Longman definition of 'break into'

to start to spend money that you did not want to spend

For example

  1. I don't want to break into my savings unless I have to.
  2. We had to break into our fixed deposits to pay for the hospital bill.

My questions is that

We have different kinds of investments like shares, debetures, equities, gold etc. So can we use the same logic with these investments to come up with sentences like the following -

  1. We will have to break into all our shares / mutual funds / gold, if we want to buy a house.
  2. I don't want to break into my shares to buy a car.
  3. I don't want to break into my gold to buy a house.

These sentences sound a bit odd to me. What is the correct way to express if I want to return my gold or shares in case of emergency ?


  • 2
    I don't know for sure, but I think "break into" refers to breaking into a piggy bank. As such it probably refers to savings (saved money) as opposed to other assets.
    – user3169
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 18:22

2 Answers 2


"To break into" conveys the idea of opening something up for use or consumption. There is the sense of beginning to use or consume it. "To start to spend".

We've made most of the sandwiches we'll need for the picnic, except for one, but the peanut butter jar is empty, so we will have to break into a new jar to make the final sandwich.

The idiom is loose enough that you could probably use it with gold, or shares, or whatever, although shares are associated with some competing locutions (liquidate, sell off, etc) that might make the "break into" idiom seem a little unusual.

Because the idiom conveys the idea of opening something up for use or consumption, rather than the use or the consumption itself, we probably couldn't say "We will have to break into all our shares..."


The way I understand the idiom, you "break into" a cache of something that you might have set aside for a circumstance other than the current one, like savings accounts, or some bottled drinking water set aside for a future camping trip. I'm not sure of the etymology, but I always thought it came from the type of piggy banks that you had to break to access the coins inside. I always associated it with "all or nothing" and I would use "dip into" if I were talking about only taking some of my cache.

There is a lot of variability in how different folks interpret the same idiom. I wouldn't for example say "break into a new jar of peanut butter", I would say "crack open a new jar". I wouldn't think it was really strange if someone else said "break into a new jar". I would understand that they use the idiom differently than I do.

You could say "We will have to break into some of our long term investments to buy a house." If you aren't going to liquidate all of your investments, you might say "We will have to dip into my retirement fund to buy a house." I agree with TRomano that when referring to specific investments, like gold or stock shares, a native speaker would use a different more specific phrase like "liquidate" or "sell".

You wouldn't say "I will have to break into my paycheck this week to pay my rent." because typically your entire paycheck isn't set aside for something other than paying for your expenses. You might say "It's 2 AM and I really want some candy, so I'm going to break into the chocolate I bought for the Christmas party and go buy more when the market opens."

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