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Oily Rag – Frugal Living Is Permanent


 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

"Restraint is permanent." So says the new Finance Minister, Bill English, as he reviews the government's finances ahead of the annual budget.  

Trendy suburbs too are beginning to understand the meaning of restraint as an era of frugality sweeps through our communities. Some of us would say that's not a bad thing – frugality should be a way of life, not an inconvenience to endure during economic hangovers. It's just unfortunate the best lessons in life generally come packaged as unfortunate experiences!

We thought it would be worth reflecting on some time tested mottos of the Oily Rag Club. These are the principles oily raggers live by as a way of life:

  • Waste-not-want-not.
  • Cheap is good but free is better!
  • If you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves.
  • A dollar in your pocket is better than your dollar in someone else's pocket.
  • Needs are things that are really needed. Wants are things that are not really needed.
  • Understand where your money is going and you will be in a position to control its outflow.
  • We don't need luxuries to be h-a-p-p-y.
  • More is not always better.
  • Use it up, wear it out, make do with what you've got, or do without. (Now that's one government department's could use!).
  • Frugal means getting the best you can for the amount of money you spent – the biggest bang for your buck.
  • "Without frugality none can be rich, and with it very few would be poor."  – Samuel Johnson.

It's been a busy few weeks with reader tips and titillations:

  • A waste not oily ragger says, "I recently paid cash and got 20% discount off a dish drawer for my kitchen. Very satisfying. $240 in my pocket".  A reader from Whangarei says she waits until the end of a month before buying a major item, like appliances. "Sales staff are more likely to accept a discount if they have not achieved their monthly sales targets."
  • A reader from Auckland says, "One chicken has many creative uses. Firstly cooked chicken makes a superb roast, any meat left over etc is great cold for sandwiches the next day. Then use the carcass to make chicken stock. Add 6 cups of water, 2 leeks, 2 carrots, 1 bay leaf, peppercorns, celery, fresh chopped thyme and parsley, bring boil, then simmer for a couple of hours then strain. All the chicken meat falls off. I then use the cooked vegetables and chicken for dog food which I mix in with their dog biscuits. I then use the chicken stock to make homemade pumpkin soap, which I then freeze into lunch serving portions."
  • Another reader says, "I have been an oily ragger for about 16 years since my parents brought me your book. My Oily Ragging can basically be put down to the fact I hate waste…. why waste money or anything else for that matter if you don't need to."

* 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