120 Money Idioms
Native speakers love to use idioms in conversation. Using idioms will help you sound more like a native speaker too. In this post, learn some common English Idioms about money that you can start using in your own conversations right away.
What does the noun finance mean?
the money available to a person, an organization or a country; the way this money is managed
- “I really think that personal finance should be taught in high school to teach students how to manage money in the real world.”
Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries finance
You may have also heard the adjective financial which means: connected with money and finance
- “I recently hired a financial advisor to help me invest my savings.”
Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries financial
We all talk about money and our financial situations with our friends and family. (We even talk about the financial situations of others sometimes too.)
The following expressions all use money or finances but some of them have a more general meaning that we can apply to other areas of our lives. They are useful when we talk about a variety of topics describing a general situation.
Idioms about MONEY
- A day late and a dollar short
We use this expression when something happened that was later than we needed and less than we needed. Another common expression with the same meaning is too little, too late.
“Calvin said he was sorry, but his apology is a day late and a dollar short.”
- A fool and his money are soon parted
People who are not smart or clever tend to make poor financial decisions. We often use this for people who take unnecessary risks with their money.
“Walter lost a lot of money investing in cryptocurrency. My father always said a fool and his money are soon parted.”
- A fortune
A lot of money.
“Ives Saint Laurent bags cost a fortune.”
- A penny saved is a penny earned
Saving money is just as important as earning money. This expression is said to teach people the importance of saving their money.
“My parents always encouraged me to save money. They taught me that a penny saved is a penny earned.”
- All that glitters is not gold
Something may look good (because it glitters) but it is not really good. This expression is a warning not to invest time or money in an effort just because it looks good on the outside. It is important to look at more than the surface because the surface can be deceptive.
- As phony as a $3 bill
Bills or paper notes do not come in a value of $3.00. If something is fake, we can claim it is “As phony as a $3.00 bill.” It is not real, just as a $3.00 bill is not real.
“I can’t trust Gavin. I think he’s as phony as a $3 bill.”
- As poor as a church mouse
The idiom poor as a church mouse means that I’m very poor. I don’t have any money. It is a separate response that comes after I explain my situation.
“I have no money. I just used all my savings to pay my credit card bill. I’m poor as a church mouse!” worldenglishblog.com/rats-and-mice-idiom/
- As sound as a pound (UK) As sound as a dollar (US)
To be very stable and secure like the currency of a country. *This is not always true nowadays as currencies can change in value quickly. The idiom still means that something has stability and you can trust it.
“You can trust Ron, he’s as sound as a pound.”
- A premium
A premium is something that is of a higher value than a similar item. Premium is often used as a tier of a service being offered.
“When they filmed the movie iRobot they needed many performers to do the motion capture for scenes with the androids. There was a premium on stuntmen who were at or near 6 feet tall.”
“I bought the premium service. It was a bit more expensive but I think it was worth it.”
- A steal
A very low price. An item being sold at a price lower than it’s true value.
“This car was a steal, I got it for only $1200.”
- At all costs
This shows a commitment to achieve something no matter what it takes. Any amount of money or time will be used to get the desired result.
“We must win this war at all costs!”
- Blank check
If someone writes you a “blank check” they are offering you an unlimited amount of money. You can write whatever amount you want on the check.
“The record company wrote him a blank check to keep writing songs for their star performers.”
*In Canada (and the UK) check is spelled cheque.
- Bread and butter
It can also be used to for something that you are skilled at or specialize in that is the main source of your income.
“Teaching English to ESL students around the world is my bread and butter.”
- Bring home the bacon
To earn money for your household.
“Time to go to work. I need to bring home the bacon.”
- Burn a hole in your pocket
If you have cash in your pocket, it is very easy to spend on things you really don’t need. The feeling is that I HAVE to SPEND this money before it burns a hole in my pocket and I lose it. Of course, this never happens! The expression is an excuse for why we spent the money on things we didn’t really need.
“I just got a bonus from work. The problem is they gave it to me in cash and it’s burning a hole in my pocket.”
- Buy someone off
To give someone money for special consideration. This is illegal at worst or at least unethical.
“Big businesses are often accused of buying off politicians.”
- Cash in
To turn in your chips at a casino in exchange for cash.
“I played poker for 3 hours, then I cashed in my chips and went home.”
- Cash in on
To make money from a trend or the popularity of something.
“William cashed in on cryptocurrency when it was first introduced. He got out of it just in before the crash.”
A person who doesn’t like to spend money.
“My cousin James is a real cheapskate.”
- Chicken feed
This means a small amount of money. Chickens eat grains of cereal that are very small.
