THE number of people saving money in banks and the post office has fallen dramatically.
New figures show half the population now no longer saves.
Experts said this reflected the fact that householders had less disposable income after a sixth austerity Budget last month.
And a sharp rise in the government tax on deposits and a continuing fall in the interest paid by banks have hit the attitude of consumers to saving.
Yesterday, an index that tracks how consumers feel about savings fell to its lowest level since it started in April 2010.
The index, compiled by Nationwide UK (Ireland) and the Economic and Social Research Institute, dropped to 81 in December, from 98 the previous month.
The survey also found that 48pc of people are not saving at all. This is in contrast to December 2011, when just a third of people said they were not saving.
And of those who are managing to save, some 65pc are putting aside less than they think they should be.
Managing director of Nationwide UK (Ireland), Brendan Synott, said: "During 2012 people have found it increasingly difficult to save; while, at the same time, deposit interest rates have fallen, thereby reducing their return for saving.
"These figures lead us to draw the conclusion that a lot of people are simply unable to save; and for others, reduced interest rates and increased DIRT tax make saving unattractive."
The one positive from the index was information showing there has been a small rise in the number of people who are saving regularly, to 30pc.
Interest rates being paid by banks have fallen for seven months in a row, the Central Bank said on Friday. This is because banks are attempting to rebuild their profitability by paying less for deposits and charging more for loans.
Meanwhile, separate figures from the Central Statistics Office yesterday show the total disposable income held by all households rose slightly last autumn to just over €23bn, once taxes and other charges levied on incomes were subtracted.
Calculations based on the figures show that over a full year, the average disposable income of each household is now €54,768.