HSBC said women are less well prepared than men to cope with a financial emergency (Reuters)

Millions of UK households have only £250 or less set aside to fall back on if they hit a financial emergency.

According to bank HSBC, which questioned more than 1,000 British households, (25%) have no savings at all to fall back on, up from 19% in 2012, while one in 10 have £250 ($397, €295) or less - together representing around 8.8 million households.

HSBC said the number of households in this situation had risen by almost 800,000 since October, 2012.

"The findings indicate that the proportion of Brits who are financially unprepared should they face any unexpected expenses or loss of income has risen steadily over the past year, with an extra 800,000 households admitting to savings of £250 or less," said Oliver Cook, head of savings at HSBC.

"Getting into the habit of saving and making regular savings, no matter how small, can help to build up a financial safety net that avoids having to resort to methods that add to debt.

"As a target, it's important to keep in mind that as a general rule, a minimum of three months' salary should be available for a rainy day."

The research also revealed the 18-24 age group were the worst off in terms of savings, with a third having nothing to fall back on and 6% having less than £250 in their nest eggs.

But the 35-44 group was not far behind, with 33% having nothing in savings and 12% having less than £250.

With greater financial responsibilities they would struggle and could last just five days on savings of £250 compared to seven for 18-24s, according to HSBC.

Almost a third (31%) said they would not be able to pay their bills or mortgage/rent if they were unexpectedly to lose their income, up from 28% in October 2012, while 36% would be dependent on their savings.

In total, the lender said the average person has a savings pot of £14,401, which would last for nine and a half months based on average monthly outgoings of £1,500.

But the survey found women are less well prepared than men to cope with a financial emergency.

While typical outgoings indicate men would be able to live off their savings pots for over a year, women would last less than seven months.

They are also significantly more likely to have no savings compared to men (29% vs. 19%) or savings under £250 (10% vs. 8%).