This week we take a lucky dip into the Oily Rag mail bag to share some of the many money saving tips we have received by email and post.

Here's a great tip your dogs and cats will love: "I made a great dog bed by cutting up an old foam mattress. This required a hand saw, but didn't take much effort. I went to the local coffee roastery and got free hessian coffee bean sacks. I used these as bed slips. I managed to get two large dog beds and two cat-sized beds for free. They look great and my pets love them." - CS, Nelson

I roll up small blankets to put at the bottom of doors to stop drafts coming through and losing heat. Only heat the room you are in. - LM, Kapiti.

When it has been raining, wipe down your car with an old towel, including the windows. This saves on wash and polish costs. I only need to polish the car before summer and again before winter to preserve it. - Alex, Auckland.


Buy a cheap ($7) bunch of flowers from the supermarket. Take it home, carefully undo it, and add flowers, ivy, small berry branches from your garden to the outside of the bunch. Wrap it in the paper it came in with a ribbon. You will end up with a spectacular bouquet at a fraction of the cost of one from a florist. - CS, Nelson

Here's a tip to make a cheap glass house. "Keep an eye out for windows for sale on Trade Me. Many houses are converting to double glazing so single glazed windows are going cheap. I now have 14sq m of glass house and the total cost was under $80. Old glass doors make a good roof. I have even used old car windscreens (free from the window repair people). The screens were cracked but still waterproof and, with suitable protective clothing, could be cut with a thin grinding wheel on a hand grinder. The result was a lovely curved roof strong enough to withstand a snow storm." - Kay, Christchurch

To make excellent fire starters, dry out used tea bags and place them in a tin with methylated spirits and seal. I use one or two soaked teabags at a time. - Ronnie, Gisborne

To save on heating costs, fill a hot water bottle and put it on your sofa with a blanket over it 15 minutes before the news starts. Wrap yourself in the blanket with hot water bottle at your feet and watch the daily current events. Don't know if this would stretch to Coronation Street though! - CS, Nelson

When looking out for bulk fruit, go to your local market about 30 minutes before it ends and make an offer. One day I got 10kg bananas and even more spotted peaches for free by building a relationship. The bananas went into the freezer, and the peaches were bottled and turned into jam. - Faye, Auckland.

Not only is the Oily Rag community full of clever money saving ideas, they are an awesome bunch of problem solvers. Last week we asked a question on behalf of Warren. "Our mailbox has been invaded by snails and ants eating our mail - fine for the bills, but not so good for the cheques! Does anyone have a non-toxic solution, as grandchildren clear our mail?"

Here are some of the replies.

H.M.W from Waiheke Island has this solution. "Easy as! Just sprinkle baking soda. They hate it and will move on immediately. Also non-toxic and cheap."

Elizabeth of Tramore from Whangarei writes, "We used to get our mail eaten by the blighters and it all stopped when we put mothballs in the box. The mothballs disappear over time and have to be replaced but it got rid of ants too!"

If you have a favourite recipe or oily rag tip that works well for your family, send it to us at, or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei, and we will relay it to the readers of this column.