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Frugality flourishes in Christchurch - Oily Rag Column

Frugality flourishes in Christchurch

By Frank and Muriel Newman

Christchurch has had its fair share of troubles lately, but it seems living off the smell of an oily rag is seeing people through the tough times. This week we feature tips from Cantabrians, and throw in a few tips received from one of our Australian readers.

Y.M. from Christchurch writes, “Don't waste money buying garden twine. Grow a small flax bush and use pieces of the leaves. You may pay for the flax bush once, but you will have it forever.” (Cabbage tree leaves also work well!)

Anne has been feeling the Christchurch cold but has an interesting solution. “I have a lightweight polar fleece throw rug that's sometimes on my bed, or on the couch - or on the floor. One night I was cold in bed, but I didn't want to get out of bed to find another blanket or fill a hottie. Instead, I dragged the throw into the bed with me and sort of cocooned myself in it. It was amazingly effective - I warmed up in a minute or two and stayed cosy all night. I think it works because my body heat is trapped really close to my body instead of having to warm the whole bed -I certainly notice a difference in temperature in the rest of the bed. I've also found that if I drag the fleece blanket from on top of the bed to between the sheets, I'm warmer. If you're cold in bed and you have a fleece throw, try it. And if you're cold but have no more blankets to put on the bed, try putting one of the blankets between the sheets instead.”

L McCall has a timely tip. “I bought a Michael Hill watch quite a few years ago. The best thing about buying their brand is that when your battery goes flat, every couple years, take it in and they put a new one in for free! Yes! I have had 2 free batteries so far and the watch is going strong. It has to have the MH emblem on the watch face.”

Norelle Owen has a comment to add about the bubble wrap phenomenon. “We bought a huge 30 metre roll of bubble wrap for $16 at Mitre 10 Mega along with foam tape for lining the window joins in our damp, draughty rental. Apparently the demand for bubble wrap has been overwhelming. Kiwi ingenuity at it's very best!”

E.L. suggests living in a motor home/bus/van can be inexpensive. “Join the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association to get tips about places where you can still camp for free.” For those interested, their website address is

Plingie writes, “Making your own baby food can save hundreds. There are a couple of ways of doing it. Easy but not the cheapest: buy tinned fruit and puree it, then freeze in ice cube trays for use later. Cheapest but a bit more labour intensive: Boil your own veg and puree and freeze as above. You can just simply cook extra when you're making family meals and puree it and freeze. When it's frozen in ice cube trays you can simply pop them out in to a zip lock bag and use one or two at a time. Perfect for little baby sized portions.”

Now to our Australian reader: Old dame from Mooloolaba in Queensland writes, “I live in a small unit with a courtyard. I will be buying potting mix, which I will be putting directly into bags. I bury the bags out in the courtyard and plant directly into those bags by simply cutting small slits in the bag. No mess no fuss. I have a potato with lots of eyes on it that I have saved to plant for new potatoes, and I am thinking about tomatoes - who knows what I can grow in those bags.”

Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Don’t forget to let us know if you have a favourite money saving tip so we can share it with others. You can contact us via the oily rag website ( or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei


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