Don’t Say No Tengo Dinero: 7 Alternatives in Spanish (With Examples)



¿Qué te parece ese? ¿O ese? ¿O ese?
(What do you think about that one? Or that one? Or that one?)

No tengo dinero.
(I don’t have money.)

DON’T Say NO TENGO DINERO! Sound fancy in Spanish with these 7 Alternatives

Someone tries to sell you something, or your friends want you to join them at a fancy restaurant, but you don’t have money? Saying “no tengo dinero” does the job… but sounds a bit plain, even a bit off.

Sound cool in Spanish while being penniless with these 7 alternatives.

I’m Spring Spanish teacher Maura, and here is alternative número uno (number 1):

1. Estoy en la ruina (I’m broke)

Another way to say this would be estoy arruinada (I’m broke – feminine) or estoy arruinado (I’m broke – masculine) but it means exactly the same. It’s most commonly used amongst friends and family. 

Meaning, it’s not something you’d say at a store or to your employer. You could use it, though, as follows:

¿Vas a salir?
(Are you going out?)

¡Sí! Al cumple de Jorge. Vamos a comer en Monsieur Sushita, ¿te quieres venir?
(Yeah! To Jorge’s birthday. We’re going to eat at Monsieur Sushita, do you want to come?)

¿Estás loca? Ese sitio es carísimo y yo estoy en la ruina, ¿no te acuerdas?
(Are you crazy? That place is super expensive, and I’m broke, remember?)

Hoy por ti, mañana por mí. ¡Anda a vestirte!
(Today’s on me. Go get dressed!)


Hoy por ti, mañana por mí (Today’s on me) is a perfect example of a chunk in Spanish! Native speakers have been using this forever, so you can be sure that it’s correct. 

Literally translated means “Today’s on me, tomorrow’s on you”, which sounds pretty good in English, to be honest, but it doesn’t exist.

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2. Solo estaba mirando (I was just looking)

In this case, you would say this to a salesperson. It works as it does in English: a socially accepted way to say “for whatever reason, mostly because estoy en la ruina (I’m broke), I am not buying anything today.”

Honestly, being at a store looking around is the only natural example I can think of.

For example: ¿Le puedo ayudar? No, sólo estaba mirando. (Can I help you? No, I was just looking.) If you have any other reasonable contexts for this chunk, let me know in the video’s comments. 

3. No llevo efectivo (I don’t have any cash)

This is an entirely different situation you could, sadly, run into quite often, and that Covid has made even more pressing: people asking for money on the streets. If you’re like me and don’t like to ignore people, saying no llevo efectivo (I don’t have any cash) can be quite a helpful chunk. 

And if you have kids, nieces, or nephews constantly asking for cash, don’t hesitate to use this one with them. Oh, and make sure to act as if credit cards don’t exist.

What does exist is the opportunity for you to become a member of our Inner Circle and chat about this with other students, Spanish tutors, and come to the speaking rooms that we regularly organize to help you speak Spanish! If you feel like it, check the link in the description to try out the membership. 

4. Estoy… (I’m…)

Like with estoy en la ruina (I’m broke) the verb estar (to be) gives you many more options to continue to make clear that you do not have any money right now.

  • Estoy en quiebra (I’m broke)

Remember our friend and the fancy restaurant?

¡Sí! Al cumple de Jorge. Vamos a comer en Monsieur Sushita, ¿te quieres venir?
(Yeah! To Jorge’s birthday. We’re going to eat at Monsieur Sushita, do you want to come?)

¿Estás loca? Ese sitio es carísimo y yo estoy en quiebra, ¿no te acuerdas?
(Are you crazy? That place is super expensive, and I’m broke, remember?)

  • Estoy en cero (I’m broke) 

It actually translates to “I’m at zero”, but that wouldn’t make any sense in English, so just learn the full chunk in Spanish. 

…shita, ¿te quieres venir?
(…shita, do you want to come?)

(long pause)
¡Que no, bro, que no! ¡Que estoy en cero!
(I said no, bro, no! I’m broke!)

  • Estoy en bancarrota (I’m bankrupt)

Ok, so this one does exist in English.

No tengo dinero text on orange and red background

It is not more formal than any of the others, but it does have this economy, business ring to it.

Claro que, también es el término que se usaría para decir legalmente que tu compañía es insolvente. (Of course, it’s also the actual term you’d use to legally say that your company is insolvent.) 

Google se declara insolvente y dice estar oficialmente en bancarrota. ¡El final se acerca! 
(Google declares itself insolvent and says they are officially bankrupt. The end is near!)

5. Doy una vuelta y vuelvo (I’ll come back)

This is another one you can use at a store or shop of some kind, and it’s rarely used in other contexts. An example would be:

You are at the local street market asking about an item, and you realize you can’t afford it. Saying doy una vuelta y vuelvo (I’ll come back) leaves you off the hook easily. 

Most vendors are used to hearing this, and they won’t expect you to come back, but of course you can if you want to.

No tengo dinero, ni nada que dar, lo único que tengo es amor para dar… (I have no money or anything to give, the only thing I have is love to give…)

You have no idea how many times my brain has sung this song while shooting this video. It’s Juan Gabriel’s “No tengo dinero”. (“I have no money.”) And though it won’t make you sound cool, I don’t believe there is one Latin American out there who hasn’t gotten these lyrics stuck in their brains at least once. 

6. Hagamos algo tranquilo en casa (Let’s do something chill at home instead)

This and the next one are both ways to indirectly convey to your friends and/or family members that you have no money available to make plans. 

It’s very adaptable, so it’s possible to hear variations of this where we use other adjectives instead of tranquilo (quiet / chill). Let’s look at the next one, and then I’ll give you an example where you can see both in action. 

7. No he cobrado (I haven’t been paid yet)

So, this doesn’t even have to be true. It’s one of those accepted white lies, social convention type of thing that, once more, helps you avoid saying loud, clear and proudly ¡No tengo dinero! (I don’t have money!)

Here’s an example which includes the last two:

Estoy aburrida, ¿salimos de bares?
(I’m bored, shall we go to a bar?)

¿Por qué no hacemos algo tranquilo en casa mejor?
(Why not hang at home instead?)

¡Qué aburrida!
(So boring!)

¡Es que no he cobrado!
(I haven’t been paid yet!)

Summary to the alternatives of ‘no tengo dinero’

There you go! Now, let’s review real quick. Are you ready?

Options for stores

Sólo estaba mirandoI was just looking
Doy una vuelta y vuelvoI’ll come back

Options with friends

Estoy en la ruinaI’m broke
Estoy en quiebraI’m broke
Estoy en ceroI’m broke
Estoy en bancarrotaI’m broke

They all mean something along the lines of “I’m broke”. 

Options to avoid telling your friends you’re broke

Hagamos algo tranquilo en casaLet’s do something at home instead
No he cobradoI haven’t been paid yet

And… what do you tell the manipulative kids in your family?

  • No llevo efectivo  (I don’t have any cash)

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