PUTTING money away in savings has not exactly been the easiest of tasks in recent years, with squeezed incomes leaving little surplus “rainy day” cash.

Even for those people who have been fortunate and disciplined enough to place money aside, the returns are still pretty paltry.

But saving is important, and it is vital for most of us to have a “buffer” to turn to following an unexpected financial shock – be that losing your job or dealing with a broken boiler.

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Households are generally recommended to have at least three months’-worth of essential spending put by to protect against sudden dents in their income.

But if saving is not your strong point, how can you turn your habits around?

New research from consumer group Which? has uncovered common traits in good savers, and the first of these is seeing saving as a habit, putting away money every month, no matter how big or small.

Which? found that getting into the habit of saving every month is far more likely to result in someone reaching a three-month saving buffer – true of people on lower incomes as well as those who earn more.

The second similarity in successful savers is saving for saving’s sake, rather than having a particular aim to put money towards, such as buying a car or booking a holiday. Which? found that saving in order to spend your money on something specific makes you more likely to stop saving once you have made whatever purchase you are aiming towards.

It also found that saving a certain amount, or proportion, of regular income tends to result in greater success than saving to reach one particular sum of money.

Finally, most successful savers tend to squirrel money out of the way of temptation, in a separate savings product that they are less likely to dip into.

It is advice that should be heeded by the 49 per cent of people unhappy with their household savings, and the 24 per cent who have no savings at all.

Which? estimates that about 14 million people could be encouraged to save more, and wants politicians to work with the industry and employers to “help get the UK saving”, passing on lessons from people who already have good saving habits.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “With half the population unhappy with their level of savings, we want the Government to develop a national strategy to help people build a savings buffer, which is crucial to the resilience of the economy.”

Now could be a great time to start the savings habit, as the amount of money that can be saved into an Isa has been sharply increased.

Launched on July 1, the new “super-Isa” allows people to put up to £15,000 a year tax-free in cash, stocks and shares, or any combination of the two.