Mary Beth Writes

Other people call them “frugal things I did lately”.

I call them Mindful Chickens because they are about:

1. Being Cheap (cheap, cheep).

2. Being thoughtful about how choices affect our community and our earth.

3. Paying attention to the constant tumble of dollars and choices.

I haven’t posted a Mindful Chickens list since, um, September?  I did post “Buying Angry” ( which explains why I sometimes hesitate to list choices we make. We aren’t cute. We aren’t rich. We aren’t poor. Our choices about finding values while living our values.

So here we go.

1. Len volunteers in the tax season as a tax preparer through AARP. He had a week of classes last year, he just finished three days of classes for this year’s tax prep season. This is more training than many of the walk-in tax sites.

It is FREE to get your taxes prepared by AARP people; you don’t have to be poor or old. You DO have to make an appointment and they will tell you on the phone what materials you need to bring. There are some situations they won’t work with, but they will tell you when you call.

Look here to learn more.

2. Len mentioned this tax law recently and I thought it was an interesting thing to understand.

If you are facing a big debt, you might be trying to determine what makes more sense for you and your family. Negotiate paying back a smaller amount? Or declaring bankruptcy?  

If you negotiate the amount you owe downwards – say you get the hospital to accept $5000 instead of $10,000 – the IRS will regard the $5000 they wrote off as YOUR income, and you will need to pay taxes on it. 

If you or someone you know is in this situation, talk to a professional. Paying large obligations is hard.  Make sure you don’t get hit from the side with a several thousand-dollar tax bill you didn’t expect.

3. Mid-November one of my daughters handed me a sample packet of Pistache skin cream that she’d received when buying cosmetics. I generally don’t use face moisturizer; I like the concept but everything I’ve ever tried feels greasy and eventually makes my skin break out so I gave up years ago. I tried this stuff just on my face, super small amount, right after a shower. It smells like pistachios (it has oil from squished pistachios in it) but the scent dissolves within minutes. I have applied once a day for months and apparently, I have found the product my skin likes. Figures it would be made from nuts…

I’m almost (going on three months) through the free packet. Looked at the product on-line, the smallest jar of it is $28. I don’t really mind spending that, but the fine print says it “expires” six months after you open it. At the rate I’m going, I will be throwing half of it away.

I found the packets for sale on eBay and bought three for $15. I had never thought about checking eBay for these kinds of products before, but I noticed when I was there that there were some other luxury cosmetics, unopened in their boxes and wrappers, on sale for less than retail costs.  

4. Before Christmas we went to London’s “National Theater Live” production of “The Madness of King George III”. It cost $15 per ticket at the Downer Theater in Milwaukee and was amazing! (Yesterday was the umpteenth anniversary of our first date which was live theater in Chicago. We like plays.) A professional crew films a play/concert/ballet/opera as it is performed for a live audience. This is turned into a production that is then scheduled at movie theaters around the country. You see close-ups, spectacular panning shots of the stage, plus you can hear everything perfectly.  We will absolutely do this again often. Check your theater chain for “special productions”.

Go to live productions in London and New York without an airplane ticket or a suitcase!

5. New Year’s Eve we drove with friends,to a state park after dark. We hiked through the crunchy snow and climbed the observation tower. It had snowed that day plus the temperature was hovering around 32 degrees which was frosting the top layer of snow into diamonds. The flung-to-the-horizon woods and fields were both dark and sparkly. The sky was foggy with great swaths of gray, mauve, and dark. The towns and Milwaukee were lit up like ships at sea. There was enough fresh snow on the railings of the towers to make snowballs.

6. We’re making Greek yogurt again. We eat it almost every day and it saves us about $3 a week to make it instead of buy it. There are lots of recipes on the internet and this is one of them:  

We use the whey when making bread. Tastes a bit like sourdough, plus it also ups the bread’s protein.

7. Wrapped Christmas presents in crinkly brown paper that I bought two years ago, at Ace, as a drop cloth for painting.  It was about 6-9’ square, was easy to tape to the floor and then later I threw the used stuff into the recycling bin. Cost around $5 a pack.

I had a lot left that I now used to wrap presents; tied with ribbon from thrift stores. I’m not going to make it onto Martha Stewart (Hah!) but the crinkly brown paper with real velvet ribbons were, I think, pretty nice.  And, let me say once again, the paper is recyclable.  

8. Humor. A daughter asked if I could buy some colored glass vases for her. Yup. Next time at Goodwill I picked out about 10 of them, lined them along a shelf, took a photo with my phone and texted it to her.  She chose three small blue vases.

She asked how much they were.

