Fear Of Spending Money? You Might Be An Underspender

Are you an extreme penny pincher? Does spending money make you cringe?

Do you keep a strict budget? What happens when you go over-budget?

If you’re an underspender, these types of situations might cause you to go running for the hills. Underspending is a disorder that causes you to have a fear of spending money.

This article will show you ways to stop being afraid to spend your money. In fact, you’ll find awesome ways to spend it to create more fulfillment in your life.

Let’s first start with understanding why this psychological behavior exists.

What is the underspending disorder?

extreme cheapskate

I first heard about underspending when I read Julie Cazzin’s Seven Deadly Money Disorders. Underspending was one of the psychological disorders that stood out to me.

When you think of an underspender, you probably think of someone who’s cheap. You might also think of someone who’s stingy. Or someone who wants to stockpile savings for no reason at all.

Neither of those are incorrect, but underspenders take it to the extreme. Where a frugal person might only tip 10-15%, an underspender would tip nothing.

And that’s if they can manage to go out to eat to begin with. You see, underspenders have a true fear of spending money.

It pains them. It makes them sick.

It also makes no difference how much an underspender earns. You can be a gas station attendant or CEO of a corporation and still have this disorder.

I’m not a psychologist, so I won’t dive into reasons why someone may be or become an underspender. What I will share are some common characteristics and some resources for you to look at.

First, let’s look at whether you may actually be an underspender. If you connect with any of these traits, it’s possible you’re an underspender:

  • You refuse to buy new clothes or shoes, and instead wear old tattered ones
  • You don’t tip at a restaurant (or go to restaurants)
  • You never buys gifts for anyone (but you don’t turn them down either!)
  • You eat any and every left over, even if it was partly eaten by someone else

I’ve seen all of these, and it’s not pretty. You might be saying “but these people are trying to save money, they’re frugal!”

No they aren’t. This is beyond frugal.

If you’ve ever seen Extreme Cheapskates, this is in the same ballpark. Saving too much money is a byproduct of something deeper, like an underspending disorder.

So remember, underspenders are more than just frugal people or “cheapskates”. They’re people who save too much of their money because it may actually pain them to spend it.

Further reading:

How to stop being an underspender

stingy with money

First off, saving too much money can be a the result of a serious psychological disorder. If you feel you or anyone you know may have a serious problem, consult a physician.

That being said, many of us experience underspending tendencies. And if it’s not addressed early on, it can lead to bigger issues down the road.

Think about it – who wants to go out with the person who refuses to tip, pay for their food, or wear gross, tattered clothes?

First, be mentally strong

mentally strong

The first thing you need to do to stop saving so much and start enjoying your money is to be mentally strong. Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, provides some insight into tackling your fears.

Let’s look at 2 of her tips that connect well with this situation:

1. Quit wasting time worrying about things you can’t control

Negative emotions limit your ability to change or move forward. Think about the reasons why you’re saving too much money. It’s possible that it’s a result of some event or series of events you experienced in your life.

I’ve been there. Growing up, my parents went through bankruptcy twice. It sucked. It had a negative effect on me.

But if I let those negative feelings consume me, I’d never spend a dime. More than likely I’d be saving too much of my money out of fear.

The point is to do something about those negative experiences. Instead of living in fear that spending money will ruin your life, figure out what’s causing it and do something about it.

Stockpiling money isn’t the solution. Millions of people retire early and they live a balanced financial life.

2. Don’t fear change

It’s easier said than done. But if you’re looking to change your financial habits, you don’t have to be perfect.

Take baby steps instead. Try to make one small change.

Maybe go out with one friend to an inexpensive restaurant, and leave a small tip. Then work your way up from there.

The analogy I love to use is a messy house. If I have a house where every room is a disaster, I tend to avoid cleaning the house – it’s too overwhelming.

But if I instead focus on cleaning just one room each day during the week, it doesn’t seem as bad. So break down your fears into smaller chunks. You’ll be surprised at the results.

