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I am looking for an idiom that satisfies the idea of giving away your second option instead of your first. For example you could have a really nice basketball and a not as nice basketball to play basketball outdoors with. Instead of choosing the really nice basketball (so as to not risk its quality) to play with you choose to play with the not so good one.

Basically you do not want to give away or risk your best "thing".

"Somewhat" along the idea of Mark Twain's “Don't use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.”

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    I think your question needs to be clearer. AFAIK the Mark Twain maxim is an aid to clear writing, not what your heading is asking. – peterG Jun 15 at 15:25
  • You might be thinking of giving away you “second best.” – Xanne Jun 15 at 16:13
  • Isn't that just the same as bartering, where you never give your lowest or highest price first, but only word towards it as part of a process that hopefully results in something better? – Jason Bassford Jun 15 at 19:59
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How about hold out on? From M-W:

hold out on: to withhold something from

Your example: In providing your second best basketball rather than your really nice basketball, you were holding out on your friends. What would your friends say if they were to find out you had a much better basketball: "Wow, we can't believe you were holding out on us." Or "Why were your holding out on us? Let's play with the good ball."

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Your dinner table might provide you with a usable expression.

Many people have a set of “good china” for company and “everyday china” for ordinary daily use.

If you use an expression like let’s just use the everyday X, most listeners will infer the existence of a good X that you want to reserve for special occasions.

The quest for everyday china can be read about here: https://justdestinymag.com/everyday-dishes/

Lifestyle blogs are a rich source of expressions, and (with any luck) both current and idiomatic.

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What about against your better judgement (contrary to what you feel to be wise or sensible)?

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  • Not only does this not answer the question, but you've also failed to cite any references or examples of usage in similar situations. – DW256 Jun 18 at 7:52
  • It does answer the question, the reference and examples are unnecessary here. – Olena Jun 19 at 15:37

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