Holiday Cheer for Frugality

Happy holidays!  Many law firms are now paying out bonuses to its hard working associates.  It’s an interesting time right now.  BigLaw had a pretty good year, but many firms saw signs of weakening in Q4.  As a result, associates expect bigger bonuses yet managing partners are afraid of a further slow down in business.  That means firms like Cravath will keep paying the same bonuses we’ve seen for a few years now ($10K-$60K depending on class year) and most everyone else will fall in line.

With a big bonus comes great responsibility.  Not everyone handles it well.  The most common thing I’ve seen after bonus season is associates rolling into the office in new cars.  If I remember correctly, last year we had an Acura SUV and an Audi A5; the year before we had an Audi A8 and a BMW 3-series.  (Not related to this person’s choice of car, but the associate who rolled in with the A8 didn’t last very long…must be tough to pay off a $75K car without any income.)

Anyways, that’s all a bit besides the point.  If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not the type to blow a bonus on a luxury car.  I struggle with smaller expenditures.  This year I was particularly proud that I talked myself off a ledge not once, but on two occasions.  First, I thought it might make sense to buy an iPad Air.  I could use it while traveling or even in court.  But then I’ve owned a tablet before and rarely used it.  Now my FIL uses it to play Angry Birds and Candy Crush.  Around the same time, it occurred to me that I should buy a nice camera that could take pretty pictures because the one I currently use doesn’t focus well or handle low-light environments. But I only use that camera for selling stuff on eBay.  I usually trust my wife or others to take pictures at social gatherings.

So what was really behind my urge to splurge on those two particular items?  After some deep thought, I realized that those two things fit perfectly with my dream of traveling around the world with minimal possessions.  But you know what, owning those two things wouldn’t all of a sudden put me in a financial situation where I could quit and get on a plane to Bali.  In fact, it would do the opposite — make me spend more money and force me to work longer to get to FI.  This is exactly what all the marketing and advertising is designed to do — convince you to buy something by creating an emotional connection to that thing.  But rarely will a purchase provide the soul with what it seeks.  You simply can’t buy that.

3 thoughts on “Holiday Cheer for Frugality

  1. Funny. I almost bought a tablet based on dreams of travel too. But one must be realistic. I bought a DVD of my favorite series instead. Once Cravath came out, nothing was going to change unless you’re lucky enough to work at Boies or Wachtell.

  2. When you get a chance, do you think you can help me out with something? My future wife is a struggling attorney and I’m reaching out to anyone that may have some words of wisdom / advice on how to get her career started. My email is in the info. Sorry if this inconveniences you!

    • Brian,

      I’m happy to give some advice. I didn’t see your e-mail address, but perhaps don’t know where to look. You can e-mail me at It would help to know where your wife went to law school (e.g., top 14, top 50, etc.), how well did she do at school, how many years she has been practicing as an attorney, your geographic area, her practice area, and a bit about her work history.

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