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Shoppers embracing an Oily Rag Christmas

Shoppers embracing an Oily Rag Christmas

by Frank and Muriel Newman

Surveys, surveys, surveys. There have been lots recently so we thought we would recap on what they tell us about our spending habits.

The good news is we Kiwis are spending less. The bad news is that we are still buying stuff we can’t afford. Statistics NZ has said on average over the past five years households have spent $1.06 for every $1 of income.

According to Research New Zealand Limited, shoppers are expecting to spend less on Christmas this year than they did last year: “Over one-third of respondents (35 percent) stated they were planning to spend less, compared with 54 percent who were planning to spend about the same and only eight percent planning to spend more.“

They also asked people whether they were going to spend more or less on holidays this year. Almost one-third said they were planning to spend less, compared with 52 percent who were planning to spend about the same and 14 percent who were planning to spend more.

We think spending less on Christmas is a good thing, and doubt that people will find the event any less joyous as a result.

How do you rate on the Christmas spendometer? Let us know by visiting

The other major consumer “event” is the rising and rising price of petrol. It’s now creeping up to the $2 a litre level. The AA says the new emissions trading global warming levy and GST that are responsible for 10c of a net 20c price increase since January. Ironically it’s global cooling in the northern hemisphere that accounts for the other 10 cents – the escalating demand for fuel for heating has forced up the price of crude oil.

The AA’s website has some useful advice, including 10 ways to save fuel. Here they are:

Avoid short trips - About a third of New Zealand car trips are less than two kilometers in length. Cut down on unnecessary driving and reduce your fuel bills, mechanical wear on your engine and contribute to better air quality.

Drive smoothly - Lay off the pedals when driving around town. Accelerate smoothly and slowly away from green lights and stop gradually for red lights. Change gear early (but don't labour the engine). If you drive an automatic, allow the transmission to change up early by accelerating on a light throttle. Don't accelerate hard from rest, but let the car move off gently.

Look ahead - Check what's happening, maintain a safe following distance and you'll keep at a more constant speed. Look ahead and ease off the pedal if the traffic lights are about to change, speed limit changes or traffic stops. It's better economically, to slow down early rather than brake late

Corner smoothly - Don't brake hard for corners and accelerate out. Slow gently, negotiate and exit the corner on a light throttle.

Make hills work for you - Lift off the throttle as you crest the hill and use the car's momentum to get you over the top. Build up speed before an uphill stretch.

Love your car! Regular servicing, the right tyres for the conditions, correct tyre pressure and wheel alignment make a difference. A well-maintained car can use 10 to 20% less fuel than an inadequately maintained one.

Watch your air con - Use air conditioning sparingly as it tends to eat fuel, up to 8% more in fact. Other features such as the rear window demist can also be a drain, so make sure you switch them off when they've done their job.

Keep your load down - A heavier vehicle means the engine has to work harder. So take those golf clubs out of the boot after the game, remove the bike rack when you're not using it.

Reduce idling time - Don't park for long periods with your engine idling and avoid peak hour traffic where ever possible.

Don't speed - Driving faster doesn't necessarily mean you'll get there faster. By travelling at 100km/h instead of 110km/h you can cut around 10% off your fuel bill.

Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag by Frank & Muriel Newman is available from all good bookstores or online at


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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