“The fine was $10,000.00. That’s chicken feed to a huge company like that.”
- Chip in
A group of people contributes money to buy something that they will use collectively.
“All the staff chipped in for a new espresso machine for the breakroom.”
- Clean up
To make a lot of money in business ventures or gambling.
“I cleaned up at the blackjack table.”
- Cold hard cash
Physical bills or coins that you can hold in your hands. Nothing digital.
“The store won’t accept pay apps or even credit cards. Only cold hard cash.”
- Cost a pretty penny
To be expensive.
“I love your new shoes! I bet they cost a pretty penny.”
- Cost an arm and a leg
To be very expensive
“New air conditioners cost an arm and a leg!” worldenglishblog.com/english-idioms-with-body-parts/
- Cut off
To be Cut off or Cut someone off happens when the source of a person’s or company’s money stops providing it.
“Ryan’s parents cut him off after they learned he was using drugs.”
Someone who doesn’t pay up the money they owe to someone else. An irresponsible person, especially someone who doesn’t pay their debts.
“Brian is a deadbeat, I never lend him money.”
- Daylight robbery
If a store or service overcharges you, especially for something you really need. They are openly “robbing” people of their money, often because there is no other way to get the product or service.
“The contractor charged me too much for the repair to my house. It was daylight robbery!”
- A dime a dozen
Something that is very common, not special or valuable.
“Smartphones were unique and special when they were first sold but now they’re a dime a dozen. Everyone has one.”
- Dirt cheap
“Smartphones are becoming dirt cheap.”
- Dollar for dollar
Used as a form of comparison when looking at the price and value of multiple items or services.
“Dollar for dollar, this car rental company is the best in the area.”
- Dollars to doughnuts
If someone is so confident of an outcome they will bet “Dollars to doughnuts” that they are right. They will risk real money against doughnuts because they are sure of the outcome.
“I bet you dollars to doughnuts that Liam will be late for work again today.”
- Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise
Successful people are usually people who wake up and start their day early. Early morning is the perfect time to exercise, work, and study – Making you healthy, wealthy, and wise.
- Easy money
This is money that you can get with very little effort.
“At my new job, I just sit in a booth and press a button when a car drives through the intersection. It’s easy money.”
- Feel the pinch
If you are having trouble paying for your expenses you are Feeling the pinch. This expression comes from another expression – pinch your pennies – which means that you need to save money and watch your spending.
“I’m feeling the pinch this month.”
- Flat broke
To have no money.
“I’m flat broke until payday.”
- Fool’s gold
If something looks valuable but is actually not, we can call it fool’s gold. Fool’s Gold is a real metal called pyrite. The pale brass-yellow color makes it look like gold. LINK
“Smart people recognized that cryptocurrency was fool’s gold from the beginning.”
Fool’s Gold is a song from 1989 by The Stone Roses. (I listened to this song at University. I still like it!)
- Foot the bill
To pay for something
“Eat up everyone, the company is footing the bill.”
- Free and clear
If you own something free and clear you are no longer paying for it. Things like cars and houses are usually bought with a bank loan that you will pay back over several years. After you have paid back your loan you now own the item, free and clear.
“This car is finally mine free and clear.”
- Rags to riches
Going from having no money to having a lot of money.
“George went from rags to riches very quickly.”
- Get the most bang for your buck
A “buck” is slang for a dollar. To get the most bang for your buck is to get the most value (bang) for the money you spend. (dollar) This expression is not only used with money. We can apply it to getting the most use out of something you have.
“I learned how to get the most bang for your buck from my Mom. She is a smart shopper.”
- Get Your money’s worth
To receive the correct value or more for the price you paid for something.
“I have driven this car with no trouble for 14 years. I really got my money’s worth out of it.”
- Go broke
To lose all of one’s money
“Elliot went broke after the stock market crashed.”
- Go Dutch
Sharing the cost of a meal between 2 people. Often on a date.
“Do you want to have dinner with me? We can go Dutch if you’re more comfortable.”
- Going rate
The value of something based on what people are currently paying for it.
“The farmer wants $4.00 for a dozen organic eggs. That seemed expensive to me but I did some research and that is the going rate for 12 farm fresh free-range chicken eggs.”
(Free-range means that the chickens can move around in a field and are not trapped in tiny cages on a factory farm.)
- Golden handshake
A large payment made to an executive when retiring from a large company.
“After 20 years he left the company with a golden handshake.”
- Grease someone’s palm
To pay someone money for a favor or special consideration. Sometimes illegal.
“I greased the doorman’s palm to let us into the club without having to wait in line.”
