Many thanks to those who have risen to the challenge and offered suggestions to some oily rag questions from readers.

Valmae recently asked, "What do others recommend as the easiest and most efficient method of tracking our money? Is there some great cheap or free software or already set-up spreadsheet? It would be great to hear what others find useful, simple and user friendly."

Here are some of the replies.

Yvonne writes, "Kiwibank has a service attached to it which shows how much you earn and spend as well as where you've spent it. It also allows you to form a budget as well as a savings plan, and it shows you how much you've spent on food, household expenses."


Harry from Dunedin writes, "Gnucash works well, is cross platform and free."

"A great NZ website for budgets is," says SPS from the Waikato.

The ASB has a similar service called My Money, which is very good and free for those with online banking. Coding the transactions is quick and easy. The message is, check to see what your bank has available.

Paul asked for suggestions about keeping rats, mice and ants out of the house. J from Christchurch replies, "We found there was a tiny hole in the back wall of the cupboard under the kitchen sink and we think the mice were getting in there. We had mice shorting out the wiring. We stuffed the hole with aluminium foil, and haven't had any mice in since. In winter we always set traps baited with peanut butter in the garage."

The old peanut butter to catch a mouse trick!

"Try using bay leaves to get rid of ants. We have a bush and so we can use fresh leaves but you could try dried bay leaves and see how that goes," advises SPH from the Waikato.

Delia from Whangarei asked about cheap and hearty dog food. Here are some suggestions from oily rag readers.

"I bulk buy frozen food (K9) in 5kg lots for my dog and find that weighing a daily amount and bagging it up in blue bags is a very handy way to store it in the freezer. It helps identify dog food in the freezer," says Canny Scot of Christchurch.


"To make dog food, make a vege stew, with pumpkin as a base, pasta or rice, boil together and add garlic - not in the drinking water as dogs will not drink water with additives. Don't ever put onions or leeks into dog stew. The garlic helps with worms and fleas," says NP from Hastings.

"Our dog developed an allergy to red meat (very common in older dogs)," says JB. "The vet recommended a diet of cooked rice, veges and a little dried dog food. He advised us to buy the cheapest rice and cook it up in bulk and to add carrots and greens. She lived another eight years on this diet and was very healthy and happy. When we had a chicken, she had the leftovers as well."

"When feeding puppies or younger dogs, boil up all your vege scraps (potato skins and carrot peelings, etc.), then mash them up ... dogs really love it and it's great for them," says Kaye, Te Puke.

It's Budget week, so next week we will be presenting our annual Oily Rag Budget.

It's away at the printers and under strict embargo so nothing can be revealed at this stage. It's fair to say, however, that there is an economic dichotomy within New Zealand at the present time: those prospering off the smell of an oily rag, and everyone else.

Here's a quick comment from our Minister of Frugal Finance: "The Oily Rag Budget 2015 is an opportunity budget - an opportunity for all New Zealanders to be inspired and share in the prosperity and wellness that comes from a frugal lifestyle. I say, waste not, want not, let tomorrow be better than today, let's aspire New Zealand to be the best oily rag nation in the world."

[We have it from sources close to the Minister that free pumpkin seeds and a raised garden for every household may be part of the budget package!] That's next week.

Thanks so much for your questions and tips. You can send in your ideas and join the Oily Rag mailing list by visiting or write to us at 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. Read tips at