… wait for it to go on sale!)

3) Work those accessories- want to express your individual style while wearing a relatively conservative wardrobe? Let your accessories (tie, scarf etc.) do the talking for you. But don’t forget that you want quality in those accessories so that they fit well and will last … whether in good (aka comfortable) shoes or leather handbags .

Shanelle smilesBeyond her basic presentation, Shanelle fielded a lively Q&A session with students that touched on every fashion aspect imaginable from appropriate winter outerwear (answer- classic trench coat and wool coat), whether you can wear black shoes with navy pants (answer- absolutely), if black flat shoes are appropriate (answer- depending on the work environment and if the shoe was constructed well i.e. no ballet shoes), how to work with a tailor (answer- start with alterations to some of your less expensive clothing to see if you like their work before giving them any of your higher quality suits or dresses) to whether you can use a nice leather tote bag in lieu of a purse (answer- yes!) .

Above all Shanelle emphasized how important clothes are to not just looking professional but feeling good about yourself in the workplace, which ultimately help your performance. And she gave tips galore on inexpensive brands, sale strategies (shopstyle.com!) and continually proved that you can indeed dress well on a budget (provided you make a budget!).

And so ends this post from the self-proclaimed “Financial Aid Fashionista”!

Life Does Not Have To Involve Living Off Ramen- How YLS Students Save Money

Part of my ritual for another school year is a blog entry targeted to our new 1Ls basically focused on “living on the cheap” in New Haven. I could certainly give you my own ideas (like if you shop at IKEA check out their “As Is”… department first where not only can you save money but your furniture will already be put together for you – okay that’s equally a budget tip and equally “I am just lazy” tip). But this year I decided to change it up a little and go to the actual source… real YLS students who have learned (in some cases the hard way) how to save, sacrifice and manage on a student budget. I put out a call in early summer to our rising 2ls and 3Ls asking them to share with our incoming students their money management strategies and was amazed at their resourceful responses:

Most of the students agreed that the most challenging part of the student budget centered on housing/rent, transportation, food and books. That being said here are their creative solutions (with a disclaimer that the Financial Aid Office is not endorsing any strategies or vendors … we are simply stating that this is what students do…):

“Pay your rent for the entire semester ahead of time so that you don’t have to think about it. It really reduces the stress surrounding finances to have the biggest expense taken care of.”

“The hardest part of budgeting is paying your January rent, since the second semester doesn’t start until after winter break, you don’t get the second round of loans until late January. At the start of the semester, set aside all the cash you’ll need for rent into a savings account (or wherever) and then budget with the rest. A lot of us 1L year didn’t do this and had to scramble in January to make ends meet. “

“If you do not have a roommate, split utilities like internet with neighbors.”

“You can make small adjustments to your food budget, but let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: Don’t live in expensive downtown high-rise apartment buildings just because it’s easy or because everyone else seems to be doing it. You’ll have plenty of time to live in your own private mediocre high-rise apartment once you’re practicing law. Instead, find a room in a cute house in East Rock, Wooster Square, the Mansfield Street area, etc. You’ll save $400-600/month. If you do that, you’ll never have to worry about your food budget. Don’t be afraid to explore New Haven’s “outer” neighborhoods!”

“My advice is simple (for single people): live in East Rock with roommates. Rent is my biggest expense by far – by keeping my rent low, I’ve found living on the budget is really a piece of cake. “

“Get on a bike and go buy groceries. Homemade meals are the golden path to saving a ton of money. It can be hard to get around in New Haven, so a bike can be a great option to get exercise, bask in the sun, and buy the stuff you need. “

“Being in a long-distance relationship can really strain your budget, but planning ahead can help. If your significant other is an Amtrak ride away, buy a Student Advantage card to get discounted train travel. And book those tickets well in advance, even if you aren’t sure that you can actually travel on that day. Fares are much lower two months out and it’s easy to cancel or modify reservations – there’s no fee and you can use the credit towards a later trip.”
“Book your Amtrak or Mega Bus tickets in advance. Prices go way up closer to the date you’re traveling.”

