Everyday English idioms using “money” or “cash”

Idioms, oh how I know you love idioms! Here are some of my favorite English idioms that use the word money or cash.

If you come across more idioms on the theme of money or cash, why not leave me a voicemail and tell me about it?

  • Give you a run for your money
  • (Right) on the money
  • Put your money where your mouth is
  • Money talks, bullshit walks
  • Cash cow
  • Cold, hard cash

Give you a run for your money
If someone gives you a run for your money, they compete with you and force you to work hard to beat them or stay ahead.

Microsoft has dominated the home computing market for a long time, but Apple is giving them a run for their money these days.

(Right) on the money
correct, accurate

1. I had to guess most of the answers on the test, but most of them were right on the money!
2. Anyone who predicted the success of the iPhone was right on the money.

Put your money where your mouth is
This means that actions are more important than words to show that you believe in, are committed to, or support something.

He finally started volunteering at the local animal shelter instead of just complaining about animal cruelty on Facebook. You could say he put his money where his mouth is.

Money talks, bullshit walks
Like put your money where your mouth is, this means that actions are more important than words. But money talks, bullshit walks is especially useful when real money is involved: money has more power to influence people than words. For example, leaving a $1000 deposit on something you want to buy is more convincing than saying you will come back and buy it tomorrow.

Be careful! Money talks, bullshit walks is a very rude and aggressive way to express this. Only slightly less rude are show me the money and put up or shut up. The general sense of all of these expressions is “prove to me that you are serious, or don’t waste my time.”

[To a close friend] “This girl said she was keen to rent my apartment. But she wouldn’t give me a deposit, so I’m skeptical. Money talks, bullshit walks!”

Cash cow
A product or business that steadily produces a lot more profit than what it cost to start (and maintain) it. Think of buying a cow that produces milk for many years once it is grown. The total cost of buying the cow, feeding it, and caring for it is much less than the total profits from all those years of milk. (In theory, anyway!)

Microsoft’s biggest cash cow is their “Microsoft Office” program suite, but competition from the Google Docs could change that.

Cold, hard cash
Physical money (bills or coins), not checks or credit cards. Also buying something very expensive (like a house) with one payment instead of with many payments over time (a mortgage).

1. Drug dealers don’t don’t accept credit cards; you have to pay them in cold, hard cash.
2. Young tech millionaires don’t have time for mortgages: they pay for their flashy, ridiculously expensive Manhattan apartments with cold, hard, cash. (Example paraphrased from this article. It was too good to resist!)