Paying through the nose and pushing the boat out (Money Idioms, Part 1)

Young woman pushes a kayak in the water of lake on a summer sunny day.
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by Kate Woodford

Today, in the latest of my money-themed posts, I’m looking at money idioms, by which I mean idioms that say something about money (and not idioms about other subjects that feature the words ‘penny’, ‘money’, ‘coin’ etc.). There are lots of money idioms so this is Part 1 and we’ll publish Part 2 in a couple of weeks.

The idioms in today’s post are all about lots of money. I’ll start with idioms that relate to spending lots of money. If you spend a great deal on a particular project or activity, you spare no expense on it, and, in UK English, if you spend a lot of money on a celebration in order to make it special, you may be said to push the boat out.

He’d clearly spared no expense providing hospitality for the occasion.

They’d really pushed the boat out for the twins’ eighteenth birthdays.

As you might imagine, some idioms that convey the idea of spending a lot of money are quite negative. For example, someone who habitually spends a lot of money, in a rather careless way, may be said disapprovingly to spend money like water or even to throw their money around:

She was so extravagant – she spent money like water.

They buy up these clubs and start throwing their money around.

Meanwhile, someone who throws money at a problem tries to solve it quickly by spending a lot of money, usually when they should be trying a more serious approach:

The issue won’t be solved by throwing money at it.

If you throw good money after bad, you waste money by continuing to spend money on a project that will clearly fail:

After a point you’re just throwing good money after bad and you need to admit defeat.

A few idioms are used for saying that something costs a lot of money. For example, a very expensive item may be said to cost (someone) an arm and a leg and if you pay through the nose for something, you pay a good deal more than you should for it:

You can get solid wooden tables, but they cost an arm and a leg.

I’m sure tickets are still available, but at this point you’ll pay through the nose for them.

The phrase (UK) daylight robbery/ (US) highway robbery is used to say that someone is charging far too much money for something:

Six pounds for a cup of coffee? That’s just daylight robbery!

Other idioms relate to having a lot of money. For example, if you suddenly have a lot of money, you may be said to be in the money:

Now he’s sold his company he’s in the money.

If money is no object for someone, they can buy whatever they like because they are very rich:

If money was no object, I’d go skiing twice a year.

Finally, it is sometimes said humorously that a person has more money than sense when they waste their money on something useless or very extravagant:

People who pay five hundred pounds for a meal have more money than sense!

Part 2 of this post will include idioms that say something about not having enough money and sayings about money.

18 thoughts on “Paying through the nose and pushing the boat out (Money Idioms, Part 1)

  1. Tatiana Balandina

    Thank you, Kate, for a very informative article,.What is extremely interesting for me is that the English expressions about spending money are absolutely the same (word for word) as the Russian ones, but about saving money are absolutely different

    1. Kate Woodford

      How interesting, Tatiana! For some reason, I’m always surprised to learn that English idioms are exactly the same in other languages. Really pleased you found the post useful.

    1. Denis

      Yes, these are great, but I would interpret them as ‘someone has so much money that even their chickens won’t peck on it’ (means that a person has a lot of money) and ‘throw your money to the wind’ (means that you squander your money needlessly).

  2. Vanessa Cardim de Aguiar

    Thank you for this article about money, spending money and expensive things. Here in Brazil, We speak the same way. We say too : “Sold parents to pay for something”

      1. Ivan Hernandez

        Hi Kate, very interesting topic and examples on sayings .. we learn something new everyday. Thanks

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