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7 ways to talk about money in German

With many of us having to tighten our belts at the moment, here are some uniquely ways to talk about the hot topic of money in German.

7 ways to talk about money in German

1. Geld wie Heu haben

If you’re lucky enough to be extremely wealthy, you may be able to say “Ich habe Geld wie Heu”, though it won’t make you very popular.

The English translation of this widely used phrase is “to have money like hay” –  in other words, to have so much money that it’s barely countable.

As most people don’t have huge hay reserves these days, the phrase likely dates back to the Middle Ages, when the gap between rich and poor, namely between the rural population and the nobility, was particularly stark.


Seine Eltern haben Geld wie Heu!

His parents have got money to burn!

2. Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt, ist den Talers nicht wert

This thrifty phrase translates as “he who does not honour the penny is not worth the taler” – taler being an old silver coin. It’s similar in meaning to the phrase “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves” in that it reminds us to appreciate even the small things, and that many small coins add up to a large sum.

(Photo by Philippe HUGUEN / AFP)

The origin of this phrase goes all the way back to the time of Martin Luther in the 15th century, who is said to have written the older version of the phrase Wer den Pfennig nicht achtet, der wird keines Guldens Herr (“He who does not respect the penny will not be the master of a Gulden”) above his kitchen stove in chalk.

3. Geld zum Fenster hinaus werfen

This expression is about wastefulness, and means “throwing money out of the window”.

The phrase is said to have originated in the Middle Ages in Regensburg, where the ruler would stand at the town hall window and throw money to his subjects.

But, since it was their tax money he was throwing, the citizens coined the phrase: “Throwing our money out the window” to describe wastefulness.


Du hast schon immer das Geld zum Fenster hinausgeworfen.

You have always thrown the money out the window.

Statt das Geld zum Fenster hinauszuwerfen, sollte er besser mal sparen.

Instead of throwing money down the drain, he’d be better off saving it.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get free vouchers to learn German in Vienna

4. Geld auf die hohe Kante legen

This phrase goes back to a time when banks were seen as untrustworthy and people preferred to save their money in a hidden place in their homes.

(Photo by Andre Taissin on Unsplash)

The phrase meaning, “to place money on the high ledge” is still widely used today, as a way of saying “put a bit of money aside” and to save.


Die Deutschen legen immer einen Teil ihrer Einkommen auf die hohe Kante.

Austrians always put some of their income on the side.

5. Zeit ist Geld

Ok, so this one doesn’t originate from Austria or Germany, but it’s certainly widely-used in the German language.

The expression comes from Benjamin Franklin, the American scientist and politician who wrote it in his “Advice to Young Merchants” in 1748.

READ ALSO: TEST: Is your German good enough for Austrian citizenship?

It since found its way into the German language, which is hardly surprising. And the Germanic famous punctuality fits well with the idea that wasted time is costly.


In dieser Situation gilt: Zeit ist Geld.

In a situation like this, time is money.

6. das Geld aus der Tasche ziehen

This unpleasant phrase means “to pull something out of someone’s pocket” and is mostly used to refer to scamming, rather than theft.

It usually means to induce someone, in a cunning or fraudulent way, to spend money, or to take financial advantage of someone.


Wolltest du mir das Geld aus der Tasche ziehen?

Were you trying to con me out of my money?

Trickbetrüger zeigen sich immer kreativer, wenn es darum geht, ihren Opfern Geld aus der Tasche zu ziehen.

Con artists are becoming increasingly creative when it comes to taking money out of their victims’ pockets.

7. Blank sein

Blank sein – meaning to “be broke”, is a situation most of us have probably found ourselves at one point or another.

The term blank originally meant “bright” or “shiny”, but later, the word came to mean “free of” or “stripped of”, eventually leading to this expression, meaning to be “free of money”.


Ich würde dir eins abkaufen, aber ich bin blank.

I would buy one from you, but I’m broke.

READ ALSO: 8 TV shows you should watch to learn about Austrian culture

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For members


The Vienna dialect words and expressions you need to know

If you move to Austria thinking that speaking German will be enough - you will be surprised by the strong presence of dialects, including in the Austrian capital.

The Vienna dialect words and expressions you need to know

One of the challenges of moving to Austria is linguistic, not only because the country’s official language is German – a not-so-easy language to master – but particularly because the Deutsch can be quite different depending on where you are and who you are talking to.

Most German schools teach Hoch Deutsch, a standard form of German, and base their lessons on Germany’s German – which can be quite different from Austria (so it’s not simply tomatoes-tomatoes here, it’s more TomatenParadeiser). Besides that, each region of Austria still has its own dialect, some of which can seem incomprehensible even to native German speakers.

Austria’s capital may be its most multicultural and international city, but foreigners will still struggle with some very typical Viennese expressions and idioms.

READ ALSO: 11 Austrian life hacks that will make you feel like a local

If you want to understand what the Oma next door is saying or what your teenage kid learnt in school, here are a few of the most famous and often used expressions in Viennese – and what they mean.


Oida has been the subject of many stories and viral videos, and it’s definitely a staple in Vienna. It’s a word that comes from the Yiddish “Alter” and means “friend” or “buddy”. But it’s also much more than that. People use it as a “catch-all” word to express anything from surprise to sadness and anger.


Hawara is also an informal term for friend or buddy. 


Schmäh comes from Middle High German and can mean something like a “joke” or “fun”. It is also proudly used by the Viennese when they want to describe their sense of humour, the Viennese Schmäh, a sort of dry and sarcastic (and extremely clever) sense of humour.


Baba is an informal way of saying goodbye – it can be paired up with Tschüss to form the friendly “Tschüss, Baba!”.

Once we get to the territory of idioms, things get a bit more tricky and look less and less like German. When you read the sentences below (and anything written in dialect, really), the tip is to say them out loud exactly as they are written. You can try to “force” a bit of the Austrian accent in them to see exactly what things mean.

For example, our first idiom is “Des is ma wuascht”, which, in proper German, would be written “das ist mir Würst“. If you read the first sentence out loud, though, it makes it easier to understand the words.

READ ALSO: The ‘easiest’ entry jobs to get in Austria if you don’t speak German

Des is ma wuascht

It literally means “This is sausage to me”, and Austrians use it to say “I don’t care” in a chill and unconcerned way.

Schau ma mal

This is an informal way of saying “let’s wait and see what happens”, or it can be used in the sense of “let’s check it out”. If you invite an Austrian to an event and receive this reply, you may as well assume that they are not coming. 

Des is koane Wissenschaft

This is also an example of Viennese humour, which is very sarcastic. It literally means “this is not science” (similar to “this is not rocket science” expression in English), and it is used to say that something is simple or straightforward.