“The key to saving money for me has been signing up for frequent flyer miles and credit cards that give me rewards so I can spend less on transportation to the west coast.”

“Sending my car back home was the best financial decision I could have made. With parking and upkeep expenses I was barely getting by, but without a car I’m able to live within my means. I just get my heavy groceries delivered through Peapod and buy fresh items from the co-op.”

“Shop at Savers!!!! Savers has furniture, home supplies & appliances and pretty awesome clothes. There are some real treasures there. “

“Connect with current or, ideally, recently graduated students to see if they can get some furniture. Alternatively, Craigslist is a great resource.”

“Carpool with a few other students every 3-4 weeks to Costco or Trader Joes in Milford and stock up on essentials.”

“If you shop online, use Ebates.com–you get cash back for most major retailers. It adds up!”

“Make food that freezes well and divide it into individual portions (and freeze it) so that you don’t have to resort to takeout when life gets hectic. “

“It’s surprising how much money you can waste on small expenses like study snacks during the day. To save money, stock your locker with snacks you’ve bought in bulk.”

“Attend events at YLS. Great way to get tasty free food and learn something new.”

“Make your own lunch or buy food from food carts… cook for yourself as much as you can. The dining hall has a microwave, plates, utensils, napkins, basic condiments. There’s even a fridge on the other side of the building. You can really cut costs by bringing your own lunch to school or attending almost-daily free lunch events.”

“I try to pack lunch at least three times a week. And I almost always cook dinner for myself. Buying meals out is one of the most efficient ways to deplete your funds. Plus cooking will impress potential dating partners. “

“I try to buy liquor at the big store next to Trader Joe’s. I get someone with a Costco card to take me shopping there. Don’t eat out! Save it for special occasions. Pack a lunch from home or go to an event with free lunch.”

“Don’t buy books until you’ve had a couple weeks in your classes. There may be some classes for which it’s more sensible to use the copy the library has on reserve. This is particularly for professors who give a lot of reading outside of the textbook. If students are anything like me and can’t help highlighting, underlining, and taking notes in the text while reading, scanning and printing the pages you need really works. At the most, you’ll spend $60-$70 on printing per class over the entire semester. That probably amounts to a third of what you’d pay for buying the book.”

“If you HAVE to buy the book, make sure to check the Initiative’s book fair at the beginning of the semester, in addition to the ongoing Google doc that YLS students maintain to sell books (2012-13 version available here).”

“You might be tempted to pay more for your books and for shipping so that you can have them for the first day of class. But don’t do it, shop around and find less expensive options. “

“Books are a major expense and there are a lot of other ways to get the readings (friends, copies from the library). My year, someone from our small group got the books from the library and scanned all the readings for the first week and sent them to the group. That way, if the less expensive book didn’t ship for a week or two, we were still all covered.”

“You can also rent books from the book store for a lot less than buying them (though you can’t write/highlight in them). So keep that option in mind.”

“Do your best to estimate your utility bills and other bills related to living so that you can get a better idea of how much spending money you’ll have once ALL of your bills are paid for the semester. Divide the excess into weeks –this is the MAX that you can spend each week. Putting the money into a separate account will reduce confusion about how much money is available to go out with friends, shop, etc. “

“I think it’s helpful to make an actual budget in Excel at the beginning of every semester. Then at the end of each semester go back and see how well you stuck to your plan and revise for the next semester as necessary.”

“I set up a monthly budget in August and update it periodically to keep track of my expenses. I usually overestimate (within reason) all budget line items so I have a cushion at the end of the semester.

“I also use mint.com, a budgeting app. It lets you set monthly budgets and makes it super easy to keep track of spending.”

My thanks to all the 2Ls and 3Ls who contributed their suggestions and their first hand experiences living on a “fixed income”. Keep in mind that the Financial Aid Office has budgeting tools available to help you. In addition we will be kicking off our Financial Literacy Lunch Workshop series this year with a workshop on budgeting and credit on September 25 which includes one of those “valuable” free lunch opportunities.

