Today, you’re going to learn 42 words and phrases about money. Also check out Maths Vocabulary in English: Do You Know the Basics?
Like it or not, money is a big part of most of our lives.
So it’s important to be able to talk about it, right?
Here are 42 common words and phrases to help you talk about money in English.
1. Words to describe physical money
This is British English, and it basically means “a piece of paper money.” It’s short for “bank note.”
“I found a ten-pound note in the street the other day.”
“I tried to buy a sandwich with a fifty-pound note, but the shopkeeper wouldn’t accept it.”
“Bill” is the American word for “note.”
So we can talk about ten-pound notes, but we usually say ten-dollar bill.
My main question is “Who’s Bill?”
The money that isn’t notes — those shiny metal things? Those are coins.
Here’s something I’ve noticed about travelling:
In some countries, you end up with loads and loads of coins in your pocket. They just have so many of them.
The UK is one of those countries.
This word actually means the small pieces of metal that explode out of a bomb or a grenade.
But when we’re talking about money, it’s a very informal way to describe coins.
But there’s a difference in how we use “shrapnel.”
The word “coin” is countable:
“How many coins have you got in your pocket?”
But the word “shrapnel” is uncountable:
“How much shrapnel have you got on you? I need to get a ticket, and the machine doesn’t accept notes.”
When we pay for something, we do it one of two ways.
We can give the exact change: if the toothbrush you’re buying costs £1, and you give the shopkeeper £1, you’ve given the exact change.
But if you don’t have any shrapnel on you, you might want to pay with a five-pound note.
Then the shopkeeper gives you £4 in change.
Or perhaps you only have a fifty-pound note. So you try to pay for the toothbrush with that.
The shopkeeper just shakes his head and says, “Sorry, mate. I can’t break a fifty.”
What does it mean?
If the shopkeeper can’t give you the correct change for the fifty pounds because he doesn’t have it, then he can’t break the fifty-pound note.
And you don’t get a toothbrush.
Most countries have very, very low-value coins.
What colour are they in your country?
Probably, they’re this dark orange colour — or copper colour.
That’s why we call them coppers.
2. Words to describe amounts of money
This is British English, and it means “five-pound note.”
OK, you’ve guessed this one, haven’t you?
Yep — it means “ten-pound note.”
This only works for five pounds and ten pounds. We can’t say, for example, a twentier. It just sounds weird.
A lot of people I know (including myself) use these words when we’re outside the UK to talk about ten lira or ten lev or ten euros or whatever the currency is where we are.
I wrote about this in my big post on how to say numbers in English.
If you add “K” to a number in English, it means “thousand.”
Here’s an example for you to see how it works (and also to see how ridiculously overpriced things are in the UK).
These are beach huts:
They’re cute things that you’ll often find on the beach in the UK.
The idea is that you buy one and then you have a little room to change your clothes in, drink tea in and even have a nap in when you’re at the beach.
This one in the photo is in Brighton, my hometown.
Want to buy one? Well — they’re pretty expensive.
These guys cost over 20K.
Ridiculous, isn’t it?
“Grand” is exactly the same as “K.”
It means “thousand.”
“I still can’t believe those beach huts are going for over 20 grand each.”
Cash is real money — not virtual money.
If you’ve got bank notes or coins, then you’ve got cash.
If you’re using your card (or cheques, like it’s the ‘80s), then you’re not using cash.
Also — Johnny Cash. Because there’s never a bad time for Johnny Cash.
3. Words to describe currencies and denominations
I’m sure you know this one. It’s the currency used in the UK.
But just one thing: you don’t need to say “sterling.” No one uses it!
In fact, I had no idea what it meant until I was an adult.
You’ll hear this one a lot in the UK.
This is British English, and it means “pound.”
But be careful!
The plural of “quid” is “quid” (not “quids”).
So your kettle might cost one quid or fifty quid.
Which is really expensive for a kettle. Even a nice electric one with flashy green lights and everything.
Don’t buy it!
This is originally American English, and it means “dollars.”
When I visited Australia back in February, I was pleased to hear that they use “bucks” there, too. A lot.