Being strong mentally is the first step toward living a more balanced financial life. If you want to learn more about what mentally strong people don’t do, check out Morin’s book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.

Then, learn to spend your money the right way

At this point, you’ve gotten through the mental side of things. Now it’s time to figure out how to spend your money in an effective way. A great starting point is to focus on 2 easy rules:

1. Spend money on experiences, not things

Spending money on material possessions won’t cure your inability to spend money. Tangible items wear out, lose their luster, or become unusable at some point in the future.

We also tend to just forget about the ‘things’ we buy, as they’re just not as important. Take a look around your home for a minute. I bet you can pick out at least three things you own that you no longer need.

Experiences create memories. Memories that nobody else can replicate. Memories that will stick in your mind forever.

A vacation is a perfect example of an experience to spend money on. A couple of years ago, my wife and I went to Turks & Caicos. Just Google an image of Providenciales and tell me that’s not a memory that would stick in your mind forever.

But what if I instead bought a tangible item, like a new car. Eventually the car is going to wear down, become old and rusty, and I won’t want it anymore. Yet my mental images, pictures, and memories of Turks & Caicos will be ‘new’ forever.

Experiences don’t have to be vacations, though. You can spend money investing in yourself, like learning another language.

A great way to get over your fear of spending money might be to learn Italian. Instead of hoarding money in a savings account, you can enjoy the benefits of learning a new language.

2. When you buy things, buy quality things

Let’s be honest, we all buy stuff. If you’re an underspender, buying stuff can help you break your fear. You just have to do it the right way.

If you’re going to spend your money on tangible items, always buy quality, even if it costs a little more.

It’s stressful to buy something and have it fall apart shortly after. Especially if you already have a hard time spending money.

Here’s a real example. I hate buying shoes, so I bought the cheapest pair I could.

I wore them out so fast that I had to buy another pair within about 6 months. And out of stupidity, I bought the same pair again.

What happened? Another 6 months went by and the shoes are beat up and almost unwearable.

Had I just invested a little more money up front in better quality, I may not have had that problem. So focus on quality.

How to sustain

spending too much money

The point is to not go extreme. If you’re saving too much money, you have to take small steps to start living a more balanced financial life.

Aside from learning to spend your money wisely, you’ll also need to learn to save your money wisely.

A typical habit of an underspender is not wanting to ‘risk’ their money in the stock market. You may feel just as bad putting your money into a stock that loses value as you do spending money on a new pair of pants.

The problem is that if you don’t invest your money, you won’t be able to take advantage of gains on the money. Leaving your cash in a low-yield savings account or in a jar at home is a bad idea.

You’ll end up losing money in the long run due to inflation anyway.

So instead of going crazy and investing in all kinds of stocks you know nothing about, start small. Try investing in a mutual fund or ETF. If you’re feeling a little more confident, try the value investing approach.

The goal is to put your money somewhere it can grow. Don’t be afraid to lose money – if you are, you’ll never win. Remember, don’t focus on things beyond your control.


This article talked about someone with a true psychological aversion to spending money. This may not be you.

But it doesn’t mean we all can’t learn something from it.

Yes, it’s important to start saving and investing early, or you may never retire. But if you don’t spend your money to some degree, you may lose out on all kinds of happiness in life.

You risk losing friendships, memories, and knowledge. So if you find yourself having even the slightest bit of a hard time spending money, I have one takeaway for you:

Go out and spend $10-20 on either an experience or a quality item.

If you feel comfortable spending more, go for it. $10-20 won’t ruin your life, so give it a shot. Buy a book and read it. Buy a train ticket to go somewhere new.

Just try something. By taking baby steps, you’ll soon overcome your fear of spending money.

Do you or anyone you know have a fear of spending money? If so, please share your story below!