“Well, $.50 each, but today is Senior Discount day so I can get them for you cheap…”

Have a good weekend, Friends.  Let’s all be careful with the Gigantic American Blizzard many of us are going to have. 



Leonard's picture

This is a complicated subject, and you should talk to a tax professional if you're having debt problems. What Mary Beth wrote is correct, but there are some exceptions. In particular, if the hospital changes the bill (that is, they say their original bill was incorrect and change the amount you owe to something less), and you pay the changed amount, you wouldn't owe taxes. Same thing if a credit card sends you a bill for something you didn't buy or returned, where the store made a mistake. A corrected bill won't get you in trouble, but one that's "written off" might. There is more information here:

Your advice is always so sound. Gotto check out the Greek yogurt.

Wishing you a good, kind and healthy 2019. Looking forward to your posts this year. Patricia/Fl
Leonard's picture

Sadly, all the AARP TaxAide centers were canceled because of Coronavirus. The government will likely extend the deadline for those who have not yet filed. Check HERE to see if the tax sites will be opened this year:

Add new comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

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.

Who Let the Chickens Out?

Mindful Chickens i.e., being frugal and living by our values instead of by blithering consumerism is how this blog started. Yet I seldom post lists anymore about choices Len and I make that hit that marker because I can tell from who follows me that this is not why most of you are here.

But today I have a lot of things I want to accomplish. Preparing the Light Posts takes me a long time so I am not going to do one – I do plan to be back at it Monday.

7-6-2020 Mindful QUARANTINED Chickens

(Thanks, KJR, for the funny fluffy chicken photo!) 

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

Tag Cloud

9/11 17 minutes 500 Words AARPtaxes AAUW abortion Acadia accident Accountable Advent anniversary antlers apples Arrows Ashland August Augustine baby balance Baldwin Barkskins Beauty Becky Becoming Esther Berry birthday bistro BLM BookReport books boy scout Bread BrokenDays BuyAngry Cabeza de Vaca Cahokia calendars Canada cat romance cats cello Choosing Christmas cilantro Cinnabuns circus clouds Clowns clutter Colonialism comet ComfortZone CommonSense community consumerism Cops Corvid-19 Courage Covid-19 Crazy creditreport creosote CrimeShows death Debate December DecisionFatigue decluttering depression Destination Today Detroit disasterprep dogs dollhouse Dreams Duty Easter eBay Eclipse EmilyDickinson Esquipulas exit polls eyes Fable FairTrade farmer firealarm Fitness Five Flexible flu Fort de Chartres frame Franc FrancGarcia friends frugal Frugality frustration Ft.Ticonderoga Gannets Garden GarfieldParkConservatory Gaspe genius geode GeorgeFloyd ghosts gorgons GovernorThompsonStatePark groceries Guatemala guns happiness HaveYouEver? Healthinsurance HelleKBerry heroes hike History home HomeRepair Honduras Hope HouseinBlueRiver hurricane impeachment Innkeeper integrity InternetPrivacy Interview InviteMe2Speak James Baldwin JoyceAndrews Judy JulianofNorwich justice Karen Lamb LangstonHuges LaphamPeak laundry LeeLeeMcKnight lemming Len Light Lincoln Little Women LockedOut Loki loneliness Love Ludington Macaw macho Manitoulin MargaretFuller Maria Hamilton Marquette marriage Marsden Hartley masks Mayan MayaWorks meme Memories MilesWallyDiego MindfulChickens Mistakes moon Mother MothersDay mouser movies museums must-haves Mustapha Nancy Drew New Mexico New York City Nomadland Ocotillo OscarRomero osprey Outside oximeter Parade mayhem PastorBettyRendon Paul Hessert PDQ Penny persimmon poetry Preaching privacy Protest Quern quest Rabbit holes racism recipe recipes Remember Reruns responsetoKapenga Retirement rhubarb rime RitesofPassage Roses Ruth SamaritanWoman Sanctuary Sandhillcranes Santuario de Chimayo SaraRodriguez sculpture Sermon ServantsoftheQuest sewing Shepherd Shontay ShortStory sick sickness Slower snow Social Security SofritoBandito SpaceShuttle spring square feet staining stele Stereotypes StoryStarts stress Survival swim taxes teenager thankgsgiving Thanksgiving TheBridge ThePerpetualYou ThreeBillBoards ThreeThings Three Things TidalBore TimeBeing toddler Tom tortillas Trains travel Traveler Tubing turtle Twilight Bark Tyrone UnrelatedObservations Up North urgency vacation vaccine Valentines vanilla Vietnam VivianWokeUpDrowning vole WalkingAndSeeing Wampanaog war WarsanShire weather weaving wedding WhyAttendChurch Willa WillaCather Wisteria
Ad Promotion