One in nine savers is dipping into their savings every month to cover unexpected everyday living expenses, according to Lloyds TSB.
Poor wage growth and inflation are also blamed for more than two-thirds of those with savings accounts being unable to save as they simply do not have any spare income.
On average, consumers believe that the minimum amount they need in savings for a rainy day is the equivalent of two and a half months of their household income, yet the average amount being saved is less than two months' household income.
Worst of all, a third of the UK (34%) didn't save anything during 2012, meaning they could face significant financial hardship should their household circumstances change.
More than 85% of those surveyed say that it is still important to them to save regularly, with 78% agreeing that they try to save any spare money they do have.
Wallets under strain
"The nation's wallets have been under much strain for some time now, so it is not surprising that savings have moved down the priority list for many," says Andy Bickers, savings director at Lloyds.
"Although, it is encouraging that so many agree that it is important to save, it is clear that many are struggling to do so in the current climate."