Mary Beth Writes

“Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price.”  (

HO-HO-HO!  It’s the Choosing Season! Time to overdose on small but endless decisions.

Will you make a big dinner to be shared by some people and Oh Lord, how do you decide who’s coming to dinner this year?  What should you cook and who should bring what?

How many months have you been working on making and buying, thrifting and wrapping presents? Selecting holiday cards (if you do that) and writing the insert letter (if you do that) and then buying wrapping paper while you’re at that stationery-inclined store. (Such as Target.) Or are you using re-useable bags, which you made in your spare time?  Did you buy this stuff on sale last January and now you have to find it in your house?

Decorations. Are last year’s lights still working?  Who’s going to buy /get the tree out of the attic and set it up? How irritated is the person who “does” the tree going to be at family members who don’t help?

What “special events” should you go to? Concerts? Movies? The Nutcracker with grandkids and nieces? The Messiah?  Are your kids in school and church programs? Do you need to get them special outfits? Who gets to decide what the 7-year old is going to buy to wear this year? You or them?

Have you ever shopped for presents for more than ten people during the same shopping trip? Shudder, I have, too.

I remember an entire multi-hours-long session when Len and I ordered most of our our presents on Amazon. We had earned points from our health insurance and we assumed the exercise that led to $500 in reward points was the hard part.  Not.  Ex: Finding the two action figures that the two nephew wanted took more than one hour.  By the end of that evening Len and I couldn’t talk to each other– we were exhausted, frazzled, depleted, and spent.

So here’s the frugal-skill thing. In addition to deciphering what we will and won’t spend on presents etc. for the holidays – are we respecting how exhausted we can become from the endless parade of decisions that need to be made?

Sometimes making decisions can be liberating. I remember the year I gave up baking Christmas cookies altogether. Not making cookies saved hours per season. Another year I realized that since I write all the time, most of my friends more or less know what’s going on in our family so I gave up Christmas cards. Another evening cleared up.

Some decisions were hard to make. My parents bought a fluffy new dress for me to wear each Christmas of my childhood.  It took years to get used to NOT buying new clothes for my kids just because it was a holiday.  Then again, once that became my norm I was sincerely happy with less money spent and more time reading books to my kids.  

I like deciding to not do things.  I like the surprise of what can spill into freed-up evenings and afternoons.

Many of us have an internal voice that confidently announces, “I can save a lot of money if I make that (Insert here: Yule Log, matching pajamas for an entire family, complicated decorations, etc.) from scratch”.  But sometimes the most frugal thing to do is to skip the extra effort altogether.  

We should count and tally our decisions as carefully as we count and manage our money.

The holidays are festive when extra effort is spent on a FEW things.  We should be careful we don’t turn ourselves into circus barkers hawking one sideshow after another.

I’m pretty old now. If I have learned anything, it’s these few things.  

1. I can’t recreate the holidays of my childhood. This is a different family and different time. I try to really see the family and friends in front of me, instead of trying to preserve and recreate rituals invented by other generations.

2. When my kids were little and I ran out of holiday-prep steam I reminded myself that not only was I creating adorable memories for them, I was also teaching by osmosis what adult women will and won’t do to pull off “a perfect holiday”.  I figured if they saw me reading a novel three days before Christmas, they  might someday become adults who didn’t need to “do it all”.   I succeeded. They are all energetic but none “does it all”.

3. If someone offers to do or bring something, accept. Once upon a time I micromanaged a lot. Now I only micromanage when I’m tired, scared, or frustrated. Which is the clue, right? 

Holiday magic is not about performed perfection. It isn’t accomplishing every little thing. What we all crave is to spend some time with others. To be able to give and receive. To eat something tasty, to see light in the darkness, to hear music, to prepare a path for hope. We can pull off all of this with a radio, a sandwich, a kind act, and a friend.


Lovely sentiments. I'm taking them to heart.

The only Christmas decorations in the house is a leather and fur cowboy boot stocking and two small felt Santa & Mrs. Claus figures that have been sitting out since last year. I didn't dig out the Christmas music instead I went to hear Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's Christmas show. (Fun , I met some really nice people) I don't buy cards or gifts so no stress about that. Instead I try and do good deeds for people. Some I know others I don't... Merry Christmas to all :)
Mary Beth's picture

Love it!!

An important message. I work less this month so that I can merry more. I decide on a day to day basis what I want to do. Our advent calendar is low-key but based on doing kind deeds which means we're spending time together every night as a family. Can't ask for more than that!
Mary Beth's picture

Thanks and Best Wishes doing Love and Generosity with your kids!

I raise my glass to time spent with loved ones, in uncomplicated ways where laughter reigns. Grace to you, Mary Beth. Patricia/Fl
Mary Beth's picture

I'll drink to that!

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"It's Good for You" Pizza

The Best Pizza Ever is in Madison 

Click here for their info:   “It’s Good For You”   

Last weekend, while out of town, we decided to stop for a pizza at the place where our son works one night per week. If you know my kid, you know he was manager of an artisanal pizza place for years. He doesn’t miss managing an entire restaurant. Apparently, he DOES miss making spectacular pies and then baking them at temps high enough to burn the hair off his arms.

What’s Scary & What’s Not Scary


Happy Halloween! I think because this is mostly a kid’s holiday, it tends to evoke a lot of sweet and funny memories from our childhoods and then of our kids.

Remember when we (who are now antique kids) collected candy in paper grocery bags that we had decorated with crayons? And then it would rain and one would have to carry the bag in both arms and run between houses while drenched and noisy and not even caring?

Obviously I remember that.

Frugality Hacks or how I saved $64,000,000, so far.

I read the ‘frugal things I did’ letters in other people’s huge and interesting frugality blogs. I figured I could list some of the ways I saved some money this week (this life). I’m pleased to say I saved about 64 Million.

Quarantine Diary #645 - Granola

Two recent tweets : Someone named Kate Harding tweeted; “What haunts me is that I am not just smart enough for so many people to be this much stupider than me.”

And from Di, Obstinate Hoper; “I’m starting to think of pandemic caution like labor: buckle down during peaks, relax a little between them. Hang in there, folks. It’s a damn long labor.”

Frugal? Road Trip to New Mexico

If our finances were stretched we wouldn’t have gone to New Mexico. We are doing fine despite the advice that says one ought to retire with a million dollars in the bank. Imagine that.

1. We and, at this point, about half the nation, have had our Covid vaccines so we felt safe and ready to see something new. However, we traveled to a place where they had worked WITH the effort to fight this pandemic. This limited our choices and is the #1 reason we didn’t go to the Badlands. How we spend $ is our power.

The Mindful Chickens are Wordy Today

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”. I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

  • Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).
  • Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.
  • Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.

This is my collection of wise choices and dastardly schemes from the last two months.

ONE: Our electric toothbrush/water pick would no longer hold a charge but a new one costs more than $100. Len took it to the battery store where they replaced it for $15.

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