GrownUps accepts no responsibility for decisions made by Members or any other persons as a result of using or relying on any information on the GrownUps website. GrownUps does not give any financial advice or make any recommendation of any product or service.

Frugal Millionaires

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

We had an interesting discussion the other day about a couple who, over the last 40 or so industrious years, have built a very substantial business in an industry that is littered with corporate casualties. The reason for their success is that they have always run their business off the smell of an oily rag. Their approach is to be frugal about costs, but to invest generously in things that increase sales. They also do everything with a great deal of enthusiasm and optimism.
These are the very same principles that frugal households can use to make the most of their dollars. You want to aim to make your dollars and your time as productive as they can possibly be. Here are some tips to turn your household into a thriving business.

  • Turn your hobbies into money spinners. Keen gardeners could sell surplus produce at a growers market or swap it for things you would otherwise pay cash for – like maintenance on your house or car. If you enjoy painting or art, offer your work for sale to friends or on the internet. Make an exhibition of your work then invite friends and family around to for a viewing (and hopefully buying). It’s so easy to sell your creations online via trading sites – and listing is free!
  • Canny Scot from Christchurch says, “If you are retired like me and have the time, sign up for online surveys. I enjoy cashing in the points I earn for $20 Farmers gift cards and some send cheques. Also I hate waste so when my plants grow too big I divide them and pot them up, once established I sell them on Trademe.”
  • A retired oily ragger from Tauranga says they have a lot of fun entering free competitions. They reckon they do well winning cash and goods. All of the winnings are used for debt repayment.
  • Or make the most of your spare time. A reader says, “I taught children to play the recorder for 25 years. The last 10 years were the most enjoyable because small groups of children came to my home for lessons. There were no distractions or pressures, no parents hovering nearby. There was time for fun as well as tuition. Home tutoring is nothing new – but it is particularly effective when it takes place in the tutor's home and the pupil does not feel his parent's worries, hopes, ambitions on his shoulders. All kinds of tuition would be successful if conducted in the tutor's home, not the pupil’s home – both adults and children could benefit. Reading, computer skills, confidence building, making party desserts, anything.”
  • Natz from Nelson says “I am on a low income and started a coin jar. I only ever took money out for the bus. I cashed it in at the bank just five months later and it turned out to be $309. Just goes to show how quickly it builds up!

By concentrating on household needs not wants and focusing on getting the very best value from every dollar spend, anyone you can turn cents into dollars.

Share your tips 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