20 Money Idioms Explained to English as a Second Language Learners

Updated on December 13, 2016
There are lots of idioms referring to money in the English language that English as a Second Language learners ought to know.
There are lots of idioms referring to money in the English language that English as a Second Language learners ought to know. | Source

Idioms definitely make up one of the most difficult English topics for students of English as a Second Language.

This is because English as a Second Language learners often cannot understand idioms or idiomatic expressions.

Idioms have meanings that are far removed from their literal definitions.

To make things more complicated for English as a Second Language learners, idioms are very common in the English language.

It is said that there are more or less 25,000 idioms in English.

Below are just 20 idioms that refer to money, with so many more out there.

English as a Second Language learners may want to take time to understand and remember these idioms because they are very commonly used when people talk about money.

1. Born With A Silver Spoon in One`s Mouth

The idiom born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth means to be born rich. People born with a silver spoon in their mouth are usually children of wealthy parents who can give their kids comfortable lives.


She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. By the time she was born, her parents were already self-made millionaires.

2. Bread and Butter

The idiom bread and butter refers to one’s source of income. A person makes bread and butter with his or her jobs, businesses or other sources of earnings.


Writing is her bread and butter. She feeds and sends her kid to school with her earnings from writing online.

3. Break the Bank

An idiom that can mean to use up all of one’s money is break the bank. This idiom can also mean to win all the money at a gambling table.


The mother broke the bank and used up all her money in luckless gambling.

4. Bring Home the Bacon

Bring home the bacon is an idiom that stands for earning a salary. This idiom specifically suggests that the salary would be used to support a family.


I work on weekends and holidays to bring home the bacon.

5. Cash in One’s Chips

The idiom cash in one’s chips implies selling something. This idiom particularly states that the proceeds from the sale would be used for another thing.


Footloose, he cashed in his chips and went on a world tour.

6. Foot the Bill

Foot the bill is an idiom that means to pay for the fees.


I will help my daughter foot the bill of her college education.

7. From Rags to Riches

An idiom that represents from poverty to prosperity is from rags to riches.


She went from rags to riches with pure hardwork.

8. Get a Run for One’s Money

The idiom get a run for one’s money denotes receiving a challenge. This idiom can also mean getting what one rightfully deserves.


Our big company is getting a run for its money from the small-sized yet innovative competitor.

9. Have Sticky Fingers

Have sticky fingers is an idiom that means to be a shoplifter, pickpocket or a thief.


Keep an eye on your belongings. He has sticky fingers and might get your things when you’re not looking.

10. Head Over Heels in Debt

When somebody is described with the idiom head over heels in debt, then he or she owes so much money or is saddled with debt.


She became completely broke – head over heels in debt – when she lost her job and remained unemployed for a few months.

11. Keep the Wolf from the Door

The idiom keep the wolf from the door connotes having money that is enough to support basic needs. This idiom also suggests that the money cannot cover excesses or luxury.


While my job gives out a salary that is just enough to keep the wolf from the door, I am still thankful I have it.

12. Live from Hand to Mouth

Live from hand to mouth is another idiom that insinuates living on very little money.


We have to live from hand to mouth to last these tough times.

13. Pay a King’s Ransom and Pay an Arm and a Leg

The idiomatic expressions pay a king’s ransom and pay an arm and a leg both mean to pay dearly for something. The amount used to pay for something is very high, somehow unreasonable.


I paid an arm and a leg to give her a party but it was worth it. She had tons of fun!

14. Penny Pincher

The idiom penny pincher refers to someone who is overly conscious about money, even very small amounts of money.


My brother is a penny pincher. He does not want to spend anything for his family.

15. Penny-wise and Pound Foolish

Penny-wise and pound foolish is an idiom that may be similar but still different from the previous idiom penny pincher. This idiom means being careful in handling small amounts but careless in dealing with large amounts.


The old man is penny-wise and pound foolish. He scrimps on foods but indulges in travels.

16. Pick up the Tab/Check

Pick up the tab/check is an idiom that is similar to foot the bill. This idiom means to pay for the bill or the expense.


He picked up the tab for tonight’s dinner. He just got promoted and his paycheck will be raised three-folds.

17. Pour Money down the Drain

The idiom pour money down the drain connotes misusing or throwing away money.


Our company has money down the drain with its investments in the bankrupt firm.

18. Put in One’s Two Cents

To put in one’s two cents is to give one’s comments. This idiom is often used to state that the comments are only a personal opinion.


I would like to put in my two cents during the discussions.

19. Put One’s Money Where One’s 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 about something and to actually start acting.


I have to put my money where my mouth is and start building this business I have always talked about with my friends.

20. Take a Beating

An idiom that means to lose so much money is take a beating.


We took a beating during the times we were unemployed. Now, we’ve learned to save enough money to cover hard times.

Money Idioms

© 2011 kerlynb


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      5 months ago

      Hello thanks for sharing the INFO and I have got a question ,what is the idiom for to spend more money that I earn or I can afford .


    • profile image

      Tural Rustamov 

      11 months ago

      Thanks a lot from Azerbaijan.


    • profile image


      13 months ago

      English is weird

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Many thanks

    • kerlynb profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      @SimpleGiftsofLove Hello! Thanks for visiting my hub :) Really appreciate your comment.

    • SimpleGiftsofLove profile image


      8 years ago from Colorado

      Great hub, the English language is difficult to figure out, and we could make it easier for others to understand. You explained them well, another great piece! Have a lovely day.

    • kerlynb profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      @Hubertsvoice Thank you so much! I learned a new definition from you :)

    • kerlynb profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      @smahillah Hello! Thanks for stopping by my hub. Oh, I am still learning my idioms. I can't say I know them all. I think the best way to learn them is to study at least five idioms each day :)

    • smahillah profile image


      8 years ago from indonesia

      I like your article,that's very useful for me as a learner.really, I have trouble in idiomatic expression,give me your trick how to learn idiomatic expression.thank so much before

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very good. If I might add my two cents worth,

      The idiom cash in one’s chips implies selling something. This idiom particularly states that the proceeds from the sale would be used for another thing. It also means to die. Example: Old Elmer cashed in his chips with that last illness.

    • kerlynb profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      @asmaiftikha You are so welcome :) Love reading your comments. Thank you so much!

    • asmaiftikhar profile image


      8 years ago from Pakistan

      Thanks a lot kerlynab for sharing this ,i get a lot from your hubs related to english language.keep benefiting the people like this .with love and a lot prayers.thanks dear.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)