How I Did It
Single mom, two kids, day job, night school. All it took to earn a law degree was four years of doing more with less.
(MONEY Magazine) – BY PATRICIA HIGUERA, 31, LOS ANGELES AS TOLD TO DAVID HOCHMAN
"When I was accepted into Southwestern Law School's night program in Los Angeles, I asked to change my hours at the marketing company where I worked. I wanted to get in earlier to be out at five. They weren't amenable, so I quit my $60,000-a-year job and found a part-time job at a behavioral health company. I had to calm down suicidal patients sometimes. Tough work for $14,000, but on my breaks and at lunch I'd study, and then study a couple more hours before school.
The law school gave me $70,000, which covered tuition but not living expenses. My parents watched my kids [Andrew, 13, and Christian, 8] when I was at school.
I moved into a house my dad owns, so my rent was only $800, when he could have rented it out for twice that. For daily expenses I have a debit card so I can keep track. The one credit card I do have I monitor closely. I transferred the balance, which was over $10,000, to a new card every time the rate went above 3%. I got rid of my cell phone. Had no cable TV. I stopped seeing movies, cut groceries to around $300 a month--shopping at Costco helps--and my kids were understanding. By my third year, I got into one of the better law firms as a case assistant. Mostly photocopying, but my income more than doubled, to the mid-$30s. I mentioned to everyone that I wanted to be an attorney, and the secretaries started a whisper campaign. When I graduated last May, after four years, the firm offered to give me a position in the real estate division as soon as I pass the bar. I'll double my income again. Now my kids keep telling their friends, 'My mom's a lawyer!'"