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Can Money Buy True Love? The Financial Impact of Valentine’s Day Gift-Giving

By Kenneth Cervantes

Is that love in the air? Or is it the smell of money? When February 14 comes around, many a store overflows with customers eager to purchase boxes of chocolates, bouquets of various flowers and stuffed animals for their significant other. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Valentine’s Day shoppers in the United States spent a whopping $23.9 billion last year on candy, flowers, cards, jewelry, clothes and an evening out and are expected to spend $25.9 billion this month.

But why do we place such an immense emphasis on buying our lovers tokens of appreciation? “Romance and love are inextricably linked to our well-being,” said Zachary Johnson, professor of marketing at Adelphi University and founder of, which provides expert opinion letters. “Given the tremendous value that we ascribe to love, it is unsurprising that we are willing to invest our resources into a holiday dedicated to love.”

Although buying presents is one way to show someone you appreciate them, it can be just as romantic to enjoy a sunset, have breakfast in bed or make a relationship scrapbook—with less stress on the wallet.

Ever wonder where our V-Day gift-giving habits come from? The act of giving flowers to your partner dates back to the days of Greek mythology. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, came across her lover, Adonis, who was wounded by a wild boar. When Adonis fell to the ground, a mixture of his blood and Aphrodite’s tears produced a beautiful red rose bush, making roses the ideal choice for this day of love. On Valentine’s Day in 1415, Charles, the Duke of Orléans was imprisoned in the Tower of London. While incarcerated, he wrote poems to his wife, which soon became popularized, and started the tradition of writing greeting cards to express one’s love. And what’s Valentine’s Day without a heart-shaped box of chocolates? In the seventeenth century, Spanish explorers brought chocolate to Europe from North America, later becoming Europe’s choice of candy on this holiday.

Nowadays, we need not worry about wild boars or voyaging for sweets— just commercial ventures. The NRF states that more than half of consumers will spend an average of $193 this Valentine’s Day, with 68 percent of that total being spent on gifts for significant others and family members and 32 percent being spent on friends, classmates, teachers, colleagues and pets. The most common gifts people purchase on Valentine’s Day include candy, greeting cards, flowers, gift cards and clothing. On the more expensive side, the planned amount of money spent on jewelry amasses to over $5.5 billion. Who knew love could be bought with gold, silver and a bunch of other fancy rocks?

Even those who don’t partake in the lovey-dovey festivities of Valentine’s Day will choose to mark the occasion by treating themselves to a special evening dinner. Others will plan Valentine’s Day get-togethers like Galentine’s day. Altogether, singles plan to spend $4.4 billion on a day to themselves.

Wholesomely, some individuals will allocate their Valentine’s Day budget to items catered to their partner’s interests. Ashley Ice, a sophomore liberal arts major at Nassau Community College, said, “My boyfriend, Anthony, loves music. Last year I got him a $250 vinyl player with a $40 Notorious B.I.G. record and he loved it.”

Despite the outrageous amounts of money being spent on Valentine’s Day, curtailing your spending habits this holiday doesn’t always have to end with a breakup. Johnson said, “Experiences are tremendously thoughtful. Sometimes, this type of gift could cost fractions of the price of a product alternative.”

This year, Country Living published a list of 30 romantic activities to do on Valentine’s Day, including watching the sunset, having breakfast in bed or making a scrapbook of your relationship–alternates that are much easier on the wallet.

Whether you’re spending February 14 with your significant other, friends and family, or all by yourself, be wary of how you spend your money. A simple “I love you.” might just be all you need.

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