“Delicious” Money Saving Tips And Tricks From One YLS Student

Inspiration for the blog comes in many forms. Take my change meeting with 2L Christina Coutu this past week who happened to see me with a container of my favorite Greek yogurt. Bonding over our mutual love of yogurt, Christina shared how in a purely cost savings measure she had taken to actually making her own yogurt. (Seriously you can make it? I thought it only came from the dairy case at Stop and Shop?). Christina said that when faced with the realization of how much she was spending buying those little individual yogurts she realized she could save some significant funds doing it herself. And she didn’t stop there.. .she also shared how she makes her own fast, affordable and healthy steel cut oats breakfast (in lieu of high cost cereals) and how she prepackages healthy snacks from home for munchies cravings while at YLS. Better than anything from Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart, here Christina shares her self-proclaimed “money saving tips and tricks in the kitchen” proving that budgeting can be done while here at YLS:

1. Make your own GREEK Yogurt.

What you’ll need:
* Crockpot
* Thermometer
* Milk (any fat content will work—higher fat = richer/smoother)
* Starter (1/2 cup per ½ gallon of milk of yogurt with live cultures)


  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan on the stove or in a microwaveable safe container (in the microwave) until the milk reaches 180 to 200? F.
  2. Let the milk cool until it reaches 110-115? F.
  3. Once cool pour the milk into the crockpot.
  4. Remove one cup of the milk and whisk in the starter. Stir this mixture into the crockpot.
  5. Place thermometer inside the crockpot (you can simply crack the lid slightly). Cover the lid with a towel to keep the heat in.
  6. Check the yogurt after a few hours to see that the temperature hasn’t fallen below ~105-110? F. If it has simply turn on the crockpot (warm or low setting) until the thermometer reads 110-115.
  7. Leave the yogurt to sit for a total of ~8 hours, longer will yield tangier yogurt.

* Once the yogurt has sat for ~8 hours you should have a layer of whey on the top. I like to pour this into a container and use it for banana bread (higher protein content than plain old water). This also makes the yogurt thicker.
* For extra thick yogurt strain it in a colander lined with cheesecloth, heavy duty paper towels, or coffee filters.

2. Make overnight steel cut oats for a fast, affordable, and healthy breakfast

What you’ll need:
* Add-ins of your choosing (suggestions to follow)
* Crock pot or regular pot
* 1-1/2 cups milk (any variety will do)
* 1-1/2 cups water
* 1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* Optional garnishes:


  1. Coat inside of slow cooker with cooking spray.
  2. Add all ingredients to slow cooker.
  3. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approx. 7 hours (slow cooker times can vary).
  4. Spoon oatmeal into Tupperware containers (1 cup portions are perfect) and store in the refrigerator for an easy grab and go breakfast.

*I like to pour ¼ cup milk on top, pop them in the microwave, and add additional toppings for a warm breakfast.

Mix-In Ideas
* Chopped apples, walnuts, and apple pie spice.
* Chopped bananas, cocoa powder, and slivered almonds.
* Flaxseeds, canned pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice.
* Maple syrup and brown sugar.

3. Portion your own snacks into individual bags.

* Sounds easy enough but we’ve all spent way too much money on snacks because hunger strikes during a class break.
* Buy some Ziploc baggies and large sizes of foods you love—portion all of them at once and you’ll never have to worry about spending money frivolously on snacks.

A Few Great Snack Ideas:
1. Dry Cereal: Instead of paying $2 per serving for an individual cup of cereal in the dining hall do your own. A $4 box of cereal with 12 servings is just 33 cents a serving—saving you $1.67 every time you bring your own.
2. Nuts: Any variety will do but I love the flavored varieties.
3. Chips/Crackers: Just divide them up and pack some hummus for dipping.
4. Raw veggies and dip or hummus: Slice, portion, and bag them up. Grab a bag with a few tbsp. of hummus or dip if you prefer not to eat them plain. (mini Tupperware is great for this).
5. Raw fruit: bananas, apples, and oranges are great for packing.
6. Hardboiled eggs: boil a whole dozen at once.

