Mary Beth Writes

Just in case you thought I stopped paying attention to how to live cheap and well. 

1. For several months we have composted veg and fruit scraps - our weekly garbage reduced by half! We collect detritus through the day in a bowl on the counter, carry it out to a steel garbage can we brought from our last house. I’ve dug some of this collapsed organic stuff into the garden.

2. We saved tens of thousands of dollars in two weeks ago. Instead of flying to Machu Pichu in Peru, we drove to Cahokia by St. Louis. 

3. We reviewed our credit reports (2 people, 3 reports each, took a while) to figure out balances remaining on education loans we co-signed for our last two kids.  They are paying their loans but if something were to happen and we had to pay off those loans - what would that do to our retirement savings?  We decided to buy a minimal life insurance policy on one kid. We’ve told that kid what we are doing; we will own, pay for, and be the beneficiary of that policy. We hope to God this is wasted money.

This is what we learned while researching this.

Department of Education loans: co-signing parents would probably not be required to pay back those loans in the awful event one’s child passed away.

Loans from banks: it would be up to the bank. How much do YOU trust banks? 

Policies regarding student loans have changed a LOT in the last 10-15 years which is why the balance on co-signed loans is much bigger for one kid than for the other.

Just to be clear; the biggest financial risk when co-signing school loans is that your child won’t pay them back, at which point you will be on the hook for them.

4. A couple weeks ago I was rejected at the blood bank because my iron level was too low. Paid more attention to my diet. Went back last week, all is well. They gave me a free Wisconsin State Fair ticket each of those two times.  Do you think cream puffs have iron? 

4 ½. But those blood donation mini-physicals; I appreciate them. Knowing my iron is going down and my blood pressure in climbing up in a small but real trajectory – this is better health maintenance support than I get from my annual physical.

5. I paid $3 for an on-line app ‘Cronometer’. You enter what food you eat in a day and it tells you calories. BUT ALSO it tells you how much of your daily intake is fat, carbs, and protein.  It also lists what and how much of 70 different vitamins and minerals one ate that day. When my iron level was low, I started using this app diligently and discovered that many days I was eating less iron-rich foods than I needed to be ingesting. Even more enlightening to me, I was seldom getting enough Vitamin C, which is necessary to metabolize iron. I eat lots of fruit; I assumed all fruit has C in it, but I was wrong.

This pedantic adventure in learning I had low iron and then addressing it with better knowledge and a morning orange – like they say, “It’s the little stuff…”

6. Checked to see if we are on the list of 143 million Americans whose data was breached in the Equifax breach of 2017 – and are therefore qualified to apply for settlement money. We’re on the list. Took about an hour for each of us to complete the online form.  

7. There’s a particular restaurant where I meet friends several times a year; the place serves good food and lousy coffee. Since I usually drink a commuter cup of coffee in my car on my way to this place (its 45 minutes from where I live), it dawned on me to skip the $3 coffee. This is going to save me $12-15 annually. “The little stuff….”

Life is too short for bad coffee.

8. I got a free kazoo by marching in the Dousman (Frog) Derby Days parade with Democrats of my county. There were about 25 of us and we, um, provided a lot of entertainment and some music as we hummed patriotic songs, while walking in sweltering heat for an hour.  I cherish my new blue plastic kazoo.  


Of course, cream puffs have iron or something, right? You make me smile, Mary Beth! And, it is the little things that add up. I wish more folks realized that. I see so many train wrecks ready to happen. No Machu Pichu for us, either.

My eyes bugged out at that cream puff picture! Good read!

Excellent post, as always. It most definitely is the "little things!" Patricia/Fl

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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.

Mindful Chickens - Plastic & Hunger 12/20/2020

I went for a walk on Wednesday and saw this mitten on a sidewalk. When I was at the same spot on Friday, it was still there, so I brought it home because it is a hand-knitted kid mitten, ya know? Any knitters out there interested in making it a mate, so that we could give it to a kid in my community or your? It's 7" from top to ribbed bottom. 


The point of “Mindful Chickens” is to spend less money while being mindful of the environment and our human values. We can try, right?

Holy Mackerel! Mindful Chickens 12/12/2020

Yamiche and Weijia licking out the mackerel bowl this morning.


I said I would write “mindful things” we did this week. The agenda of “Mindful Chickens” is to spend less money plus be mindful of the environment and our other values at the same time. Sometimes, one of those purposes wins over the other, but we can think before we spend, right?

1. I cut my hair. This is not a particular skill of mine, but I can do it well enough to not look like the Pittsburgh Paint Dutch boy.

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