200 Money Idioms Explained
Bang for your buck? We’ve got a list of money sayings that you can take to the bank.
1. A day late and a dollar short
This is another way to say, “too little, too late.” When someone is a day late and a dollar short, they have missed an opportunity because of tardiness and because they haven’t put in the effort.
2. A fool and his money are soon parted
If someone acts foolishly or unwisely with their finances, then they will soon lose their money. This phrase is best used to describe gamblers and risk-takers with bad luck.
3. A light purse is a heavy curse
For those without a lot of money (those in poverty), life is incredibly difficult. To have a light purse means to have a wallet that is lacking in coins and bills.
4. A penny saved is a penny earned
This common phrase is used to encourage people to save money. It’s as useful to save money that someone already has as it is to earn more money. Money spent is gone forever.
5. All that glitters is not gold
Appearances, no matter how lovely and sparkly, can be deceptive. A deal or opportunity that looks or sounds valuable may actually be worthless. If it’s too good to be true, than it probably is.
6. Almighty dollar
The “almighty dollar” is more important than anything else. At least that’s what people who use this idiom often think. They view money as a representation of prosperity, success, and a vehicle to wealth.
7. Ante up
To pay money owed on a good or service. In poker, an ante up is a request for players to put their antes, or starting bets, into the collective jackpot.
8. As phony as a $3 bill
A person, thing, or situation that is fake and not genuine. Since $3 bills haven’t been printed since the 1800s, they aren’t considered real money with any value.
9. As poor as a church mouse
To be very poor to the point of starvation or begging. This idiom is an alteration of “as hungry as a church mouse,” and came from the idea that priests meticulously prevent any crumb of the sacrament of Eucharist from falling to the ground, meaning that church mice couldn’t eat the crumbs.
10. As sound as a dollar
To be very secure and dependable like a dollar bill. Money is always reliable; worthy of being exchanged for goods and services.
11. At a premium
A premium is a costlier, more valuable alternative. When compared to the original, an item or service purchased at a premium was bought at a higher price than usual because of a special reason.
12. At all costs
At any expense of time, money, or effort; someone would figuratively spend all of their money in order to achieve or get this thing.
13. At the drop of a dime
Think about how quickly it would take a dime to fall from your pocket to the ground. If you do something “at the drop of a dime” you are doing it very quickly; instantaneously.
14. Back on your feet
After a devastating financial setback or loss, someone gets “back on their feet” by returning to good financial health.
15. Balance the books
To make sure that all money is accounted for by taking stock of the financial accounts.
16. Bang for your buck
To get the value for your money.
17. Below par
To be priced lower than average or less than the face value; that which is subpar.
18. Bet on the wrong horse
To base your plans on a wrong guess about the results of something, similar to betting on a losing horse at the races.
19. Bet your bottom dollar
To bet all that you have on something because you’re sure that you’ll win. To go all in during poker or a similar betting game.
20. Beyond your means
More than you can afford. To live beyond your means is to live outside of your wealth bracket.
21. Big bucks
Used to describe a person who makes a lot of money. “Big” is used as a quantity, similar to “many” in this context.
22. Blank check
To write someone a blank check with unlimited funding, no constraints, and complete freedom of control.
23. Born with a silver spoon in your mouth
To be born rich in the lap of luxury, wealth, and comfort. People born with a silver spoon in their mouth are often the children of wealthy parents.
24. Bottom dollar
The last dollar. When someone spends all of their money and has only a single dollar bill left, it’s considered their bottom dollar.
25. Bread and butter
The source of a household’s income; how they pay for food. People make “bread and butter” with their job, businesses, or other source of income.
Someone who works hard to earn money for their family. Often this person is the sole or primary earner in a household.
27. Break the bank
To use up all of the money in a bank account. It can also mean to win the whole pot of money at a gambling table.
28. Break even
When income is equal to expenses. There is no profit or loss.
29. Bring home the bacon
To earn a family’s livelihood by bringing home a salary.
30. Burn a hole in your pocket
To influence someone to spend money quickly. Spending on unnecessary purchases for instant gratification, because the money was burning to get out of your pocket.
31. Buy someone off
To try to persuade someone with a financial bribe in order to stop them from doing their duty.
