Making ends meet and feeling the pinch (Money idioms, Part 2)

close up photograph of a person holding an empty wallet, with credit cards and a calculator visible on the table in the background
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by Kate Woodford

Part 1 of this money-themed post looked at idioms that say something about having lots of money.  Today’s post features idioms about not having enough money and about controlling how you spend money when you don’t have very much of it. In addition, I’ll also include sayings about money.

A number of idioms describe the experience of being poor. For example, someone who lives (from) hand to mouth has only just enough money to live on but nothing more:

He was unemployed at the time and living from hand to mouth.

To make ends meet is to get just enough money to live on. You hear people say that they struggle to make ends meet and also that they work extremely hard just to make ends meet:

Most of these families already struggle to make ends meet.

She works a fifty-hour week just to make ends meet.

To feel the pinch is to feel the effects of having less money, for example because the prices of goods are now higher:

Larger companies can absorb more of these costs but even they are starting to feel the pinch.

If a person or company keeps their head above water, they manage to live or continue trading despite financial difficulties:

In the current economic climate, small companies like these are barely keeping their heads above water.

Moving on to idioms for controlling how we spend a limited amount of money, if you tighten your belt, you make an effort to spend less money:

My father lost his job and we had to tighten our belts.

In UK English, if you cut your coat according to your cloth, you are careful only to spend the money that you have:

When times are tough, you have to cut your coat according to your cloth.

To keep/save money for a rainy day is to save money in case something happens in the future that requires it:

We’ll spend some of it now on a nice holiday and save the rest for a rainy day.

Let’s finish by having a look at those money sayings. You might warn someone (especially a child) to be careful with their money and not waste it by saying Money doesn’t grow on trees. Meanwhile, Time is money is a reminder not to waste time that you could be using to earn money. Money talks is used for saying that rich people are powerful. Finally, in UK English the saying Where there’s muck there’s brass means that a lot of money can be made from dirty or unpleasant jobs.

That concludes my 2-part post on money idioms. I hope you found it useful.

14 thoughts on “Making ends meet and feeling the pinch (Money idioms, Part 2)

  1. Denis

    Nicely written! The thumbs up to the post.
    I also love the idiom ‘keep the wolf from the door’.
    For instance, one can say ‘I make money only enough to keep the wolf from the door.’

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