the smell of an oily rag

the smell of an oily rag

Meaning | Synonyms

  • a slim or frugal amount  
  • little money, food or fuel
  • to run economically
  • to get by on meagre or few resources
  • able to live on the bare minimum

Variants

  • live off (or on) the smell of an oily rag
  • running on the smell of an oily rag
  • get by off the smell of an oily rag

Example Sentences

  1. When we were students, we didn't have much money and we got by on the smell of an oily rag most days.
  2. My car might look like an old banger but, it's more economical than most. It runs on the smell of an oily rag.
  3. Her mother was super thrifty in the kitchen when she was young. She managed to feed the whole family very well on the smell of an oily rag.
  4. I still remember when I had lost my job, I was living off the smell of an oily rag.
  5. I want to help poor Karen. She is lives on the smell of an oily rag.

Origin

This idiom is primarily heard and originated in New Zealand and Australia. Running on the smell of an oily rag idiom is used to express when there is a little fuel left in a vehicle, mainly in the Oceania continent.

It can be 'smell' of an oily rag' or 'runs on the smell of an oily rag.'

If the idiom is used when referring to a car, it is being suggested that the car is extremely fuel efficient. If it is used when talking about money or food, it means you can survive on the absolute minimum necessary.

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