At the end of 2008, 13.5 million Brits had not saved a penny all year, research from Alliance & Leicester has found, as householders instead had to dip into their savings to meet the rising cost of living.
The soaring cost of mortgage rates, fuel bills and other costs have not been conducive with putting money away for the future, forcing people to cut back on things like savings and investing in their pension.
One in seven Brits surveyed by Alliance & Leicester said that they don't mind that they haven't saved anything, but a more cautious one in five is disappointed with their savings pot from last year.
Almost a third said that they had to use their savings to keep up with the rising cost of living, revealing the extent to which British consumers were "credit-crunched" last year, the bank says.
Almost 31 million Brits (64 per cent) did manage to save a bit, however, with a fifth of them saying that they were shaken by the conditions in the economy and wanted to ensure that they were prepared for future financial difficulties by putting some money aside.
A third of Brits said that they saved as much as they wanted to and were pleased with the amount they put aside in 2008; 29 per cent were very caution with their spending as consequentially were able to save more than they had expected; 32 per cent of those who did save said that they put aside a specific amount of money from their salary each month.
But of those who were less lucky with their finances, 19 per cent are disappointed that they didn’t save as much as they intended, 18 per cent have had to dip into their savings accounts
, to make ends meet, and 12 per cent have managed to save something but have subsequently had to spend most of it to pay the bills.
Hetal Parmar, manager of Alliance and Leicester savings accounts
, said: "At the end of a rollercoaster year, it’s encouraging to see a good proportion of Brits developing a disciplined savings habit by saving regularly. What’s surprising is the number of people who still haven’t put any money aside and aren’t concerned about it. I would urge them to follow the example set by the majority by building a nest egg for themselves. This will provide a safety net during 2009 and beyond.
"The New Year is a great starting point for new savers, even putting away £10 a week will soon start to add up. Think of it as paying another bill by setting up a standing order from your current account to your savings account – this is an easy way to get into the savings habit."
But most Brits intend to learn from the lessons of 2008, which saw some people fear for their savings when their financial provider collapsed, and others have found they had nothing to fall back upon when their living costs increased or they found themselves unemployed.
One in 10 are planning to start saving for the first time ever this year, while 32 per cent hope to save more than they did last year. The younger generation are the most optimistic savers, with 43 per cent expecting to increase their savings balance.
Not everyone has such optimism about the year ahead, however, with almost 10 per cent admitting that while they still expect to save money, it will not be as much as last year, while almost a quarter say that they are not expecting to have any cash left over to save.
Ms Parmer added: "It’s encouraging to see Brits are becoming more aware of the importance of a savings pot. When it comes to the crunch, it makes a big difference if you have a financial cushion to fall back on."
Check out the best savings accounts »
© Fair Investment