IN the old days, it often led to trouble at the checkout.

There you’d be: in a hurry to pay for your shopping but in front of you was a little old lady carefully sorting through money-off vouchers. She saved 25p on a packet of Jaffa Cakes. You got stressed out.

But now saving money at the shops has changed – we’re all at it. A new survey by Halifax Home Insurance has shown shoppers in the UK are increasingly taking advantage of money-off vouchers, special deals and freebies as a way of navigating their way through economically difficult times.

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Halifax estimate that shoppers are saving £51 billion a year using discount codes and vouchers which means the average adult could be saving £1196 a year.

The survey asked 2000 people about their shopping habits and found nine out of 10 used vouchers or looked for deals, with almost half saying they looked for bargains more than they used to.

One in 10 of those questioned said they were now prepared to haggle over the price of goods, something shoppers in Britain have traditionally not been willing to do. And almost all of those questioned said they were not embarrassed to use discounts.

Deals on eating out were top of the list of targets for saving money, followed by holidays and flights.

In recent years the internet has fuelled this interest in discounts with websites offering deals becoming more and more popular. Some of the most popular are myvouchercodes.co.uk, codes.co.uk and vouchercodes.com.

The websites work by publishing codes which shoppers enter into online shopping sites to get money off. Offers vary from just a few pounds off a listed retail price to as much as 50% off, although some of offers only last a few days.

Another popular site is Groupon, which works in a slightly different way. A company will offer a money-off deal through the site but if the deal does not attract sufficient uptake, it is withdrawn which means the company offering the deal rarely loses money. Groupon was established in Chicago in 2008 and now has 35 million registered users around the world.

Lindsay Forster, director of Halifax Home Insurance, said: “The recent downturn has made us more careful about what we spend and more savvy in searching for savings and getting a good deal matters.

“People expect a good deal and feel comfortable shopping and even bartering to make sure they get the best price whether for a meal, a flight or insurance.”

The desire to save money has even inspired a television show in the US called Extreme Couponing. A kind of crazed version of Supermarket Sweep, it profiles shoppers who have managed to save thousands by using vouchers and money-off deals, sometimes spending hours a day searching on the internet for the best deals. In other words, if you want to save money, it requires the dedication of a true shopping addict.

.... discount shopping