There are great buys [Note: Christina cites Amazon] for stocking up on DIY snack essentials including: Food Storage Containers (less than $25 and great for your dips, oatmeal, and homemade yogurt), Thermometer (less than $5 and a must-have for yogurt) and the Crockpot (less than $25).

Any other YLS students have their own resourceful tips and tricks for living within the student budget? And yes .. I am talking to you… 3Ls… who have had three years of learning how to make a budget work for you. If so share them in the blog comments below or email them to our office (financialaid.law@yale.edu) as the topic of their own future blog posting…

Beware of Student Loan Debt Management Scams…

I am writing to make you all aware of what is out there. I was reading a whole bunch of financial aid information which I receive daily through my email and an article sparked my attention. It was about so-called debt management companies claiming that they can help graduates “manage” their student loan debt. The sad reality of this is that people really do fall for these sorts of things. I guess maybe because it is easier, faster, etc. Why do I need to invest my time and energy into this…they (debt management co.) can handle it and that is why they contacted me, to “help” me. And what is the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” So I am writing again (my last blog was Scholarships and the Bewares) about the newest bewares about debt management companies claiming that they can help you manage your loan debt.

Now, would you ever just give your social security number to a stranger? Why not? I am hoping the very first thought that popped into your head was, “NO!” What if you were ever contacted by a debt management company that wanted your personal information (a big red flag should start waving in front of you right about now), and asked you for your federal PIN (personal identification number)? How about that one? Oh goodness…again, I am hoping your first thought was “NO!” NEVER release your federal PIN number to anyone – your PIN holds valuable information of your personal records – and always keep your PIN in a safe place! Think about it, this PIN is used to log onto the federal government’s website, and when you are logged in, what sort of data comes across the screen? Yep, ALL of your personal information, right?

So another beware is that the debt management companies claim that they can help students manage their student loan debt for a small FEE (the fee is set based on the loan debt). OH boy…a fee???? Okay, hope you are paying attention so far because what did I mention in the paragraphs above? I mentioned a red flag, the answer no, any of those ring a bell? I am sure hoping so because no one should pay a fee for something that can be handled by oneself.

The laugh is on them though, there is no reason to hire a debt management company for your loans, you know why? It is definitely something that you can handle yourself and I am going to help you get started and get through it!

I know what you are thinking…loans, plans, repayment, what call do I make first…where to begin? Well, a great website to review – www.studentaid.ed.gov helps you with calculating, managing, picking a repayment plan that best fits you, etc. Also available on the site are calculators to help figure out the monthly payment calculations based on the plan you chose.

Another helping tool is NSLDS – National Student Loan Data System – http://www.nslds.ed.gov/nslds_SA/ is another great place to grab all of YOUR loan information needed regarding your student loan debt. Remember, when you borrowed your financial aid, you most likely borrowed from the Department of Education (federal government) but the federal government wants nothing to do with the loan business, so what they do is “hand off” your loans to a servicer to maintain. The Servicer is your maintainer, helper, guide, problem solver, etc. The servicer that is appointed to your account will be there for the duration of your loan repayment and is there to help with any and all questions you may have now and in the future. And like I mentioned earlier, this is all done for FREE! Yep, FREE!

But now for the best part…the Financial Aid Office is hosting a workshop on Monday, March 11th – LOAN REPAYMENT STRATEGIES: PICK YOUR PLAN (right here at the Law School). If you have not signed up to attend this particular workshop, you are missing out on some pretty cool information regarding loan repayment, asking the right questions regarding your own situation, when does it all start, how much are the monthly payments, etc…all that good stuff (including pizza and dessert too!) It is a great way to obtain all the knowledge possible because what if someday you were contacted by one of these scammers, you will be ready to cut them off at the pass and not fall for their gimmicks. Ha!

My best advice is to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER accept any entity’s help that charges a fee, asks for personal information, asks for anything that you are not comfortable with, or is there to “help” with your student loan debt management…only go to those you trust….like the YLS Financial Aid Office!

