spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar

spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar

mainly BRITISH, OLD-FASHIONED
If you spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar, you spoil a large or important piece of work completely because you refuse to spend a small amount of money on one aspect of it. I think it's a modest investment that is well worth making. You don't want to spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar. Note: `Ship' in this expression was originally `sheep'. A `ha'porth' is a `halfpenny's worth'; a halfpenny was a British coin of very low value. Shepherds used to put tar on their sheep's wounds and sores to protect them from flies, and it would be foolish to risk the sheep's health in order to save a small amount of money.
See also: of, ship, spoil, tar

spoil the ˌship for a ha’porth/ha’penny-worth of ˈtar

(saying) spoil something good because you did not spend any or enough money on a small but essential part of it: Always buy good quality floppy disks. Don’t spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar. Ship in this idiom was originally sheep and ha’porth or ha’penny-worth referred to a very small amount of money. The basic meaning of the idiom was originally ‘allow a sheep to die because you won’t buy a very small amount of tar’, tar being used to treat cuts on a sheep’s body.
See also: of, ship, spoil, tar