Coupons are an essential part of how folks spend their money.

Coupons are an essential part of how folks spend their money. According to a survey by RetailMeNot, a majority of millennials say they won't even make a purchase without searching for a deal first. But how long have U.S. shoppers relied on coupons? Here's a brief history of coupons in American life.

The first coupons arrived in 1887 from one of today's biggest corporations: Coca-Cola. They came in the form of handwritten tickets and were mailed throughout the country. The company's offer of one free Coke catapulted the soda's popularity to another level. By 1913, it's estimated that 8.5 million people got free Cokes from the coupons.

The Great Depression was a difficult time for many, but the use of coupons saw a real boon. By 1940, major chains across the country were offering coupons in newspapers and other periodicals, often to the detriment of local neighborhood shops.

In 1957, the popularity of coupons reached a breaking point for businesses, and the Nielsen Coupon Clearing House was established to act as a middleman for manufacturers and retailers. This led to decades of innovation, including the rise of mailed coupons as well as scanner-based and printable options thanks to the integration of computers in everyday life.

The 21st century has been marked by the development of coupon services like Groupon and Ebates. Not only has tech taken the work out of couponing, but many stores now offer loyalty programs that slash prices for repeat customers.

There's no need to hold out for big sales when all these deals are out in the marketplace. What's your favorite way to use coupons—online or classic paper clippings?

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