What are the phrases for "giving up something big for something small", emphasizing that it is not a smart move? E.g., in one TV episode, the main character thinks gathering golf balls from ponds in a golf court is a lucrative business, so he gives up his normal job to do so.

EDIT: @Merk, the example illustrates what I'm asking for. The "giving up something big" is not, it is somewhat directly translated from Chinese idiom, "throw away a melon to pick up a sesame", emphasizing silly choices. I think a close phrase in English is, "give up a dollar for a dime", if there is such a saying at all.

  • The example you give, which does not seem to have much to do with 'giving up something big', is a case of 'making a wrong/bad bet.' Sounds like he also 'bet the farm.' – Merk May 24 '14 at 5:09
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    Inspired by an English proverb, "Venture a great fish to catch a small one." ;-) – Damkerng T. May 24 '14 at 15:16

"Trading down" could work. For example, you could trade down from living in a mansion to living in an apartment. It doesn't have to be strictly applied to a single barter transaction — selling the mansion and buying the apartment in two independent transactions could still be considered trading down.

Note that you can only use trading down when giving up something big that you already have. If you give up a big opportunity in favor of an inferior option, that's not trading down. Also, it doesn't have a strong sense of stupidity built in, which you seem to be looking for in your phrase request.


"Penny-wise and pound foolish".

Edited to add: I think I once heard someone say of someone else, "He'll trade two dimes for a nickel", but I don't know it's caught on as an idiom.

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    "Penny-wise and pound foolish" is not quite right — it has more to do with false economies. – 200_success May 18 '14 at 0:27
  • This is really close, but I think 200_success is right. When I think of Penny-wise and pound foolish, I think for example of someone who will, say, buy a used item in poor repair, then spend more than the item is worth getting it into working condition. There is a close phrase, though "Spend a pound to earn a penny" that might be a bit closer to the meaning? It is sometimes used as the moral of the Aesop's story about the dog who loses his bone in the river. – michelle Jun 23 '14 at 16:59

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