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The Free Dictionary website states that the meaning of bread and butter is:

  1. noun A vital component of something. Bread and butter, as foodstuffs, are considered basic forms of sustenance. A flourishing stock market is the bread and butter of a successful country.
  2. noun A job or task that provides one with a steady income. I'm an artist on the weekends, but being a tutor is my bread and butter.

Now, my question: as a freelancer, can I call my expensive laptop my bread and butter?

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You can describe your laptop as your bread and butter using the definition from Wiktionary:

(idiomatic) That which is central or fundamental, as to one's business, survival, or income; a staple or cornerstone.

This definition is somewhat expanded from the definition you found on The Free Dictionary.

In order to earn your primary income, you use your laptop. Your laptop is central or fundamental to your survival or income, so yes, that is a valid usage of bread and butter.

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I would describe the expensive laptop as the tools of the trade of freelancing or a tool of the trade of freelancing.

The tools of your trade or the tools of the trade are the skills, instruments, and other equipment that you need in order to do your job properly.

In some legal jurisdictions this has an importance in law, for example in some cases a person who is going bankrupt cannot have their tools of the trade siezed as assets were person property can be seized by the court and sold to cover part of their debts.

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  • This gives an alternative, but doesn't answer the question as asked: "Can I call my expensive laptop my bread and butter?"
    – CJ Dennis
    Aug 5, 2018 at 12:26

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