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A penny saved is a penny earned

“A penny saved is a penny earned” is a clever way of suggesting that even the smallest savings can add up when one is in financial need.

“A penny saved is a penny earned” is a common proverb that dates back centuries, with its origin sometime in the 1600s. When it was first used, the proverb contained different words than it does today, a perfect example of the way that languages evolve over time. The phrase was, and still is, used in many different situations and is meant to inspire the listener and speaker to save money.

A penny saved is a penny earned


Meaning of “A penny saved is a penny earned” 

“A penny saved is a penny earned” is a pithy way of suggesting that saving money is like earning money.

The phrase is usually used to inspire others to save more money than they spend and therefore ensure they don’t lose control of their finances. The fact that the phrase deals with a “penny” the smallest, least valuable type of currency, makes the proverb even more meaningful. Not only should people refrain from spending large amounts of money, but every penny they save could also end up being important. Even the smallest purchase can make a difference in the end. 


The Intriguing Origins

Like most idioms that are popular today, this one originally used different words. It used to read “a penny saved is a penny gained” or “got” rather than “earned.” There is a great example of an early iteration of this phrase, as noted by Phrases, from Outlandish Proverbs, published in 1633 by George Herbert. It reads:

A penny spar’d is twice got.

In this case, the penny is “spared” rather than “saved” and “got” rather than “earned.” It should be noted that this was certainly not the first time the phrase was used, considering the volume it was published in. As time progresses, the phrase changed to suit linguistic trends. Phrases describes a version of the phrase in The History of the Worthies of England, published in 1661 by Thomas Fuller. It read:

By the same proportion that a penny saved is a penny gained, the preserver of books is a Mate for the Compiler of them.

Here, “gained” comes into play, and “saved” is used, as it is today. Famously, the first usage of the phrase as it appears today is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. This is in part due to the fact that his face was on one side of a cent coin from the 1860s. It read a “penny saved is a penny earned” on the “tail” side. This suggests that the coin was minted in order to emphasize the connection between Franklin and this saying.


When to Use “A penny saved is a penny earned” 

It’s possible to use “a penny saved is a penny earned” in a variety of different ways.

For example, one might use the phrase when they’re trying to remind themselves that they need to be saving money, not spending money. In this way, one might also use it to remind someone close to them of the same thing. It’s a simple phrase to fit into conversations and it rolls off the tongue quite easily. That being said, it doesn’t mean that one can and should use the phrase in any situation. It’s fairly informal, meaning that it is best-used in conversations among friends, family members, and close colleagues. 


Example Sentences 

  • You know what they say, ‘a penny saved is a penny earned!” 
  • Don’t make that same mistake again, you have to remember that a penny saved is a penny earned. 
  • I couldn’t make myself buy that. I’m trying to be good about money and remember that a penny saved is a penny earned. 
  • A penny saved is a penny earned is the best way to keep from spending too much money while out shopping. 


Why Do Writers Use “A penny saved is a penny earned?” 

Writers use “A penny saved is a penny earned” in the same way and for the same reasons that the phrase is used in everyday conversations.

For example, it’s easy to imagine how a writer might incorporate this phrase into a dialogue between two characters who are making a decision in regard to an upcoming purchase, the best method of saving money, or if one really needs to buy something they’re about to spend a great deal of money on. Since this phrase dates back so many years and has been used by so many in a variety of ways, it’s possible that any iteration of the phrase in contemporary writing will come across as cliche. 


Related Idioms 

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