Love is in the air, but can your wallet handle it?
Bankrate’s 2019 Valentine’s Day survey finds that consumers are expecting to shell out big for Feb. 14. Respondents reported an average spending expectation of $267.
While that may seem like a large figure, it’s still much less than the average cost of a complete Valentine’s Day gift-giving affair. According to Bankrate’s Be My Valentine Index, an all-out celebration of love this year — complete with jewelry, Champagne, fine dining and chocolates — will put consumers back an average of $618.
While Valentine’s Day is meant to be a mark of love, the holiday has become one of the priciest holidays in the country. The National Retail Federation forecasts consumers to spend $20.7 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, the most since 2016’s record high of $19.7 billion.
As the holidays become a distant memory and the winter months drag on, it’s likely consumers are looking for a reason to celebrate.
Men will spend more — and expect their partners to spend more on them
When it comes to who’s expecting the most lavish holiday, men have set the bar high.
Male respondents in Bankrate’s survey plan to spend an average of $339 on their partners for the romantic day. Women will spend significantly less, saying they expect to spend an average of only $64 on their partners.
While they’re planning on throwing down some serious cash, men expect their partners to do the same in return. Male respondents expect their partners to spend $211 on them; women only expect their partners to spend $154.
Why are men more inclined to go big or go home on Valentine’s Day? Dr. Andrew Smiler, therapist, author and expert on boys, men and masculinity, says society’s expectations of men are a big factor.
“At the cultural level, we talk a lot about men being valued for their wallet and the size of their paycheck,” says Smiler, who holds a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of New Hampshire. “So the idea that they express their love through their wallet and their purchasing power — it’s kind of what we’re told by society to do.”
Smiler adds that the gender wage gap could also be a potential reason. Women earn 80.5 cents on the dollar compared with their male counterparts. Smiler says that, combined with certain expectations of women — from their physical appearance down to their wardrobe — gives them less discretionary income.
“Women have additional expenses that men don’t have,” Smiler says. “(Men) aren’t expected to spend as much on a wardrobe or on cosmetics as a woman is. All of that eats into available income.”
Younger millennials, Westerners plan to spend big
Overall, millennials expect to spend about $161 on Valentine’s Day. Of those who are celebrating, 17 percent of respondents expect their partner to spend between $50 and $100.
Younger millennials, however, had the highest expectations of Valentine’s Day, with 15 percent of respondents expecting to spend $500 or more on their partners, and 18 percent expecting their partners to spend $200 to $500. The sky-high expectations could be a result of how tapped the generation is into social media, which is known to influence consumer spending.
Older respondents were more varied in their outlooks of the holiday. Gen X respondents expect to spend around $268, and baby boomers expect to spend only about $150.
Boomers and Gen Xers were the most likely to say they don’t expect their partners to spend money or celebrate Valentine’s Day at all, with 27 percent and 30 percent stating so, respectively.
The West expected to spend an average of $277.60 on their partners; the Midwest plans to spend only $140.60. The South had the highest expectations of their partner’s spending, ringing in at $228. The Midwest had the lowest spending expectation of $144.40.
How to avoid overspending on Valentine’s Day
Regardless of who has expectations, the pressure to spend big on Valentine’s Day also comes down to the fear of not being able to keep up with everyone else.
“There’s an element of keeping up with the Joneses here,” says Greg McBride, CFA, chief financial analyst at Bankrate. “But there are no shortage of opportunities throughout the year to overspend. That temptation isn’t going to end after Valentine’s Day.”
If spending a few hundred dollars to celebrate your relationship on Valentine’s Day sounds like a pain point for your finances, McBride warns against splurging.
“These type of (holidays) pop up throughout the year,” McBride says. “It’s got to fit into your budget. If it requires a splurge, you’re going to have multiple splurges throughout the year, and it’s something that could really derail your broader financial plans of debt repayment or increasing savings.”
Aside from fitting the holiday into your budget, there are other creative ways to save on Valentine’s Day spending. Kate Ray and her husband, Rodney, wait until Feb. 15 to celebrate. In holding off a day, the couple is able to shop the clearance section and find great deals on flowers, candy and gifts.
If the couple decide to skip an at-home dinner and dine out instead, they use gift cards bought from Kroger. That way, they get gas points and save money at the pump.
Overall, Ray says consumers should think twice before skipping a frugal Valentine’s Day.
“Whose expectations are you shooting for?” Ray asks. “If you’re shooting for your own, it’s whatever makes you happiest — but if you’re aiming to impress the neighbors down the street, that’s not going to make you happy.”
This study was conducted for Bankrate via telephone by SSRS on its Omnibus survey platform. The SSRS Omnibus is a national, weekly, dual-frame bilingual telephone survey. Interviews were conducted from Jan. 8-13, 2019, among a sample of 1,019 respondents in English (983) and Spanish (36). Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (408) and cellphone (611, including 372 without a landline phone). The margin of error for total respondents is +/-3.75 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. All SSRS Omnibus data are weighted to represent the target population.