Your tips, questions, and low cost motoring

A reader writes, “We are about to renovate our house, and it looks like all of our money will be spent on the building so we won’t have much left for the furnishings! Does anyone have a favourite tip for transforming well-loved furniture into a modern look?”

Dandelion from Whangarei writes, “Most gardeners we have found are generous with plant sharing because nature provides abundance. My husband helps prune people’s fruit trees and if they have a good variety he takes cutting material away. Often we see a plant we like which is in seed and ask the gardener for some seed. We saved 20 daffodil bulbs growing on our land and split them each year until our orchard is now full of them. There are some basic rules for when to take cutting material depending on the plant type. Sub tropical plants, for example, should be split in late spring as the ground warms up. We find neighbours a good resource as they know what succeeds in our bioregion and which varieties work best.”

MC from Wellington has some more low or no cost ideas for kids’ parties that work for grown up kids too! “These ideas were perfect for 4 and 7-year-olds, for a party held at a local park, on a Saturday afternoon. Tug-o-war: all you need is a long rope and a bit of adult help. Divide the kids – and adults if keen – into 2 teams, and say GO! You can keep this game going a while by, firstly helping the littlies a bit, and also re-distributing the odd adult to counter a winning team. Lots of fun.

“Pillow or sack races: we used old pillow cases, lined the kids up, set up a rope or tape as the finish line down the field, and said Go! Older kids or adults can be handicapped by having them do a 3-legged version with 2 people in 1 pillow-case – hilarious!”

A reader from Northland says they are about to head off on a caravanning trip around New Zealand. They would like to know of towns that have unique things to do that don’t cost much. So if your home town has some special attractions let us know and you may well see an influx of frugal holidaymakers in your area – you can tell the frugal holidaymakers because they always have a smile on their faces as they go about experiencing the free or low-cost attractions!

A word of warning for those who want to save money by owning an electric vehicle. The Inland Revenue Department has calculated the cost of running an electric vehicle is more than petrol cars, after taking into account the purchase price. The IRD website says, “This year we are able to set mileage rates for hybrid and electric cars. For the first time we have been able to obtain reliable data in respect of the fixed and running cost for these types of vehicles. These mileage rates are: Petrol – 73 cents per km, Hybrid – 73 cents per km, Electric – 81 cents per km. For both Hybrid and Electric vehicles, our data shows that although these types of vehicle have lower running costs, these are offset by higher fixed costs.”

So maybe it’s best to hold off buying that electric vehicle just yet. No doubt they will be a lot cheaper in a few years time as production of electric vehicles increases and the price per unit falls. Given the simplicity of an electric engine, we believe there is potential for transport costs to be reduced significantly in the future.

On the subject of motoring costs, a frugal traveller recently reported that they save quite a lot of money by shopping around for the petrol stations with the lowest fuel price. “I have found the Gull self-service stations the cheapest by far. On a recent trip to the Bay of Plenty we saved 8 cents a litre, and by being sensible on the accelerator I was able to achieve 5.8 litres per 100km in our 2000cc SUV. That worked out at about 10 cents a kilometre.”

Did you know that tyre pressure affects fuel consumption because when under-inflated their rolling resistance increases? According to one tyre company, every 10% under the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure costs about 2.5% in fuel consumption. So if a tyre is running at 27 PSI instead of 30 the extra fuel consumption will cost about 4-5 cents a litre based on today’s pump price. To find out what tyre pressures are recommended for your vehicle, go to, or look for a sticker in the car door jamb – or check your owner’s manual. The recommended pressure for most cars is usually between 30 and 35 PSI.