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Money Idioms Explained

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This article was created with the help of AI technology, thoroughly edited by a member of our editorial staff, and vetted for accuracy by one of our fact-checkers.
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Tamara Altman
Dr. Altman has over 25 years of experience in social science, public health, and market research, statistics, evaluation, and reporting. She has held positions with, and consulted for, many government, academic, nonprofit, and corporate organizations, including The Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Park Foundation, Stanford University, UCSF, UC Berkeley, and UCLA.
Read time: 16 min
Updated on July 27, 2023
Bang for your buck? We’ve got a list of money sayings that you can take to the bank.

Idioms are a fascinating aspect of language. An “idiom" is an expression that can’t be understood literally, as the words have different meanings when used together than when used separately. Idioms exist in many languages and are vital to cultural heritage and linguistic richness. This article will explore the world of money idioms and how you can use these common phrases in conversation.

Money is an essential part of our lives, so it’s no surprise that we frequently use idioms to describe situations that involve finances. These idioms often reflect cultural attitudes (like greed, satisfaction, or frustration) toward money and wealth.

Below is a list of 81 money idioms, including examples of how they can appear in everyday conversations.

Idioms for Saving Money

Money-saving idioms can describe various strategies, attitudes, and behaviors related to financial planning and budgeting. They often convey the importance of being frugal and prudent with money to achieve financial stability and security. They also highlight the challenges, sacrifices, and potential rewards of saving money. Whether cutting corners, tightening one's belt, or putting money aside for a rainy day, saving money is a smart strategy. The phrases below can provide useful language and inspiration for anyone attempting to save.

  1. Cut back

To reduce expenses.

Example: We need to cut back on our spending if we want to save up for our vacation.


  1. Tighten your belt

To reduce spending and live more frugally.

Example: We're tightening our belts this month so we can save some extra money for our home renovation.


  1. Squirrel away

To save money for a specific purpose or for the future.

Example: I've been squirreling away some extra money every month to save up for a down payment on a new car.


  1. Rainy day fund

Money that is saved for unexpected expenses or emergencies.

Example: I always make sure to have a rainy day fund just in case something unexpected happens.


  1. Penny-pinching

Being extremely careful with money and not wanting to spend it unnecessarily.

Example: My grandmother is always penny-pinching, even though she has plenty of money saved up.


  1. Tightwad

A person who is excessively frugal or stingy with their money.

Example: My uncle is such a tightwad, he won't even buy himself a cup of coffee when we go out.


  1. Stash cash

To keep money hidden away, often in a secret location.

Example: He stashed cash in a coffee can under his bed for emergencies.


  1. Keep a tight grip on one's purse strings

To be very careful with money and not spend it unnecessarily.

Example: After losing his job, he kept a tight grip on his purse strings to make sure he could pay his bills.


  1. Scrimp and save

To live very frugally in order to save money.

Example: We've been scrimping and saving for years so we can finally afford to retire.


  1. Money doesn't grow on trees

A reminder that money is a limited resource and should be spent wisely.

Example: You can't just buy whatever you want, money doesn't grow on trees you know!


  1. Count your pennies

To be very careful with money and make sure every penny is accounted for.

Example: I've been counting my pennies since I lost my job; I can't afford to waste any money right now.


  1. Save your pennies for a rainy day

To save money instead of spending it all.

Example: I always tell my kids to save their pennies for a rainy day, because you never know when you might need some extra money.


  1. Cut corners

To find ways to save money by reducing expenses.

Example: We've had to cut corners this month because our car needed a major repair.


  1. Make ends meet

To have enough money to cover all expenses.

Example: It's hard to make ends meet when you're living paycheck to paycheck.


  1. Live below your means

To live a lifestyle that is less expensive than what you can afford, in order to save money.

Example: We live below our means so we can have money for retirement.


  1. Stretch your dollar

To make the most out of your money by finding good deals and bargains.

