If you’ve been to a Spanish-speaking country, I’d be willing to bet top dollar that at one point or another you were asked for money but didn’t have any on you … and, well, you needed to communicate just that!
Maybe you were in Mexico City and you genuinely would have liked to give a couple of coppers to that guy / gal who performed a daring act on the metro*, or maybe your pockets were stuffed to the brim but you just weren’t in a money-sharing mood.
Either way, it probably would have made the situation just a tad easier if you’d been able to utter the phrase ‘I have no money’ to the person in question!
To that end, here’s a list of the best and most native-like ways to tell someone that you ain’t got no money, both at the moment of speaking and in a more general sense of the phrase (empty bank accounts, etc.).
Trust me when I say that it’s going to make your life a lot easier, especially as a tourist!
*Rupert’s note – I’ve seen someone actually lie on broken glass while riding the metro to work and, just for the record, he did indeed manage to prise away a couple of my hard-earned pesos!
1 No tengo dinero – I have no money / I don’t have any money
This one’s the literal translation of ‘I have no money’. You’re basically using the same words (translated, of course) as you would in English, but in a slightly different order –
- ‘Tengo’ is the 1st person singular conjugation of the verb ‘tener’ in the present tense, basically the Spanish equivalent of ‘I have’.
- ‘Dinero’ is one of* the many Spanish words for ‘money’ (although definitely the most standard translation).
- To finish the sentence off just add a simple ‘no’ before ‘tengo dinero’.
Remember that when forming negative sentences in Spanish we DO NOT translate the English ‘don’t’ or ‘doesn’t‘, a simple ‘no’ can be placed before the verb to mean the exact thing (easy, right?).
Let’s look at an example –
Ivonne – ¿Quieres ir a comer pizza?
Raúl – Es que no puedo, no tengo dinero.
Ivonne – Do you wanna go eat pizza?
Raúl – I can’t, I have no money.
*Erika’s note – make sure to check out our article on all the different ways to say ‘money’ in Spanish! There are wayyy more than you’d think!
2 No traigo dinero – I have no money on me / I don’t have any money on me
‘No traigo dinero’ is the perfect phrase for when someone is asking you for money, but your wallet is as empty as a recently dug hole (or if you’re just not in a money-giving mood!).
And the difference between ‘no traigo dinero’ and ‘no tengo dinero’?
Well, the verb used, of course!
Amongst other things, ‘traer’ can be used to mean ‘to have … on’ in the sense of having something on your person, whereas ‘tener’ means ‘to have’.
That’s why ‘no traigo dinero’ should be your go-to when being asked for money, as you’re very specifically telling your interlocuter that you don’t have any money on you (irrespective of the state of your bank account!).
Let’s look at some examples –
Una mujer está vendiendo baratijas en la calle
Mujer – Cómprame algo, señor.
Juan – Perdón, no traigo dinero.
A woman is selling trinkets on the street
Woman – Buy something from me, mister.
Juan – Sorry, I don’t have any money on me.
If you’re in a situation in which someone is asking you for change, you can also use ‘no traigo monedas’ which literally means ‘I don’t have any coins on me’.
I personally use this one a lot in Mexico City to deter the ubiquitous windscreen cleaning guys at major traffic lights.
Hombre se acerca a mi auto con esponja y jabón en mano
Rupert – Gracias. No traigo monedas.
Hombre asiente la cabeza y camina hacia el siguiente carro
A man is coming towards my car wielding soap and a sponge
Rupert – No, thanks. I don’t have any change on me.
Man nods his head and walks towards the next car in line
3 No tengo plata / lana – I don’t have any dough / dosh / etc.
If you fancy communicating your financial woes (or the fact that you´re not carrying any money) in a more informal way, just replace ‘money’ with your favorite slang term.
‘Plata’ is widely used in Argentina and Colombia, ‘lana’ should be your go-to when in Mexico, and ‘pasta’ if roaming the streets of Spain.
Just remember that this isn’t formal Spanish, so don’t be using it at the bank!
