Exercise in Frugality or How to Speed Up Leaving the Miserable Practice of Law

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the legal profession, in my experience, is soul-sucking. So when the case under which I’ve been buried for the past several weeks did not settle at mediation on Friday as I expected it would, the futility of my work became even more unbearable. Accordingly, I’ve spent the weekend thus far googling “I hate being a lawyer” and crunching numbers trying to find a way to speed up my exit from the practice of law. My google search led me to this apt little snippet on the Blog But I do Have a Law Degree:

A natural product of being a lawyer is that there is always someone waiting to tear you down. That’s just the nature of being an advocate – if you are advocating for something, there is some other lawyer out there advocating for something else. So if you spend hours, days, weeks, working on a brief, and you put your ALL into it, there will be some attorney out there waiting in the wings to tell you just how crappy your argument is. Just how sloppy your research is. Just how preposterous your position is. There is always someone waiting to pounce on a mistake, and exploit it for all to see – which can make for long days, and nights, of anxiety waiting to be “found out” for what you really are: inadequate.

That pretty much sums up what happened Friday. Of course, the other side’s position (an insurance company) was actually the preposterous one, but that is irrelevant, some days. (Yes, the terms “insurance company” and “preposterous” are redundant.) My google search also turned this up:

Tom Hanks, on giving an interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio, when he was asked what job he would least want to do: A lawyer, because “it’s like doing homework for a living.”

Indeed. So how can I speed up my exit? How can I FIRE (financial independence retire early) myself from the practice of law? There are two key components to getting out, which apply to anyone wanting to FIRE themselves:

  1. Lowering expenses

  2. Saving like a motherfucker*

*Yes, I did say I was going to try to cut back on the F bombs, but I needed to drop one here lest I use the word “accordingly” again in this post. My most recent addition to component #1 was cutting the cable cord. No, I don’t mean going wireless. I mean getting rid of cable. Before I began embracing frugality (B.F.), my Time Warner Cable bill was over $200 a month. (I have since reduced it a bit by dropping premium channels, but not enough.) Of course, this $200 included my landline and internet access. My landline, a source of great annoyance as it is only a receiver for political and sales calls, was easy to ditch. Because I don’t watch a lot of television, cable wasn’t too tough, either. If I feel like being entertained by watching TV, I can stream all sorts of quality shows on Netflix, with no commercials, for $8.65 a month. And if I do want to watch network television, or more preferably, PBS, I can do it the old-fashioned way–with an antenna. For free! OK, not entirely for free; you do need to invest in an antenna, which will set you back approximately $30. Once. Here’s how it works:

  1. Call cable company and tell them you’re cutting the cord. They’ll try to talk you out of it. They offered me a bundle that would allow me to keep my landline and get all local channels (25 or so of them) along with my current internet plan for the same price as going with just the internet plan alone. An offer that is good for an entire year. But as I just mentioned, the landline is a source of annoyance and I can get the 25 channels for free via an antenna. And I do not have to renegotiate that freebie at the end of a year. So I did not relent and told TWC to turn everything off but the internet. That’s going to cost me about $65/month plus taxes. The plan I got includes an internet speed that allows me to stream from Netflix and Amazon Prime with no buffering. (If you want internet just for email and googling “I hate being a lawyer,” there are cheaper options available.) On to free local TV.
  2. Purchase and install an antenna. Don’t be daunted as this is incredibly simple. I live in an area (Austin) where an indoor antenna suffices. The antenna–Amazon Basics Ultra Thin HDTV Antenna (35-mile range)–was $31.32 with tax. All you do is screw it into your TV, put it in the window (mine is behind a drape), and run the scan for channels. Mine found 25, including the three major networks, Fox, and PBS. I’ve heard reports in excess of 80 channels, depending upon location. The picture quality from the HDTV antenna in my home is superior to what I received from TWC. If for some reason a simple indoor antenna does not suffice, here is a link to instructions on choosing an outdoor antenna.
Behold The $44,000 Cable TV Tree

Behold the $45,000 Cable TV Tree

What effect has this had on component #2, Save Like a Motherfucker? First, it’s very important that you not spend what you’ve saved on ditching cable TV. Cutting expenses does you no good in your quest for FIREing yourself if you don’t invest the money. I’ve mentioned index funds before, a topic on which I’ll write more in the future. Let’s assume I save $150 per month over the course of the next 15 years ditching cable. (The cost likely will increase in the future, but humor me.) Each month, I put that $150 into the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund, which has earned an approximately 9.5% return since its inception in 1993. Let’s be conservative and assume a 6% average return over the next 15 years. With investing the $150 I saved ditching cable each month at a 6% return on investment (ROI), at the end of 15 years I will  have accumulated $44,770.04. I suspect many of you could live on this amount for an entire year; particularly if your mortgage is paid off. (My mortgage will be paid off in slightly less than 15 years due to choosing a 15-year mortgage when I refinanced. This resulted in a lower rate than I would have gotten on a 30-year mortgage, and because the rate was so low, my monthly payment increased by less than $100.) I have one significant recurring expense remaining that I consider an extravagance: my house cleaner. I’ve been thinking about letting her go and doing my own cleaning. After all, I’m one person with three cats in a 1500 square foot condo. How hard can it be to keep things clean? I certainly will let her go and do my own cleaning when I FIRE myself. But let’s just say I continue using her services for the next three years at $200 per month. At the end of 15 years, that $7200 invested at the same 6% ROI will be worth $16,296.92. Ouch. But still, I’m unconvinced on this one. Maybe if I google “I hate being a lawyer” again.

