In my home language - Urdu, there is an idiom “Charaney key bandar ku baraney ki rassi”. This phrase is used to describe a situation where someone buys a monkey for one dollar, but he spends four dollars on a piece of rope to tie it. Basically, this is not a wise thing to do.

Could you please help me with an equivalent idiom in English?

  • Can you give a literal translation of the Urdu?
    – Mick
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 3:52
  • 3
    dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/… “'be penny-wise and pound-foolish' in British English [now old-fashioned] ...to be extremely careful about small amounts of money and not careful enough about larger amounts of money." Although the $1 monkey and $4 rope is more amusing and a better idiom, in my opinion. :-) Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 4:09
  • 2
    Can you provide the meaning or a better description of the idiom? Not a literal translation or description of it. When and why is it used?
    – Em.
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 4:15
  • Perhaps "throwing good money after bad"? That is used to describe a situation in which a person has made a foolish investment and then spends additional money on it without any real hope of improving the original mistake. Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 4:20
  • 1
    I'm tempted to suggest "free as in puppy" but it's not a well known expression outside of the free software community. Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 5:21

2 Answers 2


maybe you are looking for the idiom: A white elephant

a possession entailing great expense out of proportion to its usefulness or value to the owner:

When he bought the mansion he didn't know it was going to be such a white elephant.


  • 1
    While this might be correct, I suspect the idiom might have lost it's meaning in some dialects. When I hear the idiom "white elephant", I think of "an item you don't necessarily want", not "an item that causes more expense than it is worth". Commented May 20, 2021 at 21:08
  • @MathewAlden I agree with you, although that might also be due to "white elephant" gift exchanges.
    – sharur
    Commented May 20, 2021 at 21:10

In English, you might

Throw out the baby with the bathwater.


Shoot yourself in the foot.


Spit into the wind.

Some advice would be

Don't buy any wooden nickels.

  • 1
    While these are common idioms, they don't match the requirement of spending more on necessary tools than on the item.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 17:38
  • 1
    I agree with Chenmunka. This doesn't answer my question. Commented May 7, 2017 at 4:57
  • Fair enough. I suppose I was focusing on the "basic" spec of "unwise thing to do" based on skewed priority. I don't think we're very hip to this concept in America, where Hewlett Packard sells $20 printers and $80 ink cartridges.
    – Brian
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 19:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .