I am looking for an idiomatic expression that expresses the idea of the negative consequences for having wasted your time or your money for instance, and now that you really need them you don't have enough.

An example may be a student who has wasted time and now they don't have enough to study for their examinations.

  • 1
    "having wasted your time or your money for instance, and now that you really need them you don't have enough" - the phrase "A day late and a dollar short" fits both simultaneously but neither individually.
    – DasBeasto
    Feb 11, 2016 at 15:16
  • 3
    An old Arabian proverb - Four things come not back: spoken word, sped arrow, time past, neglected opportunity
    – BiscuitBoy
    Feb 12, 2016 at 10:58
  • 1
    frittering away your time or money. it's a great word BTW!
    – Fattie
    Feb 12, 2016 at 19:42
  • Sorry Bob already said it ...
    – Fattie
    Feb 12, 2016 at 19:42

12 Answers 12


Consider the colloquial idiom fritter away.

Thus spake dictionary.com:

verb (used with object) 1. to squander or disperse piecemeal; waste little by little (usually followed by away): to fritter away one's money; to fritter away an afternoon. 2. to break or tear into small pieces or shreds. verb (used without object) 3. to dwindle, shrink, degenerate, etc. (often followed by away): to watch one's fortune fritter away.

The lazy student frittered away his time, his parents' money, and his prospects for a prosperous future.

  • 1
    Example of usage: lyrics of Pink Floyd's Time Feb 12, 2016 at 14:52

A person who makes bad decisions now and will have to pay for them later can be said to have mortgaged their future. A single word for this would be to squander time or money.

  • squander : waste (something, especially money or time) in a reckless and foolish manner. –Google
    – Mazura
    Feb 12, 2016 at 0:47

Maybe a little more vulgar than you're looking for, but a common British idiom for this is 'pissed away'.

"I pissed away four years of my life in university and didn't graduate." "The old mayor pissed millions of dollars away on stuff nobody wanted."

Examples from Wiktionary

  • 1
    In the same vein, 'pissing <time/money/whatever> up the wall' - but this doesn't really convey anything about the consequences of the wastefulness. 'Pissing into the wind' suggests negative consequences, but these are pretty immediate - and in any case I don't think it conveys much sense of wastefulness, just counterproductiveness.
    – Jeremy
    Feb 11, 2016 at 12:57
  • It's not just British - I've lived my whole life in California, which you will note is not in England, and that was the first thing I thought of. Most commonly used specifically in the phrase "pissing away his inheritance", but not only there. (I do agree that it doesn't inherently imply "and now you need the money", though.)
    – neminem
    Feb 12, 2016 at 17:54

The fable The Ant and the Grasshopper comes to mind.

One bright day in late autumn a family of Ants were bustling about in the warm sunshine, drying out the grain they had stored up during the summer, when a starving Grasshopper, his fiddle under his arm, came up and humbly begged for a bite to eat.

"What!" cried the Ants in surprise, "haven't you stored anything away for the winter? What in the world were you doing all last summer?"

"I didn't have time to store up any food," whined the Grasshopper; "I was so busy making music that before I knew it the summer was gone."

The Ants shrugged their shoulders in disgust.

"Making music, were you?" they cried. "Very well; now dance!" And they turned their backs on the Grasshopper and went on with their work.

From here.

You could borrow from this parable to say something like

His behaviour has been more grasshopper than ant.

and people who are familiar with the fable (it's a common fable) will know what you mean.

  • 3
    +1 I think the idiom drawn from this fable is "fiddled away [one's] time."
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 15, 2016 at 17:16

Lost time is never found again

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  • Shouldn't that be "may delay"? Feb 19, 2016 at 20:27
  • @BrianDonovan - Yes... I modified the picture!
    – Graffito
    Feb 19, 2016 at 22:10

From the Bible:

Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing. - Proverbs 20:4, NIV


You could consider using time and tide wait for no man which is

said to ​emphasize that ​people cannot ​stop the ​passing of time, and ​therefore should not ​delay doing things.

[Cambridge Dictionaries Online]


Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today comes to mind:

  • said to ​emphasize that you should not ​delay doing something if you can do it ​immediately.


  • 1
    Personally I prefer a variation of this proverb: "Don't do today what you can make/get others (to) do tomorrow." ;-) Feb 11, 2016 at 13:32

My old English teacher used to say "Time is money, and we are poor!"


The well's run dry.

Perhaps you could say : The student thought her money would never run out and bought expensive clothes but the well has run dry.

Quoting http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/well-s-run-dry--the :

A supply or resource has been exhausted, as in There's no more principal left; the well's run dry, or There's not another novel in her; the well's run dry.


I would describe it as having frittered your away your time. Facebook, twitter, etc. all result in frittering away your valuable time.

  • Yep - that StackExchange is a good place for frittering too! :) Mar 10, 2016 at 19:53

A possible answer, which hasn't been given yet, is the verb dilapidate.

Online Etymology: 'dilapidate'

1560s, "to bring a building to ruin," from Latin dilapidatus, past participle of dilapidare "to squander, waste," originally "to throw stones, scatter like stones;" see dilapidation. Perhaps the English word is a back-formation from dilapidation.

definition of 'dilapidate'on Online Etymology

Online Etymology: 'dilapidation'

early 15c., from Late Latin dilapidationem (nominative dilapidatio) "a squandering," noun of action from past participle stem of Latin dilapidare "throw away, squander, waste," literally "pelt with stones" (thus "ruin, destroy") or else "scatter like stones," from dis- "asunder" (see dis-) + lapidare "throw stones at," from lapis (genitive lapidis) "stone." "Taken in Eng. in a more literal sense than was usual in Latin" [OED].

definition of 'dilapidation' on Online Etymology

Poring over the different answers, I am surprised not to find the fairly obvious adjective shortsighted, lacking foresight. Cambridge Dictionaries Online give the following definition of 'shortsighted':

showing a ​lack of ​thought for what might ​happen in the ​future: It’s shortsighted to ​spend all ​your ​money on having a good ​time.

definition of 'shortsighted' on Cambridge Dictionaries Online

  • 1
    Dilapidate is a great word but I've never heard it used in connection with wasting money or time; as one of your references observes, the connotation of the word is much more closely tied to a building that is going to ruin.
    – Sven Yargs
    Mar 11, 2016 at 0:54
  • @SvenYargs: I checked and this meaning is archaic in English. Still common in French, though.
    – user58319
    Apr 7, 2016 at 17:45

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