32. By check
To pay for something by writing the individual or company a physical check.
Selling something, but only if the buyer can pick it up (no delivery) and pay cash.
34. Cash cow
A descriptor of a business or product that generates a continuous flow of income.
35. Cash in
To exchange coupons or bonds for their equivalent value in money.
36. Cash in on
To make money from an opportunity–one that is successful and fruitful.
37. Cash in your chips
This idiom implies to sell something with the intent of using its proceeds to go towards something else. Typically a person will “cash in their chips” to get the best deal when they suspect the value is about to fall.
38. Cash in the barrelhead
When an item is paid for in cash. This idiom comes from the custom of customers paying for their drinks by leaving money on the top or head of a barrel (used as tables in bars).
39. Caught short
Not having enough money to pay for something.
A stingy person who doesn’t like to spend money.
41. Chicken feed
Chicken feed is food for poultry that is made up of small cereal grains. As such, chicken feed means a small amount of money.
42. Chip in
When multiple people pay jointly or contribute money towarda purchase.
43. Clean up
To make a huge profit, especially when gambling or taking part in another high-stakes venture.
Someone who is so stingy with money that they keep their fist closed around the cash.
45. Cold hard cash
Physical cash made up of coins and bills. A hyperbolic idiom that suggests money in its physical form instead of stored in a bank or electronically.
46. Color of their money
Making sure that someone has enough money to buy something. Also, the amount of money available.
47. Control the purse strings
The person who is in charge of the money in a business or in a household is said to “control the purse strings.” This suggests they are in charge of managing the family’s finances.
48. Cook the books
To illegally change information in a business’ accounting books. This could look like writing down false numbers to hide the true profit or expenses.
49. Cost a pretty penny
When something “costs a pretty penny,” it costs a lot of money.
50. Cost an arm and a leg
When something “costs an arm and a leg,’” it costs so much money that it is likened to losing a body part. Someone might have to sell their limbs in order to be able to afford this thing.
51. Cut your losses
Abandoning a plan or a project that is obviously going to be unsuccessful before more money is lost or the circumstances become worse.
52. Cut a check
To write a check. This can also apply to when a company digitally prints a check for someone.
53. Cut off
When someone stops giving another person a regular amount of money. Often, this means a parent will leave their beneficiaries without money in a will or an inheritance, or stop paying money for an allowance.
An item that is on sale at an unusually low or reduced price.
Someone who doesn’t pay up the money they owe to someone else. Someone who can’t be trusted with money or is considered lazy and unmotivated.
56. Daylight robbery
An obviously unfair overcharge;a rip-off. When someone has been overcharged for a purchase or is underpaid in their job.
57. Dime a dozen
Something that is common and easy to get, and is therefore, of little value. An item that is in high supply and low demand.
58. Dirt cheap
To be low in price or unbelievably inexpensive.
59. Dollar for dollar
To consider multiple options based on their cost. This is often done in comparison shopping.
60. Dollars for doughnuts
Something that is certain or a sure bet.
61. Don’t take any wooden nickels
This idiom is advice to warn people of avoiding being cheated or ripped off. They should avoid taking “wooden nickels” or fake money in exchange for something else.
Someone who is in a bad situation because they’ve lost all of their money.
63. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise
An idiom suggesting that someone who goes to bed early will sleep well and be able to wake up early in the morning. This will make them physically, financially, and mentally healthy.
64. Earn a living
To make enough income to live comfortably and pay necessary expenses.
65. Easy money
Money that doesn’t require a lot of effort to acquire.
66. Fast buck
Money that can be earned quickly and easily. It can also be money that is earned dishonestly or illegally.
67. Feel the pinch
When someone “feels the pinch,” they are experiencing financial hardship. They will have to pinch their pennies, or save more than they spend, in order to make it through their rough financial situation.
68. Feel like a million dollars/bucks
Someone who feels wonderful, as if they won $1 million dollars. They feel healthy and prosperous.
69. Flat broke
To have absolutely no money.
70. Float a loan
To arrange for a loan from an individual or a company to get through a hard time.
71. Fool’s gold
Something that is mistakenly believed to be full of potential. “Fool’s Gold” is the name given to iron pyrites, which deceptively look like gold, but actually hold little to no value.
