Small-business owners who have been hoarding cash as a hedge against the uncertain economy are loosening their purse strings a bit, a new survey from Brother International shows. The third annual "Brother Small Business Survey" found that 44 percent of small business owners are stockpiling cash instead of investing in their business, which is down from 54 percent who hoarded cash last year and 53 percent who did so in 2010. Men are more tight-fisted than women, with nearly half of men (48 percent) saying they plan to stockpile cash this year, compared to just 36 percent of women.

But business owners are hardly going on a spending spree, and it's clear why: 2011 turned out worse than expected financially for 43 percent of them. As a result, 55 percent say their stress levels are higher than usual, and 24 percent report their stress is at an all-time high.

Why it matters to your business: If you've been pinching pennies for the past few years, like most of us, you've probably got several areas where investment in your business is long overdue. Don't go crazy, but do spend where it's needed to keep you not just competitive, but ahead of the pack.