How to Talk about Money in English

Money, money, money!

Some people say it is the root of all evil. Others say it means nothing at all.

But we all use it in our daily lives and we all need to talk about it at some point.

You might have to talk about money in the IELTS speaking test. Could be in parts one, two or three.

Or you might have to answer some questions about money in an interview. The subject could also come up in a conversation with English-speaking friends or work colleagues.

So you should try to expand your English vocabulary on the topic of money.

I have written a guide below to help you do just that. Follow each section and try to make sentences of your own using the words or phrases in each part.

The more you practise, the better you will become.

Are you ready? Let’s dive in!

 

Money, Money, Money!

 

There are many different words that we can use to say money.

Let’s look at some of them.

 

Cash

This is the most common word to use when talking about money.

When we say cash, we mean actual money in the form of notes and coins of any given currency. We cannot say that a credit card or using a payment app is cash.

Anything in the form of a currency is cash. For many years it was the most convenient way to pay for something, but now many shops and businesses may prefer a cashless payment in the form of an app.

 

In a shop or a department store, the sales clerk might ask:

How will you pay — cash or credit card?

 

Other ways you can use the word cash in a sentence:

Let me pay — I’ve got some cash.

Have you got any cash on you?

I have no cash at all.

 

Some other words to describe money.

Moolah

Lolly

Dosh

Dough

Bucks (American/Canadian/Australian)

Quid (British)

Big ones

Hard cash

Filthy lucre

Readies

Funds

Brass

Bread

 

Most of these phrases are very informal ways to say cash. They are often used in a jokingly way between friends.

Don’t worry! I’ve got lots of dosh on me.

I’ll pay for dinner — I’ve got the readies.

That’s a lot of bread you got there!

 

Note

In the UK, when we say note we are referring to a banknote. This is the piece of paper that money is printed on.

I found a five-pound note today!

I was in a taxi and tried to pay with a fifty-pound note but he said he didn’t have any change.

 

Bill

And in America, when they say bill they are referring to a banknote.

So, for example, a ten-dollar bill. A banknote that has a value of ten dollars.

Sorry, I’ve only got this fifty-dollar bill.

Can you change this five-dollar bill for me?

 

Coins

This is the money in your pocket that is not made of notes.

Coins usually have a lower value than notes or bills.

You often find that shops and taxis like to accept coins as they need the change for other customers of passengers.

You got any coins for the ticket machine?

 

Grand/K

If we are talking about any money over one thousand then we use the terms grand or k.

Grand or k simply means thousand.

I got a new job — the salary is 50 grand a year!

My car cost me ten grand.

He makes good money — about 100 k a year.

Her house was very expensive — well over 400 k.

 

Where to Put Money

 

You need to keep all your money in a convenient place.

There are several places you might put it.

Of course, we keep large sums of money in the bank. But for smaller sums of money, we like to keep it somewhere where we can access it very easily.

 

Pocket

For men, this is the most common place for them to keep their money.

I’ve got some cash in my pocket.

I always keep a few readies in my pocket when I go out.

 

Wallet

And this is another common place for a man to put his money, especially notes or bills. But in recent years, wallets have become less fashionable. Probably due to online payment systems and payment apps.

I put my wallet in my inside jacket pocket — it has my ID card, my credit cards and all my cash.

 

Purse

A woman usually likes to have a purse. She might keep her money in her purse, but also some other things such as cosmetics and house keys, etc.

I never leave the house without my purse — it has all my things in it and my cash.

 

Money Jar

People might keep a money jar in their house. It’s a place where people put all their loose change.

It may not have much value in terms of money, but it is very useful if you need some change for the bus in the morning.

When I get home, I always empty my pockets and put the coins in the money jar.

 

Piggy Bank

This is a small container made of china and usually in the shape of a pig.

Young children like to put coins in it. Adults encourage their children to save money this way.

I emptied my piggy bank and found that I had more than twenty dollars inside it.

 

How to Talk about Currency

 

Every country has its own currency. The value of each currency is different, but is often valued against the American dollar.

These are some of the world’s most common currencies:

Dollar — America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many others. Some countries use the American dollar as their main currency, even though they are not a part of America. Other countries and regions of the world use dollars as their currency. So, for example, there is the American dollar, but also the Canadian dollar, Australian dollar and Hong Kong dollar.

