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Making Ends Meet

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English Matters - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 6/2019 vom 27.09.2019

They say money is the root of all evil. While we all need it to enrich our lives, the lack of money can bring about some truly terrifying problems. LetEnglish Matters be your guide for any tough times you may encounter when money gets harder to come by.

Idioms About Money Troubles

• Do you know anyone who’s on the breadline?
• Of course he’s broke. He’s been spending money like water.
• She lost her job, so she’ll have to tighten her belt.
• I’m sick and tired of living on a shoestring.
• Could I borrow some money? I’m strapped for cash at the moment.
• I want to stop penny-pinching.
• I’ve been ...

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• Do you know anyone who’s on the breadline?
• Of course he’s broke. He’s been spending money like water.
• She lost her job, so she’ll have to tighten her belt.
• I’m sick and tired of living on a shoestring.
• Could I borrow some money? I’m strapped for cash at the moment.
• I want to stop penny-pinching.
• I’ve been scrimping and saving all year.

impoverished | verarmt, ärmlich
poverty-stricken | von Armut geplagt
destitute | mittellos
penniless | mittellos, pleite
underprivileged | unterprivilegiert, benachteiligt
complaint | Beschwerde, Beanstandung
to be stuck in sth | in etw. feststecken/ festsitzen
dead-end | ohne Aufstiegsmöglichkeiten/Ausweg
run-of-the-mill | 08/15, gewöhnlich
to be stuck in a rut | sich in ausgefahrenen Gleisen bewegen
pay rise | Gehaltserhöhung


Alex: How was work today? You said you were going to ask your boss for a raise.
Norbert: It didn’t exactly go as planned. Let’s just say we won’t be realising those caviar wishes and champagne dreams anytime soon.
Alex: Don’t tell me he said “no.” After all the work you’ve put in. You’ve been putting your nose to the grindstone for years.
Norbert: Everyone in the office calls him a slave-driver, so I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
Alex: It’s definitely a tough pill to swallow. Well, what will we do now? What about our plans for a summer holiday?
Norbert: Honestly, I think we’ll have to put them on hold. We’ll have to tighten our belts, but things might improve next year.
Alex: And what about the children? Their birthdays are coming up.
Norbert: We can dig into our savings if we need to. With a little more scrimping and saving, I think we can manage a gift or two.

slave-driver | Sklaventreiber
definitely | definitiv
tough pill to swallow | eine bittere Pille (zum Schlucken)
to put sth on hold | etw. auf Eis legen
to improve | (sich) verbessern, besser werden
to dig into sth | an etw. gehen

Synonyms for “Poor”

• This is an impoverished part of town.
• His family has been poverty-stricken for generations.
• I try to help needy individuals as much as possible.
• Her home looks awful. She must be totally destitute.
• My family might be penniless soon.
• It’s important to help people who come from underprivileged areas.

Money Complaints at Work

• He’s stuck in a dead-end job.
• I want to do something more than just simple run-of-the-mill tasks.
• I’m stuck in a rut, and I have to find a way to get a better job.
• She’s been nothing more than a wage slave for years.
• I’ve never received a single pay rise.

Discussing Hard Work

• I worked my fingers to the bone.
• I had to slog my guts out for years.
• She put her blood, sweat, and tears into this project.
• Put your nose to the grindstone, and it’ll pay off in the end.
• I’m my family’s breadwinner, so I know I have to go the extra mile every day.

to work one’s fingers to the bone | sich die Finger wund arbeiten
to slog one’s guts | sich die Seele aus dem Leib ackernsweat swet| Schweiß
to put one’s nose to the
grindstone | hart und lange arbeiten
to go the extra mile | sich besonders anstrengen


George: Alright, we’ve got to do the groceries, but we’re on a tight budget. How do we prioritise what to buy?
Rachel: Let’s take care of the staples first. You know, those things that we just can’t live without.
George: So, milk, bread, and some fruits, right? What else?
Rachel: If we get the right ingredients, I can make my special vegan spaghetti tonight?
George: Oh, but you love using those pricey eco vegetables. I don’t think we can splurge on such luxuries right now.
Rachel: Hmm, maybe if we walk up and down all the aisles, we can see if there are any BOGO* offers to take advantage of.
George: Good idea. How about this? These crisps are buy one, get one free.
Rachel: I know it’s junk food, but that might be all we’re able to afford for now. They fit into our shoestring budget, so let’s take them.

