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Oily Rag - Money saving tips for students

Oily Rag - Money saving tips for students

By Frank and Muriel Newman

For most of us the holidays are now a merely a pleasant but fading memory – it’s back to work or study. Being the start of the school and university year, it’s worth reminding students how to save money on a limited or non-existent income.

Most of the oily rag tips on the website will apply to students, but we thought it worth summarising some key messages.

Save money on accommodation by flatting with others who also want to save money. Don’t be too particular about the quality – it’s not exactly a life-long habitation. Boarding may be a sensible option and even staying in the halls of residence may prove to be economic given it includes three square meals a day. Check out all of the options. If you need some furniture for your flat see what’s available at the local hospice/opp shops. It’s amazing how cool old furniture can look with a quick sand and repaint or white-wash stain.

See studying as a 40-hour a week job. That leaves you with free time to earn some extra money. We know of accountancy students who work part time in accounting offices. Their busy time is between April and November which is perfect timing for students. With online accounting, most part-timers don’t even have to turn up at the office – they can work from home. Other jobs may be doing lawns or landscaping, working in retail, doing research work for consultants, or home tutoring secondary school students.

Walk or bike everywhere. It is estimated that half of all journeys are less than 3km. Biking is four times faster than walking, and takes about the same time as a bus trip. And better still, the cost of buying and maintaining a bike is about 1% of the cost of buying and maintaining a car!

Buy your text books second hand or text book-pool with class mates and friends.

Take advantage of student discount cards like travel cards.

Study hard and party less. University should be a place of higher learning, not a place of higher intoxication. Booze is expensive so moderation is the way to go; or start a flat home brew (complete with unique flat label to impress your mates). Re smoking and drugs - don’t!

Do your own cooking, or take cooking lessons. Cook using cheap meats. We took a quick trip to an online supermarket to see which meats were the best value for the oily rag dollar. We found the lowest cost per kg were sausages and sausage meat, then beef shin, gravy beef, mince, then blade steak.

Bulk out meals with cheap ingredients like potatoes, rice, and pasta.

Make meals in bulk and freeze them so you will have something at the ready when the cupboard is bare. That’s a lot cheaper than going out for take-aways.

Become a promiscuous shopper! By that we mean shop around for the best buys. Rotate your supermarket excursions around two or more supermarkets so you can see which are offering the best deals. Try your local butcher, deli, green grocer, bakery, or farmers market. Buy fresh fruit and veggies directly from local veggie growers and orchards, especially road-side stalls and pick-your-own places. Try ethnic food outlets. Many have bulk deals on staples like rice and flour and may have deals on fresh fruit and veggies sourced directly from market gardens.

Pay cash... not plastic... to pay for groceries - that way you will not only see the money going out of your bank account, you will feel it slipping through your fingers like goo!.

Always check out the specials before you shop.

Don’t buy highly processed food - like “microwave meals in a minute”. You are simply paying for preparation that you could do yourself.

Don’t buy lunch and cut down on the coffees! Take a cut lunch and drink water – its fee!

If you have a tip for students or flatters, send it to us so we can share it around by visiting - or by writing to us at Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

*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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