About Unconfirmed Bachelorette

Unconfirmed Bachelorette, a/k/a Ella, is a 50-something-year-old lawyer who wishes fervently she could retire from the practice of law and write full time. Never-married-childfree Ella resides in Austin, Texas with her three fluffy black rescue cats.
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18 Responses to Exercise in Frugality or How to Speed Up Leaving the Miserable Practice of Law

  1. 18mitzvot says:

    Wow, great post. I’m doing the Cut Expenses by staying with my folks temporarily. Any rent I pay them will be less than renting my own apartment, but it never occurred to me to invest the difference.
    You are probably an excellent advocate for your clients. Isn’t there some other way you can use your skills?
    I completely agree that you deserve to enjoy yourself and feel valued as a lawyer. Do you have to give it up completely?

    Like

    • Thank you, Mitzvot! That’s a great way to cut expenses. If you’re investing over-the short term, the advice may be different, but the index fund I mentioned over the long-haul is my top pick.

      There may be another way to use my skills, but I’m ready to ditch the adversarial life entirely. I have visions of a non-profit called Black Cat Rescue. I’ve got a few more years to ponder what’s next while I toil away at BigLaw, socking away as much as possible for my next act.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Katie says:

    I find my cats to be a major contributor to my wish for a housecleaner. Think carefully on that one 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. gertmcqueen says:

    good luck with your plans…
    in 1979 my TV broke and I have never gotten another. I told my children, teenagers at the time, that if they wanted to watch TV…find a friend or learn to read books. They did both and so did I. Sure I have some TV favorites and am fortunate that over the years my friends have helped me with my TV viewings! On the other hand, there’s not a lot on TV that I like, I do like movies, lots of them and I get them FOR FREE from the public library! I don’t have in-home internet connections because that obviously would not work for me. I do have a ‘mi-fi’ external ‘hot box’ that connects me to the internet and all that can give me. It’s all about what a person wants!
    Looking at one’s life-style and how to alter it, is obviously a very personal exercise, again, good luck!

    Like

    • Gert, you make an excellent point–reading is better! Not to mention that TV is such a time-suck. But I find if I watch a show via Netflix, I watch only one hour, and I’m done. So far I have not succumbed to the binge-watching I hear so much about. You also mention the library. I really need to start borrowing books, instead of downloading them willy nilly to my Kindle via Amazon. At year’s end, I am going to calculate how much I spent on books, when I could have borrowed them for free. (The subject of a future post?) Thank you for your ideas on being better at being frugal!

      Liked by 1 person

      • gertmcqueen says:

        thank you for accepting my ideas! which of course may not be right for another! I read a lot on line, not books, for I prefer the physical book! Just finished, Journeys on the Silk Road and started Pole Shift. The first was given to me by a friend and I plan on sharing it with at least 4 friends and the second I’ve had on my shelf for 10 years! I have several books that are valuable to me for reference only.

        I have TONS of books, audio tapes (yep tapes I brought before I retired for WHEN I retire and have yet to open them up..dahh) I have a vast CD library as well as a DVD library. But yes, there are many free services available for anyone. When I moved 5 years ago I gave away, to several friends, a vast library! I didn’t have the space where I live now. Sure there are books we want to keep, be they fiction or not, but downsizing is a reality to many elders! Oh and btw…I have a large list to order from the library…just make note of all those previews that each DVD has! Be they old or new movies…you can get them free, most of the time, from your library as well as free internet service!
        For sure, do your research and calculations and keep those items and services that make YOU happy…after all that’s what is important…keeping YOU HAPPY!

        Like

        • Gert, I got all revved up about the library and looked into the hours at the local branch. It’s very close to my home, about 1.5 miles away, and I often pass it on my walks. So I figured I had it made. Alas, it is closing for a year two weeks from now for remodeling. I suppose I could always get in my car and try another branch in the meantime. I can also borrow a few select e-books on my kindle from the lending library. I researched whether public libraries lend e-books, but that seems to not be well established yet. Thanks to your comment, I am broadening my horizons on frugality. Not to mention minimalism. 🙂

          Like

  4. franhunne4u says:

    Being a tsundoku-sufferer (look it up, it’s a real thing!) I have over 150 books I bought and never read, yet … one day … over 150 books about 6 to 10 Euro each .. lying around unused … I can really recommend going to a library. Less space at home needed, you DO read the books, as you have to return them, and your neighbourhood is a better place for every paying library user who upholds the service for kids and poor elderly persons and jobless ones – so those can use the thing for free.

    Like

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