Idiom: On a Shoestring – with a very small amount of money
Two student talking after class
Vickey: Hey, Mac. Do you know if that part-time position at the bookstore on campus is still available?
Mac: I’m not sure. Don’t you already work part-time at a restaurant and you are a full-time student?
Vickey: Yes, but I’ve been living on a shoestring for the past year and I really need to make more money in order to pay the rent.
Mac: I know how you feel. I lived on a shoestring all through college. When I finally graduated and found a high-paying job, it was such a relief. Let’s walk over to the bookstore now and check on that part-time job.
Two friends are talking about the restaurant where they work
Sierra: Wow, it has been so slow the past few months. The boss cut my hours again this week. Now, I’m only working 3 hours a day during the evening shift.
Peter: Yes, me too. I guess they are running this restaurant on a shoestring until the business gets better. They even cut down on the number of items on the menu in order to save money.
Sierra: Well, I hope it gets better soon. At this rate, I’ll need to find another part-time job.
Meaning: “On a shoestring” means to do something, like run a business or manage one’s budget, with very little money. In context #1, Vickey is looking for another part-time job because she is living on a shoestring budget and needs to make more money to pay rent. In context #2, Sierra and Peter are working at a restaurant that must run on very little money since business is down.