Example: I always try to stretch my dollar when I'm shopping by using coupons and finding bargains.


  1. Pennywise and pound foolish

To be overly concerned with small details or costs and miss the bigger picture.

Example: He was pennywise and pound foolish when he invested in a cheaper product that ended up costing him more in the long run.


Idioms for Spending Money

Idioms for spending money often focus on the enjoyment and benefits as well as the risks and drawbacks associated with spending. These expressions also emphasize the significance of being prudent with one's expenses and of recognizing the dangers of excessive spending and debt. Anyone looking to manage their finances and make smart purchasing decisions might learn a thing or two from expressions such as watch your wallet, cash on the barrelhead, and put your money where your mouth is.

  1. Watch your wallet

To be careful with your spending so you don't overspend.

Example: I always watch my wallet when I go shopping – I don't want to spend more than I can afford.


  1. Blow your money

To spend all your money quickly and carelessly.

Example: He blew his money on a new car and now can't pay his rent.


  1. Break the bank

To spend all your money or exceed your budget.

Example: I broke the bank last time I went shopping and will need to make up for it by saving extra money next month.


  1. Shell out

To spend money, especially a large amount of money.

Example: I had to shell out a lot of money to repair my car.


  1. Fork over

To pay for something unwillingly or with difficulty.

Example: He had to fork over a large sum of money to cover the damages.


  1. Spending spree

Spending a lot of money in a short period of time.

Example: She went on a spending spree during the holiday season.


  1. Live beyond one's means

To spend more money than one can afford.

Example: He was living beyond his means by buying expensive clothes and frequently eating out.


  1. Put your money where your mouth is

To support your words with action or money.

Example: If you think this project is worth it, then put your money where your mouth is and invest in it.


  1. Throw money (at something)

To try to solve a problem by spending a lot of money on it.

Example: The company threw money at the project, but it still failed.


  1. Shop till you drop

To shop for a long time until you're exhausted.

Example: She shopped till she dropped and spent the whole day at the mall, buying something from nearly every store!


  1. Burn a hole in your pocket

To have money that you feel compelled to spend quickly.

Example: The bonus he received was burning a hole in his pocket, so he immediately spent it on a new gadget.


  1. Spare no expense

To spend as much money as needed without worrying about the amount.

Example: The bride's parents spared no expense for her dream wedding.


  1. Cash on the barrelhead

To pay cash (paper currency/coins) for something immediately at the time and place of the transaction.

Example: The store only accepts cash on the barrelhead, so be prepared.


  1. Put a dent in your wallet

To spend a lot of money on something.

Example: The vacation put a dent in our wallet, but it was worth it.


  1. Go through money like water

To spend money quickly and carelessly.

Example: He goes through money like water, which is why he's always broke.


  1. Drop a bundle

To lose a lot of money.

Example: He dropped a bundle on the stock market last year.


  1. Money talks

People with money tend to hold a considerable amount of power and influence.

Example: Money talks, and unfortunately, it often speaks louder than ethics or morality.


  1. Foot the bill

To pay for something.

Example: I love going out to dinner with Peter because he always foots the bill.


  1. Have money to burn

To have a lot of money that you can spend carelessly.

Example: He has money to burn, which is why he bought a yacht even though he doesn't know how to sail.


  1. Put it on the plastic

To pay for something with a credit card.

Example: He put the hotel room on the plastic, but now he's struggling to pay off his credit card balance.


  1. Pay through the nose

To pay a high price for something.

Example: I had to pay through the nose for those concert tickets.


  1. To cost an arm and a leg

Something that is expensive.

Example: That car cost me an arm and a leg, so I plan to take great care of it over the years.


Idioms for Earning Money

Idioms for earning money describe strategies, skills, and qualities that can help people generate income and accumulate wealth. These expressions often convey that making money requires hard work, creativity, determination, and the ability to seize opportunities and take calculated risks. They also highlight the potential benefits of entrepreneurship, investing, and other forms of income generation. Bringing home the bacon, striking it rich, and making a killing are examples of ways to describe making money. These phrases, along with the others below, can be used in conversation about increasing income and achieving financial success.

