back-of-the-envelope calculation

This expression refers to a quick approximate calculation done informally as, for example, on the back of an envelope.
“I don’t need the exact amount. Just give me a back-of-the-envelope calculation.”

ballpark figure

If someone gives a ballpark figure, they give an approximate number or a rough estimate of the cost of something.
“I don’t know exactly how much it will cost, but a ballpark figure would be around $100 000.”

bet your bottom dollar

If you bet your bottom dollar on something, you are absolutely certain of it.
“Jack is very punctual. You can bet your bottom dollar he’ll be here at 9 o’clock on the dot.”

tighten your belt

If you need to tighten your belt, you must spend your money carefully because there is less available.
“Another bill?  I’ll have to tighten my belt this month!”

born with a silver spoon in your mouth

A person who is born with a silver spoon in their mouth is born into a very rich family.
“Jessica never has to worry about money; she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.”

bread and butter

Your bread and butter is a job or activity that is your main source of income and provides you with enough to cover your basic needs.
“I’m a writer but teaching is my bread and butter.”

on the breadline

People who live on the breadline have a very low income or barely enough money to survive.
“Due to the recent crisis, there are more people on the breadline than ever before.”

break the bank

If you break the bank, you spend all of your money.
“Buying a new car is going to break the bank, but we really need it.”

burn your fingers / get your fingers burnt

If you burn your fingers (or get your fingers burnt), you suffer financially as a result of foolish behaviour.
“Jack got his fingers burnt playing on the stock market.”

(a) cash cow

A product or service which is a regular source of income for a company is called a cash cow.
“Tony’s latest invention turned out to be a real cash cow.

cash in your chips

If you cash in your chips, you sell something, especially shares, either because you need the money or because you think the value is going to fall.
“Andy cashed in his chips as soon as business started to slow down.”

chicken feed

An amount of money considered small or unimportant is called chicken feed.
“I got a job during the holidays but the pay was chicken feed.”

(the) other side of the coin

When you want to mention a different or contradictory aspect of a situation, you refer to the other side of the coin.
“The house is lovely and spacious, but the other side of the coin is that it is far from shops and schools.”

cost an arm and a leg

If something costs an arm and a leg, it is very expensive.
“The house cost us an arm and a leg, but we have no regrets.”

cost the earth

If something costs the earth, it is very expensive indeed.
“Amanda wears designer clothes that must cost the earth!”

at all costs

If you are determined to obtain or achieve something at all costs, you want it regardless of the expense, effort or sacrifice involved.
“The journalist was determined at all costs to get a report from the war zone.”

cut one’s losses

If you end or withdraw from something that is already failing, in order to reduce the loss of money, time or effort invested in it, you cut your losses.
“The project is heading for failure. Let’s cut our losses before it’s too late.”

deep pockets

A person or organisation who has deep pockets has a lot of money.
“Andy’s business is not doing well at the moment. He says he needs a friend with deep pockets!”

down payment

When someone makes a down payment, they pay part of the total amount agreed when signing a purchase deal or contract.
“Emma and Paul are excited. They put a down payment on their first house yesterday.”

get your money’s worth

If you get your money’s worth you get good value for the money you spend.
“With the travel pass included, we really got our money’s worth.”

go Dutch

To go Dutch with somebody means to share the cost of something such as a meal or a concert.
“Young people today tend to go Dutch when they go out together.”

eat/dip into one’s savings

If you eat or dip into your savings, you spend part of the money you have put aside for future use.
“I had to dip into my savings to have the car repaired.”

eather your nest

To say of someone that they are feathering their nest means that they are taking advantage of their position in order to obtain money and enjoy a comfortable life.
“Some people think that government officials use their position to feather their own nest.”

feed the kitty

If you feed the kitty, you contribute to a collection of money called a ‘kitty’ in order to help a good cause.
“Come on! Every little helps. You should feed the kitty for a good cause!”

(be) flat broke

If you are flat broke, you have absolutely no money at all.
“I’d love to go to the match with you, but right now I’m flat broke – sorry!”

get your money’s worth

If you get your money’s worth, you receive good value for the amount of money you spend.
“We bought a travel pass to use the public transport system and we really got our money’s worth.”

give someone a run for their money

If you give someone a run for their money, you show that you can do something as well as them, or almost as well.
“He didn’t win but he gave some of the professional players a (good) run for their money.”

gnomes of Zurich

This is a disparaging term for Swiss bankers who control a lot of money and are said to be uninterested in the provenance of funds and protect their clients’ identity.
“The gnomes of Zurich refuse to cooperate with the investigating officials.”

golden handcuffs

The term golden handcuffs refers to a large sum of money or a generous financial arrangement granted to an executive as an incentive to stay in their job, or to ensure long-term cooperation after their departure.

golden handshake

A golden handshake is a generous sum of money given to a person when they leave a company or retire (sometimes given to encourage early retirement).
“Since the village has become fashionable, he charges for every photograph taken of his house – he’s on a gravy train!”

