For many lawyers, the old adage rings true: The more you make, the more you spend.
Sure, you should prioritize responsible spending, but when you work as hard as we do, sometimes you really feel that lawyer paycheck burning a hole in your pocket. As such, it can be hard to resist the urge to spend all the money you make. After all, if you can’t enjoy your money, what are you working so hard for?
There’s nothing wrong with spending money on things you enjoy, but too many lawyers overspend. Let’s investigate what we often spend (and sometimes waste) our money on, as well as how you can start to reel it in if you’re a little too loose with your finances.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Most students graduate from law school with a crushing amount of student loan debt. There’s a good chance that a significant portion of your paycheck goes right to work chipping away at your loans. While you might be making a decent salary, depending on how much debt you have, much of it probably goes directly toward those instead of toward enjoying your life or saving for retirement. Unfortunately, this isn’t an expense you can simply cut back on; in fact, it’s in your best interest to pay as much as you can to knock those loans out as soon as possible.
Takeout and Dining Out
No one wants to work a 14-hour day only to arrive home and spend another hour in the kitchen preparing dinner. That’s one big reason we spend so much on food, whether we’re eating out at restaurants or getting takeout or delivery. And, we must admit, when you’re making a good salary, it’s hard to resist enjoying pricey food. While a fancy dinner every now and then is great, when it becomes a habit, your lawyer paycheck will begin to feel a lot more like a summer job paycheck.
Taxis and Ubers
Especially for lawyers who live in cities, the cost of those Uber, Lyft, and taxi rides can really add up. Some of us are lucky to work for firms who will pay for our transportation on particularly late nights, but for the rest of us, it’s tempting to shell out whatever it takes to get home every day instead of walking or taking public transit.
And by “drinks,” we mean both the kind with alcohol and the kind with caffeine. Your $5-a-day latte habit might not seem like much, but think about it this way: If you’re grabbing that coffee on the way into work each day, that’s an extra $1,200 out of your wallet every year. The same goes for expensive cocktails and wine. A $15 martini here and there is a lawyer’s right, but many of us are quick to overspend on fancy cocktails when we’re out with friends blowing off steam.
Because we work so hard, we want to relax hard, too. What that means is lawyers’ vacations can often skew toward the extravagant. Think luxurious beachfront resorts or exotic tours across Asia. While taking time off is important, this kind of travel can easily cost $10,000 or more. That’s money that would be better spent toward repaying student loan debt or saving for retirement. Responsible spending isn’t meant to end on vacation, and we promise you can have just as much fun without every experience being at the height of luxury.
When you work as hard as we do, treating yourself is sometimes the only way to stay sane and power through those 90-hour workweeks. Many lawyers will reward themselves with expensive gifts like pricey watches or jewelry when they reach a milestone or make it through a particularly challenging stretch of work. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself, of course, as long as you can really afford that Tag Heuer watch or Tiffany bracelet.
Are You an Over-Spender?
Do you recognize yourself in any of the paragraphs above? If so, it’s time to rein in your wallet and focus on responsible spending. A great way to start is simply to understand exactly where your money is going. You can track your finances manually or choose from the plethora of budgeting apps out there. Once you understand your cash flow, you can focus on making small changes that will enable you to better live within your means. Curbing your spending will help you pay off that loan debt faster, as well as allow you to invest in your future a bit more.
Now, the word “budget” can sound like a punishment to some people. If you feel that way, you need to adjust your perspective. Taking away fun and recreation and relaxation and convenience aren’t necessary to make your lawyer paycheck go further. The goal is to simply spend smarter while enjoying the money you work so hard for.