Does “This product will pay its own way in one year" mean "This product will pay back your investment in one year"? If so, why?

As a foreigner, I can't connect "pay its own way" with earning back my investment. I am a little confused.


Pay one's own way: to pay for one's own transportation, entrance fees, tickets, room, board, etc.

I wanted to go to Florida this spring, but my parents say I have to pay my own way.

Yes it means "pay back your investment in a year".

  • So you mean " the product will pay its own way in a year" doesn't mean"pay back your investment in a year"? then,what does it mean? – user51225 Sep 6 '13 at 8:49
  • Yes it means "pay back your investment in a year". – Benyamin Hamidekhoo Sep 6 '13 at 8:51
  • 2
    I would argue that it doesn't necessarily mean "pay back your investment in a year". Most products require investment capital and constant advertising in order to be successful. If a product is "Paying its own way" it could mean it is self sufficient, which doesn't actually imply it's already paying off. – TsSkTo Sep 6 '13 at 8:57
  • Is it a kind of personification? – user51225 Sep 6 '13 at 9:20
  • No matter which one is right, I will not use it in the future business in order to avoid ambiguity. – user51225 Sep 6 '13 at 9:26

To be honest, as a native speaker at least passingly familiar with basic finance, I'm not sure what it means in this context either.

Possibilities are:

  • The product is making enough in sales to cover its per-unit production costs (and distribution and marketing costs?).
  • The product has made enough net profit within one year to pay back its intitial development costs.

These are two very different things. Its even quite possible the speaker put it in exactly this imprecise way in order to mislead his audience. When someone is talking money, it is wise to bring all the cynicism you can muster.


“This product will pay its own way in one year" does not mean "This product will pay back your investment in one year".

It means, "This product will pay back its on-going expenses, starting one year from now."

If you buy a car, and the car "pays its way", that would mean the value you get for it makes up for costs of fuel, maintenance, and so on. Its initial cost is another matter.


I would expect it to reach a break even point where all upfront costs have been recovered and each sale makes a profit from then on.


When a product is launched, the costs have to be carried by the company.

If the product can "pay its own way" within a year, the companyh expects to recoup those costs in year's time. At that point, what was initially a "loss" for the product will have turned into "breakeven," suggesting that it will be profitable on a cumuulative basis in years two and thereafter.

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