Pounds — UK, Egypt, Lebanon.

Euro — most European Union countries along with their territories outside of Europe or the EU.

But most countries have their own unique currency that only that one country uses.

For example, in China, they use renminbi or rmb. And in Japan, they use the yen.

In English, we always use the original name of the country’s currency.

So English speakers in Japan say yen. In India, we say rupee. In China, English-speakers say rmb, which is an abbreviation of renminbi.

There are no English words as such for other countries’ currencies.

 

Quid

In the UK, we use the word quid.

This is an informal word for pounds.

Can you lend me a few quid till Friday?

This shirt cost me 50 quid.

 

Please note that the word quid is uncountable. We don’t say two quids.

But the pound is countable — one pound, two pounds, three pounds.

The word quid is very informal. You can hear close friends use it with each other and people like taxi drivers use it all the time.

 

Bucks

Bucks in an informal word for dollars.

You can hear English-speakers in America, Canada and Australia use this word often.

Can I borrow ten bucks until tomorrow?

I make 30 bucks an hour.

 

Fiver and Tenner

These are informal words used in the UK.

Fiver means a five-pound note and tenner means a ten-pound note.

I found a fiver in the street today!

What do you think of this t-shirt? It only cost a tenner!

 

How to Talk about Spending Money in English

 

There are many words and phrases we can use when we talk about spending money.

These are some of the most common terms you can use in modern English.

 

To Charge

This means that someone asks you to pay for goods or services that you want to buy.

The shop charged me ten dollars for this belt.

I was charged 20 pounds for my haircut.

 

Discount

Sometimes a store or shop might offer a discount for a product or service.

This is where you get the item a little cheaper.

The shop was offering a discount on jeans, so I bought two pairs.

The cashier said they could give me a discount if I paid cash.

 

To Splash Out

This means to spend a lot of money.

Maybe you want to treat yourself to a special item. You have the money and you have a strong desire for buying the product or service — so you splash out!

I’ve decided to get a new car. So I am going to splash out on a brand new BMW.

I need a holiday — I’m going to splash out and book a five-star hotel in Spain!

 

To Fritter Away

This phrase means to spend money foolishly. To spend money you can’t really afford to spend on things you don’t really need.

Oh no! You’ve bought another pair of shoes. You fritter away your salary every month.

I don’t know where all my money has gone. I’ve frittered away over 200 pounds this week!

 

To Blow It All

This means to spend all your money. Maybe you go out for the evening and you spend all the money you have. Or you go shopping and spend everything that you have.

I went to the bar with my friends and spent all my money. I blow it all every time I meet up with them!

I have to really think about how much money I am spending. I manage to blow it all every month…

 

To Haggle

This is an informal word that means to negotiate.

When you haggle with someone, it means you are discussing how much to pay for the item or service.

The seller wants to keep the price high, while the person buying wants to reduce the price.

If I buy something in the market, I always try to haggle. You can often get things a little cheaper.

I haggled with the car mechanic and he said he could fix my engine for only 90 dollars.

 

To Overcharge

If you pay too much for an item, you have been overcharged.

Sometimes this can be a mistake, but it could be because the vendor thinks you are foolish and overcharges you!

I was overcharged at the hair salon! They charged me for a haircut and a hair colouring, but I only had a haircut!

We had lunch at the new Italian restaurant in town. But I think the owner tried to overcharge us. We won’t be going back there.

 

Good Deal/Great Deal

When we say something is a good deal or a great deal, it means that we are very happy with the price we paid for an item or service.

We got this great deal on a holiday to Greece — flights, hotel and car hire all in one price!

I got a good deal on my new car — I only paid five grand for it!

 

It won’t break the bank

If we are happy to buy something and we think the price is good, we use this phrase.

It means that we will not get into trouble with the bank manager for spending too much money!

Let’s go away this weekend — we need a break and it won’t break the bank.

I might buy some new shoes. My old ones are getting worn out and if I get a new pair it won’t break the bank.

 

Money doesn’t grow on trees

If someone spends too much money, we might reprimand them by using this phrase.

Why are you always buying new clothes? Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know!

You paid $400 on a pair of shoes? Money doesn’t grow on trees!

