HomeOily Rag Club |




Send in your general and miscellaneous saving tips. Click >>>

General and miscellaneous tips


  • Ants in letterbox. We've found an effective yet non-toxic ant bait is 1 tbsp baking soda, 1 tbsp icing sugar, 1 Tbsp active yeast mixed together (replace if/when it gets wet). - Margaret from Mt Maunganui

  • After a sudden influx of ants on my kitchen windowsill I nearly went and bought some ant killer stuff (expensive and often not effective) when I remembered something I read many years ago. I went outside and traced the track of the ants and used a soft chalk crayon and drew a thick line across the track of the ants. It ***dy well worked! Sat and watched the darn things trying to cross the chalk line and they either turned back or just fell down! - BuzzyBee, Waiheke Island.

  • Gloves of garlic send ants scurrying. I recently discovered this when for some unknown reason I found ants on my kitchen bench. Having no ant bait in the house I decided to improvise. I put 3-4 gloves of garlic and spread them around the bench top. I tell you, they left in a big hurry. Hurrah! – V.W.

Appliances, renting

  • One of the major newspapers recently ran a story about renting appliances. The bottom line is they came to the view that renting is a bad idea. We have done some quick numbers and have come to the same view – buying makes more financial sense than renting. Our quick, back of a soup-stained serviette calculation shows that those renting a washing machine would have paid the equivalent of a new machine (with warranties) after 12 to 18 months – and that’s for a new machine not a good second hand one which is likely to be what you will get from the rental company. We reckon a brand new washing machine is good for 10 years (depending on the use) but even assuming a five year life, the cost of the new machine is a fraction of what would be $2,700 in rental costs. Putting the comparative costs aside, there may be situations where renting is preferred. An appliance rental company told us a lot of their machines go to flats where four or so flatmates share in the rental cost and there are no buying and selling hassles and no money issues when flat mates come and go. This does not stop an enterprising individual owning a machine and renting it out to their flatmates as part of the flatting agreement!


  • I would like to recommend to your readers a non-fiction book called ‘A Secret Gift’ by Ted Gup (published 2010). It's the secret stories of people who were obliged to learn to live off the smell of an oily rag during the Great Depression, particularly Christmas of 1933. It doesn't exactly list frugal hints, but the reader absorbs them in these life stores. Your column is my Poor People's Vade Mecum (a reference book or manual]. Thank you. - RM, Christchurch

  • I absolutely love your book and I use it in combination with other frugal advice websites. The amount of information about frugal living available is astounding. I am a living example of living a frugal life style. I have 4 children and a husband who all have learnt how it works. Mu eldest son is saving for a house and has told me he would rather pay me rent or board than putting the money in a stranger's pocket. So he is able to save up for his own house while helping his family financially by paying board. What are families for? We are here to look after one another and build each other up. As a unit we are stronger than when we are scattered. By the way we love our vege garden and hot water solar heating system Our average power bill yearly is $140.00 for 6 people in the house! Well I could go on and on. - Anneke

  • I would love to see a free copy of your book put in with every food parcel given out by the food bank. Is this possible? Is there anyone out there that would sponsor this initiative as I think it would help many people in the long term. - D.M., Tauranga. (If there is - could they please contact oily rag ed!).

  • The local refuse center has been a great place to buy books for our daughter. I have purchased Margaret Mahy, Lyn Dodley, Maori language books for 10-20 cents each. Some books I’ve seen in book stores for $20-$40. - SMP, Whangarei.

  • Search out old community cook books at garage sales etc. They usually contain contributions with tried and true recipes that have been family favourites and are great low cost everyday recipes. - Julia, Nelson.

  • A hate waster oily ragger has a tip - they read books before giving them away as presents. (Including the latest oily rag book!)

  • Libraries sell withdrawn books cheap. - G.B.

  • Charity Shops have an over supply of books.  They often have Fill-A-Bag and All-You-Can-Carry for a nominal amount. - G.B.


  • Don’t throw away old candles. Melt them down in a saucepan. When wax is melted pour into tins (you can save old tins for this), to which a piece of candle wick has been added. Then allow to dry. – A.S.

Cardboard and bag ties

  • If you have trouble tying cardboard for recycling use old tights. They are very strong and flexible. No need to purchase string. Also having trouble with twist ties, use plastic clothes pegs. Sometimes I think there are more pegs in my freezer than in the peg bag. - Jean S


  • I make my own postcards using a collage option (Picasa have one, as do most editing programmes). e.g. I did one using various shots of young grandsons whilst they were here on holiday - printed it at one of the stores for next to nothing... eh voila a personal postcard. Probably cost less than the stamp! - Diana, Whakatane.

  • Once Christmas is over, mum cuts up her Christmas cards and uses the pictures on the front for present tags for the coming year. -2nd generation Oily Ragger, Wellington.


