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A Fun Frugal Christmas

With the festive season just around the corner, it's time to start planning for a fun frugal Christmas. So we've come up with some good old reliable and dependable money saving Christmas ideas.

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 
With the festive season just around the corner, it’s time to start planning for a fun frugal Christmas. So we ventured deep into the dark room known as “The archives and other stuff”, to come up with some good old reliable and dependable money saving Christmas ideas.

Canny Scot from Christchurch says, “Last year I made pickles and chutney and made nice home made labels for them on my computer. I wrapped each jar in bright red or green new tea towels and tied them with ribbon. My friends seemed well pleased with them and if you make a few extra they come in handy for gifts for people who visit around Xmas time (recycled jars of course). These can be made in advance and take a lot of stress out of Xmas.”

DM says, “I have a lot of soap pieces that I keep during the year. I render them down in an old pot, when it's a bit cooler add petals from the garden, pieces of orange peel, apple peel, lavender flowers, even old perfume. Use cookie cutters [$2 shop] stand on waxed paper, and tip the melted soap in and let it set, then wrap each up in plastic wrap and tie with ribbon.”

Use last year’s Christmas cards! Paste blank paper in the middle and there you are ready to write a personal message. Better still, make your own Christmas cards, either on the computer or with colourful stickers and fancy bits and pieces like glitter and gloss. Cards with a personal touch will be appreciated more than the “Seasons Greetings” card bought at your local supermarket, and cost you less!

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

For wrapping paper, why not use end of roll wallpaper, or use plain papers and draw happy faces.  Use old biscuit tins for gift boxes and hampers packed in shredded paper and stacked full of home-made treats.

Here’s an idea to use when sending delicate Christmas presents. Rather than buy packing, a reader from Hamilton recommends cutting the tops off two plastic soft drink bottles, one slightly larger than the other. Insert the items to be posted inside one of the containers and then push the two containers together to form a cylinder. It’s then ready to wrap and post.

Peter & Robyn write, “I think the only way to prepare for each Xmas is to put some money away each week, fortnight or whatever and try NOT to use it during the year.  It makes things so much easier and not so stressful. Buy presents during the year but if this doesn't happen put a limit on each present and stick to it.  The same goes when buying groceries – stick to a limit and look for specials ALL THE TIME!  If you haven't got the cash on hand for Xmas items then the credit card nightmare begins and the start of the New Year is one big nightmare! Don't go there!” There you are – if you haven’t started budgeting for Christmas there is still some time left to do so!

If you have a tip to help others keep the cost of Christmas under control then we, and they, would love to hear from you.

Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag by Frank & Muriel Newman is available from all good bookstores or online at If you have some favourite motoring off the smell of an oily rag tips, share them with others by visiting 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