It feels good to say, right?
“That’ll be seven bucks, please.”
This is short for “pence.”
There are 100 pence in a pound.
It’s also the same in the singular and plural — so something could be 1p or 50p.
But prices can get a little tricky to say when they get more complicated. Click here for more on how to say prices correctly — it’s harder than you think!
4. Ways to talk about using the ATM
OK. What’s this?
Yep — it’s an ATM.
OK. What about this?
Yep — it’s an ATM.
But we can also call it a cash machine.
And this? What’s this?
Yep — it’s an ATM or a cash machine or, if you’re talking to someone from the UK, a hole-in-the-wall.
But what can you do with it?
OK. You’ve got no cash on you, and you need to buy that amazing teapot — and you need to buy it NOW!
So you go to the cash machine and withdraw the cash you need.
“Withdraw” is quite a formal word.
In most situations it’s nice to use this phrasal verb instead:
“Give me five minutes — I’ve just got to go to the ATM and take out a bit of cash.”
So we can use the ATM to withdraw money, but we can also use it to do the opposite.
When you deposit money, you take the real money you have in your hand, let the machine eat it up and watch the money get added to your bank account.
So “withdraw” is quite formal and “take out” is quite informal.
Also “deposit” is quite formal and “put into” is quite informal.
“Someone’s put about four grand into my account! Where did it come from?”
5. Ways to describe the money you get
This is, surprisingly, the day you get paid.
Maybe it’s every Monday.
Or maybe it’s on the first of the month.
Or maybe it’s NEVER! (That job was awful.)
Usually when people talk about their salary, they’re describing how much they get paid every year or every month or, sometimes, every hour — but only two of these are technically correct.
A salary is how much you get paid every year.
However, you’ll often hear people talk about a “monthly salary.”
And that’s fine, as the monthly salary is calculated based on how much you make in a year.
So how do we describe the amount of money you get per hour?
That’s when “wage” comes in.
A wage is usually used to describe the money you get for one hour’s work.
Most countries have a minimum wage, which is the smallest amount of money a company can legally pay their workers.
This is the money you get over a period of time.
So we can talk about a weekly income, a monthly income or a yearly income.
But we actually use this word in lots of others ways.
For example, a way to describe poor families or rich families is by using the term “low-income household” or “high-income household.”
This is often used by people who work in sales. Probably because when you’re trying to sell stuff to people, it’s good to avoid the words “rich” and “poor.”
We can also use the phrase “on a six-figure income” (an income with six numbers, e.g., $500,000).
It’s basically a way to say you’re rich:
“50 quid for a kettle? No problem — I’m on a six-figure income.”
6. Words to describe paying less
Here’s it is — your dream toaster:
It not only makes toast, but can filter coffee, travel through time and also make your enemies do embarrassing things in public.
But there’s a problem. A predictable one.
It’s really expensive — completely out of your price range.
Then, one day, the shop decides to sell it at a much cheaper price.
In fact, they cut the price by 80%.
That’s an 80% discount.
Now you can afford it!
Go get that toaster!
There are some times of the year when the shops go crazy with discounts.
In the USA, there’s an event called Black Friday. And it’s absolutely mental and ridiculous.
Just for one day, the shops discount everything — a lot.
As a result, people start queuing outside stores one, two, even three days before the special day.
When the doors open, everyone tries to kill each other (almost) to get to the cheap, heavily discounted, stuff:
(Really — is stuff that important?)
Anyway, Black Friday is a massive sale — a period of time when a shop, or lots of shops, have big discounts.
You also have closing-down sales, when shops are about to close down, and they want to sell everything they have left.
When you buy something at a discount because it was part of a sale, you can say it was “on sale.”
“Do you really want to buy that?”
“Yeah — I think so. Anyway, it’s on sale.”
Sometimes shops give discounts.
But so do friends.
Let’s say you’ve got a good friend who does awesome tattoos.
Everyone wants her to do their tattoos.
In fact, she’s the most popular tattoo artist in town and, as a result, she charges a lot of money for them.
But not to you — you’re one of her best friends.
You can get a tattoo from her at a much cheaper price.
