What is Valentine’s Day costing you?

On the days leading up Feb. 14, the world spends a lot of money on their significant other in celebration of this love-focused holiday. According to the National Retail Federation, consumer spending is expected to reach $20.7 billion this Valentine’s Day. Average spending is projected to sit around $161.96 per couple – actually a record-breaking number in Valentine’s Day history. And while spending is up, the number of consumers celebrating this holiday with their money is dropping (55% planned on celebrating last year, while only 51% of Americans are planning on celebrating this year). So what we’re seeing is a downward trend of the number of Valentines participants, but those few people who do celebrate certainly aren’t cutting any corners with their spending.

You’re probably wondering where all this money goes. It’s no secret that a fancy dinner can certainly be a little pricey. Tack on the gifts (roses, chocolate, jewelry, you name it), and you’re looking at a pretty expensive evening. Just how much, you ask? With just your typical, cliché Valentine’s date, filled with roses, chocolate, dinner, and jewelry, the whole ordeal could cost you (on average) $617.77, according to a Valentine’s Day study done by Bankrate this year.

Of course, most people can get away with only a small gift each year (especially if you’re a college student on a major budget). But even then, you’re looking at some decent-sized price tags. A large, a quality bouquet of roses normally costs $45+, a large box of chocolates can run anywhere from $15 to $30 (depending on how much of a chocolate snob your significant other is), jewelry is…jewelry (honestly, this is expensive for anyone if you don’t want to be tacky), and fancy restaurants are certainly not running any specials on this holiday. Just because Valentine’s Day is a historically consumerist holiday doesn’t mean college students on a budget should treat it this way. Do what you can afford, and if you can’t really afford much at all, a handwritten note or a movie night is a perfectly acceptable way to let your significant other know you care.

Even if you’re someone who doesn’t have a date this Valentine’s Day, you’re included in the cost hype as well. You may be surprised to hear that single folks don’t necessarily escape the consumer trap that is Valentine’s Day, either. Due to social pressure surrounding the prospect and need for a significant other in order to be happy on this day, many single people tend to splurge on themselves and make sure they’re happy even without that special someone. This could include a range of activities: going shopping for new clothes, getting a pedicure or manicure, going out to see a movie, making splurge purchases online, or planning a night of socializing at some of the watering holes downtown. People who find themselves in this position tend to search for a way to find something to do with their evening so as not to seem boring on Valentine’s Day. This is perfectly fine; just keep in mind which splurges you can afford and which ones you can’t. If you find you’re making unnecessary splurges just because it’s Valentine’s Day, maybe think long and hard about your intentions. Just because Valentine’s Day exists doesn’t mean it needs to be celebrated, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being single.

By far though, I would say the easiest and cheapest way to spend Valentine’s Day is with a ten-dollar purchase of Netflix and some chocolate (or other candy if you’re not a huge fan of chocolate). Binge watching a whole season of your favorite show or watching an old favorite movie takes away much of the social pressure to treat Valentine’s Day as some special occasion to spend a lot of money. Because at the end of the day, true love is completely free and the best Valentine’s Day presents are gifts of your time and company, not your money.

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Audrey Miller is a writer for The Lorian.

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