gravy train

If someone is on the gravy train, they have found an easy way to make money, one that requires little effort and is without risk.
“Since the village has become fashionable, he charges for every photograph taken of his house – he’s on a gravy train!”

hard up

If you are hard up, you have very little money.
“We were so hard up that we had to sleep in the car.”

hit pay dirt

If you hit (or strike) pay dirt, you are lucky and suddenly find yourself in a successful money-making situation.
“Charlie finally hit pay dirt with his latent invention.”

hush money

Money paid to keep information secret or avoid a scandal is called hush money.
“The politician had an extra-marital affair and paid hush money to keep it secret.”

on the house

Something which ison the house is offered free of charge, usually in a bar or restaurant.
“The new owner of the pub offered us a drink on the house.”

ill-gotten gains

Money, profit or benefits that are made in a dishonest or illegal manner are called ill-gotten gains.
“He won money by cheating and is now enjoying his ill-gotten gains.”

in for a penny, in for a pound

This expression means that since you have started something or become involved in it, you might as well complete it or see it through to the end.
“All right. I said I’d participate, but as you say: ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’!”

itchy/itching palm

Someone who has an itching palm is greedy for money, for example tips or commission (as if putting money in the palm of their hand would ease the itch).
“He’s said to have an itching palm – he does nothing without payment!”

keep your head above water

To keep one’s head above water means to try to survive by staying out of debt, for example a small business.
“Business has been slow, but we’ve managed to keep our head above water.”

keep the wolf from the door

In order to keep the wolf from the door, you need to have enough money to buy food and other essentials.
“My grandparents earned barely enough money to keep the wolf from the door.”

a kickback

This expression refers to money paid illegally for favourable treatment.
“The property developers were accused of giving kickbacks to the local authorities.”

laugh all the way to the bank

A person who makes a lot of money easily, especially through someone else’s stupidity, is said to laugh all the way to the bank.
“If we fail to renew the contract, our competitors will be laughing all the way to the bank.”

(a) licence to print money

An officially authorized activity which enables people to make a lot of money without much effort is called a licence to print money.
“The contract to supply computers to schools was a licence to print money.”

live beyond your means

If someone lives beyond their means, they spend more money than they earn or can afford.
“The cost of living was so much higher in New York that he was soon living beyond his means.”

live (or be) on the breadline

People who live on the breadline have a very low income or barely enough money to survive.
“Due to the recent crisis, there are more people living on the breadline than ever before.”

live in clover

Someone who lives in clover has enough money to lead a very comfortable life.
“I dream of making an enormous amount of money and living in clover for the rest of my life!”

live from hand to mouth

If you live from hand to mouth, you don’t have any money to save because whatever you earn is spent on food and other essentials.
“Most families in that area live from hand to mouth.”

live high off the hog

Someone who lives high off the hog has a lot of money and a very comfortable lifestyle.
“Now he’s wealthy and living high off the hog.”

(a) loan shark

A loan shark is a person who lends money at extremely high interest rates to people who are unable to obtain a loan from the bank.
“The young immigrant was beaten because he was late paying back money to a loan shark.”

look (or feel) like a million dollars

If you look (or feel) like a million dollars, you look/feel extremely good or attractive.
“With a tan and a new hairstyle Jane looked (like) a million dollars!”

lose your shirt

If you lose your shirt, you lose all your money or possessions, especially as a result of speculation or gambling.
“He lost his shirt when the bank went bankrupt.”

make ends meet

If you find it difficult to pay for your everyday needs because you have very little money, it is hard for you to make ends meet.
“Anne’s salary is so low that she finds hard to make ends meet.”

make a killing

If you say that someone has made a killing you mean that they have had great financial success.
“He made a killing on the stock market.”

make a mint

If someone makes a mint, they make a large amount of money.
“They made a mint selling hamburgers outside the football stadium.”

made of money

A person who is made of money is very rich and can buy whatever they want.
“Hey! I can’t afford that much. I’m not made of money!”

(have) money to burn

People who have money to burn have so much money that they can spend it on anything they want.
“A leather jacket is no problem for Sarah. She’s got money to burn!”

money burns a hole in your pocket

To say that money burns a hole in somebody’s pocket means that they are eager to spend it quickly or extravagantly.
“As soon as she’s paid she goes shopping. Money burns a hole in her pocket!”

money can’t buy happiness

This expression means that no amount of wealth can guarantee happiness
“In spite of his fortune he was sad and lonely. Money can’t buy happiness!”

money doesn’t grow on trees

To say that money doesn’t grow on trees means that it is not plentiful or easily obtained.
“Watch how you spend your money Alex. It doesn’t grow on trees you know!”

money for jam

A very easy way of earning money is called money for jam.
“All you’ve got to do is hand out brochures. It’s money for jam!”

money is the root of all evil

This expression means that money incites people to do evil things.
“The victim was murdered for money. As always, money is the root of all evil.”

money for old rope

Money earned from a task that requires very little effort is called money for old rope.
“Getting paid for watering the garden is money for old rope!”

