Planning an Affordable Bar Trip
After 19 years of education—12 years in primary school, four years of undergraduate study, and three years of post-graduate work—you’ve finally done it: You’re a lawyer. Well, almost.
Before any graduate can practice law, he or she must take the bar exam . After years of school and countless hours of studying, your legal career will come down to passing the bar exam. Typically, graduates walk across the stage in May, then take the bar exam in their state of choice the last week of July (although most states administer the bar exam during the last week of February as well).
Then, they must wait to confirm their bar results and start working as a first-year associate. And all that adds up to is a ton of time off with nothing to do between taking the bar and starting a job. Nothing to do but celebrate, of course.
What do students do while waiting on bar exam results? The time-honored tradition of “bar trips” takes place each year during those few weeks after the exam and actually receiving the results.
What Is a Bar Trip?
A bar trip is any vacation taken between the time a law school student graduates and takes the bar to when he or she finds out if they passed. This is typically done between the months of July and September.
How Can Someone Fund a Bar Trip?
Let’s first talk about the major elephant in the room: law school is expensive. The average young lawyer now carries more than $100,000 in student loan debt. Of course, some programs are more expensive than others when you look at their return on investment.
According to SoFi’s 2017 findings, Cornell Law graduates could expect an average salary of $183,377 per year and would be paying off an average of $148,443 in student debt (as of 2017). That gives those students a healthy 1.2x salary-to-debt ratio. (Salary-to-debt ratio is simply the comparison of the money you’re bringing in to the money you owe for your degree.)
But, Florida Coastal School of Law graduates could only expect an average salary of $84,644 per year and would carry an average student debt of $158,427 (as of 2017), giving them a not so shiny .5x salary-to-debt ratio.
Moral of the story: If you want to have money to burn on a bar trip, think about how financing a vacation will factor into your debt payment plan. And if you’re looking for bar trip tips, these ideas and suggestions will help you plan the bar trip of your dreams—at an affordable price.
Budgeting for a Bar Trip
If you enter law school knowing you like to travel and plan on celebrating the culmination of all of your hard work with a bar trip, you might want to get in the habit of budgeting. Doing so could help you save up enough money to fund your trip without having to dig into savings or go into credit card debt.
Though budgeting can seem like a daunting task, it really doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some simple steps to help get you started:
Gather all your financial information: This means income statements and all your outgoing bills such as rent, student loans, car payments, and more.
Tally up your current savings: Check your accounts including retirement accounts to see what you’ve already got.
Create a savings goal: Decide how much you’ll need to set aside, total, to go on the best bar trip of your life.
Create a monthly budget: Once you have all your information laid out, you can figure out how much you have coming in vs. how much is going out. From there, think about how much you’d like to set aside for a trip and add it into your monthly budget as money you put away each month.
In the end, saving is typically about sacrificing for the goal, so while looking at your budget, think about what you may be willing to give up, such as dinners out every Friday, a gym membership, or that expensive shopping habit. That way, you can put all that money toward your future bar trip.
Going Cheap with Your Travels
Here’s a pro tip: Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive. And that includes luxury travel, too. You just need to do your homework before booking.
Once you decide on a bar trip, do a bit of research to find out the “shoulder season” of your destination. This is the off-peak time to visit, which means hotel and transportation costs should be significantly lower.
Next, look into alternative housing. Instead of going to a fancy hotel try a boutique accommodation that comes with fewer perks but way more style, or look into a home-share service.
Finally, use that student ID to your advantage. Several websites exist that are dedicated to finding flights, hotels, and excursions that offer steep discounts to students. Lufthansa, for example, has an entire membership program available for students to take advantage of discounts and exclusive offers.
Planning a Staycation Instead
Going on vacation doesn’t always mean you have to go away. Planning an ultra-luxurious vacation in your own home is totally possible, especially when you’re short on cash. Mark your calendar, put on an out of office notification, turn off your phone, and relax in your house just you would on any trip. After all, you’re going to need all that rest before you start your career.
Thinking About Refinancing Your Student Loans
If you’re unhappy with your current student loans’ interest rates, there may a better way, and one that could save you a bit more money to put toward your bar trip. Refinancing your student loans could help loosen up your monthly budget, leaving more room for your bar trip.
When you refinance your student loans, your existing loans are paid off with a new loan from a private lender. Most lenders consider your credit history and earning potential, among other factors, to review your new loan terms—including your interest rate.
As a recent law school graduate, with new job opportunities and serious career potential, you could qualify for a substantially lower interest rate than you initially qualified for. A lower rate could potentially reduce the amount of money you spend in interest over the life of the loan, which could lead to long-term savings… and even more vacations.
The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.