You might think that with 76% of us looking to limit our spending and hunting out the best deals, we are a proactive nation of misers.

The opposite is true.

We are a nation of lazy and misguided savers who focus on minor savings and ultimately miss out on billions in savings according to a new survey by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), commissioned by Heritage Bank.

It seems the time and effort required is a major obstacle holding back most people from switching to another provider, whether it’s for a home loan, credit card, groceries, energy, internet provider or mobile phone service.

Three-quarters (76%) of Australians call themselves tightwads who watch and limit their spending, with the remainder identifying as spendthrifts who spend more attention on enjoying their experiences and purchases.

The report identifies where money is being wasted by not switching to a cheaper provider as below.

Category Total amount that could be saved Minimum saving
Home Loans $1,675 m $750
Credit cards $1,701 m $186
Groceries $1,754 m $296
Energy $910 m $149
Internet $392 m $81
Mobile phone plans $95 m $88

Source: UTS report

The good news is that some consumers are switching and have saved an estimated $3.2 billion over the past five years, including an estimated $944.5 million from grocery suppliers. It’s fairly common knowledge that many shoppers have switched from the higher-margin Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW) and Coles – owned by Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES) to the budget chain Aldi. Both Woolworths and Coles have been forced to reinvest more in lowering their prices to compete with Aldi.

The study also found that consumers would switch if they could save more than $3,000 per year on a home loan or $501 per year on credit card. The report also found that we are happy to switch mobile service providers for savings of less than $50 a year. If you’re interested, you can read the full UTS report here (PDF).

We’ve often noted that Australians are happy to stick with their mortgage lender, despite being able to save thousands of dollars each year off their home loans by switching to a lender offering lower rates.

When you also consider the billions of lost savings, unclaimed money and $14 billion in lost super, perhaps we don’t really care about money much at all.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in Woolworths and Wesfarmers. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.