8 thoughts on “Fear Of Spending Money? You Might Be An Underspender”

  1. Though I’m definitely not as extreme as the people your talking about In your blog, it is a good reminder that we should enjoy life. Enjoy some of the money you have earned. When you make your budget give your self some blow money every month, so you can go out and spend it on whatever you feel like.

  2. Interesting post. I am definitely a saver and frugal person by nature. I’ve found it helpful to define what I believe is the purpose of money–meeting the needs of myself and others, now and in the future. With this in mind I feel free to spend on needs and wants that are worth it to me, and free to save, invest, and share the rest.

    1. That’s awesome. While the post definitely had a bit of a sarcastic undertone, there are people with this disorder for real – and they’re unable to define the purpose of their money like you described. Scary stuff. Thanks for reading Kalie 🙂

  3. I don’t like to spend a whole lot on myself, but I would never allow my frugal nature affect others.

    I tip at least fairly, if not generously, and never scrimp on gifts. I invest aggressively and donate regularly. If I had $100,000 and could choose between a $100,000 car for me OR a $20,000 car for me and $80,000 for a charity of my choice, I’d take what’s behind Door B.

    Perhaps I have subclinical chrometophobia.


  4. Nice site you’ve got here, I might just stick around…

    I have survivalist genes in me and I’m a minimalist (and a cheapskate and frugal and…). Voluntary simplicity is the way to go.
    All I see in America is people throwing their money away. Wasting it needlessly. Then they cry and bitch when they’re broke, in debt, homeless. I have to listen to them blame either Wall Street Bankers or President Obama or something else.
    I grew up in a mega-cheap family. It’s about not efficiency and getting your money’s worth out of every penny.
    Today I’m surrounded by materialistic snobs in McMansionville who live for prestige and prestige alone (and they pee on this “working class vermin” next door!).

    Back to the topic…
    Let’s see… I wear tattered clothes and sneakers because they’re Functional. Hint: this “ghetto look” is in fashion (as if I care about fashion!). I saw jeans riddled with holes selling for $80 or more at a posh store in a shopping mall the other year. After that I swore never to throw my old jeans out (they might end up in this store!).
    I tip at restaurants (though mostly diners I prefer) and rarely eat there (usually at the behest of my girlfriend, say once a week)–15% and I pull out my pocket calculator for that, too! All in all I’ll eat cheap fast food and TV dinners.
    I never buy gifts because nobody wants my gifts and I suck at buying Useful gifts. I’ll try to turn down receiving gifts but I end up with them anyway. Right now the only one giving me gifts is my girlfriend (well, I Do pay for her meals at the diners!).
    Partly eaten leftovers? OK, I’m not quite there yet (well, if my girlfriend leaves something around–in any case, I don’t believe in waste and it would normally go to my “free” pets).

    We live in an age–in a country–of Waste. Landfills. Overconsumption. Garbage. I’m merely being Logical about this affair and if there were more people like me it would be a better world for sure.

    I have a fear of Addiction. Any kind of potential addiction. If I were to start spending I fear that I might not be able to stop… despite being financially independent! I keep coming up with Excuses for not buying things, too. Be that as it may, many of these excuses are pretty darn good solid ones at that: I don’t need this/I can live without it, I can wait for it to go on sale, it’s just another cheaply-made planned obsolesense waste of money, I’ll probably find a Free one just like it along the side of the road somewhere, If I bought it I probably wouldn’t make much use of it, Just another item to take up space, etc.
    But I Am financially independent. I want to Stay this way. I didn’t get this way by hiring landscapers to play with a car-length law every week of every year while guzzling down bottled water whilst driving a fancy new Lexus or monster SUV.

  5. Good article, can relate to the scenario’s. I haven’t been able to buy myself clothes in years but I have been more than generous towards others, the irony.

    Thank you for the money-meeting the needs for MYSELF and others thought. Very liberating thought indeed. Moving forward this I will be implementing this and other tips like spending on quality items :). Thanks

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