 

How to Talk about Buying Things in English

 

We use money to buy things. So let’s look at some common words and phrases we can use in English for buying things.

 

Credit

When you buy something on credit, it means that you are not paying for it in full right now. Instead, you will pay for it in the future on regular payment terms.

We use credit cards for this purpose. They are very popular, but we must be very careful when using them!

If I go out shopping, I try to use cash — I avoid buying things on credit if I can.

I have a credit card, but I only use it to buy emergency things on credit.

 

Ripped Off

This phrase means that the person you bought something from cheated you. They tricked you into spending more money than you should.

We went to a night market when we were on vacation, but got ripped off buying some sunglasses.

I bought a second-hand bike, but the guy who sold it to me ripped me off.

 

Change

Change is the money the vendor gives to us after we buy an item.

The item might cost $8.50 and you give the shop assistant $10. So you should get $1.50 in change.

I gave the taxi driver a tenner, but he said he didn’t have any change.

I bought a bottle of water in the supermarket and she gave me all the change in small coins!

 

To Break

When we say to break something, we mean to accept a large note — say fifty dollars — and give the right change back.

Sometimes it is a little difficult to have large amounts of change ready for people with large banknotes.

I tried to buy some chewing gum with a fifty-pound note, but the shop owner said he couldn’t break a fifty.

Can you break this tenner? I need some change to buy a bottle of water.

 

How to Talk about the Cost of Things in English

 

In English, we can talk about the cost of things in a variety of different ways.

Here are some useful words and phrases.

 

Outrageous

We use this word to describe something that is very very expensive. Maybe something that we think it too overpriced.

You paid $120,000 for your new car? That is outrageous!

I wanted to buy a suit, but some of the prices I saw were outrageous.

 

Pricey

This means that something is expensive. Not in an outrageous way, but still a little too expensive for your tastes or budget.

I wanted to try that new French restaurant in town, but I think it might be a little pricey.

I looked at tickets to the Grand Prix — wow, they’re kind of pricey.

 

A Waste of Money

In English, this means that the item or service is not good at all and no one should pay any money for it.

We went to see the new Nick Majors movie at the cinema last night. It’s terrible. What a waste of money!

I bought two shirts a couple of months ago and they have both shrunk. What a waste of money!

 

A Bargain

This is the opposite of a waste of money.

It means something is a great price and you are happy to spend the money.

I got tickets to go to Devon yesterday. They only cost a tenner each — what a bargain!

This deal says if you buy one pizza, you get a second one for free — what a bargain!

 

Dirt Cheap

This is a phrase that means very, very cheap. Literally, as cheap as dirt.

How much were your new jeans? They were dirt cheap.

I bought some earphones in the supermarket. They were dirt cheap.

 

How to Talk about Saving Money in English

 

People try to save money rather than spend it. In English, we can use the following words and phrases to express saving money. Or not saving it!

 

In Debt

This phrase means that you owe money to someone or to the bank. It could mean that you have no money at all as you owe so much. Often this is due to credit cards.

I cannot meet you this weekend. I have no money and I am in such deep debt!

I am in debt until the end of June. I have no money at all!

 

Tighten My Belt

This means to go on a very strict budget and not spend too much money.

Sometimes people do this after overspending for some time.

I really have to tighten my belt. I need to pay the rent this week and I have no money at all!

I need to buy a new armchair, but I see they have become quite pricey. I think I need to tighten my belt.

 

On a Tight Budget

This means that your access to funds or money is very limited. Maybe you have regular costs and you have no money left over for other luxuries.

I can’t meet you for coffee. Since I bought my house, I am on a tight budget.

I am not buying any new clothes this week. I am on a tight budget.

 

Thrifty

This means to use money wisely and with great care. A thrifty person does not spend money foolishly.

My grandparents were so thrifty. They seemed to use the same shoes and clothes for many years.

My best friend is a very thrifty person. She never splashes out on unnecessary clothes or items.

 

Save Up

Sometimes we have to save money for weeks, or months to buy something we want. In English, we call this process saving up.

People save up for all kinds of things they want to buy.

I am saving up to go to America later this year.

I want to save up some money and buy a new designer dress.

 

Stingy

If a person hates to spend money, then we can say they are stingy.

They might have money to spend, but they are just mean — so we can say stingy.

