Smell Of An Oily Rag Meaning

(idiomatic, Australia, New Zealand) A very small amount, or the absolute minimum (usually of money).

Example: 1896, Dayrell Davies, "Sport with the Brigands of Macedonia," The Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes, Longmans, Green, and Co., no. XII (July to December 1896), v. III, pg. 65:
  We have found them in the remote corners of Asia Minor, sans souliers, sans culottes, often in rags, living on the smell of an oily rag or a raw onion, trying their best to preserve order where their own miserable officials have brought shame and disgrace upon their tarnished colours.
1998, Ian Shaw, quoted in Richard Strauss, Up for Rego: A Social History of the Holden Kingswood, Pluto Press Australia, ISBN 9781864030549, pg. 33:
  Full of bog, goes anywhere you want to go, don't pay for insurance, runs on the smell of an oily rag.
1999, Stephen Alomes, When London Calls: The Expatriation of Australian Creative Artists, page 133:
  ... they did not prepare someone for the smell-of-an-oily-rag budgets and ratings-driven world of Australian commercial television.
2008, Susan Napier, Accidental Mistress, page 59:
  They're prone to giving away their rations and living off the smell of an oily rag.
2009, Nick Bryant, "'Selling' Queensland with a dream job," BBC News, 1 May 2009, [1]:
  "We did it on the smell of an oily rag", says Danielle Kootman of Tourism Queensland.
2010, Gai Waterhouse, Gai In My Words, page 146:
  They had the smell of an oily rag to work on.
2012, John Clarke, A Dagg at My Table: Selected Writings, page 88:
  There remains ABC Radio, which is the best known example of the relationship between the smell of an oily rag and the will to keep going.