Origin of the expression "shoestring budget"?

Joined: March 29th, 2003, 4:05 pm

January 19th, 2007, 10:14 am #1

Dear Yahoo!:
What is the origin of the expression "shoestring budget"?
Portland, Oregon

Dear Nathan:
We don't have the data in front of us, but we would guess that the average person's annual budget for shoestrings is around 50 cents. Could this have something to do with the phrase's frugal meaning? Read on...
A shoestring budget isn't a positive thing. As anyone who works for a start-up company knows, the expression refers to running an operation or business with little money and few perks.

While nobody seems to know the phrase's exact origin, Mavens' Word of the Day offers an interesting theory. In the late 1800s when a shoestring broke, the remaining one was often used to bundle items. This thrifty gesture may have contributed to the phrase's meaning and popularity.

The New York Public Library's "Ask a Librarian" column offers a slightly different explanation. A shoestring budget may have originally meant "that one's resources are limited to the laces of one's shoes." Depressing, but logical.

Whatever the shoestring budget's history, the phrase is now understood by all. We always assumed it was a simple reference to how shoestrings are just barely above the ground.