the smell of an oily rag

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
References in periodicals archive ?
We did what we could to promote it--the survey was done on the smell of an oily rag as we didn't have any external funding--and we're happy with the information," Ravenswood said.
This has come as a huge shock to community organisations that generally operate on the smell of an oily rag and the immense goodwill of their members and volunteers.
He crashed out on one over and said: "I'm just out of puff - I've been running on the smell of an oily rag these last two days.
Asked about the secret to his team's success, Dalton said: "It's a team that lives on the smell of an oily rag.
But then McDowell arrived in the State known as 'America's Dairyland' running on the smell of an oily rag after the drain of capturing June's US Open.
Like most small rural facilities, we are great at providing basic services on the smell of an oily rag.