My boyfriend is so stingy — he never buys me a gift ever!

I think I have to find a new job. My boss is being really stingy about bonuses.

 

Tight-fisted

This is another well-known phrase we can use to describe someone who doesn’t like to spend money.

My dad is so tight-fisted — he never lets me use his car ever!

I had an argument with my boyfriend last night. I told him he is too tight-fisted and needs to spoil me from time to time.

 

Economical

This is from the word economic — it means to be careful about how much money we spend or how we spend it.

I really like my new car — it’s so economical!

(This means that the car doesn’t need much gas to go a long way)

I prefer to go to Dale’s Diner for lunch — it’s more economical there.

 

On a Tight Budget

This means you don’t have much money to spare to spend on luxuries. You may have only enough to pay your rent and eat!

But we all have to do this from time to time…

I can’t go out to dinner with all of you tonight — I’m on a tight budget this week!

I’m on a tight budget for all of November — I’m saving up to buy a new car!

 

How to Talk about Earning Money in English

 

And if you want to make money — or save money — you have to earn money.

Here are some common words and phrases about earning money in English.

 

Salary

A salary is a fixed amount of money paid to the employee every month. It is usually paid into your bank account.

When we talk about salary, we are talking about the money we get paid per year.

I spoke to my boss yesterday about getting an increase in my salary.

My salary barely covers my house costs and feeding my family — what a life!

 

Wages

Wages are often paid in cash and usually for jobs where people are paid by the hour.

Quite often, wages are for more menial jobs.

I did this job in the summer, stacking shelves in a supermarket. It was pretty easy, but the wages were not so high.

Years ago, my grandfather worked as a carpenter. He got paid in wages every Friday.

 

Income

This means all the money that comes into your home or family. Usually, it refers to your salary, but it could be from business you are doing or work that you do for a variety of different people.

My uncle is a freelance writer — he makes a good income from it.

Working as a computer programmer can bring in a very good income.

 

Coin/Coining It

This is a British phrase that means ‘good income’. It is very informal.

My brother makes pretty good coin as a photographer.

My friend started a cleaning business, and he is coining it.

 

Making Bank/Banking It

And this is a very similar phrase as above. Also very informal.

My best friend got a job selling shares, and he is making bank now.

I was lucky to start this new job — now I am banking it!

 

Bread and Butter

This is an old-fashioned term for income and making money.

I make my bread and butter by driving a taxi.

I like being an architect — it’s a great way to make bread and butter.

 

How to Talk about Being Rich in English

 

Many people in the world are very rich. All the following words and phrases mean to be rich. Most of them are for informal use.

 

Loaded

My mate is loaded. He bought a brand new suit last week, and it cost him three grand!

 

Filthy Rich

The people that live in those big houses must have money — in fact, they are probably filthy rich!

 

Rolling In It

My aunt won the lottery! Now she’s rolling in it!

 

Flush

Let me take you out for lunch — I’m feeling a bit flush.

 

Moneyed

think our neighbours must be quite moneyed. The husband and the wife both drive Mercedes-Benz cars and they are always going on holiday somewhere.

 

Prosperous

China has developed so much in the last 20 years. Now it is a prosperous country.

 

Stinking Rich

These footballers are all stinking rich! Living in huge mansions and driving sports cars!

 

Made of Money

You must be made of money — buying new clothes every week.

 

How to Talk about Having No Money in English

 

It happens to all of us. We go through times of having no money to spend.

Here are some common words and phrases to talk about it.

 

Broke

I am always broke by the end of the month! I just don’t know how to look after money.

 

Flat Broke

I can’t come out and join you tonight. I am flat broke.

 

Skint

I need a new pair of shoes, but there’s no way I can buy any this week — I am skint!

 

The Value of Things

 

Everything in the world seems to have a price tag attached to it now.

But there is often a big difference between the cost of things and the true value.

 

Take a look at the following items and say how much these things cost in your country.

  • Is this a decent price to pay?
  • Is it good value?
  • Or is it too expensive?

 

    • A Shirt
    • A Cup of Coffee
    • A Pair of Jeans
    • A Meal in a Good Restaurant
    • A Car
    • A House
    • A Smartphone
    • One Night in a Five-Star Hotel
    • A Good Education
    • True Love

 

Go through all the items one by one in class. And try to say how much these things should cost and what the value is.

