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Money Idioms


Choose the idiom and click on it to go directly to the explanation and example.

ante up, at all costs

back on your feet, bet your bottom dollar, bet on the wrong horse, born with a silver spoon in your mouth, bottom dollar, bottom line, break even, break the bank, bring home the bacon, burn a hole in your pocket, buy off

cash-and-carry, cash in, cash in on, cash in your chips, cash on the barrelhead, caught short, cheapskate, chicken feed, chip in, clean up, cold hard cash, cook the books, cut-rate

deadbeat, dime a dozen, down and out, Dutch treat

face value, fast buck, feel like a million dollars/bucks, flat broke, foot the bill, for a song, for love or money (usually negative), fork over

go broke, gravy train, grease your palm
hand-out, hand to mouth, hard up, have sticky fingers, highway robbery, hit the jackpot

in the black, in the hole, in the red

keep books, kickback

lay away money, layaway plan, lay out, live from hand to mouth, live high off the hog, loaded, lose your shirt

make a bundle, make a killing, make a living, make ends meet, make money hand over fist, money to burn

nest egg

on a dime, on a shoestring, on the house

pad the bill, pass the buck, pay an arm and a leg for something, pay dirt, pay off, pay through the nose, penny for your thoughts, penny-wise and pound foolish, pick up the tab, piggy bank, pinch pennies, pony up, put in your two cents

quick buck

rain check, rake in the money, red cent

salt away, scrape together, set one back, shell out, splurge on something, stone broke, strapped for cash, strike it rich

take a beating, tighten your belt, two bits, (not worth) two cents, two cents worth

(not) worth a cent, worth your salt

ante up

MEANING: pay, produce a necessary amount of money


I had to ante up a lot of money to get my car fixed.

at all costs

MEANING: at any expense of time, effort or money


He plans to go to school at all costs.

back on your feet

MEANING: return to good financial health


My sister is back on her feet after losing her job last year.

bet your bottom dollar

MEANING: bet all one has on something


I would bet my bottom dollar that the accounting manager will be late again today.

bet on the wrong horse

MEANING: base your plans on a wrong guess about the results of something


He is betting on the wrong horse if he continues to support the other candidate for mayor.

born with a silver spoon in your mouth

MEANING: born to wealth and comfort, born rich


The student in our history class was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has never worked in his life.

bottom dollar

MEANING: your last dollar


He spent his bottom dollar on some new clothes to wear for his job interview.

bottom line 1

MEANING: line in a financial statement that shows net income or loss


The bottom line in the company’s financial statement was much worse than expected.

bottom line 2

MEANING: final result, main point


The bottom line was that we were unable to attend the conference because of our busy schedule.

break even

MEANING: have income equal to expenses


Our company was able to break even after only six months of operation.

break the bank

MEANING: win all the money at a casino gambling table


He broke the bank at the casino and walked away with a lot of money.

bring home the bacon

MEANING: earn the family living


I have been working hard all month bringing home the bacon for my family.

burn a hole in your pocket

MEANING: money that one wishes or intends to spend quickly (often for something frivolous)


The money had been burning a hole in his pocket when he decided to go to the casino.

buy off

MEANING: give money to someone to stop them from doing their duty


They tried to buy off the politician but he refused to go along with their plan.


MEANING: selling something for cash only with no delivery


We were able to get a good price on a sofa in a cash-and-carry deal at the furniture store.

cash in

MEANING: exchange coupons or bonds for their value in money


I cashed in a large number of my savings bonds in order to get some money to buy a house.

cash in on

MEANING: make money from an opportunity


The former football player cashed in on his popularity to open a very successful restaurant.

cash in your chips

MEANING: exchange or sell something to get some money


I decided to cash in my chips to get some money to go back to school.

cash on the barrelhead

MEANING: money paid in cash when something is bought


I had to pay cash on the barrelhead for the used car.

caught short

MEANING: not have enough money when you need it


I was caught short and had to borrow some money from my father last week.


MEANING: a person who will not spend much money, a stingy person


My friend is a cheapskate and won’t even go to a movie with me.

chicken feed

MEANING: a small amount of money


His son always wants to borrow money and says that it is only chicken feed but little by little it adds up to a lot of money.

chip in

MEANING: contribute money or pay jointly


Everyone in our company chipped in some money to buy a wedding present for our boss.

clean up

MEANING: make a lot of money, make a big profit


I cleaned up at the horse races last year and still have some of the money left.

cold hard cash

MEANING: cash, coins and bills


I paid for the stereo in cold hard cash.

cook the books

MEANING: illegally change information in accounting books in a company


The accountant was cooking the books for over a year before he was caught.