We are always here to help at any time, during and after YLS! Come by; ask question after question. We are here for you!
Office – (203) 432-1688
Email – financialaid.law@yale.edu
Street Address – 127 Wall Street, Rm M13

Come by…anytime!
“Happy Graduates, Happy Alumni”

Kellie signing out…

Beyond Loan Repayment- “Big Picture” Financial Planning

Any of you who have ever been in my office may have noticed that I have two watercolor prints on my walls both of which are beach scenes. Why? It keeps me focused everyday on “the” goal…the little beach house in South (or North) Carolina that someday in retirement will be mine. It’s a tangible motivation and my continual reminder that I need to stick to a financial plan to get to that goal (because I won’t be transported down to Myrtle Beach by magic).

And to that point if you think post graduate money management involves only your loan repayment…it doesn’t. Certainly loan repayment is paramount to your immediate finances but it also needs to be coordinated and put in context with other more futuristic financial decisions. Because as you enter the “working world” you are going to be bombarded with a gazillion (yes that many!) financial choices particularly when you are faced with electing your employee benefits for health insurance, retirement, and life insurance, to name a few. And most likely you will be under pressure to make those choices and complete new employee paperwork asap so that you can begin your actual job. But the reality is that those short term decisions you are making now have significant long term consequences. So while you might be saying “retirement…but I just started this job”…the fact is that financial planning for the future needs to be on your radar now. (Need proof? A simple test is to use any of the 401K and 403B retirement calculators on the American Institute of CPA’s 360% of Financial Literacy site to compare what happens if you begin saving at age 25 vs. 35 vs. 45 etc.).

So it’s in your best interest to learn as much as you can about financial planning so that when you are faced with these choices, you can make the best ones. Financial planner John Caserta is a longtime friend Yale Law School who has presented workshops and has offered one-on-one counseling to YLS students to help them get their financial house in order post graduation. Check out John’s article on “Why some people may never find financial freedom for some key do’s and don’ts of beginning the financial planning process as a young professional.

As an extra bonus…John Caserta will be visiting YLS on April 11th and April 17th (12:00-5:00 p.m.) to offer complimentary individual counseling sessions to our students. These are meant as basic introductions to planning and students at all levels of “financial expertise” are encouraged to attend. You can sign up for your session with John by emailing financialaid.law@yale.edu – space is limited. Take advantage of this opportunity because when it comes to financial planning…the future really does start now.

The Means To Live Within Your Means

I could give a million and one euphemistic quotes on saving money. My personal favorite: “if saving money is wrong, I don’t want to be right” from that wise sage William Shatner (presumably as the Priceline Negotiator and not Captain Kirk).

The bottom line is that as a YLS student we expect you to live within a budget and,as such, assume that you will need to modify spending and make financial sacrifices along the way. The same budget or Cost of Attendance must be applied to all students within the same degree program. Why do we do this? Because the Department of Education Title IV federal regulations which allow us to disburse federal loans dictate that we must do this… “students must be awarded on the basis of a Cost of Attendance comprised of allowable costs assessed all students carrying the same academic workload”.

What the regulations do allow is that every school can develop their own budgets based on estimate “allowable” costs specific to their institution and their student populations. In the case of YLS we do something that not every school does… each year we survey our current students on their primary “living” costs to ensure that what we are allotting for this expense is (again as defined by the federal regulations) “reasonable”.

This year 44% of our current enrollment (including both JD and Graduate students) responded to the “Cost of Living” survey (up from 38% last year). That’s a very good response rate and as such probably gives us a pretty accurate sampling. Aside from the obvious data on “rent” or housing we individually poll on a variety of other expense types including utilities, phone, cable/internet, food and local transportation. We average those individual expenses by type and then add them together to determine a typical inclusive “monthly” expense which we can then project for the nine month academic year to determine an average “cost of living” . The result for 2012-2013 is:

COL Table Black White

The survey also yields other interesting facts on how YLS students live which we factor into our decision on the cost of living allotment:

  • The majority of our students (35.6%) make the decision to live alone and, as such, are most likely incurring higher monthly costs (Although we did see a slight increase (18% to 22%) in the number of students living with two or more roommates from last year to this year’s survey).Col Living arrangement Chart 3
  • Most students are paying rents in either the $600-$800 range (31%) or $800-$1000 range (25%) Though we did see an increase (from last year) in the number of students at the extreme low end $400-$600 of the rent scale. Again in the survey rent was defined as the portion of the monthly payment that you personally are responsible for.
  • Surprising (to me at least) …our 1L students have the lowest total living costs per academic year ($14,031) while our 3Ls have the highest ($16,074). I would welcome feedback on the blog from 3Ls as to why that occurs.COL by class color version

The survey also monitors some additional expenses including books/class supplies where the average of $849 per year is within the $1,000 allotment already included in the student budget as a separate allowance. Average childcare costs in the survey were $10,377 per year and YLS presently allows an additional $17,500 in childcare costs to be covered by non COAP eligible loans.

Finally, the survey asks an open ended question regarding “what other ongoing expenses do you have not captured elsewhere on the survey”? There is always a great diversity in the answers to this question – my personal favorites this year being the response of “Gym, Tan, Laundry” (did you seriously think you could slip a Jersey Shore reference in there and I would not get it?) .

Of these “ongoing expenses” the most common response was Travel- particularly as cited for the holidays and to visit significant others. YLS specifically budgets an equitable travel allowance into all student budgets based on home state (as reported on the Need Access application or FAFSA.) The allotment is based on making two roundtrips- getting to YLS in the Fall, going home for the holiday break in December, returning to YLS in January and going home at the end of the academic year in May. Any other travel beyond that schedule is a personal budget choice. However always be aware that if emergency travel or if a personal crisis arises which necessitates travel, we can exercise professional judgment based on a justifiable expense to increase the travel allotment. As much of a romantic as I am, visiting a love sick significant other does not constitute “emergency” travel.

I also want to address a survey comment that YLS cost of living is less than other Yale Graduate and Professional Schools. The reality is that we have one of the highest cost of living allowances because on top of the basic living expense we build travel and books/supplies as separate budget items. Most of the other G&P schools are incorporating those costs in their general living allowance.

So… the reality is that the current $17,000 allowance well surpasses the average costs of $15,003 per academic year as documented in survey and provides a buffer of almost $2,000 to support those other “ongoing expenses”- however you may prioritize them. As such, we feel the $17,000 living allotment, in addition to the travel allowance by state and with the book/supplies allowance of $1,000, meets the federal guidelines as “reasonable” expenses for the 2013-2014 student budget.

Does it meet your own personal needs? Maybe not. Does it allow you to maintain a standard of living to which you are accustomed? Maybe not. But it’s still an equitable allowance to live “like a student” for the short time that you are here in New Haven. Will you need to make some sacrifices or make priorities? Probably. Is it going to be a challenge to live on what is essentially “fixed income&rdqurdquo;? Most likely yes. It is going to be a difficult to receive an influx of funds at the start of a term (no more weekly paychecks) that then has to stretch for several months? Of course. Ultimately will you need to carefully budget your funds? Absolutely yes.

And that’s also where the Financial Aid Office comes in… to support you as you face the potential challenge of living within that allowance and to assist you in that budgeting process. Our office has many budgeting tools and web resources that we can share with you. We can also sit down with you through one on one counseling to actually develop a personal budget based on your own financial aid, your expected refund and your monthly expenses. We also offer workshops throughout the year which provide basic budgeting how tos, manageable spending tips and credit dos and don’ts .

Because despite the preconceived notion that the budget in some way “hinders” you, the reality is that the budget parameters actually “help” you minimize your overall loan borrowing and , ultimately, ensures that 25-30 years from now you are still not paying off the lifestyle “choices” you made in law school .

Scholarships and the Bewares…

How often do we read or hear about something and think, “Come on, that is too good to be true!” Well…

All scholarships are a form of gift aid, money that does not need to be repaid (a wonderful thing) and it reduces debt (another wonderful thing)!!!!

