Pin money

Photo of author


Pin money is a term that has had an interesting evolution in meaning. We will examine the definition of the term pin money, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Pin money is a small amount of money that is spent on extras or fun things that are not considered necessary. Pin money is often used to describe wages that someone earns on the side to supplement his income, in order to afford small splurges. Interestingly, pin money is a term that dates from the 1500s and originally was used to mean the household money used to buy necessities. At that time, pin money was a substantial sum that was used for important purchases. The expression is linked to the price of straight pins, once items that were very rare and expensive, and part of the necessary purchases to run a household. As the price of straight pins fell, the meaning of pin money also changed to reflect this fact. Today, pin money is a small, insignificant amount of money, not the household budget.


Sure, $25,000 isn’t exactly pin money and the township should be commended for keeping a close watch on its pennies. (The Observer-Reporter)

Women and girls make their pin money sorting and grading pears during the short packing season. (The Ukiah Daily Journal)

The unspoken assumption, just as it was when these women were young, is that they must be working for pin money or pleasure when they’re actually putting food on the table. (The Guardian)

A few thousand pounds will do the job, pin money when you consider what these businesses pay their executives in the form of bonuses. (The Independent)