What Does Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees Mean?

Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees Meaning

Definition: Money must be earned and does not come freely.

Typically, this idiom describes the idea that someone should be careful of how they spend his or her money.

Origin of Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

It is unclear exactly how this idiom originated. However, it appeared in print as early as the 1800s. Here is an early example of the phrase in the Statesville Landmark newspaper from 1891

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees here yet.

money don't grow on treesThis phrase relates to the fact that trees often produce fruit for people to enjoy—regardless of whether or not the people cultivate these trees. This contrasts the idea that money must be worked for with effort and is never given without a reason.

Examples of Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

Our first example dialogue shows a sister using the idiom in a conversation with her brother about their weekly budget.

Luke: Look at this new TV I bought! Isn’t it great?

Ella: Great? Are you serious? We can’t afford a new TV!

Luke: Yeah, yeah, I know. But look how good this TV is! It’s huge!

Ella: You have to return that. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know. We won’t have money to buy food if you keep that TV.

Luke: We’ll take it out of our savings.

Ella: Absolutely not.

is money made from treesThe second example shows two people using the expression in a conversation about a television show they’ve been watching.

Ray: I don’t understand how these two people can live in such a huge apartment in New York City when one of them is a waitress, and the other is unemployed. It’s totally unbelievable.

Jackie: It doesn’t have to be believable. It’s a TV show!

Ray: I know. But all I’m saying is that money doesn’t grow on trees. There’s no way that they could afford this apartment on their budget.

Jackie: Just watch the show.

More Examples

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees — unless you’re a millionaire who wants to pay it forward. –New York Daily News
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees so don’t joke and say it does or repeat any of the other little white lies we think are cute. Just don’t lie about money, Beard says. “As kids get older, don’t lie and tell your kids that you don’t have money to buy cookies, or a movie ticket, and then turn around and purchase a new television.”–Washington Post


The phrase money doesn’t grow on trees is a proverb that stresses the importance and value of hard work and encourages people to make wise spending decisions.