Mary Beth Writes

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.

 2. We drove our Ford C-Max hybrid which gets about 40 MPG so we spent $270 on gas for the whole 3600-mile trip.

 3. This might be hard for you to replicate because even though they like some of you very much, I think our kids won’t pop for your motels. Sorry about that. Our kids surprised us by giving us $ and travel points towards several of our motel rooms.

 4. We joined two hotel chain reward systems several years ago. We get 10% off when we make the reservation which is more than an AARP discount. Twice things were subpar. (In one place the internet didn’t work.) We obtained the name of the motel manager in both places. When we got home, we emailed those specific persons, explained the problem, and are still waiting to get travel points against future motel stays. This system has worked in the past. We will see.

 5. Coffee: We bought (two trips ago) a $20 drip coffee maker that makes one commuter cup of coffee. We make coffee in the room to get going, then two more cups for the road. This system saves a lot of money and inconvenience.

6. On vacations I usually bring several books that I think I’m going to read and then I don’t. This time I downloaded several books from our library to my kindle - and didn’t read them.

7. Brought bread, PB, bananas, and other snacks for lunches when we wanted them.

8. We have National Park senior passes. Lucky us, we bought them several years ago when one could still get them for $10 per person.

9. This was a new curveball. Motels have passwords to access free internet. At several of the places we stayed that password would expire after several hours and one would have to enter it again.

Is this a new policy in motel management? Sometimes my podcast listening went from Wi-Fi to cellular. (I should have downloaded some of my favs while I had Wi-Fi.) When we got home our cellphone bill was about $10 higher than usual. FYI.

10. We didn’t buy many souvenirs or gifts because most gift shops were still closed.

11. These things were free and/or priceless:

  • Walking around Warsaw, IL overlooking the Mississippi, with Otis. We’ve been friends since 1978. Still laughing,
  • Getting lost on Oklahoma City’s tangle of highways in at dusk on a Sunday evening.
  • We ate ice cream cones in the 400-year-old plaza in the center of Santa Fe.
  • Hiking in places that look absolutely nothing like a Wisconsin woods.
  • Meeting Kay, a friend from our activist years in Chicago in the 1980’s, for dinner at a spectacular patio restaurant in Albuquerque. Remembering people whom we knew back then and crazy good stuff we did. Seeing the mountains pink for just a few minutes as we left to drive back to Santa Fe - the photo at the top of this post. 
  • The evening in Alamogordo we drove up into the hills to watch the stars come out.




That advice about how much money you must accumulate in order to retire is IMO not useful for many of us. I think better advice is to assess what your expenses will be, do your best to predict how they may/will increase as time passes. Then examine your sources of income and compare that to expenses. One also needs to have appropriate medical and other insurance in place and a reasonable amount of savings for emergencies and home repairs. Very few can save a million dollars--I sure didn't, but like you and Len, I am doing OK. The unfortunate truth is that far too many are very poorly educated about how to manage their finances. No one should be able to leave school (dropout, graduate, whatever) without passing a basic life-skills class: banking, credit cards, credit ratings, taxes, insurance, investments, mortgages, voting, how government works--probably other things too. Of course teenagers may not be receptive, but society should at least TRY to prepare them for what life is like.
Mary Beth's picture

I sometimes think we "blame" students for not wanting to learn things when the issue lies with school boards and with the federal government setting so many requirements about what kids should know - that there is very little leeway for schools and teachers to teach what they can see their kids need. But yeps, fostering education as a place to think about goals - and how to get to those goals - that sure would help. Instead of hurdles students need to clear.

I love sunsets, and collecting them. I still remember an all night drive into Tennessee that turned into a stunning sunRISE I'll never forget. Colorado sunsets are magical because they last so long when all you can see is horizon. I also remember a time when my youngest and I were just driving on the highway, right about magical hour, leaving Bridgeport, I believe (about 20 min South of us), and seeing the most beautiful sunset... purples, pinks, blues, yellows. I knew it made a big impression on him when those colors keep showing up in his art for the next few weeks. A treasured memory. Thanks for bringing it to mind.
Mary Beth's picture

Barbara Ehrenreich talks about this is Living With a Wild God, I read a part of it in a magazine article years ago and used it in a sermon (Why go to church?) The light at dawn and dusk, on mountains and across deserts, is beyond our words.

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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.”

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?

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