money laundering

When people launder money, they manage to conceal the source of illegally-obtained money so that it is believed to be legitimate.
“Certain countries have been accused of facilitating money laundering.”

money pit

A place, project or financial commitment that requires you to spend an increasingly large amount of money, more than was initially anticipated, is referred to as a ‘money pit’.
“The renovation of the charming old house turned out to be a money pit.”

money doesn’t grow on trees

To say that money doesn’t grow on trees means that it is not plentiful or easily obtained.
“Watch how you spend your pocket money Charlie. Money doesn’t grow on trees you know!”

money doesn’t grow on trees

To say that money doesn’t grow on trees means that it is not plentiful or easily obtained.
“Watch how you spend your pocket money Charlie. Money doesn’t grow on trees you know!”

money makes the world go round

To say that money makes the world go round means that money motivates people to do things. Financial benefit serves as encouragement.
“Things get done when people are paid. Money makes the world go round!”

(a) money pit

A money pit is something that requires increasing amounts of money to be spent on it, more than was initially anticipated.
“The renovation of the charming old house turned out to be a money pit.”

(a) money spinner

If an activity is a money spinner, it is a very successful way of making money.
“Washing cars was quite a money spinner when I was a student.”

money talks

Money talks means that people with a lot of money have power and influence.
“The owner is a millionaire and he’s influential – money talks!”

more money than sense

If you have more money than sense, you have a lot of money which you waste by spending it in a foolish manner.
“He celebrated the birth of the baby by buying a sports car. He’s got more money than sense!”

not (do something) for love or money

If you say that you cannot or will not do something for love or money, you mean that you will not do it under any circumstances.
“I would not try bungee jumping for love or money!”

put your money where your mouth is

If you put your money where your mouth is, not only do you express your interest, you give financial support to causes that you believe in.
“If people are really interested in helping the underprivileged, they should put their money where their mouth is.”

rake in the money

If you rake in the money, you make money in large quantities.
“Bob’s business is so successful, he’s raking in the money.”

rolling in money

Someone who is very wealthy or has access to great amounts of money is rolling in money.
“Steve has no financial problems. His parents are rolling in money.”

see the colour of someone’s money

If you want to see the colour of somebody’s money, you want to be sure that the person in question has enough money to pay you before you accept to do something.
“We want to see the colour of his money before shipping the goods.”

throw money at something

If you throw money at something, you try to solve a problem by spending money on it, without using any other methods.
“The refugee problem cannot be solved just by throwing money at it.”

throw good money after bad

Someone who spends additional money on something that was already considered a bad investment is said to throw good money after bad.
“Buying a second-hand computer and then spending money to have it repaired is throwing good money after bad!”

nest egg

If you have a nest egg, you have a reserve of money which you put aside for future needs.
“Our parents consider the money from the sale of their house as a nest egg for their old age.”

out of your own pocket

If you pay for something out of your own pocket, you cover the cost with your own money.
“Breakfast is included but you must pay for lunch out of your own pocket.”

pay over the odds

If you pay over the odds, you pay too much or you pay more for something than it is really worth.
“She’s willing to pay over the odds for an original Kelly handbag to add to her collection.”

(be) paid peanuts

If you are paid peanuts, you have a very low salary or you earn very little.
“Jenny has a very interesting job, but she’s paid peanuts.”

cost a pretty penny

If something costs a pretty penny it is very expensive.
“His new yacht must have cost him a pretty penny!”

(the) penny drops

When a person has difficulty understanding or realising something, and then the penny drops, they finally understand.
“The teasing continued for some time until the penny dropped and the boy realised it was a joke!”

in for a penny, in for a pound

This expression means that once you start doing something, you might just as well do it wholeheartedly and not stop at half-measures.
“Joe finally accepted to be on the committee, then he accepted to be the chairman. “In for a penny, in for a pound‘.” he said!”

a penny for your thoughts

This phrase is used to ask someone what they are thinking about.
“You look pensive. A penny for your thoughts.”

turn up like a bad penny

If someone turns up like a bad penny, they appear at a place or event where they are not welcome or not wanted.
“I try to avoid Jessica, but wherever I go she turns up like a bad penny!”

pick up the tab

If you pick up the tab, you pay the bill or pay the cost of something.
“There was a celebration lunch for the team and Bill picked up the tab.”

play the market

If you play the market, you buy stocks and shares in the hope of making a profit when you sell them.
“It’s always tempting to play the market, but it’s more risky at the present time.”

price oneself out of the market

If you price yourself out of the market, you charge such a high price for your goods or services that nobody wants to buy them.
“Danny was so eager to make money that he priced himself out of the market.”

(go from) rags to riches

If a person goes from rags to riches, they start off being very poor and become very rich and successful.
“By renovating old houses in the right places, he went from rags to riches.

rob Peter to pay Paul

If someone robs Peter to pay Paul, they pay one debt with money borrowed from someone else, thus creating another debt.
“David borrowed from a friend to pay his overdraft, a typical case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.”