72. Foot the bill
When someone pays for everyone’s expenses or covers the cost of a bill/invoice..
73. For peanuts
To work for very little money that is valued below the cost of labor.
74. Fork out/fork over
To pay for something by putting forward money.
75. Free and clear
To own something outright and without owing any money on it.
76. From rags to riches
An idiom that means going from poverty to prosperity.
77. Front money
Money paid in advance of receiving something in exchange.
78. Get a run for your money
An idiom that means receiving a challenge or getting what is rightfully deserved.
79. Get along on a shoestring
To be able to live on a little bit of money by budgeting and limiting wants.
80. Get off scot-free
To escape a fee or punishment for a crime.
81. Get Your money’s worth
To get everything that you paid for, sometimes getting even more than its true value.
82. Give someone a run for their money
To give someone a challenge or what they deserve.
83. Go broke/go bust
To become bankrupt and lose all of your money.
84. Go dutch
A situation where each person pays his or her own share of the expenses, especially splitting the cost of a meal on a first date.
85. Going rate
The current rate of what something is worth.
86. Golden handshake
A payment made to a departing employee. When an employee, usually in upper management, is laid off or retires early and is given a large amount of money as severance pay.
87. Gravy train
A job that pays more than it’s worth. Suggests money that is made easily.
88. Grease their palm
To pay for a special favor, typically an illegal bribe.
89. Hard up
To be in a hard financial situation without a lot of money.
90. Have money to burn/burning a hole in your pocket
To have money that you are eager to spend on frivolous things.
91. Have sticky fingers
To be a shoplifter, pickpocket, or a thief.
92. Have the midas touch
To have the ability to make money easily. A reference to the Greek myth of King Midas, who turned everything that he touched into gold.
93. Have the penny drop
When someone finally realizes or understands something.
94. He who pays the piper calls the tune
An idiom meaning that a person who provides the money should have a say about how it is spent.
95. Head over heels in debt
When somebody owes a large amount of money or is burdened with debt.
96. Heads or tales
The face of a coin or the other side of the coin. To have to choose one of two options and decide by flipping a coin.
97. Heavy money
To have a lot of money.
98. Highway robbery
To charge a high price for something beyond what it’s worth. An excessive profit or advantage from a financial transaction. Likened to a robbery committed near public travel routes on travelers, especially in the past (like pirates or cowboys).
99. Hit the jackpot
To make a lot of money very suddenly, such as the jackpot in gambling.
100. Hush money
An illegal money bribe given to someone to keep them quiet.
101. I don’t have two nickels/pennies to rub together
The person who says this is implying they don’t have money right now or are very poor.
102. If I had $1 million dollars
A 90’s folk rock song by Canadian group Barenaked Ladies. People say this to talk about how they would spend their money if they had a lot of it.
103. If I had a nickel for every time that happened, I would be rich
This situation or thing happens often enough that the person would be rich if they were paid each time it happens.
104. Ill-gotten gains
Money acquired in a dishonest or illegal way.
105. In for a penny, in for a pound
Someone who is committed to seeing an undertaking through to the end no matter how much money, time, or effort it requires.
106. In kind
Paying for something in goods or services instead of money.
107. In the black
To be profitable and make a lot of money.
108. In the hole
To be in serious debt.
109. In the money
To suddenly become wealthy.
110. In the red
To lose money and become in debt.
111. It’s a steal
When something is described as a steal, it’s a bargain that is discounted and lower than its true value.
112. Jack up the price
To raise the price of something above its actual value.
113. Keep our heads above water
To keep up with work or responsibilities in order to survive financially—but just barely.
114. Keep the wolf from the door
The idiom means having money that is enough to support basic needs, but can’t cover wants and luxuries.
Money paid illegally in exchange for favorable treatment.
116. Let the buyer beware
A warning to a buyer that they should check and make sure their purchase is in good condition without any problems.
117. Live beyond your means
To spend more money than you can afford; living outside of your actual lifestyle or the lifestyle that you can afford.
118. Live from hand to mouth
To live “from hand to mouth” means to live on very little money. This person spends their income immediately on basic living expenses and doesn’t have a savings account.
