The word could be any part of speech. The purpose is to communicate that an entity was gaining less than losing. Income < expenses.

Example 1:

The company has been _________ for the last 2 years.

Example 2:

He has been working ______ for the last few months.

  • 3
    I think you question is unclear. You are referring to different concepts. Being unprofitable has little to do with spending more than one is gaining. I suggest you refer to the economics site. economics.stackexchange.com
    – user 66974
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 18:58
  • @user5768790 I agree. The question in the title doesn't match the question in the body. So, my suggestion is: not make (both) ends meet.
    – haha
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 20:00
  • you would likely use a different word/phrase for the two different examples. Companies operate "in the red/in the black" whereas a you would rarely refer to a person as operating "in the red". I would rephrase the second example to: "He's been spending more than his income the last few months" Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 17:31

10 Answers 10


A common expression for this would be (operating) at a loss:

Making less money than is spent buying, operating, or producing something. ‘a railway running at a loss’
definition from oxford dictionaries


I would say that the company has been in the red:

The expression "in the red" generally is used to describe a business that is operating at a loss.
What Does It Mean When a Company Is in the Red?

This expression can also be applied to individuals, but it is most often used with businesses.

Another option is simply in debt.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 16:38

For people, you could say they are "living beyond their means". According to Collins English Dictionary

If someone is living beyond their means, they are spending more money than they can afford.

This isn’t used so much for companies, but you could say they are "making a loss".


I would suggest 'unprofitable' since the whole idea of being in business or being in employment is to make a profit.

not profitable : producing no gain, good, or result an unprofitable venture

Merriam Webter

Welsh Dairy: New Report Shows Up To 75% Of Farms Are Unprofitable


  • 1
    Sometimes lossmaking or (in OPs second example) at a loss. Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 18:34
  • That is a good one! Can you come up with any verb that denotes the similar meaning?
    – Eduard
    Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 18:42
  • @Eduard 'Non-profitmaking' ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 9:11

The phrase deficit spending is commonly said of governments when it does that. I know many people who slightly bend that to be humorous when an individual does that.

Bernie has embraced fiscal excess in the form of deficit spending at the pubs lately.

  • 5
    "running a deficit" would be the phrase to insert in the OP's sentence
    – tar
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 16:13

in the red ~ A slang phrase referring to a company that is burdened by operating expenses and is unable to generate revenue.
from businessdictionary.com

  • The company has been in the red for the last 2 years.
  • He has been working in the red for the last few months.

phrase ~ If a person or company is in the red or if their bank account is in the red, they have spent more money than they have in their account and therefore they owe money to the bank.
from Collins Dictionary

This commonly used idiom is based on the historically traditional book-keeping practice of using red ink for outstanding balances in ledgers. From what I gather, the practice was rather informal or optional (depending on company or individual preferences), although often used by old-fashioned book-keepers who entered all information into their ledgers by hand. Many of them kept pens of different colored inks, each of which had a specific symbolic meaning. Red ink could mean almost anything, depending on how it was implemented, but relevant to this particular popular idiom, it meant money owed.

in the red in debt, overdrawn, or losing money. Red ink was traditionally used to indicate debit items and balances in accounts. Compare with in the black
from freedictionary.com


A less common word that might apply is impecunious. The strict definition means someone (or an entity) with no money or assets, but I've often heard it used to mean someone who is not good at managing their money.


The following might do: to overspend in Collins Dictionary, even though it does not explicitly touch on income, but rather on what one could afford:

If you overspend, you spend more money than you can afford to.

So we get:

The company has been overspending for the last 2 years.


For an individual, a common way of saying it is, "living beyond his means". Depending on how formal the language of the document is, for a company you could say, "spending beyond its means" or "spending beyond their means".


burn the candle at both ends - idiom (informal) meaning to work long hours without rest.

 You'll wear yourself out if you keep **burning the candle at both ends**.

unsustainably - adv. in a way that cannot continue over a period of time:

adv + adj

Prices have been set unsustainably high for years.

Search results for v + adv offer only results for the affirmative sustainably.

Ten Ways to Live Sustainably (book title)

Seeing how the word unsustainably exists, would going from the collocation "live sustainably" to "work unsustainably" be too big of a stretch?

  • 2
    add citations for your choices and defend them with elaboration.
    – lbf
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 11:52

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