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Frugal Families

Living cheap… it's a family thing.

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 
Living cheap… it’s a family thing. A number of oily raggers have asked for advice on what they can do to convince the rest of the family to live off the smell of an oily rag! It is certainly true that pinching pennies will be like pushing the proverbial wheelbarrow full of compost up a steep slope if the other occupants of a household are not yet convinced about the attractions of a frugal lifestyle.

Most family members are very supportive of others living off the smell of an oily rag, but are a little less supportive if they think it will mean they can’t continue to pig out on chocolate, potato chips, takeaways, and so on. The challenge is to convince everyone in the household that they should be doing more than providing moral support!

There are a number of ways to overcome their reluctance. You could try talking to them logically to convince them of the joys and rewards of adopting an oily rag lifestyle. (Yeah, right!)

If this doesn’t work, then think about using some oily rag cunning. For example, a family may think they are eating chicken when they are really eating wild rabbit. (A reader recalls her daughter munching on what was obviously a leg of rabbit, while saying, “This is really nice chicken, Mum!”)

Other acts of oily rag subterfuge may include having the family think they are eating their favourite brand of cereal when they are really munching their way through a bulk bin cereal packaged in a box of their favourite cereal brand! Or hanging out the washing on the clothes line because they think air drying is better for the labels on their designer clothes than the dryer.

As the children get older (and your partner gets wise to your antics) you may find it more of a challenge, but hopefully by then they will have caught the frugal living bug! If things get really desperate and even being sneaky fails, make it so that everyone in the household shares in the savings that are made by living off the smell of an oily rag – in others words, make them part of the savings equation. It’s amazing how people’s spending habits change as soon as they start spending their own money instead of someone else’s.

Here are a few other tips.

  • Appoint someone as the household’s Chief Frugality Organiser (CFO) to take charge.  
  • Find out where your money is disappearing, set a savings goal, and formulate a battle plan to cut costs.
  • Plan meals… create your own menu like a dine in restaurant!.. using the very best value ingredients bought at the cheapest price. Create a summer, winter, autumn and spring menu based on what is seasonally available including the harvest from your own garden.   
  • Keep things simple. Simple living means super savings.
  • Squirrel away savings so a dollar saved today becomes two dollars tomorrow.
  • Become a serious shopper. Go hunting for bargains with coupons and a calculator.
  • Convert otherwise reluctant converts to the benefits if frugal living one tip at a time.

Tell us about your trial, tribulations, and titillations convincing the rest of the family to become frugal. 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