4 Ando sin dinero – I don’t have any money (on me)
This one’s similar to ‘no tengo dinero’ in that it can be used both in a more general sense AND to refer to the fact that you don’t have any money on you at a specific moment.
Doesn´t ‘andar’ mean ‘to walk’?
Well, yeah, it does!
It can though sometimes be loosely translated as ‘to be’, depending on context.
For example, ‘¿En dónde andas?’ (‘Where are you?’ in English) can be used instead of the more common ‘¿En dónde estás?’.
Here are some examples –
Rosa – Ando sin dinero, ¿me prestas para unos tacos?
Evelia – ¡Claro que si amiga!
Rosa – I don’t have any money, can you lend me some for a few tacos?
Evelia – Of course!
Una pareja está hablando por teléfono
Hombre – Oye, me compras unas galletas de la tienda cuando regreses del trabajo.
Mujer – No puedo, ando sin dinero y dejé mi bolso en la casa.
A couple is speaking on the phone.
Man – Can you buy me some biscuits from the shop on your way back from work.
Woman – I can’t, I don’t have any money on me and I left my bag at home.
5 Estoy en bancarrota – I’m bankrupt
This one literally translates to ‘I’m bankrupt’.
It can be used both literally (i.e., unable to pay outstanding debts) and figuratively, in the sense that you just don´t have any money!
Let’s dive into a few examples –
José Luis – No voy a hacer nada este fin de semana. Estoy en bancarrota.
Ladislao – No te preocupes, te presto dinero.
José Luis – I’m not going to do anything this weekend. I literally have no money.
Ladislao – Don’t worry, I´ll lend you money.
En la oficina de un abogado
Abogado – Te vas a tener que declarar en bancarrota.
Cliente – ¿Y no hay otra forma?
In a lawyer’s office
Lawyer – You’re going to have to declare yourself bankrupt.
Client – Is there no other way?
6 Andar / Estar bruja – I’m broke / I’m skint
This one’s only used in Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico and it translates to something along the lines of ‘I’m broke’ or ‘I’m skint’.
It’s a colloquial phrase, but one that the locals are sure to understand and appreciate.
I mean, I’m pretty sure you´d be impressed if a foreigner told you, “I’m skint“!
Ariel – Vamos a un antro, wey.
Alonso – No puedo wey, ando bien bruja.
Ariel – Let’s go to a club, man.
Alonso – I can´t dude, I’m skint.
7 Estoy en ceros – I’m broke
You guessed it, this phrase can also be used to communicate the fact that you don’t have any money!
‘Cero’ is Spanish for ‘zero’, so ‘estar en zeros’ literally translate to ‘I’m in zeros’.
Obviously, ‘I’m broke’ would be the best translation.
Beto – No te puedo acompañar, estoy en ceros.
Arturo – Ando sin mucho dinero también, sino te prestaría.
Beto – I can’t come with you, I´m broke.
Arthur – I don’t have much money at the moment either, otherwise I’d help you out.
8 Me quedé sin dinero / Me quedé en ceros – I ran out of money
If you want to express the fact that you had money but then ran out (we’ve all been there!), you can use either ‘me quedé sin dinero’ or ‘me quedé en ceros’.
Guadalupe – Este mes me quedé en ceros, no tengo ni para mis pasajes.
Marcos – ¡Híjole!
Guadalupe – I’ve run out of money this month, I don´t even have enough for bus fares.
Marcos – Wow!
And what (the heck!) does ‘quedarse’ mean?
Well, it actually has a lot of uses, but the main idea in this context is that you went from a state of “having” to “not having”.
A good translation in English would be ‘to run out (of something)’ and you can use it in much the same way –
Me quedé sin pila. = I ran out of battery.
Me quedé sin gasolina. = I ran out of gas.
Now you should be able to communicate your lack of money in a variety of different contexts AND with a number of different phrases!
You’ll also be able to let hawkers know why you’re not buying their wares in a polite and friendly manner.
Oh, and if you’re actually in dire financial straits, you’ll probably also find our article on all the different ways to say ‘I need money‘ in Spanish useful too!
Now go forth and practice!