Are You Afraid to Spend Money?

A look at chronic savers who stockpile cash while forgoing everything from food to doctor visits.

A look at chronic savers who stockpile cash while forgoing everything from food to doctor visits
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Maria Cornelius, a high-net-worth wealth manager in the Washington, D.C., area echoes those thoughts, saying she has encountered her share of wealthy people who are equally squeamish about spending.

Cornelius had a wealthy client who was over 80 years old and loved the opera, but she always took the subway to the show – and then, worried about the crowds afterward, took the subway back home during intermission. She never seemed to understand that she could afford to take a taxi there and back, or that she might want to pay for a friend's ticket, to have the company. Then she could get more bang for her buck by seeing the entire show.

Budget to spend, not save. Some people – like Bakke's relative who received a pay cut – have good reasons for being afraid to spend money. If you don't have much, you might understandably become paralyzed with indecision, or try to stretch your dollar by stretching the time between physicals, car repairs and such.

Others, the ones who have more than they know what to do with, probably elicit eye rolls from friends and family more than sympathetic looks. But if you do have plenty of income and truly struggle with spending it, Hagerman suggests writing down a list of goals, from car or home repairs you never make to a long-desired vacation, and then allocating some of your pile of cash to those goals.

[Read: 50 Ways to Improve Your Finances.]

Then start spending some of that cash, even if it's in relatively small amounts. With any luck, as you start to enjoy eating better, wearing new clothes and generally enjoying your new life, you may get to the point where you have a healthier balance between saving and spending.

"I then try to get them to start spending on themselves in small increments," Hagerman says of his chronic-saver clients. "For example, maybe they go to the movies once the first month. Then the next month, maybe they go to the movies again and then out to dinner after the show. This seems to work because they are taking small steps. It's just like learning to budget."