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Cashless Christmas

Well, we got thinking about the tills ringing so we thought we would look at oily rag ideas for a cashless Christmas.

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

"Jingle Bells are singing… the tills are ringing.. it’s Christmas time again!”

Well, we got thinking about the tills ringing so we thought we would look at oily rag ideas for a cashless Christmas.

Check out the number of credits you have on your reward cards, like Fly-buys. Redeem your points for products or vouchers and use them as gifts. This is a great way to save cash. One reader from Whangarei says they redeem their rewards for gift vouchers and give these as presents. “With a gift voucher the person receiving the gift can use them to buy whatever they want and they can buy when the New Year sales are on so their voucher buys more. It’s win-win. I never redeem the rewards during the year… I save them up. I use it like a Christmas club. This year I have accumulated over $300 in rewards and am using them all to buy vouchers!”

Give a plant. There are lots of gardens with self-sown plants – including native trees – that can be potted up without difficulty. Present your plant in a hand-decorated pot and you will have an everlasting gift that is great for the environment and can be enjoyed for years. Or what about giving a sunflower plant? Kids love them and it’s a real treat to see them grow into huge happy flowers. When they die off the seeds in the flower head can be used for snacks or placed in a bird feeder to attract all sorts of bird life which kids also love to watch.

And the old favourite – why not have a “make or bake Christmas”? You only exchange gifts that have been made or baked by the giver. Start making your gifts now – preserves, sweets, pottery, a painting, a calendar featuring family photos, or print a photo annual (the best photos for 2009 for example), make a family recipe book featuring each person’s favourite recipes, or record your favourite children’s book digitally and send it on to others to enjoy.

Buy on barter. There are a number of barter exchanges, with about 10,000 members (mostly small businesses). Some of these people are doing all of their Christmas shopping via the barter exchange and giving barter gift certificates to employees, friends, and family which may be redeemed at any one of the members of the exchange.  You don’t need to be a member of an exchange to barter. Why not make your own gift vouchers for a “free” car wash, babysitting, pet-sitting, a garden makeover, lawnmowing… and all sorts of other things.

Have a “kids only” Christmas. One reader says this year the extended family have all agreed that they will only give presents to kids. They wanted to avoid the pressure of having to buy stuff for the adults, when things have been a bit tight this year, so were looking at ways to make the fewer dollars in their pocket go further.

Other families are doing the $2/$5/$10 Christmas where a limit on the value of gifts is set. The trick here is to come up with some innovative ideas including do-it-yourself gifts: making a bird feeder out of wood or a decorated tin can. Peronalise kitchen containers, like the cookie jar… “Prohibited area. Keep out!”. Or, decorate a brollie by taking a plain coloured umbrella and writing on it colourful lyrics like “rain drops keep falling on my head…”. Since it’s pine cone season, how about a gift basket of colourful cones? Soak the cones in a one to one mix of bleach and water, then colour them up, add glitter and personality. They make a wonderful gift basket.

Tell us about your cashless Christmas gifts and we will share them with others. You can contact us through the oily rag website ( or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.
* 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