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:

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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”   

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Obviously I remember that.

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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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