119. Live within your means
To live reasonably within what you can afford with no additional money for unnecessary purchases.
Someone who is wealthy with metaphorical bags of money.
121. Lose money hand over fist
To lose a lot of money quickly.
122. Mad money
Money meant to be wasted on entertainment.
123. Make a buck
To make money. A buck is another name for a dollar bill.
124. Make a killing
To make a large amount of money.
125. Make an honest buck
Someone who works a job and has a simple life. They make their money in an honest way and not through unscrupulous means.
126. Make ends meet
To have enough money to pay bills and other expenses.
127. Mint condition
An item in mint condition is in perfect condition despite its age.
128. Money doesn’t grow on trees
A popular idiom that means money isn’t easy to acquire, because it doesn’t simply grow on trees. In reality, money is earned through hard work. The lesson is that money is valuable and people should be careful not to waste it.
129. Money grubber
Someone who is stingy and doesn’t like to spend money.
130. Money is no object
It doesn’t matter how much something costs, because this person has enough money to pay for it.
131. Money is the root of all evil
Money is to blame for the problems and wrongdoings in this world.
132. Money talks
Money gives people the power to get or do whatever they want, because it can influence a situation. Basically, money speaks volumes.
133. Monopoly money
Money that has little to no value. It is likened to the fake play money in the game of Monopoly.
134. Nest egg
Money that has been meticulously saved over time, often for a retirement fund. A nest egg is intended to provide security for the future.
135. Nickel and dime
To charge someone small amounts of money repeatedly, which eventually total a large sum over time. Often, the person being charged doesn’t realize how themoney adds up over time.
136. Not for love nor money
Not for anything–not love nor money.
137. Not made of money
This idiom has a negative connotation to refer to someone, often a working class person, who doesn’t have a lot of money or enough money to pay for luxuries.
138. On the house
Paid for by the owner of a business so that it is free for the buyer.
139. On the money
To be right about someone or something. When someone has the right idea, time, place, or amount.
140. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
What is worthless trash to one person may be a valuable treasure to someone else.
141. Other side of the coin
When referencing the “other side of the coin,” someone means the exact opposite of the situation or subject. Every coin has two sides–heads and tails. Every situation also has two sides.
142. Out-of-pocket expenses
The actual amount of money that needs to be paid. Often used when referring to the portion of a bill a person pays for medical expenses that aren’t covered by insurance.
143. Pass the buck
To force another person to make a decision, or to put the responsibility or blame on them.
144. Pass the hat
To pass around a hat for people to put money into in order to collect and raise funds for a cause.
145. Pay a king’s ransom/pay an arm and a leg
To pay dearly for something. The amount paid is unreasonably high.
146. Pay the piper
To face the results of your actions with a punishment.
147. Pay through the nose
To pay a very high price–most likely too much.
148. Pay top dollar
To pay a lot of money for something that is worth it.
149. Pay up
Money due immediately to pay for something that was purchased earlier. This might be money that was borrowed from someone who has come to collect.
150. Pay your own way
To support your lifestyle with your own money because you are financially independent.
151. Paycheck to paycheck
When someone lives paycheck to paycheck, they are unable to meet financial obligations outside of their regular income. They are devoting their entire paycheck to expenses instead of savings, so would be ill-prepared for an emergency cost.
152. Pennies from heaven
Money that wasn’t expected. It’s a miracle.
153. Penny for your thoughts
A request that asks someone what they are thinking. Share your thoughts in exchange for a penny.
154. Penny pincher
A penny pincher is someone who is frugal about their money, even small amounts. They are overly cautious to the point of excessiveness.
155. Penny-wise and pound foolish
Being careful when handling small amounts of money, but careless when managing large amounts of money. This person can be either thrifty or wasteful depending on the quantity of money.
156. Pick up the tab/check
To pay for the entire bill or the whole expense.
157. Play the market
To invest in the stock market and view it as a game with a clear winner and loser. Someone who plays the market is ready to test their luck.
158. Pony up
To pay someone the money they are owed.
159. Pour money down the drain
When someone misuses or throws around money without thought, they might as well just pour it down the drain into the garbage. This money is wasted.