  • Ever wondered why your printer ink runs out quickly? Keep your printer turned off when not in use as the heat dries the ink up! - Robyn, Waikato East

  • Don't spend heaps on anti virus software! Avast antivirus offer a free version that gives protection as good as the top brands but no yearly renewal fee. Just Google avast and make sure you choose the free version. - Jeff Cameron, Te Awamutu.

  • If you have a computer and use the internet - check out how many hours a month you have used over the last year.  You may be paying for too many.  This is what happened to us - we were paying for 250 hours with one of the major ISP'S and we now have gone from 250 hours to 150 and saving us $5.00 a month.  - C.K., Christchurch.


  • Instead of heading to the supermarket to buy your groceries and food, shop online and try to use coupons to save a bit of extra cash - I use www.flipit.com/nz for coupons.This way, you're able to stick to your list, and  there are no sweet temptations. - A Howe, Auckland

Electronic gear

  • Looking for stereo or computer? The worst thing you can do is buy the latest technology. It’s invariably expensive, even if it is on special. One of the worst things you can do when living off the smell of an oily rag is to be a technology junkie – its hellishly expensive.

Emergency supplies

  • With all the earthquakes happening in Chch, I have rethought my emergency supplies. I buy each week dried veges, peas, corn, onion etc and store them away. Also UHT milk is a little more expensive, but can be stored in a cupboard. Only need to refrigerate when opened. Candles stored in a freezer for a few days will burn slower. Will try the teabag as firelighters that is on your tips. Does any one else have any ideas? Am also looking for a bread recipe. At the moment, I am using large fruit cans that are recycled. With your baked bean challenge, baked beans are excellent emergency supplies, as they can be eaten hot or cold. - Trixie, Christchurch.


  • Blue gum trees shed bark as they grow. Collect, cut into suitable lengths with loppers while moist, allow to dry and use a few on top of paper. Just as good if not better than pine cones. - M.T., Dunedin.

  • A Masterton reader has a good idea for the leaves shed by cabbage trees. Use the dry leaves as fire starters or in your garden as plant ties.


  • To combat pesky flies around the home, use sticky ozone-friendly flypaper, not sprays, or engage in swap combat. Around our home the males have joined forces to form a SWOT team!

Freebies & cheapies

  • Tertiary Training Providers aren't allowed to make profit. Have brought Haircuts, Cakes and Carpentry made, at cost value. - G.B.

  • A Hamilton reader recommends making the most of freebies; free motel shampoo, etc. What she doesn’t use is given to the local woman’s refuge.

General tips

  • I only buy the cheapest flannelette sheets, and they can be prone to pilling/fluffing. I put them - while still in their plastic wrappers - into the freezer for at least 24 hours, then wash as usual. They wear evenly, with no pilling, and are lovely and warm. It works with kids' flannelette pyjamas too! - Karen, Palmerston North

  • When using rubber gloves I usually find that the glove I use most (being right-handed) is the one that rips or splits. Splitting one this morning while cleaning my oven and not wanting to take a trip to get more, I turned one of the many left gloves I was reluctant to throw away inside and found that it was quite acceptable for using, so now instead of having 12 useless gloves I have 6 pairs of gloves to carry on with. - M.E., Auckland

  • I use powdered milk for everything. Skim is better value and less fat. I buy my fruit, vegetables, honey and second hand clothing, toiletries and anything else I can find at my local Sunday markets. - Melinda, Brisbane, Australia

It measures up

  • I started to measure as a weight watchers gimmick. Then I discovered the huge savings in it. 
    The flour has a cup, and the tea has a spoon. 
    I measure the cats dinner, soap powder and peas. 
    The porridge and Blitzen, sultanas and cheese. 
    I measure the milk for a cuppa as well
    (if visitiors come, you can easilly tell). 
    I count out the squares on bthe loo paper too. 
    And use the lid on the top of the cheapest shampoo. 
    What all started out as a vanity whim,
    has made my costs and my hips, exceedingly trim. - P.S. (What an excellent oily rag verse! - Oily Rag Ed')

Local councils

  •  Yes agree councillors should pay for their lunches. I am a councillor we pay for our lunches on my council (Opotiki District Council) As a councillor I am not that well paid  (less than $14,000 P.A.) It is all the senior Managers who have the free lunches and the free use of council cars that is what is costing Ratepayers big-time. - anonymous.


  • One way to save move is to ‘knock’. When measuring unspecified amounts of stuff (eg tea, sugar, flour etc) knock the spoon on the inside of the jar or packet. Any loose material falls back, so you don’t spill it and you don’t notice any less. Over time you will find you are not using so much or buying so often. - H M K, Waipukurau


  • Don't throw away that old multi-plug board. Chop the cord off it and hang it on the wall. Plug all your phone chargers into it. We tried this after numerous hunts for the right phone charger was becoming a daily event for different members of the family. Now they are labelled and found in one place. - Sandra, Dunedin.


