the smell of an oily rag

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the smell of an oily rag

A very meager, slim, or frugal amount of resources, especially money or fuel. As in the phrases "live off/on the smell of an oily rag" or "run off/on the smell of an oily rag," respectively. Primarily heard in Australia, New Zealand. I spent a year travelling abroad, and I lived on the smell of an oily rag to get by. This trusty little car may not look like much, but she runs on the smell of an oily rag.
See also: of, oily, rag, smell