MEANING: sell for a price lower than usual


We went to a cut-rate furniture store to buy some new furniture for our apartment.


MEANING: person who never pays the money he owes


Recently the government has been making an effort to solve the problem of deadbeat dads who don’t support their families.

dime a dozen

MEANING: easy to get and therefore of little value


Used computers are a dime a dozen and have very little value.

down and out

MEANING: have no money


My friend was down and out for several years before he got a job and started making money.

Dutch treat

MEANING: something where each person pays their own share


We went to the movie as a Dutch treat so it didn’t cost me much money.

face value

MEANING: the worth or price printed on a stamp, bond, note or paper money etc.


The face value of the stamp was very low but in reality it was worth a lot of money.

fast buck

MEANING: money earned quickly and easily (and sometimes dishonestly)


The company tried to make a fast buck on the property but they actually lost a lot of money.

feel like a million dollars/bucks

MEANING: feel wonderful


Although I have been sick for a few weeks I feel like a million dollars today.

flat broke

MEANING: having no money, penniless


I am flat broke and don’t even have enough money to pay my rent.

foot the bill



My sister is footing the bill for her daughter’s education so she is making sure that she studies hard.

for a song

MEANING: at a low price, cheaply


We bought the car for a song and will try and sell it for a higher price.

fork over

MEANING: pay, pay out


I forked over a lot of money for the painting that is hanging on my wall.

for love or money (usually negative)

MEANING: for anything, for any price


I would not want to have to do that man’s job for love or money.

go broke

MEANING: lose all your money, have no money


My uncle started a company last year but it quickly went broke.

gravy train

MEANING: getting paid more money than the job is worth


The job was a gravy train and I made a lot of money when I was there.

grease your palm

MEANING: give a tip, pay for a special favor or extra help, bribe


The waiter was greasing his palm at the restaurant until he was finally fired.


MEANING: a gift of money (usually from the government)


After receiving hand-outs from the government for many years they finally had to make money on their own.

hand to mouth

MEANING: having only enough money for basic living


My friend has been living from hand to mouth since he lost his job.

hard up

MEANING: not have much money


His brother is hard up for money and always wants to borrow some.

have sticky fingers

MEANING: be a thief


The new employee has sticky fingers and many things in the store have disappeared.

highway robbery

MEANING: charge a high price for something


The amount of money that the company is charging for its services is highway robbery.

hit the jackpot

MEANING: make a lot of money suddenly


We hit the jackpot at the casino and came home with a lot of money.

in the black

MEANING: profitable, making money


Our company has been in the black since it was first started.

in the hole

MEANING: in debt, owing money


I think that we are going in the hole in our attempts to make our business prosper.

in the red

MEANING: unprofitable, losing money


The company has been in the red for several months now and will soon have to go bankrupt.

keep books

MEANING: keep records of money earned and spent


The accountant has been keeping careful books of all the transactions in the company.


MEANING: money paid illegally for favorable treatment


The politician received several illegal kickbacks and had to resign from his job.

lay away money

MEANING: save money


I am trying hard to lay away enough money to buy a house.

layaway plan

MEANING: a plan in which one pays some money as a down-payment and then pays a little more when one can and the store holds the article until the full price is paid


We brought our furniture on the layaway plan at the store.

lay out

MEANING: spend, pay


I had to lay out a lot of money to get my car fixed so now I don’t have any money to go out.

live from hand to mouth

MEANING: live on little money


My friend has been living from hand to mouth on his savings from his last job.

live high off the hog

MEANING: have the best of everything, live in great comfort


My mother and father have been living high off the hog since they won the lottery.


