Penny wise, Pound Foolish

penny wise, pound foolish

to be extremely careful about small amounts of money and not careful enough about larger amounts of money

from Cambridge Dictionaries Online


Last night, K and I were in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner (salad and soup mostly, seeing as I had gotten home pretty late and I don’t like to go to bed on  a full stomach), debating the pros and cons of a run to our local combini* for an after dinner treat.  I made a command decision against going.  Woo-Hoo!  We saved almost ¥1000.  Which is nice, but I realized that sometimes we can be penny wise, but pound foolish.

This proverb is originally British (in the US, we have pennies but no pounds), and dates back to at least the early 17th Century (source).  It seems even more useful today, when even regular people deal with large sums of money, credit cards, mortgages, etc.  I’ve heard it most commonly used as a warning to think more carefully about how we spend our money.

P:  Hey look!  If I sign up for a store credit card, they’ll give me a 2% discount on our (very expensive) eyeglasses!

K:  That’s true, but can you pay for the glasses in one installment?  If not, you will end up paying more because of the interest.  You don’t want to be penny wise and pound foolish.

P:  Good point.  I already have too many credit cards anyway.


This proverb isn’t only for talking about money.  It can also be useful to explain that people are ignoring the big, important things while paying too much attention to trivial details.

K:  I decided to clean up and organize the closet today. I found a new way to fold and line up my socks so I can find them more easily!

P:  How long did that take? The sock project?

K:  About an hour. Or so.

P:  And you finished cleaning up the whole closet?

K:  er…

P:  Don’t you think you’re being a little penny wise, pound foolish with your time?


* For any native english readers:  combini is the katakana-ized version of convenience store.  For our native Japanese readers:  Katakana is bad!  Okay, it’s not bad, per se, but it isn’t English.  I’ve lived in Japan for a million years, so I usually understand katakana-ized words.  Nobody else will.

penny wise (and) pound foolish


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K: Hey, honey.  You have work to do.  Why are you sitting on the sofa and watching TV!?

P: Well….you’re resting your head on my lap.

K:  Nothing is stopping you!  Go ahead and work!  Don’t worry about me (K holding P tightly so that P cannot go anywhere and, indeed, can hardly breathe)!

P: You are my impediment.






例えば、impedimentは speech impediment(言語障害)や certificate of no impediment to marriage (婚姻無障害証明書)などの表現によく使われるそうです。


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