To find scholarships to help pay for school, personal expenses, etc., can be difficult because where does one start and how would one know what is legitimate and what is not?

ALWAYS keep your eye out for scams:

If it is too good to be true – probably a scam

If you are asked to come to a free seminar/information session – probably a scam

Scholarships are FREE to apply for, so if there is a cost – probably a scam

If it states, “cannot get this information anywhere else” – probably a scam

The scholarship establishment states that they can do all the work for you – probably a scam

When a scholarship is awarded, notification is always sent by mail, you will NOT be notified by telephone

Be aware of 900 area codes

Walk away from pressured sales

Be suspicious of endorsements

When awarded the scholarship, always keep a copy of the letter!

Here are a few legitimate scholarship websites to review:





Ask around…get ideas and suggestions on where to look for scholarships through other foundations, friends, family or public libraries in surrounding towns.

Good luck on your quest! Remember, the Financial Aid Office is always open…come by and visit anytime!

Kellie signing out…

What Still Needs To Happen To Get Your Money Or The “Never Ending” Financial Aid Process

So I like to think we are in the home stretch of the financial aid process, applications have been processed, award letters are out and award acceptances (Notification and Confirmation forms) have come in. So very close… but the reality is there are still a couple of important things that need to happen to insure that the Yale bill is paid and that you have money in your pocket to live on. I have been getting a lot of our new admits emailing me with the basic questions below so I am gearing this blog to them but all the info is valid even for our veteran rising 2Ls and 3Ls.

When will I get a bill? You won’t… not in the sense of a bill mailed or emailed to you directly. What you will get is an email that a July 1 billing (due August 1) is available for you to review on the Student Information System (SIS). You’re going to pick up in this blog that the SIS system (www.yale.edu/SIS) needs to become your new best friend for the sake of financial aid – bookmark it and keep it close at hand . That July 1 bill is going to show your charges (tuition, fees and health) and is also going to show all your accepted financial aid totaled as an “anticipated financial aid credit”. As long as the anticipated aid covers the charges you need not worry about the July 1 bill. If there is a gap that you intended to pay on your own you must make arrangement to pay it (instructions will be on the SIS system how to make direct payments) prior to August 1. If there is a gap and you discover the need to borrow more loan funds that July 1 bill gives you the time to contact our office and do that prior to that August 1 payment date.

What happens if there is still a balance due on my bill as of the August 1 due date? On that date if there is any balance due a number of “bad” things will happen. First a $125 a month late fee will be assessed increasing what you owe even more. Secondly you will be put on financial hold which will prohibit you from registering with the rest of your class and receiving your course schedule. (In the cast of current students note that a financial hold will prevent you from getting transcripts needed for FIP!) Note, at any time before the start of classes if the balance is cleared then the financial hold is removed but the late fee is still payable.

How can I insure my loans will disburse on schedule? There is a critical step yet to complete to insure that your loans are ready to go and mark your calendars now to be on the lookout for this in mid July. After July 1 our office will certify the loans you’ve accepted with either the Department of Education (for federal loans) or Yale’s Student loan office (for our own Graduate and Professional International Loan or Perkins loans). When the certification is complete and the loan established you will then get an email from Student Financial Services that it is time to complete the loan paperwork which will include a promissory note and other supplementary documents such as truth in lending statements (TILAs) and entrance counseling session (which are not counseling sessions at all but an online information survey that you participate in and sign off on). Documents will differ depending on what type of loan you have- some will be on the www.studentloans.gov website (Direct Unsubsidized and Grad Plus loans) some will be available right from SIS (Yale GPI Loan and Perkins). Also note that you will need to complete separate promissory notes for each loan (including both the federal Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate Plus loans). Please wait for the email with instructions before going out to any website and doing the prom note on your own as its critical that it link with the completed certification loan (otherwise it hangs out there and goes no where)

When will my financial aid disburse? By federal regulations the earliest aid (both loans and institutional scholarships) can disburse is three business days prior to the first day of the term (for us the first day of the term is September 5, 2012). There are no exceptions to this rule ever. So what this means is that you need to come to New Haven with ample funds to get yourself established including rent (and security deposit), furnishings and food (New Haven has a lot of really good, cheap places to eat – talk to a local for tips).

