A dime a dozen
Meaning: very common and of little or no value
Use it: DVD players used to be a dime a dozen, but most people now stream their films on the internet.
Penny for your thoughts
Meaning: something you say when you want to know what another person is thinking
Use it: “Penny for your thoughts?” asked Bob, after John sat in silence for several minutes.
Rags to riches
Meaning: a situation when someone who was poor becomes rich
Use it: Simeon’s rags-to-riches story inspired other people to work hard at school.
Pass the buck
Meaning: to shift responsibility for something to another person
Use it: Officials have been passing the buck about the oil spill for two months, and the people are still waiting for an answer.
Time is money
Meaning: time is precious and limited, and should be treated as if you were spending money
Use it: We should hire an extra intern to speed up the booking process, after all, time is money.
Meaning: a job that pays well but doesn’t require much work
Use it: “All those who think they’re riding the gravy train will be fired, immediately,” shouted the boss.
Meaning: a pay-off usually for when a long-serving employee leaves a company
Use it: Tony’s golden handshake, after working at the company for 50 years, was in the six figures.
Right on the money
Meaning: exactly right or correct
Use it: The quiz show contestant’s guess was right on the money, and she ended up winning HK$100,000.
Money down the drain
Meaning: a waste of money
Use it: “Paying HK$100 for a disposable umbrella is just money down the drain,” said Vivian.
Give someone a run for their money
Meaning: to be as good at something as someone who is known for being very good at it
Use it: Natalie’s skill at the pinball machine gave veteran players a run for their money.
Meaning: money you give to someone to keep them quiet
Use it: The police officers were paid hush money so they would not report the crime to their bosses.
Money doesn’t grow on trees
Meaning: money has to be earned and that it’s not easy to get
Use it: “The most important thing in business is to learn that money doesn’t grow on trees; you have to really work hard to earn it,” said the investor.
Cash in one’s chips
Meaning: to give up; to accept your losses and withdraw
Use it: After 50 years at the firm, he’s finally decided to cash in his chips.
Meaning: a large sum of money
Use it: “HK$50,000 for a watch?! That’s a king’s ransom!” exclaimed the student.
Meaning: someone who doesn’t like to spend money.
Use it: Penny-pinching is a good trait to have – most of the time.
Put in one’s two cents
Meaning: to express one’s opinion
Use it: “We will have a discussion session after the presentation, so that everyone can put in their two cents on the matter,” said the CEO.
Live hand to mouth
Meaning: having hardly enough food or money to live on
Use it: “The number of families who live hand to mouth has increased in recent years,” said the researcher.
Worth one’s weight in gold
Meaning: very valuable
Use it: An umbrella in a rainstorm is worth its weight in gold.
In for a penny, in for a pound
Meaning: if you’re going to do something, it’s worth using extra effort or resources to do it right
Use it: “My mother once told me that if I was in for a penny, I might as well be in for a pound,” said the multimillionaire who invested all her money into her own company.
A cash cow
Meaning: something that provides a steady income
Use it: “Disney is busy milking the cash cow that is the Star Wars cinematic universe; they’ve just released another wave of action figures.”