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Xmas Thinking

We reckon with a little bit of planning oily raggers can avoid the Christmas panic and take the pain out of your purse. Here are some tips from readers.

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

Christmas is just around the corner and any minute now those relentless Christmas ads will be hitting our TV screens.  We reckon with a little bit of planning oily raggers can avoid the Christmas panic and take the pain out of your purse. Here are some tips from readers.

Start early. An oily ragger from Whangarei has written to us saying that they did their Christmas shopping in last year’s New Year’s sales!

Another reader has started taking cuttings from their garden for Christmas gift pot plants, and they are now planting sunflowers seeds which will be given as gifts to their grandchildren. The likes of the Giant Russian variety grows really big – up to two and a half meters tall and has huge smiley faces. There are lots of dwarf varieties too for those with limited space or for growing in pots.

Peter and Robyn have some advice about Christmas. “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!”

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.”

Here’s a classic oily rag tip. Re-gift things that have been given to you bit never used. One oily rag couple don’t drink wine, but they gladly receive wine because it’s so easy to re-give to those who do appreciate the occasional drop. (Important hint: make sure you know who gave you the gift so you don’t give it back to them!!!)

Another oily ragger makes the most of duty free purchases when they are travelling overseas. Being dedicated oily raggers they don’t drink booze, but that doesn’t stop them from buying it duty free and storing it for gifts.

Why not have a “Buy nothing Christmas”? Set up a set up a free store in your neighbourhood and have your neighbours bring stuff they don’t need to trade with others.

Have a “make or bake Christmas” – only exchange gifts that have been made or baked by the giver. Start making now – 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 narrate a favourite story to give to the children to enjoy.

And don’t buy gifts on credit – it’s just not worth it!

There are lots of ways to take the pain out of Christmas – if you think about it nice and early.

If you have tips to share then log on to our 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