Which things are priceless? Why are they priceless?

 

Songs about Money

 

There are many songs about money.

Take a look at the following songs about money.

If you turn on the subtitles, you can find the lyrics/words to the songs. Or you can go to lyrics.com and find the words to the songs there.

 

  • What kind of message is the song trying to tell us?
  • Do you agree with this message?
  • Are there any songs about money in your country?
  • What is the message in these songs?

 

Pink Floyd — Money

 

 

ABBA — Money Money Money

 

The Flying Lizards — Money

 

Donna Summer — She Works Hard for the Money

 

Dire Straits — Money for Nothing

 

Go through each song in class and try to answer all the questions above.

 

Quotes about Money

 

Look at all the following quotes about money.

In class, go through all the quotes one by one.

  • What do these quotes mean?
  • Can you say in your own words what the person is trying to say?
  • Do you agree or disagree?
  • Why do you agree or disagree? Give solid reasons!
  • Do you have any sayings about money that you can add?

 

It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor — Seneca

 

Too many people spend money they earned… to buy things they don’t want… to impress people that they don’t like — Will Rogers

 

Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver — Ayn Rand

 

A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart — Jonathan Swift

 

Not he who has much is rich, but he who gives much — Erich Fromm

 

Every day is a bank account, and time is our currency. No one is rich, no one is poor, we’ve got 24 hours each — Christopher Rice

 

That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest — Henry David Thoreau

 

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery — Charles Dickens

 

It’s not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It’s the customer who pays the wages. — Henry Ford

 

Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune. — Jim Rohn

 

Never spend your money before you have earned it. — Thomas Jefferson

 

Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas. — Paul Samuelson

 

Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that. — Norman Vincent Peale

 

Questions about Money

 

Go through all the questions below.

In class, take turns to ask each other questions about money.

 

  • What is better — earning money and spending money? Why?
  • Do you spend a lot of money every week? What do you spend money on?
  • Are you good at saving? Why/why not?
  • Do you budget how much you spend? Do you keep an account of what you spend?
  • Do you want to be rich? Are you rich??
  • If you would like to be rich, please say why.
  • Do you think there is too much emphasis on money these days? Why/why not?
  • Do you prefer to use cash or credit card? Why?
  • Do you use a cashless payment app? Why do you use this app?
  • Are you very generous with money? Is this a good thing to be?
  • If you are working, do you think you are paid enough? Why/why not?
  • What things in the world do you think are too expensive?
  • What is money? What does money mean to you?
  • Is money good? Or evil?
  • Do you feel guilty if you spend a lot of money? Why/why not?
  • Many people say that you cannot buy happiness. But if you had more money, would you feel happier? Why/why not? Think of solid reasons.
  • Monks often live a simple life with no material wealth in their lives. Are they happy? Why/why not?
  • What do you think of your country’s currency? Do you like the design of it? What would you like to change about it?
  • Do you think the world should have one universal currency? For example, the World Dollar? What would be the advantages of this? What would be the disadvantages?
  • Are you in debt? Is your family in debt? How to get out of debt?
  • What was the last item you spent money on? How much did it cost? Was it good value?
  • In a relationship, who should look after all the money? Why?
  • There is a common saying: The best things in life are free. Do you agree with this? Why/why not?
  • You win $1,000,000 in the lottery. What would you do with the money?

 

In class, ask all the questions. Some of the questions you should discuss in class together.

If you are working alone, go through all the questions one by one and answer them. Or you could write down your answers in your English notebook.

 

Conclusion

 

As I said at the beginning, you may need to talk about money in the IELTS test. But it could also come up in an interview or in a conversation.

Money — whether we like it or not — is an essential part of our lives.

If I were you, I would go through each section and try to make sentences or short responses of your own using all the new vocabulary. Some sections may not apply to your life — so just use the ones that are.

And then go through all the songs.

Listen to them one by one and use the Lyrics website to find the words to each of the songs.

Think about what the songs mean and then ask yourself whether you agree with it or not.

You can do the same thing with all the quotes.

Then finally, go through all the questions in class or alone and answer them.

 

I hope this is useful to you.

 

And leave a comment below! Many thanks!

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