  • I brought some plaster from the supermarket 2 weeks ago, only about 30 plasters in the packet. And today I was in the famous $2 shop and they have a packet of plasters with 2 long strips, so came home and cut them up into normal size strips, and I got 85 plasters. What a good idea. Go for it. D.M.

Rubber bands

  • To make strong "rubber" bands of varying sizes, cut used rubber gloves into strips. The cuffs make big bands and fingers make smaller ones, good for keeping pairs of knitting needles etc together. - Canny Lass, Upper Hutt


  • Put food scraps in bread bags and store them in the freezer until rubbish day. This avoids unpleasant smells and means you don't have to pay for rubbish bags that are only partially full. - Eru, Whangarei 

Smelling good

  • A drop of fragrant oil on a light bulb will add a sweet smell to rooms. (Health shops have various fragrances.)

Slugs and snails in letterbox!

  • Warren asks, “Our mailbox has been invaded by snails and ants eating our mail - fine for the bills, but not so good for the cheques! Does anyone have a non-toxic solution as grandchildren clear our mail.” Click here >>> if you can help Warren

No ant problem here by mail eaten by snails over the last few weeks is no joke! Our neighbour suggested lining the letterbox with vinyl /lino; something slippery. They do this and it works. I have been innovative and used a plastic letter file cover (A4 size). Both solutions are non-toxic. – Carol, Paraparaumu  

H.M.W  from Waiheke Island has this solution. “Easy as! Just sprinkle baking soda. They hate it and will move on immediately. Also non-toxic and cheap.”

Elizabeth of Tramore from Whangarei writes, “We used to get our mail eaten by the blighters and it all stopped when we put mothballs in the box.  The mothballs disappear over time and have to be replaced but it got rid of ants too!”

Smoke alarms

  • If your smoke alarm goes off e.g. burnt toast you can stop it by waving a tea towel across it. Providing it is not too high up. - J.S.


  • "I am a heavy smoker and grow my own tobacco, very easy to do" - GS, Te Awamutu.


  • I just checked by credit card statement and noticed an $87 charge from Consumer NZ. I could not recall making the payment so I called them and they told me the payment was an "auto-renew" of last years sub. They tell me subs paid by credit card are automatically renewed unless advised otherwise - part of the terms and conditions, they said. Beware, you may find your subscription is renewed when you don’t want it.  – Oily Ragger, Wellington


  • If you are retired like me and have the time, sign up for online surveys. I enjoy cashing in the points I earn for $20 Farmers gift cards and some send cheques. Also I hate waste so when my plants grow too big I divide them and pot them up, once established I sell them on trade me. - Canny Scot, Christchurch.


  • Most mobile phones are expensive. I highly recommend skinny mobile or Te lecom for those who 100% need a mobile phone but can't afford the other types of phone. You can put money away in a loose-change jar and use it to top-up the phone. - LM, Kapiti coast.

  • I call my son who is studying in California in the USA using prepaid phone cards. They are a great way to save on calls, plus when I buy them online and save 15%. I pay with PayPal which is safe as I am not to sure about giving my credit card details on the internet. – J Chen, Auckland
  • To reduce telephone costs, adopt a user pays principle. Have a note pad and timer next to your fine. Ask shareholders to record their toll calls. Parents will find this a sure way of minimizing the cost of adolescent telephone romances.

  • If you have a computer you really should download Skype which is free. Skype to Skype user calls are always free but even to a land line the cost is a few cents only and I am talking about overseas calls. I have not paid a toll call on my landline for years and my credit on my Skype account has not needed topping up in a long time either as most of my rellies and friends now have skype so I can talk to them and see them free. - Canny Scot, Christchurch.


  • 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 have 2 free batteries so far and the watch is going strong. It has to have the MH emblem on the watch face. - L McCall, Canterbury.


  • I have four small plastic containers I use to catch the first water from the hot tap. It's cold and good for pot plants and special garden plants. It saves a surprising amount. - Joyce

  • As a man living alone I can do what I like, which can have oily rag advantages. I just got my water bill and it tells me that my usage is way below the average for someone in my circumstances. Reasons? I never use the bath; just have a quick shower every other day... I do all my washing in one load per week. I run the dishwasher on economy and only when it is full to overflowing. - Peeter, Auckland.

Wheelie bin

  • We used to have a wheelie bin. It cost us about $10 a week where we live to have that service (about $500 a year) . I go to town once a week to do my weekly shopping so now I drive about 5 km further and take my garden bag of  rubbish to the dump and it cost me $3 a time. I have saved myself about $ 350 per year by adding another chore onto my "town day" list and sometimes I can take it fortnightly. - K.S., Morrinsville.


Return to Home page