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  • Would you take a $100,000 pay cut to work for a nonprofit?

    According to this article, Simpson Thacher and Bartlett is sending fifteen associates to work for nonprofit organizations for one year as part of their pro bono initiative. The firm expects the attorneys to return to the firm when the year is up.

    Simpson salaries start at $160,000 – par for the course for a large firm in a large city. But it sounds like associates who spend the year with a nonprofit will only make $60,000. (I don’t know anyone who works for a firm that has this kind of pro bono program so I don’t know if the difference is made up for at some point.) The associates won’t be considered employees of the firm while they’re away, although they get to keep their insurance benefits – so the year away may impact seniority as well.

    As much as I believe in serving the public, I just can’t see taking a $100,000 pay cut for a year. That’s a lot of money to give up, especially since most lawyers I know have student loans that need to be repaid – and the associates going out are only first to third-years, so it’s unlikely that they’ve paid off their loans already. Even though $60,000 is a decent salary, it’s not that easy to pay off $1,000 in student loans each month when it’s 20% of your gross pay, and close to half of your take-home pay.

    What would you do?

    Good Pavilions trip this week + examples of how coupons help you stretch your (charity) dollars

    Pavilions is part of the Safeway family, and is the smaller sibling of Vons here in the Los Angeles area. The Pavilions near me is a little dingy, and has proven unreliable with sale prices, so I rarely go. But it’s within walking distance of my house (we’re still down to one car), and there were some deals I just couldn’t pass up: primarily the buy 5 of selected items and get $5 off deal. That deal included Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes for $1.29 after the discount, and I had four $1 off coupons from the November 9 newspaper.

    So I got:
    4 Frosted Flakes @ $2.29 each
    1 Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts @$2.49 (to finish off the buy 5, save $5 deal)
    3 Safeway marshmallows @ $1 each (I forgot that these are 97 cents at Target)
    1 C&H brown sugar @ $1
    1 Dixie plates @ $2.50
    Total before coupons: $18.15

    Coupons used: 4 x $1 off Kellogg’s, 35 cents off C&H sugar (doubled), 35 cents off Dixie plates (doubled)
    Total after coupons, plus tax: $12.44 (should have been $7.44 after the $5 promo)

    I had calculated my total before I went to the store, so when the cashier told me the total, I knew it couldn’t be right. I quickly realized that it was because the register had not taken off the $5 for the buy 5 promo – not unusual at this store, but irritating and the perfect example of why I rarely go there. It took more than a few minutes for the cashier to review the info in the register, then have the bagger fetch a weekly ad so she could review the wording of the promo, then agree that I should get the $5 discount, then ponder how to give it back to me. I asked if a manager could do something; she shrugged. Finally, I said that I would pay the full $12.44 if she’d give me $5 cash back, and that’s what happened.

    The effort was worth it to have 4 boxes of cereal for $1.16 (4 x 29-cents) that I can donate to the food bank, along with the sugar (30 cents after coupon). (Marc will eat the Pop Tarts.)

    The coupon forums and other bloggers’ posts have shown me that by shopping smart, you can donate so much more to a food bank or other charity than if you just gave money. After all, how much would a food bank have been able to buy for $1.46? And the savings are even greater when you consider the large donations coupon users make on a regular basis.

    For instance, Gina at Mommy Making Money explained how she spent less than $17 to donate $50 worth of food. (Actually, that’s probably the sale price pre-coupon total, so the food was likely worth more.) And just a few days ago, Briana showed how she was able to provide “everything from canned food items to backpacks & toys” to a family that had just lost everything in a fire.

    So as you shop throughout the year, keep an eye out for free or cheap items that you can get not just for your family but for those less fortunate too.

    Five free or cheap random acts of kindness for the holiday season

    It would be good, of course, to practice random acts of kindness throughout the year, and I do. But I think, especially with strangers, they’re easier to do at this time of year. So here are five that I’ve come up with – I’d appreciate it if you’d add your own ideas too!

    1. Send a note and/or small gift to someone who’s lost a loved one. The holidays can be difficult for someone who’s lost a loved one, so I like to send a note or gift acknowledging that.
    2. Leave coupons next to the products they’re for so other customers can use them. This one is actually easy to do at any time of year, especially if they’re for products you’re not going to buy yourself. And I know from reading the coupon forums that they’re much appreciated.
    3. Ask a cashier what their favorite candy bar is, and then buy it for them when you’re checking out.
    4. Visit those who don’t get many visitors at a nursing a home. Bring some cookies or cupcakes, and then listen to their stories.
    5. Put change in parking meters that are close to expiring. Thanks to Clever Dude for letting me know that this is illegal in some jurisdictions. An alternative, if you are driving where this applies, is to pay the toll fee for the car behind you.

    Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

    Today is Blog Action Day 2008, and the topic this year is POVERTY.

    Here are four ways that you can help eliminate poverty:

    1. Shop smart and give free or inexpensive items to food bank and other charities. Many people who play The Drugstore Game donate their surplus to worthy causes. Gina at Mommy Making Money routinely mentions dropping off free or cheap groceries at a local food bank. Erin at Coupon Cravings hosts a weekly $5 Charity Challenge, through which she encourages her readers to donate $5 worth of purchases to a charity each week. Why not join your fellow frugal shoppers and donate your extra items?
    2. Donate to a charity that provides microloans. Marc introduced me to the concept of microfinance a couple of years ago, and I’ve been a big fan of it ever since. The concept got worldwide attention with the selection of microbank founder Muhammad Yunus as 2006’s Nobel Peace Prize winner. Microloans involve making small loans to very poor people who can’t qualify for a traditional loan from a bank. For example, I currently have a loan through to a woman in Tanzania who borrowed a total of $175 to expand her business, which is selling fruit and vegetables. The loan allows her to buy more produce, which results in increased profit. If the cycle is continued, it can lead men and women out of poverty and into greater financial security.
    3. Teach someone a new skill. If you sew, you could teach someone how to make their own clothes, or maybe some cute craftsy item that would sell on Etsy. If you cook, you can teach someone basic cooking skills and maybe a set of basic recipes, like Jamie Oliver is apparently doing over in England.
    4. Teach a young person basic financial skills. Personal finance bloggers like to complain about the lack of formal education on finance. But that’s not the only way to make sure future generations know how to manage their money. Kids can learn from any adult in their lives.

    Getting the most out of your sneakers

    It’s been about a month and a half since I said that I would be making some lifestyle changes, and I’m happy to report that except for a one-week period when I was knocked out by the flu, I’ve worked out every day. And I’ve come to realize that I really need a new pair of running shoes. In fact, that’s what Marc is going to get me for Mother’s Day.

    Since I’m thinking about new shoes, FitSugar’s post on how to get the most wear out of your sneakers caught my eye. I had to wonder about Step 4: how many shoes would be in “good shape” after surviving the first three steps? (In a nutshell: Step 1 is workout shoes; Step 2 is casual streetwear; Step 3 is work-around-the-house shoes; Step 4 is donate them to the needy.)

    I think a better bet for Step 4 is Nike’s Reuse a Shoe program, which turns worn-out shoes into sport surfaces. Otherwise, I recommend donating at Step 3 at the latest.