staple | Grundnahrungsmittel, Haupt-
vegan ˈviːɡən| vegan
pricey | kostspielig
to splurge on sth | das Geld mit vollen Händen (für etw.) ausgeben
aisle aɪl| Gang, Reihe
to take advantage of sth | sich etw. zu Nutze machen
crisps | Chips
junk food | Junkfood, minderwertige Nahrung
to afford sth | sich etw. leisten können

* BOGO – buy one get one free

Wages to Get by On

While most countries have set up a minimum wage for their citizens, these values vary drastically from nation to nation. Comparisons prove problematic due to different legal structures and costs of living, but putting the figures side-by-side may offer a glimpse into how countries view their workers. Australia typically gets high marks with a national minimum wage equivalent to $14.56 per hour. Luxembourg gets the silver medal with an hourly minimum wage of $13.49. Another country with more generous wages is New Zealand.
Unsurprisingly, dozens of developing countries offer lower minimum wages, but there are developed nations that come across as a little miserly, too. Croatia’s minimum wage is just $3.27 per hour, and Slovakia, Poland and Lithuania are only slightly better. Wages in Spain and Japan can fall below $6.85 approximately. The USA also lands on the lower portion of the list with a national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The Horrendous Hourglass Economy

An Hourglass Economy is an economy in which the upper and lower classes increase in size while the middle class simultaneously shrinks. The term has been used to specifically refer to America’s social stratification in the twenty-first century. The USA’s wealthy are going just fine, but more Americans are gradually transitioning down from the middle class to the lower, poorer classes.
Analysts have called America’s situation a “consumer hourglass economy.” America’s middle class bears the brunt of the tax burden and spends the most money overall. The middle class seems quite willing to part with its money. That’s precisely why it’s becoming easier for so many Americans to fall into poverty. Poverty rates are increasing while the middle class is fading away. Who can “make ends meet” in America today? The figures show it may not be as many people as you think.

to get by on sth | mit etw. auskommen
due to sth | wegen etw.
side-by-side | nebeneinander
glimpse into sth | Blick in/auf etw.
dozens of sth | Dutzende von etw.
to come across as sth | als etw. rüberkommen/verstanden werden
to increase | wachsen, größer werden, zunehmen
simultaneously ˌsɪmlˈteɪniəsli| gleichzeitig
to shrink | schrumpfen, kleiner werden
stratification | Schichtung, Schichtenbildung
gradually | allmählich, schrittweise
to transition | übergehen
to bear sth | etw. tragen
brunt of sth | Hauptlast von etw.
tax burden | Steuerlast
to part with sth | sich von etw. trennen
to fall into poverty | verarmen
to fade away | verschwinden, immer schwächer werden


Charlotte: Hey, it’s the end of the month again. Can we go over our finances for the month?
Bill: Sure thing. I’ve got all our paperwork right here. What do you want to take care of first?
Charlotte: Let’s get the big expenses out of the way. Have we caught up with our mortgage and car payments?
Bill: Yes. Those are always the first things I take care of. Did you pay off our Internet and mobile phone bills?
Charlotte: I did, but I actually wanted to ask you about that. We still need to pony up for Georgie’s kindergarten. I’m afraid we haven’t got much cash left, so how about switching to a cheaper mobile phone plan?
Bill: Hang on, let me crunch the numbers. Our mortgage payment went up, and we weren’t able to keep our spending under control this month. We’re not exactly broke, but it looks like we might have to follow through with your idea.
Charlotte: So if we change plans, do you think we’ll be in the clear?
Bill: Again, I don’t think we’re at risk of becoming destituteper se , so I think we’ll have no problems making ends meet. We might even come out in the black this month.

expenses | Ausgaben
to catch up with sth | etw. einholen/nachholen
actually | eigentlich, tatsächlich
to pony up | löhnen, blechen, zahlen
to switch to sth | zu etw. umsteigen/wechseln
to crunch the numbers | rechnen, über Zahlen sitzen
to follow through | etw. durchziehen, mit etw. Ernst machen
to be in the clear | aus dem Schneider sein
per se | an sich, per se
in the black | im Plus (in den schwarzen Zahlen)