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I'm looking for a word or phrase that expresses something (or a decision) being expensive by costing money in many small bits (perniciously) rather than being a large single cost.

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    They’ll nickle-and-dime you.
    – Dan Bron
    Oct 23, 2018 at 14:55
  • 2
    Death by a thousand cuts
    – Kris
    Oct 23, 2018 at 15:26

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@Dan Bron's suggestion of nickel-and-dime is a good one. Per the Oxford Dictionaries:

nickel-and-dime

VERB

[WITH OBJECT]

North American
informal
Harass (someone) by charging for many trivial items or services.

‘we don't nickel-and-dime our customers like some vendors that charge extra for every little utility’

It is perhaps a better answer than what I thought of: penny wise and pound foolish. The Oxford Dictionaries describe it thus:

penny wise and pound foolish

PHRASE

Careful and economical in small matters while being wasteful or extravagant in large ones.

If you try to save money in the short run, you'll end up paying a lot more over time.

Note: a nickle is green; a nickel is a silvery-white metal (or a coin traditionally made of this metal).

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