hand to mouth, exist/live from

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live hand to mouth

To be extremely poor, having only enough money to provide food and shelter each month. I had to live hand to mouth during most of college, since I could only get part-time jobs that paid minimum wage.
See also: hand, live, mouth

live (from) ˌhand to ˈmouth

spend all the money you earn on basic needs such as food, without being able to save any money: There’s no way we can even think about travelling to Europe this year, as we are literally living from hand to mouth. ▶ ˌhand-to-ˈmouth adj.: a hand-to-mouth existence
See also: hand, live, mouth

hand to mouth, exist/live from

Living with a minimum of sustenance or support. This term, which dates from about 1500, implies that one has so little to live on that whatever comes to hand is consumed. “I subsist, as the poor are vulgarly said to do, from hand to mouth,” wrote the poet William Cowper (1790).
See also: exist, hand, live