MEANING: have lots of money


My uncle is loaded and always has lots of money.

lose your shirt

MEANING: lose all or most of your money


I lost my shirt in a business venture and now I have no money.

make a bundle

MEANING: make a lot of money


I made a bundle on the stock market and have since bought a house.

make a killing

MEANING: make a large amount of money


My sister made a killing when she worked overseas in the oil industry.

make a living

MEANING: earn enough money to live


If you want to make a good living it is necessary to get a good education.

make ends meet

MEANING: have enough money to pay your bills


I have been having trouble making ends meet because the rent for my apartment is too high.

make money hand over fist

MEANING: fast and in large amounts


My cousin has been making money hand over fist with her business.

money to burn

MEANING: very much money, more money than is needed


My aunt has money to burn and is always travelling somewhere.

nest egg

MEANING: money someone has saved up


I made a nice nest egg when I was working and I am now able to go to school.

on a dime

MEANING: in a very small space


I had to turn my car on a dime when I entered the parking lot.

on a shoestring

MEANING: with little money to spend, on a very low budget


He started his business on a shoestring but now it is very successful.

on the house

MEANING: paid for by the owner


We went to the restaurant and all of the refreshments were on the house.

pad the bill

MEANING: add false expenses to a bill


The plumber who was fixing our plumbing system was padding the bill so we got another plumber.

pass the buck

MEANING: make another person decide something, put the duty or blame on someone else


The foreman is always passing the buck and will never take responsibility for anything that he does.

pay an arm and a leg for something

MEANING: pay a high price for something


I paid an arm and a leg for my car but I am not very happy with it.

pay dirt

MEANING: a valuable discovery, the dirt in which much gold is found


We hit pay dirt when we got the rights to distribute the new product.

pay off 1

MEANING: pay and discharge from a job


The company paid off their employees and shut down for the winter.

Pay-off 2

- bribe


The mayor received a pay-off and was forced to resign from his position.

pay through the nose

MEANING: pay at a very high price, pay too much


I paid through the nose when I had to buy gasoline in the small town.

penny for your thoughts

MEANING: tell someone what you are thinking about


“I will give you a penny for your thoughts”, I said to my friend who was looking out of the window.

penny-wise and pound foolish

MEANING: wise or careful in small things to the costly neglect of important things


My friend is penny-wise and pound foolish and economizes on small things but wastes all of his money on big things.

pick up the tab

MEANING: pay the bill


I picked up the tab for my sister and her three children at the restaurant.

piggy bank

MEANING: a small bank, sometimes in the shape of a pig for saving coins


The small boy saved up much money in his piggy bank.

pinch pennies

MEANING: be careful with money, be thrifty


My grandmother always pinches pennies and will never spend her money foolishly.

pony up



I had to pony up a lot of money to pay to get my car repaired.

put in your two cents

MEANING: give your opinion


I stood up in the meeting and put in my two cents before I was asked to sit down.

quick buck

MEANING: money earned quickly and easily (and sometimes dishonestly)


The company is only interested in making a quick buck and is not at all interested in quality.

rain check

MEANING: a promise to repeat an invitation at a later date


I decided to take a rain check and go to the restaurant another time.

rake in the money

MEANING: make a lot of money


We have been raking in the money at our restaurant and will soon be able to go on a long holiday.

red cent

MEANING: the smallest coin, a trivial sum of money


I wouldn’t give a red cent for my neighbor’s car.

salt away

MEANING: save money


My father’s uncle salted away thousands of dollars before he died.

scrape together

MEANING: gather small amounts of money (usually with some difficulty) for something


We scraped together some money and bought a present for my mother.

set one back



My friend asked me how much my new coat had set me back.

shell out



My father shelled out a lot of money to get his house painted.

splurge on something

MEANING: spend more money than one might ordinarily spend


We decided to splurge and go to a nice restaurant for dinner.

stone broke

MEANING: having no money, penniless


His brother is stone broke and won’t be able to come to the movie with us.

strapped for cash

MEANING: have no money available


I am strapped for cash at the moment so I won’t be able to go with you on a holiday.

strike it rich

MEANING: become rich or successful suddenly or without expecting to


My grandfather struck it rich searching for gold but when he died he had no money.

take a beating

MEANING: lose money (usually a lot)


My friend took a beating on the stock market and has now stopped buying stocks..

tighten one`s belt

MEANING: live on less money than usual


We decided to tighten our belt and save up some money for a holiday.

two bits

MEANING: twenty-five cents, a quarter of a dollar


The newspaper was only two bits a copy.

(not worth) two cents

MEANING: almost nothing, something not important or very small


The car that my friend bought is not worth two cents.

two cents worth

MEANING: something one wants to say, opinion


I asked the president for his two cents worth but he didn’t want to give us his opinion.

(not) worth a cent

MEANING: not worth anything, not of any value


That antique desk is not worth a cent although everyone thinks it is very valuable.

worth your salt

MEANING: worth what one is paid


Our secretary is worth her salt and is a great asset to our company.