Idiom for saying something doesn't cost a lot for someone rich?

1 million is basically short change for Goldman Sachs.

I thought the expression was short change, but after searching on Google, it seems that's not quite the right expression? Another alternative is saying "1 million is peanuts for him/her", but is there a phrase or idiom that ends with "change"?

  • 4
    Beware of "short change" -- it may not always mean what you think it means. "short change" literally means "not enough change", that is, the vendor has pocketed some of the money they ought to have returned to you, e.g. only giving you 4 dollars back from a 95 dollar purchase made with a 100 dollar bill. One would have received "short change", or, more usually, one would say they have "been short-changed". Jul 15, 2022 at 14:21
  • In your context, it's fine.
    – Lambie
    Jul 15, 2022 at 14:34
  • 10
    "Short change" sounds like a mis-remembering of "small change," which is a common saying for just this kind of situation. "Short change" has a different meaning: rip off. Usually it's used as one word for this: "He got shortchanged at the grocery store."
    – Oscar
    Jul 16, 2022 at 0:44
  • 1
    I should add that to shortchange someone need not be on purpose. I worked at a bank for years, and I probably shortchanged someone at some point.
    – Oscar
    Jul 16, 2022 at 0:51
  • My money don't jiggle jiggle, it folds.
    – corsiKa
    Jul 17, 2022 at 6:51

12 Answers 12


You might be thinking of chump change, defined by Wiktionary as:

(chiefly US, idiomatic) A sum of money considered to be insignificant.

He spent $300,000 for his new car, but that's chump change for a billionaire like him.

  • 15
    Very American. Brits would say 'small change'. Jul 15, 2022 at 6:10
  • 3
    Or you could say "peanuts": He spent $300,000 for his new car, but that's peanuts for a billionaire like him. (Maybe it's not just us Jul 15, 2022 at 8:27
  • 8
    As a Brit, I'd recognise the American "pocket change". Idiomatically we might call it "beer money".
    – Dan Price
    Jul 15, 2022 at 10:12
  • 3
    Wiktionary classifies this as chiefly US, and I can safely say that, as a Briton, I've never heard of it, so I wouldn't advise using this with a global audience.
    – Pharap
    Jul 15, 2022 at 14:05
  • 3
    Also: "loose change"
    – JamieB
    Jul 15, 2022 at 14:42

pocket change

a small or unimportant amount of money
A rich good guy who could buy and sell drug lords out of his pocket change.

  • 5
    Again very American. Brits would say 'small change'. Jul 15, 2022 at 6:10
  • 9
    @Michael Harvey If you thought "small change" was a better answer for a global or UK audience, why not post it as an answer? Jul 15, 2022 at 15:35
  • 3
    @MichaelHarvey I'm an American, and my first thought was "small change", although I did think "pocket change" next.
    – Glen Yates
    Jul 15, 2022 at 15:55
  • I would certainly understand "small change" in this sense, and so would most people in the US. But in recent years when I hear that phrase I think.of the novel series consisting of Farthing, Ha'penny, and Half a Crown by Jo Walton Jul 15, 2022 at 16:06
  • 2
    @MichaelHarvey Feel free to write an answer yourself.
    – Mast
    Jul 15, 2022 at 17:50


A meagre allowance of money or wages.

In your case:

1 million is a mere pittance for Goldman Sachs


(informal, figuratively) A very small or insufficient amount (especially of a salary).

In your case:

1 million is peanuts for Goldman Sachs

Note that 'pittance' is more formal and 'peanuts' is more informal, so choose whichever is most appropriate for your intended audience.

  • 6
    I believe it should be "a mere pitttance" rather than "mere pittance". Jul 15, 2022 at 14:18
  • @PrimeMover I'm convinced I've heard it used as 'mere pittance' rather than 'a mere pittance', but I cannot find an example quotation, so I shall add the indefinite article.
    – Pharap
    Jul 15, 2022 at 14:31
  • 1
    Peanuts became infamous in Germany after a Deutsche Bank manager used it in 1994 to describe 50 million DM owed to craftsmen; petty cash for Deutsche, and still ruining more than one small company. A union later demanded "peanuts for all!" Jul 15, 2022 at 18:28
  • 1
    Note that "peanuts" is used in the common business proverb: "You pay peanuts, you employ monkeys." Jul 16, 2022 at 10:00
  • 1
    @PrimeMover I think "(If you) pay peanuts, (you) get monkeys" is the more common/idiomatic way of wording it.
    – Pharap
    Jul 16, 2022 at 13:35

For companies (not for people), the term "take it out of petty cash" could be used.

Petty (from the French, "petit", small) cash is designed to be "effectively ignorable money that can be used for stuff that costs less than the internal cost of expensing it". Donuts for a meeting; a box of pens; that sort of thing.

Now big companies - especially big companies in the financial sector like Goldman Sachs - tend to actually be more "rule-bound" about tiny expenses than many small companies. Partly it's a "you can't be blamed if you follow the rules even when they're stupid, but you absolutely can be blamed if you don't, even if you save money"; partly it's the fact that they're under significantly more onerous and more powerful auditing régimes ("failed SEC audit" is a heart-stopping phrase on Wall Street); and partly it's because petty cash embezzlement and reporting fraud has in the past been common, and can add up quickly. But the idiom still exists.


