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Cost-Free Christmas

8432 Xmas Present 2
8432 Xmas Present 2

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman

The great oily rag tips just keep coming and with Xmas on the short-term radar many will be looking for ways to take the cost out of Christmas. Fortunately there are lots of ways to have a fun and frugal Christmas. Here are some new tips, but there are many more posted on the oily rag website at – so have a look online.

From Wellington, AOS has two great Christmas ideas. “My three year old has been very busy all year making Christmas gifts. We save our large tin cans for him to paint and pop plants into – for the gardeners in the family. We also get him to decorate all our labels – for homebrew and chutney! And because he goes to kindy and makes about 10 pictures a week throughout the year, I use them as wrapping paper for pressies. The family love getting his 'gifts' and he is very proud of his hard work and people’s reactions to it.”

“I have recently been trawling galas, garage sales and op shops for Christmas pressies for the kids. You can buy fantastic gifts at very reasonable prices. I have bought all my nieces and nephews puzzles and games of their favourite cartoon characters for 20c each and they are still in almost new condition. My nieces are also getting jewellery boxes that were less than 50c each and my son is getting a huge box of Lego we found for $5. Cannot believe how little we have spent so far on the fantastic toys and gifts the kids are getting this year. Have also saved some presents for Birthdays too!”

MD from Auckland writes, “We have decided that frugal is the best way to go this Christmas: I have made beach bags for my Grand daughters. They cost nothing as I have material scraps at home. As they are teenagers I have included an inexpensive hair bush, lippy, hair grips and mascara. One granddaughter has made an apron for her mother and painted a picture for her dad – and has hand-made pressies for her friends at school. I do all the Christmas baking which includes the cake, mince pies, truffles and stuffed dates. The girls bake biscuits for the neighbours.” So there you go oily raggers, make a make or bake Christmas!

A few weeks back Susan asked the oily rag community if anyone had an inexpensive ice cream recipe. BW from Auckland wrote in with this one. “This ice cream recipe doesn't cost much and it's easy to make.  The kids would love to get involved too. Use 3 bowls. Place four egg whites in the first bowl. Beat till stiff then add ¼ cup of sugar and beat again. In the second bowl beat 4 egg yolks with another ¼ cup of sugar until frothy. In the third bowl, beat 300ml of cream until fairly stiff. Use a metal spoon to fold in the contents of the first and third bowls into the second bowl.  Pour the mix into a 2 litre ice cream container and freeze approx 6 hours. No need to beat again.  How easy is that!”

An Oily Ragger from Wellington has a cautionary tale about auto-renew subscriptions. “I just checked my 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.”

Carol from Pukekohe has a tip to make breakfast oats a little less tedious. “Add a teaspoon of peanut butter to your oats – gives it a nutty creamy flavour.” (By the way, oats are by far the cheapest breakfast cereal.)

J Chen from Auckland has a tip about keeping telephone costs down. “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 I can 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 over the internet.”

If you have a favourite Christmas tip, why not share it with others so they too can have a happy and frugal Christmas. All tips can be sent via our website or posted to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei. All tips are posted on the

* 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