The price of a great Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world. It has historical roots that go all the way back to the 5th century AD. Like most modern holidays, it’s current, commercialized form is a bit disconnected from its origins, but it isn’t very accurate to claim that February 14th is just a “Hallmark holiday” manufactured to sell candy and jewelry.

That said, it sure does feel like a thinly veiled excuse to sell candy and jewelry sometimes.

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual survey, American consumers are planning on spending about $142 on Valentine’s Day this year. To put that in perspective, last year the average consumer planned to spend about $800 during the winter holidays (for Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa), $137 on Easter, and $78 for Halloween. The average Thanksgiving dinner for a family of 10 costs about $50.

How did Valentine’s Day come to be America’s second most expensive holiday? And why is it so unbalanced? According to that same NRF survey, men plan to spend about $190 on Valentine’s Day, while women will spend about $95.

We give a lot of lip service to the idea that it’s “the thought that counts” but the thought still seems pretty expensive. Is it really possible to skip the spending on Valentine’s Day without causing a minor relationship meltdown? And even if it is, is it advisable?

Looking for answers, I asked a few folks for their personal feedback on February 14th.

Do you look forward to Valentine’s Day?

David (married 36 years): Not especially – it’s not a significant event for either of us.

Polina (dating 2 years): I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. I agree with the denouncers, but at the same time I am not immune to mass hysteria. When society expects you to do romantic stuff – get flowers and gifts – you can resist for so long before starting to expect that, too! So I am that classic girlfriend who’ll say “we don’t have to do anything” and then get mad when you don’t plan anything.

Kay (married 37 years): Valentine's Day is just another day to me. My husband is sweet and always gets me a card or something. Sometimes I get him something, sometimes I forget. If I remember in time I make him something. Either way, I always tell him I love him.

Stacey (married 10 years): I always look forward to the weekend, so it’s really just a coincidence this year.

Would you be okay just skipping Valentine’s Day?

David: It wouldn’t bother me.

Polina: My boyfriend does not believe in Valentine’s Day. We didn’t do anything last year – so of course I got mad at him despite myself. Basically, we agree that doing romantic stuff spontaneously rather than on Valentine’s Day is more interesting and feels more authentic.

Kay: Truthfully, we pretty much have always done nothing on Valentine's Day. We tell each other we love each other, we give each other big hugs, but that is no different than any other day.

Stacey: I actually just made that suggestion for 2015!

Valentine’s Day and money

Whether or not you really have to do something on Valentine’s Day depends very much on your partner and your own honest feelings about the day. Just keep in mind, however, that while your partner may not want to want a token of affection on February 14th, the allure of the season can sometimes have a mind of its own.

That said, if you’re participating in Valentine’s Day you’re likely going to feel pressure to spend money, but the consensus seems to be that spending hundreds of dollars just isn’t necessary.

“I’m more interested in the thought behind the present or the effort involved,” says Polina. “I would be a little annoyed at $7 supermarket flowers picked up on the way home, but $7 spent on some supplies to create something thoughtful? Awesome!”

“If he cooked me dinner or gave me a homemade card I’d be perfectly happy!” adds Stacey.

Stephanie and Sandy are financial educators in Arizona. “A tight budget can actually make Valentine’s Day really special,” says Stephanie. “A limited budget forces you to really focus on what matters and what makes your special someone happy. Candles, cuddles, and a favorite meal can mean so much more than just stuff.”

“Plan an activity that fits your budget,” says Sandy. “An experience is always better than a gift.”

What do you think? Does Valentine’s Day need candy and jewelry to be special? Do you have any budget-friendly Valentine’s Day traditions?

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

  • Better Business Bureau A+ rating Better Business Bureau
    MMI is proud to have achieved an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and improving marketplace trust. The BBB investigates charges of fraud against both consumers and businesses, sets standards for truthfulness in advertising, and evaluates the trustworthiness of businesses and charities, providing a score from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
  • Financial Counseling Association of America Financial Counseling Association of America
    MMI is a proud member of the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA), a national association representing financial counseling companies that provide consumer credit counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling, bankruptcy counseling, debt management, and various financial education services.
  • Trustpilot Trustpilot
    MMI is rated as “Excellent” (4.9/5) by reviewers on Trustpilot, a global, online consumer review platform dedicated to openness and transparency. Since 2007, Trustpilot has received over 116 million customer reviews for nearly 500,000 different websites and businesses. See what others are saying about the work we do.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development - Equal Housing Opportunity Department of Housing and Urban Development
    MMI is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide consumer housing counseling. The mission of HUD is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD provides support services directly and through approved, local agencies like MMI.
  • Council on Accreditation Council On Accreditation
    MMI is proudly accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA’s thorough, peer-reviewed accreditation process is designed to ensure that organizations like MMI are providing the highest standard of service and support for clients and employees alike.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling National Foundation for Credit Counseling
    MMI is a longstanding member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), the nation’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organization. Founded in 1951, the NFCC’s mission is to promote financially responsible behavior and help member organizations like MMI deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.