For example, I buy a bouncy house as a service, but I don't end up using it. I still have to pay for it, because the contract had me pay upfront.

Here's another. I sign up my kid for computer lessons and pay up front. But he doesn't gain anything out of it.

I think it's "lost my damage deposit", but after a quick Google search, that's something you pay to ensure an item isn't damaged.

So what's the word or saying for my case?


4 Answers 4


Not a word, but an idiom: "it's all been money down the drain".

  • to waste money; to throw money away.

literally it means enter image description here

From the web:

"Don't buy any more of that low-quality merchandise. That's just throwing money down the drain."

"Now, as police destroy the 200th bike they have confiscated, officers are warning parents not to pour money down the drain by buying the bikes for their children this Christmas."

  • 1
    +1 I think many Americans might envision something like this.
    – 1006a
    Jan 15, 2017 at 7:20

I'd call it a waste of money, and it's a very common expression.

(noun) money spent for inadequate return
"the senator said that the project was a waste of money"


a bad use of money. "The show was a waste of money."


And a person who wastes money this way may be called a spendthrift.

  • 3
    I don’t think spendthrift necessarily fits the bill. A spendthrift is someone who spends money in an irresponsible, extravagant way, not caring whether there’s any need to spend that money at all. Something that’s money down the drain/out the window isn’t necessarily irresponsibly spent. It may well be that the decision to spend the money was well-thought-out and prudent, but subsequent events, but subsequent events or unforeseen circumstances changed things and made the acquisition useless. Jan 14, 2017 at 16:41
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Valid point. +1. Should I remove it?
    – NVZ
    Jan 14, 2017 at 17:03
  • @NVZ Perhaps just hedge it with an addition to that effect. Jan 14, 2017 at 17:05

Your examples focus on buying services. For the case where you buy an object small enough to fit on a desk, counter or table, you could refer to it as an "expensive paperweight." You could use this expression if you bought something that was reasonably expensive but then you ended up not using it (because it didn't work well enough or didn't do what you thought it would do), it broke after a short time, or something else happened that made it unusable, useless, or obsolete.

expensive paperweight

An object that may have had an original purpose (usually electronic devices) or a concept model of something else, but in any case unable to serve its intended purpose except as a display item or a paperweight.

Since many of these paperweights, especially those of the old electronics category, required a larger investment at its initial purchase, these paperweights become expensive, hence, the "expensive paperweight." (Urban Dictionary)

For example:

This hack seems to have turned an iMac into an expensive paperweight.

Turning Classroom Tech Into More Than an Expensive Paperweight.

[Your textbook] is not just an expensive paperweight.


We may call it a white elephant.


white elephant

A business or investment that is unprofitable and is likely to remain unprofitable.

  • Generally speaking, though, a white elephant implies not just that you don't get any value out of the money you paid to purchase it, but also that it becomes an additional burden on you, costing you more than just the up-front sticker price.
    – R.M.
    Jan 14, 2017 at 20:02

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