- Hard up
To have very little or no money. To be in a difficult financial situation.
“Francis won’t join us on our trip this year. He’s hard up at the moment.”
- Hush money
Money given to someone to keep them from talking about something. You are paying for their silence.
“He got hush money from the senator.”
- (Not) Have two nickels/pennies to rub together
To be very poor.
“I’m flat broke now. I don’t have two nickels to rub together.”
- If I had a nickel for every time that happened, I would be rich
This is used to imply that a situation happens a lot in someone’s life. So many times that if they were given a nickel (5 cents) every time that situation happened they would be rich. (Because it happens so often.)
“If I had a nickel for every time Ken was late, I would be rich.”
- Ill-gotten gains
Money that you got in a dishonest way.
“Jennifer was not impressed by his wealth, most of which was ill-gotten gains.”
- In the black
To make more than you spend. For a company, it means that you are making a profit.
“After 2 difficult years, the company is finally in the black.”
- In the hole
To have lost money.
“After my trip to the casino, I’m $200.00 in the whole.”
- In the money
To have a lot of money.
“After the promotion, Rich is really in the money.”
- In the red
To spend more money than you make. This is the opposite of in the black.
“Our company was in the red for its first 2 years.”
- Jack up the price
To artificially and suddenly increase the price of something.
“During the pandemic, lots of unethical businesses jacked up their prices.”
- Keep our heads above water
This is used when you are trying to deal with difficulties. Often with money.
“The company is not making enough money right now. We are barely keeping our heads above water.” worldenglishblog.com/english-idioms-with-body-parts/
- Like a million dollars/bucks
A million dollars is a lot of money that most people would be happy to have. This expression means Really great. If someone feels like a million bucks they feel great.
“After my vacation, I felt like a million bucks. It was just what I needed.”
We also use this expression to compliment someone’s appearance.
“Did you see Donna at the party? She looked like a million bucks.”
- Live beyond your means
This idiom is used when someone spends more money than they earn, often in an effort to look wealthier than one really is.
“Peter needs to slow down his spending. You can only live beyond your means for so long.”
- Live from hand to mouth
This is used to describe a way of living where someone has just enough money to pay for food and rent with each paycheck. They have no money saved in the bank.
“The pandemic was hard on everyone. Especially those living hand to mouth.”
Having lots of money.
“Mike just bought a new Mercedes. He must be loaded.”
- Make a fast buck
To make money very quickly. This sometimes involves activities that are not legal.
“It can be dangerous if you try to make a fast buck by working with dishonest people.”
- Make a killing
To make a lot of money.
“Ted made a killing in the stock market.”
- Make ends meet
To have enough money for your necessary monthly expenses.
“It was hard to make ends meet when we were first married.”
- Money doesn’t grow on trees
Earning money is rarely easy, it takes hard work to get it. We shouldn’t spend it without caution as if it grows on treed and we can easily get some more whenever we want.
“Turn off the TV if you’re not watching it. I have to pay the electricity bill every month and money doesn’t grow on trees.”
- Money is no object
If someone says money is no object it means that they are willing to pay any price for something.
“Call the hotel and book the penthouse suite for 2 weeks. Money is no object.”
- Money is the root of all evil
Money is the cause of all the bad things in this world.
“Lots of the environmental problems are caused by companies trying to earn more. Money can affect your ability to do the right thing. Money is the root of all evil.”
- Money talks
Having money is the best way to get what you want. If you need something, money can get it for you.
A: “How did you get in the club on Saturday? The line went around the corner.”
B: “I gave the doorman $50 to let us skip the line. You know what they say… money talks.”
- Nest egg
Money that you have saved for the future. Usually, money to use when you retire and stop working.
“After a long career, Ray had saved up a nice nest egg. He retired very comfortably.”
- Not made of money
This expression is often used by parents with their children. Young children have no sense of where money comes from and they may ask their parents for many things thinking that their parents have an unlimited amount of money.
“We can’t order pizza for dinner every night! I’m not made of money you know.”
- On the house
Free, at the expense of the restaurant, store, or owner. (Often used with food or drink)
“The restaurant gave me my meal on the house because it was my birthday.”
- On the money
To be exactly correct about something.
“Your guesses about the company stock price were right on the money. I’m glad I listened to you!”
- One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
What one person thinks is garbage another person might think of it as valuable.
A: “When did you get new patio furniture?”
B: “My neighbor was going to throw it away so he gave it to me.”
A: “Nice. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
To pay directly for something instead of putting on credit or having another group or company pay the bill.
