(fɪˈnæns, ˈfaɪ næns)
feel the pinch To sense one’s precarious financial position; to be in a tight spot. In this expression, pinch carries its figurative meaning of an internal twinge of emotional discomfort. The expression most often refers to an economic situation which warrants austerity measures.
grubstake Money advanced in exchange for a share in a venture’s expected return. The term, dating from at least 1863, originally referred to money “staked” to prospectors for “grub” and other provisions in return for a part of the profits from their finds.
The farmer realizes the … plight of the out-of-work who … is left without a grubstake between himself and hunger. (The Atlantic Monthly, March, 1932)
in the black Making a profit; out of debt. This Americanism is so called from the bookkeeping practice of entering profits in black ink. It is synonymous with out of the red.
This time she appeared at the Italian Village, and within two weeks she had pulled it out of the red ink and into the black. (American Mercury, July, 1935)
on a shoestring Dependent upon a very small sum of money; relying on a meager amount of money as capital in a working investment. This colloquial meaning of shoestring has been common in the U.S. since the early part of the century, though precisely how it acquired this sense is unclear. Perhaps shoestring was equivalent to “the cost of a shoestring.”
They accomplished their elegance on a shoestring, too. (Ward County [North Dakota] Independent, July, 1944)
play the papers To gamble. This obsolete Americanism was current in the 19th century.
Poor Kit was in a bad way one hour before we parted. The fact is, you know, he’d bin playin’ the papers (meaning gamblin’) and had lost everything. (De Witt C. Peters, The Life and Adventures of Kit Carson, 1858)
A similar expression with specific reference to horse racing is play the ponies.
prime the pump To attempt to rejuvenate an enterprise by channeling money into it; to try to maintain or stimulate economic activity through government expenditure. A pump is primed or prepared for use by pouring water into it to produce suction. The expression was used figuratively by T. W. Arnold, as cited in Webster’s Third:
This spending has not yet primed the pump.
salt away To save or hold in reserve money or other valuables for future use; to build a nest egg. The figurative meaning of this expression is derived from its literal one, i.e., preserving meat or other perishables by adding salt.
[There is] no one to hinder you from salting away as many millions as you can carry off! (R. W. Chambers, Maids of Paradise, 1902)
sock away To set aside money in a savings account; to save or put money in reserve. This American expression implies that the money is being stowed away for some future investment. It may derive from the days when socks were a common storage receptacle for one’s savings. The phrase appeared in Life, as cited by Webster’s Third:
(He) has socked away very little of his earnings with which to buy a ranch.
Past participle: financed