Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees


Money doesn’t grow on trees is a common expression that means money is a limited resource and it’s not easily acquired, so it shouldn’t be spent in a careless manner.

Example: While out shopping with her mother, an expensive phone caught Sarah’s eye. She wanted to buy it, so she asked her mom: “Can you buy this for me?” However, the mother was low on cash and could not afford to spend what little she had on an expensive phone. So she responded: “I’m sorry, but money does not grow on trees, you know. We simply can’t afford it.”

Synonyms / Related: I’m not made of money

Illustration of the saying money does not grow on trees.
Plant a penny in the ground and a money tree will grow! I’m kidding, of course. Don’t do that.

‘Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees’ Origin

When you take a tree and plant it in the dirt, we all know what happens next. Assuming the tree gets plenty of water and sunshine, eventually it will grow to be big and strong. Depending on the size of the tree, thousands of leaves will grow on its branches. Moreover, if it’s a fruit tree, it will produce lots of food in the right season. The things that grow on a tree are plentiful and freely available. All you have to do is go out and grab its offerings.

On the other hand, money does not grow on trees, so it’s not something that’s as easy to acquire. Indeed, if you run out of money, you can’t simply take a trip to your backyard and collect the cash from the trees. Instead, it has to be earned through hard work. And even when you have money, you have to be careful with how you choose to spend it because it’s a limited resource. Anyways, enough about the idea behind his proverb, let’s talk about its origin.

As is the case with many phrases, the exact person who came up with it is not known. However, the phrase doesn’t look like it’s that old. The earliest I’ve seen it in print is near the end of the 19th century. For example, it appears in the Statesville Landmark newspaper from 1891:

“Money doesn’t grow on trees here yet.”

Example Sentences

  • We’ve been eating at restaurants a lot lately and this has taken a toll on our wallets. We’re going to have to cut back on eating out because, as the saying goes, money doesn’t grow on trees. We’ll do some home cooking instead.

Note: The origin of some common idioms and phrases cannot be said with a certainty. What’s provided, then, are theories that talk about how a phrase originated, but these are speculative. 
In addition, quotes that contain the phrase are taken from old newspapers, poems, or books. While these can be centuries old, it does not necessarily mean that the phrase originated from these sources. In all likelihood, if an expression is being used in something like a newspaper, then it was probably already well known at that time.

See Also:

Money Sayings

This phrase is on our list of money sayings. So if you want to see more like it, give that page a look.

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