Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Financial, Encyclopedia.
tighten the purse strings
To become less liberal with or more controlling of one's expenditures; to decrease the availability of money for spending purposes. After losing my job, I've had to tighten the purse strings quite a bit. We've been behind schedule ever since the boss decided to tighten the purse strings on our project.
The spending power of a given group, such as a family, company, country, etc. Their government is going to have to learn to tighten the purse strings if they want to continue receiving bailout money from the IMF. After my dad's gambling problem came to light, it was my mother who started holding the purse strings.
tighten one's belt
Fig. to manage to spend less money; to use less of something. (See also take one's belt in (a notch).) Things are beginning to cost more and more. It looks like we'll all have to tighten our belts. Times are hard, and prices are high. I can tighten my belt for only so long.
tighten something on(to) something
to make something more tightly attached to something. Will you please tighten this nut onto the bolt? I tightened the lid on the pickle jar.
tighten something up
to make something tighter. Tighten your seat belt up. It looks loose. Can you tighten up all the bolts?
1. Lit. [for something] to get tighter. The door hinges began to tighten up, making the door hard to open and close. His grip around the handle tightened up and he refused to let go.
2. Fig. [for someone or a group] to become miserly. The government tightened up and our budget was slashed. We almost went out of business when we couldn't get credit because the bank tightened up.
3. Fig. [for someone or something] to become more restrictive. The boss is tightening up on new hiring. There are more rules and the people who enforce them are tightening up.
tighten your belt
to spend less money I've had to tighten my belt since I stopped working full time.
tighten the screws on somebody/somethingalso put the screws on somebody/something
to make it harder for someone to do something Government agencies need to tighten the screws on illegal immigrants. We are putting the screws on that country to end its history of helping terrorists.
Usage notes: sometimes used in the form put the screws to someone or something: The owners could really put the screws to the players.
tighten the reins
to start to control something or someone more carefully (often + on ) She has tightened the reins on her younger sons in an effort to curb their wild behaviour before it's too late.
tighten your belt
to spend less than you did before because you have less money I've had to tighten my belt since I stopped working full-time.
Financial resources or control of them, as in His mother doesn't want to let go of the purse strings because he may make some foolish investments . This expression is often extended to hold or tighten or loosen the purse strings , as in As long as Dad holds the purse strings, we have to consider his wishes, or The company is tightening the purse strings and will not be hiring many new people this year . The purse strings in this idiom are the means of opening and closing a drawstring purse. [Early 1400s]
tighten one's belt
Spend less, be more frugal, as in Business has been bad, so we'll have to tighten our belts. This metaphoric term alludes to pulling in one's belt after losing weight from not having enough to eat. [First half of 1900s]
tighten the screws
see under turn up the heat.
turn up the heat on
Also, put the heat or screws or squeeze on ; tighten the screws on. Pressure someone, as in The cops turned up the heat on drivers who show signs of drunkenness, or They said they'd tighten the screws on her if she didn't confess. All of these slangy terms allude to forms of physical coercion or torture. The first dates from about 1930, the variants using screws from the mid-1800s, and squeeze from the late 1700s.
1. To make something tight or tighter: I pulled on the ends of the string to tighten up the knot. The mechanic tightened the bolts up with a rachet. This exercise will tighten up your stomach muscles. Tighten your belt up so your pants don't fall down.
2. To become tight or tighter: I knew I had a fish when the line suddenly tightened up. After the run, I walked around the track so my muscles wouldn't tighten up. I tightened up on the handlebars as I went over the bump.
3. To make something more strict or secure: The government is trying to tighten up the tax code. The country has tightened its borders up to prevent drug smuggling.
4. To become more strict or secure: Airline security has tightened up, and now all luggage must be scanned.
5. To make something more disciplined: The company is tightening up their management in an effort to reduce wasteful spending. The author has tightened the story up by deleting irrelevant details.
6. To become more disciplined: The team has tightened up under the leadership of the new coach.
tighten one’s belt
tv. to prepare for economies. (see also take one’s belt in (a notch).) The entire country will have to tighten its belt.
tighten (one's) belt
To begin to exercise thrift and frugality.