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Oily Rag Column: The Virtues Of Frugality

The Virtues Of Frugality

By Frank and Muriel Newman

While others have been lounging around in the sun, oily raggers have been busy having fun in the garden and coming up with next-to-no-cost meals as their harvest rolls in. It’s interesting to hear why people choose to live off the smell of an oily rag. Over the years oily raggers have told us how much pleasure they get from a frugal lifestyle.

Rosana from Opotiki writes, “The great oily rag ideas have really inspired my lifestyle. From Townie to Coastie, now 51 years old it’s time to get back to nature. We do a swap – hen eggs for duck eggs or a cake or a batch of fried bread for some cows’ full-cream milk. But the best part is making new friends. I am hoping to revive a small orchard and grow all my veges this summer.”

JB says, "I have been an oily ragger for about 16 years since my parents brought me your book. My Oily Ragging can basically be put down to the fact I hate waste.... why waste money - or anything for that matter - if you don't need to."

LR says, "I live off the smell of an oily rag because I think it’s the right thing to do. I am not driven by necessity. I have lots of money, but I think it is better to be frugal so that I have the say-so on what happens to the savings. I actually give quite a lot away to charity. In other words, I am frugal so that I can be generous!"

A reader from the Cook Islands has this interesting comment. "We were oily raggers a bit before we came here, but now we are ‘devotees’ through necessity. Where we live there is only a very limited, expensive range of groceries. Although we order groceries every few weeks from Rarotonga we have learnt to stretch our $$ and ‘make do’ on less. We are enjoying the savings". - MN

BJ says they live off the smell of an oily rag, “because I can save heaps. This gives me money over at the end of each week so I can save as much as I need to make sure I will have a retirement nest-egg. All of my spare money is going into investments."

JO from Christchurch says, "I get a lot of enjoyment out of using things other people class as rubbish and if I save money by doing so, it’s even better. For years I was on a small wage and I still managed to pay off a $10,000 loan in 3 years. I’m proud of myself and think I am a real “oily rag” person!"

TH says, "Many years ago I read with delight your Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag and our family have been leading a very simple life ever since thanks to your wonderful book! I have implemented so many of your ideas over the years that they are now second nature to me and our home. I hope my son and daughter get as much reward - financial and contentment - knowing they have done it/made it themselves. We are about to embark on the next adventure of our life – buying a little bit of land - free range chooks included! Can’t wait to extend our vege garden and plant fruit trees and save even more whilst having fun!”

There is certainly something extremely satisfying about having a vege garden and an orchard - and knowing that by following the money-saving tips others have shared, a dollar can be turned into two dollars worth of purchasing power.

Do you have a favourite oily rag tip that you think could help others? If so, please send it to us at or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei so we can share it.

*Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at


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