160. Put in your 2 cents
To put in your 2 cents is to give your comments or advice in a matter. This idiom is used to mean that the comments given are a personal opinion.
161. Put Your money where your mouth is
When a person is asked to put one’s money where one’s mouth is, then that person is challenged to stop talking and start doing.
162. Quick buck
Money that was made quickly and easily.
163. Rain check
When someone misses or can’t make an appointment, but promises to reschedule at a later date and time. Presumably, the rain canceled their plans so they grabbed the check and left.
164. Rake in the money
To make a lot of money.
165. Red cent
A small amount of money.
166. Rolling in money
To metaphorically frolic in a large pile of money.
167. Shake them down
To blackmail or extort money from someone.
168. Shell out
To pay money for something.
169. Sitting on a goldmine
To own something very valuable, but not realize that it is.
170. Smart money
The best option in an investment.
171. Sock away
To save or store money.
172. Soft money
Money that can be earned without putting in a lot of effort.
173. Spend a penny
To go to the bathroom.
174. Spent a fortune
To spend a large amount of money.
175. Square accounts
To settle financial accounts with someone.
176. Squirrel away
To save some money by tucking it away like a squirrel with a nut.
177. Stinking rich
When someone is excessively rich to the point that they smell like money.
178. Stone broke
Having absolutely no money.
179. Strapped for cash
To have little or no money available.
180. Strike gold
To find or do something that makes you rich. People who sought gold by digging in gold mines had the opportunity to strike gold and become instantly rich.
181. Strike it rich
To become rich or successful suddenly, basically overnight.
182. Struggle to make ends meet
To have a hard time surviving on your current income.
183. Take a beating
An idiom that means to lose a lot of money is equivalent to taking a beating–not physically, but financially.
184. Take It to the bank
Used to emphasize that a statement is true. A guarantee that something will be successful.
185. Take the money and run
To accept an offer and collect on it before the situation changes and the offer is gone.
186. Take them to the cleaners
Don’t expect to go to the dry cleaners. Instead this idiom means to cheat someone out of their money.
187. Take up a collection
Gathering money or goods from members of a group for charitable purposes.
188. Throw good money after bad
By throwing good money after the bad, you’re not only wasting money, but wasting additional money on the same thing. It’s like doing something twice and hoping your luck will change.
189. Throw money around
To spend a lot of money without fear that it is going to waste. When someone has a large sum of money and buys expensive things within a short time period.
190. Throw money at
To spend a lot of money of a project or venture, often recklessly without thinking about how the money could be better spent.
191. Tidy sum of money
A tidy sum isn’t necessarily referring to organized money. Rather, it’s a large amount of money.
192. Tighten your belt
By tightening your belt, you’re living frugally with less money than normal. People who want to cut down on spending and save their money by living on the cheaper side are said to “tighten their belt.”
193. Time is money
Time is valuable, so don’t waste it. This idiom is a play on the time value of money concept, which states that money available now is worth more than an identical sum in the future due to its potential to earn.
194. To take at face value
Face value is the price printed on a stamp or bond or paper money. In this expression, it means to believe someone’s word or understand them at their literal meaning.
195. Turn up like a bad penny
To show up someplace where you’re not wanted. A bad penny is counterfeit and damaged, so a person likened to one is disreputable, unpleasant, or unwanted.
196. Two cents
A phrase used to preface an opinion on an issue. The longer phrase “put my 2 cents in” is taken from the English idiom “to put in my two-penny worth.”
197. Two sides of the same coin
Every coin has two sides–heads and tails. “Two sides of the same coin” means to see two people or things with opposing views. While they are closely related, they still seem very different.
198. Up the ante
To increase demands or the amount spent for something. In poker, the ante is the amount of money each player puts on the table before starting a round, so upping the ante is increasing the amount that everyone must buy in, or spend.
199. Worth its weight in gold
To be literally worth your weight in gold is quite valuable, since an ounce of gold is equivalent to about $1,400 USD. Someone or something that is so valuable and useful that life would be difficult without.
200. Worth your salt
Salt has long been considered valuable, primarily in the early preservation of food. To be “worth your salt” is to be worth the value you are paid in a job or profession.
What popular (or little known) money idioms did we miss? Let us know on Twitter at @OppUniversity.