Mary Beth Writes

1. We either squandered $60 this year or saved $30 today – depends on how you look at it. (Ahhh, the prism of life metaphor…)

Len’s lost his job last spring but soon enough he found his next job (he’s a serial worker); he now works mostly from home.

Guess who should have called the insurance company two days after he lost that job? Argh. We’ve been paying car insurance on the basis of a daily 40-mile round-trip commute he doesn’t make.

I called our insurance company; our rate will now decrease $90/year prorated to the amount of time left on this year’s premium. If we had called last spring, we would have saved more.

Here’s your reminder. If the amount you drive changes – call your insurance company. Especially if the mileage goes down.

Did you know that if you stop driving a vehicle for an extended period of time you can temporarily stop insurance on that car or truck?  For instance; if someone is going to take a driving hiatus to recoup from a surgery, or travel for an extended trip, or take care of a relative in another state; you might want to talk to your car insurance company.

We DID call as our teenagers went off to college.  We’d put them back on if they came home for the summer to work. Taking teen drivers off the family insurance bill was such a significant savings that we never forgot. Back then.

2. This was an interesting number to figure out.

We save all our receipts - from sixty-cent drive-through ice cream cones (what? You don’t do that?) to the receipt for root canal surgery (steep, that one.) At the beginning of each month I put the receipts in piles of Food, Gas, and Random. Next I add them up; check them against our credit card to make sure nothing seems too mysterious (which is how twice in the past two years we found small charges that were not ours. Someone was prepping to use our credit for bigger and worse things, I guess.) This sounds hard and tedious. It isn’t. Probably about one hour per month. I put the totals into an excel spreadsheet; over time we can see what we are REALLY spending instead of what we think we are spending. I love fiction, but truth is better in home-budgeting.

This past month, as usual, I figured out what we spent at the grocery store and at restaurants. Took this number, divided by two (because there are 2 of us, duh); divided that by 30 – for “30 days hath November”. Now I know what I spent per day to feed my face. This total changes from month to month and it’s an interesting number to contemplate as you consider your place on Planet Earth.

I advise you try it if you don’t already do so. January and February are often less intense months; a good time to see what you actually spend. This is not about chastising yourself; this is about knowing yourself. Which is, as you know … the beginning of wisdom…   Per this article, it costs about $2.50/day to adequately feed one person on earth. I know many thrifty-frugal families spend less, but generally they have resources poor people dont have. Such as stable homes, working kitchens, freezers, gardens, smart phones to check store apps, and cars with which to shop the best sales. It can cost a lot to maintain a family that is poor in those kinds of resources. 


3.  If you are a person who received a lot of hand-me-downs as your family’s matriarchs passed away, you will understand why I include this under Frugal Chickens. I know I’ve written about it before, but this stuff has loomed in my life for years.

My mother received family treasures from her mother and also from my dad’s family. Mom didn’t get everything, but as the oldest daughter, she did get a bunch. She lived in an 800-square foot house with TWO tidy, dusted, nicely-arranged china cabinets - even though her favorite thing on earth after a long day at work was to read. When she passed away much of that came to me.  I was grateful to aunts and cousins who took some of it back then, but it was a confusing time and I have sensible relatives; most didn’t want a lot of lovely dust-catchers. Very little of it was monetarily valuable, all of it had been cherished.

Some other place and time I will write about how I off-loaded most of it. I didn’t sell or donate any of it away out of respect for the women in my family who obtained and used these pretty old things.  

In the past two months I made connections to two more women in my family who love antiques. (One was a kid when mom passed, now she’s an adult woman with a home of her own!) These are not relatives I see often. Each woman was happy to take the hand-made tablecloths, some old photos, a few silver spoons, an afghan and a broken violin!

Minimalism says – get that detritus out of my house.

Frugality says “Your grandma crocheted that entire 84-inch square tablecloth. It is two different hues of cream because materials were hard to come by during WWII. Grandma had two sons in the war and I bet she needed something to do in the evenings while she tried to pray and not worry.”

Like I’m going to drop that off at Goodwill?

Now Laura’s other granddaughter (who lives hundreds of miles from me in a Victorian home she is slowly decorating for herself) has that tablecloth, and some other items. Good.

I opened the placemat drawer the other day. Not crowded. 


My credit cards have an option to set up an alert (email or text as one prefers) so I get a message every time my cards are used and where, If it was not my charge, I would know almost instantly and could take steps to investigate with the card issuer.

I never heard of this.. but what a good option. Thank you!

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Mindful Chickens 2/24/2018

1.  We did it!  We called, explained what we thought we needed to do, made appts, were home for the appts, rec’d the estimates about - fixing the gutters and getting the house painted.  I think one of the reasons we usually do it ourselves is because this process is so daunting and time consuming.

The gutter guy is coming next week; we are looking forward to no rivulets when it pours. 100-year old houses built on non-waterproofed rubble foundations, like George Washington, cannot lie about what’s happening outside your basement walls.

Mindful Chickens - The Snickerdoodle Edition

1. When we were sick in January (with flu and cold) Len used the CVS card that I had signed up for last year and then barely used.  He bought several OTC medicines plus a cool-mist vaporizer using that card, which saved us 20%. That was helpful.

2. While I was under the weather I signed up for Starz in order to binge-watch an Outlander season.  After I watched TV for two days I canceled the subscription, thus paying nothing.  This is the third year I have done this.  Why do they let me do this??

Frugal Stuff/ Flu edition 1/22/2018

1. I donated blood Friday morning. This is a free mini-checkup every two months; they take your pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and check your hemoglobin levels (iron). They send your blood to be checked for various diseases such as Lyme disease, West Nile, and Zika.

DO NOT donate blood in order to determine if you have a disease or not. If you think you might be ill, go to a doctor or clinic and deal with it. 

But, if you (like me) need an extra reason to be generous, the screening to give blood is not a bad perk.

Two Piquant Recipes, No Waiting

This is not a recipe blog. You may sometimes wonder what kind of blog this is, but I bet you have figured out we’re not here to cook. Still, sometimes I come across amazing recipes and today I want to share two of them,by referring you to the sites where I found them.

How do I find these sites, you ask? 

Simple. Google the name of two or three ingredients you would like to use up. This takes you to recipes that use those foods; you decide if you want to try them.

Health Insurance when you are laid off

Pals, I was reading letters at a website I look at often. A woman wrote that her 62-year old husband had been unexpectedly laid-off from his job. She said she didn't know where to begin to think about health insurance (and a lot more).  I talked to Len.  Man, we have been here.
This is what Len wrote. This answer is too long to post on someone else's website so we are sharing it here. 
Says Len:
You are in a difficult situation.

Mindful Chickens - Frugal Stuff 1/11/2018

1. We bought a car!! We bought our (former) 2006 Mercury Milan and 2004 Ford Ranger around 2006-2007.  Len is a very good vehicle dad – they lasted this long. The truck is still reliably chugging along; we sold it to a neighbor. However it became apparent a few weeks ago that the Milan could no longer take care of itself. Sigh. 

We talked about what kind of car we wanted in the past few weeks. Len did on-line research, finding cars we might like to try.  We decided we would spend part of two days test-driving these several makes of cars.

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