  1. Bring home the bacon

To earn a living for one's family.

Example: My dad has been working hard for years to bring home the bacon.


  1. Rake in the dough

To earn a lot of money.

Example: The concert promoter raked in the dough from ticket sales.


  1. Make a killing

To earn a large amount of money in a short period of time, often with little effort.

Example: They made a killing when they sold their house at exactly the right time.


  1. Cash cow

A reliable source of income.

Example: The family business has been a cash cow for generations.


  1. Breadwinner

The person who earns most of the money in a household.

Example: With her husband out of work, she became the breadwinner for her family.


  1. Put bread on the table

To earn enough money to provide for one's family.

Example: He works hard to put bread on the table for his family.


  1. Scratch out a living

To earn enough money to survive, but not thrive.

Example: The farmer managed to scratch out a living from the poor soil.


  1. Sell like hotcakes

To sell large quantities of something quickly.

Example: Our handmade soaps are selling like hotcakes.


  1. Feather one's nest

To earn money for oneself, especially in a dishonest or unjust way.

Example: The politician was accused of feathering his own nest with public funds.


  1. Living from hand to mouth

To live with just enough money to meet basic needs.

Example: After losing his job, he was forced to live from hand to mouth for a while.


  1. Hit pay dirt

To find success or profit unexpectedly.

Example: After years of struggling, he finally hit pay dirt with his new business idea.


  1. Strike it rich

To suddenly become very wealthy.

Example: The lottery winner struck it rich with a single, winning ticket.


  1. Fat cat

A wealthy and influential person, often with political connections.

Example: The fat cats in Washington DC often get their way.


  1. Sweat for your bread

To work hard for your money.

Example: He's not afraid to sweat for his bread and works long hours to support his family.


Idioms for Investing Money

Idioms are often used to describe various forms of investing, including the stock market, real estate, and business. These expressions often convey the risks and rewards associated with investing and the need for caution and strategic decision-making when engaging in this activity. Commonly used sayings include put all your eggs in one basket, ride the wave, and cut your losses. Understanding these phrases might help individuals navigate the investing world.

  1. Hedge your bets

To minimize risk by taking actions to protect against potential losses.

Example: I'm going to hedge my bets by investing in both stocks and bonds.


  1. Ride the wave

To take advantage of a trend or market movement in order to make money.

Example: I'm going to ride the wave of the cryptocurrency market.


  1. Strike while the iron is hot

To take advantage of a good opportunity while it's still available.

Example: I'm going to invest in this startup now because the industry is growing rapidly; I’m going to strike while the iron is hot.


  1. Play the long game

To invest with the expectation of long-term gains, rather than short-term profits.

Example: I'm not worried about the market fluctuations in the short term because I'm playing the long game with my investments.


  1. Put all your eggs in one basket

To invest all your money into one thing, which can be risky.

Example: I wouldn't recommend putting all your eggs in one basket by investing all your savings into a single stock.


  1. Bet the farm

To risk everything you have on a single investment.

Example: He bet the farm on his business idea, and it paid off in the end.


  1. Go all in

To commit all your resources and energy into something, such as an investment.

Example: I'm going all in on this new startup because I believe it has the potential for huge returns.


  1. Follow the herd

To invest based on what others are doing, rather than doing your own research and analysis.

Example: I don't want to follow the herd and invest in what's popular right now; I want to find investments that are undervalued and have strong potential.


  1. Take a flyer

To take a risk on an investment with little information or analysis.

Example: I took a flyer on this new company because I believe in the founder's vision and passion.


  1. Buy low, sell high

A common investment strategy of buying stocks or assets when they’re undervalued and selling them when they’re overvalued.

