Monthly Archives: March 2014


Lately I’ve found myself very pressed for time.  I just have more things that need to be done than I can reasonably fit into the amount of time I have available.  It happens to everyone from time to time.  I’m pretty sure it happens to law students more frequently than you’d like to think about.   There’s nothing you can do about it.  You just have to figure out a way to get through it.

So how do you work through these times?  It requires prioritization.  You have to analyze what really needs to be taken care of right away as opposed to what can wait a little bit longer.  The things that are most important, you address right away.  The things that are of less value to you (or to the people depending on you) get pushed to the back burner.  (As I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, I’m coming to grips with the fact that getting a Moneywise Tip out on Monday morning was a higher priority to me than either getting a haircut or cleaning my bathroom.)

It works this same way with financial priorities.  Sometimes there’s not enough money for all of the things that you would like.  So you have to figure out what’s important enough to address right away (usually the requirements, like housing and food), and what can wait for a time when the cash flow is a bit better (usually things like concert tickets or new clothes).

So next time you’re wondering how to make your money stretch a little further, think about what’s the most important.  Prioritization can make the decisions a little easier.

My Favorite Outfit

I’m wearing my favorite winter work outfit today.  You’ve likely seen it a dozen times.  I wear this same combo usually once a week.  It may not seem like anything special.  A pair of brown slacks and a green turtleneck cable-knit sweater.

So what is it about this outfit that has me so enamored?  Part of it is the quality of the clothing.  The sweater is Eddie Bauer.  Very well made.  And nice and cozy on a chilly day.  The slacks are from The Limited.  Also very nice quality.  And comfortable.  But the real reason I love this outfit so much?  It cost me less than $3 to purchase.

It’s no secret that I love to find a bargain at the State College Goodwill Store.  But why were these nice pieces not snatched up by someone else?  I think I just got lucky on the sweater.  I got it the first day that it was moved to the half-price tier.  This particular Goodwill store codes items with colored tags.  The first two weeks an item is in the store, it is full price.  But every Sunday the prices change.  The third week an item is the store, it moves to half price.  And the fourth week it is marked down to $0.69.  So I got the sweater for $2.00 on the first day it was half price.  A nice find!  The pants were a different story.  I got those for $0.69.  Why were such great pants still there after a full three weeks?  They were missing a fastener.  So I went home, got out my sewing kit, attached a new fastener (which I just happened to have on hand from a prior project), shortened the length (because I’m vertically challenged), and celebrated one of the best bargains I’ve ever nabbed from Goodwill.

Not every trip to the thrift store is a success.  Sometimes I find nothing.  Sometimes I get amazing deals on stuff I’ve been searching for.  But I like the thrill of the hunt.  And I LOVE amazing bargains!


Corned Beef and Cabbage!

It’s St. Patrick’s Day!  And while I have no idea whether my mixed European ancestry includes any Irish, I like to cover my bases by celebrating ALL of the holidays.

corned beef

One of my favorite St. Patrick’s traditions is the corned beef and cabbage dinner.  Now corned beef is hardly Irish.  A real Irish family would likely be making this meal with some sort of pork product.  But Irish-American immigrants in New York City found themselves looking for a cheap cut of meat that would cook up nicely with very affordable cabbage and potatoes.  And so started the tradition of corned beef and cabbage.

What is it that makes this meal so magical for me?  For starters, it’s ridiculously easy.  Cut up some potatoes and a head of cabbage.  Put it in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Put a corned beef brisket on top of it.  Pour in some liquid (I use beer, but water or stock or juice would work well too).  Turn on the slow cooker and walk away for several hours.  When you come back to it, you’ve got dinner and a house that smells delicious.

But the real magic of the corned beef and cabbage dinner is how inexpensive it is.  Corned beef is cheap meat.  But if you cook it slowly all day, it becomes very tender and delicious.  The same idea can apply to other inexpensive cuts of meat.  Throw it into your slow cooker, walk away, and come home at the end of a busy day to a delicious dinner that required almost no effort.  And there’s likely enough that you’ll have leftovers for a few future meals.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, it’s likely worth the investment.  I always see several when I go to the Goodwill store, but even new ones are not very pricey.  And for the magic of turning cheap meat into a delicious meal (or three) with almost no effort….it’s a worthwhile purchase.

My Credit Score on My Credit Card Statement? Wahoo!

credit score

Lately I’ve been seeing TV commercials for the Discover card, boasting that they now provide the card-holder’s credit score right on the monthly statement.  What a great idea!!!  And apparently Richard Cordray, Director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, agrees.

Most people don’t seem to worry about their credit report/credit score until they are trying to borrow money…when it may be too late to do anything about it.  But it’s something that can affect you all the time.  Did you know that car insurance companies may factor in your credit history when determining the rate you pay?  Seems they’ve made the connection that risky behavior in your finances may be indicative of risky behavior on the roads.  Not to mention all the bad things you could be missing on your credit in the case of identity theft.  You just really need to keep an eye on things.

Several years ago it became a lot easier for Americans to check in on their credit.  A free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) is available to you each year through the website  But these reports do not include the elusive credit score.  That will cost you a fee of about $8 per bureau.

The credit score is a method of translating a whole credit report, which includes listings of every credit account you have and what your payment history is like on those accounts, into one easy number that is indicative of your financial behavior.  It’s kind of like translating your whole college transcript into a simple grade point average number.  It gives a quick and dirty picture of what is typical financial behavior for you.

So if it’s the best quick measure of your financial performance, why can’t you get the credit score for free?  I wish I knew.  But Discover has taken a step toward rectifying that situation, and I’m hopeful that other credit card providers will follow suit in the near future.  In the meantime, you can get a reasonable credit score estimate (as well as a lot of really good information) through  It’s worth checking out.