She’s your friend, so she charges you less.
She does that tattoo at mates’ rates — a discount for friends.
7. Ways of describing having no money
We’ve all been there, right?
That time when you just have no money to spend.
There are a few ways of describing this.
This is British English and basically means “without money — at least for now.”
It’s an adjective:
“Coming to the pub?”
“Not tonight, mate. I’m skint at the moment.”
Remember — it’s usually a temporary situation (like the day before payday). It’s different from being poor, which is something more permanent.
This is basically the same as “skint” but, it’s used outside the UK.
This means “very broke — really — I have literally NO money!”
8. Ways of describing how much stuff costs
You know that feeling, right?
You’re in a new city, and you’re hungry.
You see a restaurant that looks quite good — not too posh, so probably not expensive.
You sit down and look at the menu … and the prices.
Now — if the menu was really expensive you’d just leave, right?
But what if it’s only a bit expensive?
Just a little bit more than it should cost?
Well — you’d probably stay, wouldn’t you?
Even though the menu’s a bit pricey — a little bit more expensive than it should be. But only a little bit.
A waste of money
OK. All of a sudden, you’ve got a grand.
Quick! What do you spend it on?
You could spend it on a trip around the world.
Or you could put it in the bank and save it.
Or you could renovate your kitchen — it really needs it.
All good ideas, right?
Or you could buy that giant dog statue you saw yesterday.
Not such a good idea, right?
What? You went for the dog statue? Seriously?
You’ve spent the money on something stupid! It’s a complete waste of money!
When you buy something, and you get a great deal. It’s much cheaper than expected.
Perhaps it’s a skiing holiday in France for less than 100 bucks.
Or a beautiful teapot for just a quid.
Whatever it is, enjoy it — it’s a bargain!
9. Ways of describing spending money
Awesome! You’ve received a bonus 200 quid in your salary this month.
What are you going to do with the extra cash?
Well — you could save it.
Or you could splash out on that dream toaster you’ve always wanted.
“Splash out” basically means “spend freely.”
It’s usually for a special treat — something you wouldn’t usually buy because it’s a little pricey. But just this once. This is a special occasion! Why not?
Blow it all
You decide to sell your car because you realise that bikes are way better. (They are!)
So you sell it, and you get a good deal for it.
One day you have loads of money in your pocket.
So you take all your friends out for a big meal.
The next day you wake up and check how much is left.
Nothing! Not a penny!
You’ve blown it all!
When you blow your money on something, it means you spend a lot of money on something useless.
“When he was fired, the company gave him 20 grand. Guess what? He blew it all on a golden toaster. Unbelievable!”
Break the bank
This means “spend more than you should” or “spend more than you can afford.”
However, it’s often used in the negative to give a good reason for buying something:
“Well — it looks fun … and the tickets are only five quid.”
“Yeah! Let’s do it! It’s not exactly going to break the bank!”
10. Ways of describing not spending money
Here’s Tony. You may remember him from my post on negative personality adjectives:
He hates sharing his stuff.
And he most certainly will NOT be buying you a drink anytime soon.
It’s basically the opposite of “generous.”
This is basically the same as “stingy.”
We can also shorten it and just say “tight.”
“Hey, Tony! Can you lend me a couple of quid? I haven’t got enough on me for the ticket.”
“No. Buy your own ticket!”
“Come on! Don’t be so tight!”
On a tight budget
Money’s a funny thing, isn’t it?
Sometimes there are good times, and we feel like we can afford pretty much anything.
And sometimes there are … not-so-good times.
Times when we need to be careful about what we spend.
Times when even spending a quid or two on a cup of tea can break the bank.
That’s when we’re on a tight budget.
On a shoestring budget
This is similar to “on a tight budget,” but we use it when we’re describing how much money there is for a specific thing.
I have a friend who decided to cycle from Istanbul to Manchester on a shoestring budget.
Some of the best films were made on a shoestring budget.
Get the idea?
OK, so there we are — 42 words and phrases to talk about money in English.
But what did I miss?
What other words and phrases about money can you think of?
Let me know in the comments!
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