Example: I'm going to buy low and sell high – I’ll buy this stock while it's less expensive and sell it when it reaches its peak value.


  1. Cut your losses

To sell an investment that is losing value in order to minimize losses.

Example: I had to cut my losses and sell my stocks when the market took a downturn.


  1. Invest in yourself

To spend money on education, training, or personal development in order to increase your earning potential.

Example: I'm going to invest in myself by taking courses to improve my skills and knowledge.


  1. Double down

To increase your investment in something, often despite previous losses or risks.

Example: Despite some setbacks, I'm going to double down on my investment in this startup because I believe in its potential.


  1. Buy the rumor, sell the news

A strategy of buying a stock or asset based on rumors or speculation and then selling it once the news becomes public.

Example: I try to stay ahead of the market to make quick profits - I buy the rumor that a new product was coming out and sell my shares after the product launch.


Idioms for Donating Money

Many idioms describe giving money to a charitable cause or someone in need. These expressions emphasize the importance of generosity, kindness, and empathy toward others. Many phrases highlight the idea that giving can bring about positive change, which can be beneficial for both the recipient and the giver. Donating money idioms are used in various contexts, such as encouraging others to give or expressing appreciation for someone who has donated. Overall, these phrases serve as a reminder that we have the power to make a positive impact on the world by giving to those in need.

  1. Give back

To donate money to a charity or organization as a way of showing appreciation for what they’ve done.

Example: After the hospital saved his daughter's life, he wanted to give back by making a generous donation.


  1. Open up one's wallet

To spend a lot of money on something or donate generously.

Example: She opened up her wallet and gave a big donation to the animal shelter.


  1. A little goes a long way

Even a small donation can have a significant impact.

Example: Every dollar counts, and a little goes a long way in helping this organization achieve its goals.


  1. Give till it hurts

To donate so much money that it causes financial pain or hardship.

Example: She gave till it hurt to help fund cancer research.


  1. Charity begins at home

Before you can help others, you must first take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Example: She wanted to help the homeless, but her parents reminded her that charity begins at home – she should take care of her own needs first.


  1. Make a difference

To contribute to a cause in a way that has a positive impact.

Example: Even a small donation can make a difference in the fight against hunger.


  1. Pay it forward

To perform a good deed for someone with the hope that they will do the same for others in the future.

Example: After receiving a scholarship for college, she decided to pay it forward by creating a scholarship for someone else in need.


  1. Give a helping hand

To offer assistance or support to those in need.

Example: She always gives a helping hand to those who need it, whether it's volunteering at a food bank or donating money to a charity.


  1. Spread the wealth

To share one's wealth with others or to donate money to multiple causes.

Example: He decided to spread the wealth and donate money to several charities instead of just one.


  1. Give a hand up, not a handout

To provide assistance that empowers someone to improve their situation rather than just giving them something.

Example: Instead of just giving money to the homeless, the organization provides job training and housing assistance to give them a hand up, not a handout.


Idioms for Retiring with Money

Retirement idioms often describe saving and investing money throughout life to ensure a comfortable retirement. These phrases often emphasize the importance of being financially prepared for retirement and the benefits of early planning and wise investments. They may also touch on enjoying one's golden years without financial stress or worry. These phrases are often used to discuss retirement planning and financial management with family, friends, and financial advisors.

  1. Nest egg

A sum of money that is saved for a specific future use (often retirement).

Example: He's been diligently saving for years and has built up a sizable nest egg.


  1. Enjoy the fruits of one's labor

To reap the rewards of one's hard work.

Example: After years of working hard and saving diligently, he's finally able to enjoy the fruits of his labor.


  1. Set for life

Having enough money to live comfortably.

Example: Thanks to her diligent saving and investing, she's set for life and able to enjoy her golden years.


  1. Well-heeled

Wealthy or financially comfortable.

Example: After a successful career, he's well-heeled and able to enjoy a luxurious retirement.

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