Here's another answer that doesn't end in "change" - rounding error:

A figure that is or seems large in isolation but is relatively small or immaterial to a large company.

The settlement of $300,000 is little more than a rounding error to a global corporation that earns billions of dollars each year.

  • I think this would probably be too technical for use with 'laymen'. It's more likely to be understood and appreciated by mathematicians, scientists and programmers.
    – Pharap
    Jul 17, 2022 at 15:33


  1. pennies A small sum of money.

To use it in the quote in the OP: "1 million is basically pennies for Goldman Sachs"

(Although it doesn't end in "change" and isn't only used when describing someone rich, as specified in the OP)


Requires turning the sentence around a bit, but:

Goldman Sachs could find 1 million dollars just by digging in their couch cushions.

You could replace that with other expressions for places where normal people might find small amounts of money, e.g.:

  • left in their pockets in the laundry
  • in their petty cash jar (or maybe swear jar, etc.)
  • stuffed under the mattress
  • by breaking open their piggy banks


  • "Stuffed under the mattress" would be wrong. There are people whose life savings are stuffed under the mattress. And you should see my wive's piggy bank, that's. real money.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 15, 2022 at 15:47
  • @gnasher729 Yeah? But I'd think that the kind of people who can stash their entire life savings under a mattress probably aren't all that rich. It might be a lot of money to them, but to Goldman Sachs, it's probably still basically nothing. Likewise with a piggy bank. It might seem like a lot of money to you and your wife, but it's still not a lot for someone absurdly wealthy, which is kind of the point. Jul 15, 2022 at 17:32

When I was taking a training course for a ridiculously high-paying (at the time) contract in the Middle East, we were constantly being reminded by our lecturer in "cultural acclimatisation" that we would be in a position such that lack of money for casual (and not-so-casual) recreational espenses would in due course not be an issue.

The phrase he used for the monetary quantities involved, over and over again, was:

"A mere bagatelle."

  • In this sense 'bagatelle' means "A trifle; an insubstantial thing.", which leads me to think your lecturer meant that the issue of not having money at the moment was 'a mere bagatelle', not that the money you had was 'a mere bagatelle'. Either way, while it's technically correct it's likely not as widely recognised.
    – Pharap
    Jul 15, 2022 at 14:12
  • 2
    @Pharap I may have misrepresented the context, but from the way he was using the concept, he was referring to the money itself as "a mere bagatelle". Added a few words as explanation. I remember, I was there. Jul 15, 2022 at 14:16
  • 2
    Sure, but it's very literary and recherché....
    – Lambie
    Jul 15, 2022 at 14:35
  • @Lambie I remember thinking that at the time. :-) Jul 15, 2022 at 14:39
  • 1
    @Lambie very literary and recherché and all the better for that. Jul 15, 2022 at 19:31

Another possibility is 'spare change'. In the UK, the phrase 'spare change' is regularly used and heard. It is associated with people living on the streets as they appeal for 'spare change' from passers by.

As has already been mentioned 'small change' is also regularly used to describe the few coins people may have in their pockets, but I would say the more common phrase for that would be 'spare change'.

  • 1
    I was just going to suggest this. Also common in the US.
    – Mike
    Jul 16, 2022 at 18:36
  • 'Loose change' is similarly common, though there might be some subtle usage differences between the two (e.g. regional preference, one being used in questions and the other in statements perhaps).
    – Pharap
    Jul 17, 2022 at 15:31

This is a rarer idiom than some of the others listed like "pocket change" and "peanuts", but common in my area is the phrase "decimal dust". It refers to the small value, when compared to a large value, as being so small it's like dust particles.


"The cost to [add precipitation reporting] is almost decimal dust when it comes to the overall federal budget," says Berginnis, whose group wrote to NOAA about the matter. "We're only talking about $3 million to $5 million a year to produce these data." NPR, An unexpected item is blocking cities' climate change prep


"Before you dismiss four-tenths of one percent as decimal dust, consider this: Although student loans make up only 10% of all consumer debt, the amount of seriously past due student loan payments total nearly one-third of all seriously past-due debt payments." USA Today, Student loan debt: America's next big crisis

This idiom may be seen more frequently to refer to budgets of large organizations and governments, but use it and have heard it used to refer to family and individual budgets as well.

  • 3
    I have never heard of "decimal dust", but it seems to have the same meaning as rounding error. Jul 15, 2022 at 20:10
  • I've never heard of it, but I found a forum post from 2005 that claims the earliest known citation is 1987. It's not nonexistant, but it seems it's probably not widely recognised.
    – Pharap
    Jul 15, 2022 at 20:48

A related idiom (although one that doesn't use the word "change", and isn't strictly related to money) is a drop in the bucket, which indicates a small, insignificant amount. It could be used to describe almost any negligible quantity, although it can carry an additional connotation of insufficiency, where the amount is smaller than what you need or want.

  • 1
    Also a drop in the ocean, which is more familiar to me (though I note that Wiktionary has the bucket version as the main entry). Jul 16, 2022 at 9:04

Something that is considered by an individual to be insignificant or unimportant can be described as:

  1. Small potatoes
  2. Small fry

E.g. The fine he received for breaking the law was just small potatoes to him.

  • Hi! Welcome to ELL, maybe you can show defintions of the words you suggested?
    – DialFrost
    Aug 3, 2022 at 0:30

You must log in to answer this question.

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