Are you looking for a way to tell someone that they should start saving money? The saying “a penny saved is a penny earned” could come in handy. Keep reading to discover what this phrase means, and where it came from.
The primarily American proverb “a penny saved is a penny earned” is used to describe how important it is to save money. Saving money you have already earned is as good as earning more, since you’ll still have it.
The idiom “a penny saved is a penny earned” can be used to discuss the value of saving money. These examples illustrate how you can use it in practice:
- “Toilet paper was 50 percent off, so I bought 10 jumbo packs. You know what they say! A penny saved is a penny earned!”
- “Son, do you really need to spend all your pocket money as soon as you get it? A penny saved is a penny earned, you know?”
- “My mother lived by the adage that a penny saved is a penny earned, so when she passed, she left me quite a lot.”
The phrase “a penny saved is a penny earned” has become so ingrained in the English language that it is used as a proverb. Most people who use it have no idea where it came from, but those who think they do often attribute it to statesman and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.
Ben Franklin indeed included the line “a penny saved is two pence clear” in Poor Richard’s Almanac, published in 1737. He also used the phrase “a penny saved is a penny got” — similar, but not identical, to the modern saying.
The writer Edward Ravenscroft delivered a likewise similar line as early as 1695, however. He said: “A penny saved is a penny got.”
The idiom predates Ben Franklin, then, but he did use a variation of the phrase. In addition, the words “a penny saved is a penny earned” appeared on cent coins issued in the late nineteenth century. Ben Franklin’s head could be seen on the other side, and the association stuck.
No matter where the phrase came from, it is clear that a penny saved is indeed a penny earned. This idiom is a succinct way to spread the common wisdom that saving money allows people to build a better life and to get through a rainy day.
Phrases Similar to a Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned
Instead of “a penny saved is a penny earned”, you could also say:
- Thrift comes too late when you find it at the bottom of your purse
- A fool and his money are soon parted
- Money doesn’t grow on trees
Phrases Opposite to a Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned
Phrases describing what can happen when you don’t save money — that is, going broke — include:
- Living from hand to mouth
- Not having two pennies to rub together
When something is very expensive, you can say that it costs “a pretty penny” or “an arm and a leg”, or that it will “break the bank”
What Is the Correct Saying?
The correct saying is “a penny saved is a penny earned”. The idiom means that it is wise to save money.
Ways People May Say a Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned Incorrectly
It would not be correct to use the saying “a penny saved is a penny earned” if you are engaging in “creative accounting” — that is, buying something you don’t need and justifying it by arguing that it will somehow save you money later.
Acceptable Ways to Phrase a Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned
You can use the phrase “a penny saved is a penny earned” to explain why saving money is important to you. If someone in your life spends money like it’s going out of fashion, you can also remind them that “a penny saved is a penny earned”.