“My health insurance will pay 85% of the hospital costs, the remaining 15% is out of pocket.”
- Pass the buck
To push the responsibility or blame off of yourself and onto another person.
“Melanie is always trying to pass the buck at work and her coworkers are getting tired of it.”
- Pay an arm and a leg
be very expensive
“I paid an arm and a leg for this air conditioner.”
- Pay the piper
To accept and face the consequences for your actions.
“You’ve been hiding this secret for a while and it has made things worse for everyone. I think it’s time for you to pay the piper and come clean.”
(Come clean means, to tell the truth about something that you have been keeping secret – LINK)
- Pay through the nose
To pay a lot.
“We should book the hotel early, if we wait until the last minute we will end up paying through the nose for a room.”
- Pay top dollar
To pay a large amount for a product or service that is of high quality.
“This tablet computer should last a long time, I paid top dollar for it.”
- Pay up
To pay money to someone that you owe.
“I lent you $500.00 6 months ago. It’s time to pay up.”
- Pay your own way
To pay for your own expenses without accepting money from anyone else.
“My family offered to pay for my plane ticket back to Ireland, but I prefer to pay my own way.”
- Paycheck to paycheck
This is similar to hand-to-mouth. Each time they receive their pay all of it is spent on bills and necessities. There is no money left over to save or to spend freely.
“When I was 22 I moved out (left my parents’ home) and got a small apartment. I didn’t have a good job at the time so I was living paycheck to paycheck for 18 months.”
Very little money.
“My condo is worth a lot of money now. I bought it 8 years ago for peanuts.”
“My friend suggested that I lower my private lesson fee. I told him that a good lesson with a good teacher is worth the price. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”
- Pennies from heaven
Money that came but one didn’t expect. Unexpected money is like a gift from heaven.
“I got a $700.00 from some stock I bought and forgot about. It was like getting pennies from heaven.”
- Penny for your thoughts
This is a way to ask for someone’s opinion. I will pay you a penny (one cent) if you tell me what you are thinking.
“You have a serious look on your face. Penny for your thoughts?”
- Penny pincher
Someone who is very careful (maybe too concerned) about the money they spend. They control (pinch) all their money, even the pennies. (Remember Feeling the pinch? – link)
“Everyone in the office chipped in for a new espresso machine. Even Josh, and he’s a real penny pincher.” (Chip in meaning)
- Penny-wise and pound foolish
Someone who carefully considers small purchases but carelessly spends a lot of money on larger purchases.
“When I first lived on my own, I didn’t have much experience managing my expenses. I was penny-wise and pound foolish. I bought cheap groceries but I overspent on my appliances.”
Have you heard the verb OVERSPEND before? Learn more about how to use Over and Under as prefixes here > Your #1 Guide to using Over and Under as Prefixes (free PDF)
- Pick up the tab/check
To pay everyone’s bill after a meal or a night out with friends. A person or a company can pick up the check.
“It was great to see everyone again and catch up. You all traveled a long way to get here so please let me pick up the check.
- Play the market
To invest in the stock market. To try and guess which stocks will increase in value and understand when to buy and sell stocks to make the most money.
“The stock market is very unstable recently. I’m not comfortable trying to play the market.
- Pony up
To contribute money to a cause or to pay someone back.
“Dinner and drinks cost $128.00. Everyone pony up $25.00 for the bill.”
- Pour money down the drain
To waste money. Spending money on something worthless is equal to just throwing your money into the trash.
“The government spent money to fix the library and then they tore it down the next year. This is terrible planning, they are just pouring our tax dollars down the drain.”
- Put in your 2 cents
To offer your opinion or advice to someone.
“If I can put in my two cents, whoever planned the library repairs should be fired.”
- Put Your money where your mouth is
This means to stop talking about something and actually do something about it.
“You keep saying that you want to quit and start your own consulting business. Why don’t you finally put your money where your mouth is and do something!”
- Quick buck
This is like fast money. Money that you can make easily in a short amount of time.
“Rick started driving for Uber in his free time. It’s a good way to make a quick buck.”
- Rain check
To politely turn down an offer or invitation while implying that it may be possible in the future.
A: “Do you want to see a movie tonight?”
B: “ I’m busy tonight so I’ll have to take a rain check. Maybe next time.”
This idiom can also be found at my 29 Common English Weather Idioms post.
- Rake in the money
To get a lot of money.
“During the quarantine food delivery services have been raking in the money.”
- Rolling in it (money)
To have so much money that you can just throw piles of it on the floor and roll around in it.
“Brent just sold his house for 3 times what he paid for it. He’s rolling in it now.
- Shell out
To pay money for something.