How do I get a refund of my financial aid funds if I borrowed money to live on? We’ve already established that the aid comes in the three days prior to the start of the term. Then the direct Yale charges (tuition,fees and health) post against the financial aid and, (if your aid is more than the charges) generates a credit balance which has to be refunded to you directly. By federal regulation an institution has 14 days from the first day of the term to provide you the refund and Yale does an exceptional job of getting it to you as quickly as possible even as early as the first day of the term. But again because there is no set or guaranteed date for the refund make the necessary allowances in your cash flow to survive. To expedite your actual receipt of the refund there are two important steps. First, set up automatic deposit on the SIS system so that refunds are deposited directly into your personal checking or savings account. Second you must actually request the refund on the SIS system (i.e. the credit balance in and of itself will not generate a refund automatically). That’s a step that get’s missed alot and something you have to do each term and each time you want the refund to generate. Check out Student Financial Services website for detailed instructions on the automatic deposit and refund request process: http://www.yale.edu/sfas/financial/accounts.html.

That’s an abundance of information to digest so I will stop there. As you transition in (or back) to YLS don’t hesitate to ask questions (I readily admit that the financial aid process is overwhelming). The best way to reach our office during this summer period is using our main number 203- 432-1688 and our main email financialaid.law@yale.edu given staff vacations and summer hours but there is always someone checking that phone and that email who will respond right back to you. You’ve all done a great job of negotiating the financial aid process… just make sure you finish out the final steps and you will be in the money!

Next Blog- Life Beyond Ramen Noodles- budgeting your refund to live well.

How 3Ls Can Achieve “Low Debt, High Gain” (Workshop Series)

Beginning in April, the Financial Aid Office will be offering the “Low Debt, High Gain” workshop series designed to give some practical, real world advice for our 3L students as they begin their transition from Yale Law School. And while each workshop is individual, the most benefit will come if you participate in all three because, as a series, they have been designed to build on one another.

The workshops will be held on consecutive Mondays beginning April 2 from 12:10:-1:00 p.m. in Room 128. We start off on April 2nd with Lori Moore, Director of Financial Literacy for the Access Group. Some of you may have loans held by the Access Group and many of you may know them as the people who brought you the Need Access financial aid application each year. Lori will kick off the series by providing an overview of loan repayment – the various plans you as the borrower can choose from, understanding who holds your loan and who is “servicing” it, as well as your rights and responsibilities as a borrower.

Once Lori has brought you up to speed on loan repayment and options, it’s time to see how COAP then coordinates with your repayment plan. On April 9th, Associate Dean Asha Rangappa and myself will present “Coping Through COAP” which will answer all the basic questions on how COAP awards are determined, what loans are covered, how and when to make application, as well as deal with the COAP intricacies of spouses, dependents, clerkships and assets.

Finally, now that Workshop 1 and 2 has sorted out all your loan repayment, it’s time to move onto larger fiscal issues you will face. That’s where financial planner John Caserta comes in with his workshop on April 16th entitled “Your Financial Future Starts Now”. John, a Yale college alum, has been offering this workshop to YLS students for a number of years and it has always been well received. John uses the analogy of “building your financial castle” to talk about personal spending plans, investment and insurance basics, understanding employee benefit packages and even focuses on the need to start thinking about your retirement (before you have even graduated !!!).

Even more incentive to attend- since the workshops are at lunchtime there will be food (probably pizza) – as well as some home baked dessert treats courtesy of the Financial Aid staffs’ kitchens.

As I mentioned the workshops are designed for 3Ls getting ready to leave YLS but are absolutely open for any 1L and 2L students who wish to attend. We also plan to record the sessions and make them available on the Financial Aid website afterward for those whose schedule might not permit participating.