“I had to shell out an extra $200.00 for the mechanic to fix my brakes.”
- Sitting on a goldmine
To possess something of value that you don’t fully realize.
“I have four boxes of old comic books in my basement. I should check the value of these comics, I might be sitting on a gold mine.”
- Smart money
A good or safe investment.
“For new investors, investing in older established companies is smart money.”
- Sock away
To save money. This comes from the idea that people hide money in their socks.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got a little money socked away if we need it.”
- Squirrel money away
This is another idiom that means to save money. Squirrels store nuts to eat during the winter. (Nuts are like money to a squirrel)
“I’d like to buy a new TV. I squirreled away some money last year so now is the perfect time.”
- Stinking rich
Having lots of money.
“Donald Trump is stinking rich.”
- Strapped for cash
To have little or no money that you can use.
“I’d love to travel more but I’m kind of strapped for cash right now.”
- Strike it rich
To get a lot of money quickly or suddenly.
“He invested a lot of money into cryptocurrency hoping to strike it rich.”
- Take a beating
To lose a large amount of money. Often used with business investment or gambling losses.
“I spent the weekend in Las Vegas. The shows were good but I took a beating in the casinos. I lost $800.00.”
- Take (something) to the bank
Used to convince someone that a promise you made is true.
“I will start a national health care system for all citizens after I’m elected. You can take that to the bank.”
Hard to Kill is an action movie from 1990. In this video clip, you can hear people using this idiom.
- Take the money and run
To accept what you have been offered quickly before it goes away.
A: I can’t believe I won $200.00 at the casino playing blackjack. I’m gonna play the slot machines now!
B: Don’t do it! You will just give all that money back to the casino. Take the money and run my friend.
Take the Money and Run is a song by the Steve Miller Band from 1976. You can listen and read the lyrics below.
- Take (someone) to the cleaners
To take a lot or all of someone’s money.
“Don’t play pool with Derrick for money. He’s a shark! He’ll take you to the cleaners.”
- The Midas touch
If someone has the Midas touch it means they are very lucky in business, investing, etc. This comes from the legend of King Midas:
– The most famous King Midas is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold. (LINK)
“I get my investing advice from Lenny. He seems to have the Midas touch. He always chooses great stock to invest in.”
- The last penny (just) dropped
A person finally understands something after a period of time.
“After listening to 3 lectures on how to write a business plan the last penny dropped. I finally understand what to do.”
- Throw good money after bad
Wasting money continuously on the same project with no real expectation of getting your desired results.
“It’s time to end this project. We’ve been working at it for 6 months but we’re just throwing good money after bad.”
- Throw money around
To freely spend a lot of money.
“Rosco just won the lottery. Now he’s throwing money around like crazy!
- Throw money at something
To deal with an issue by carelessly spending money on various solutions.
“This problem needs serious attention. You can’t just throw money at it and hope it goes away.”
- Tighten your belt
To live in a way that saves you money by cutting costs on the things you buy.
“With a new baby on the way we’ve really had to tighten our belts around the house. No more $6 lattes.”
- Time is money
This expression is highlighting the fact that there is a financial cost to doing nothing. Wasting time is like wasting money. Your time can be used for something productive.
“I hope everyone has a great summer vacation, but remember, time is money! The summer break is a great time to look for a part-time job to make some money and get some work experience.”
- Two cents
This means your opinion on something. It’s common to OFFER my two cents before you share your opinion with someone.
“You have bigger things to worry about than your coworker’s opinion of you. That’s just my two cents.”
- Two sides of the same coin
A thing may have two different sides but they are still closely related. One coin has two sides with a different image on each side. The two images are not the same but they are a part of the same single coin.
“Global health security and access to free health care are two sides of the same coin. Both are important to manage future pandemic issues.”
- Worth its weight in gold
If something is Worth its weight in gold it is very valuable.
“This all-in-one tool is awesome. I use it for everything, it’s worth its weight in gold!”
When I wrote this article the value of gold was $55.81 per gram. You can check the current price of gold at the link below.https://www.monex.com/gold-prices/
Check out these other helpful English Idiom blog posts
- Make Yourself at Home: 27 Common House Idioms (Free PDF)
- Feline Phrases: Understanding Cat Idioms (Free PDF Download)
- Listen Up! Understanding the Meaning of EAR IDIOMS
- Smell a Rat – English Idiom
- Mouse Potato – English Idiom
- The Rat Race – English Idiom
- Play cat and mouse with (someone) – English Idiom
- Like A Drowned Rat – English Idiom
- (As) Poor as a Church Mouse – English Idiom