The Real St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

     Do you feel, like the graphic poster above suggests, that you must spend your hard-earned money on Valentine’s Day to show others how much you care? Apparently, many of us do. The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts that Americans will spend $17.6 billion in 2012 in the days leading up to, and, if you’re like many of us, on Valentine’s Day itself.

That’s an average of $126.03 per person – an 8.5 % increase over last year and the highest in the 10 years the NRF has conducted the survey.

$74.12 will be spent on spouses, $25.25 on kids, parents, and other family members, and $6.92 on those special somebodies. And, my favorite statistic of all, Americans will shell out an average of $4.52 on their pets to make sure they don’t feel left out. As you might have guessed, men will far outspend the fairer sex this Valentine’s Day, racking up average expenditures of $168.74 compared to $85.76 for women. True, we probably have more to a make up for.

Jewelry is the big winner in the Valentine’s day consumer frenzy with spending to total $4.1 billion, followed by $1.8 billion on flowers, $1.5 billion on candy, $1.4 billion on clothing, $1.1 billion on gift cards (you sentimental fools), and $3.5 billion on a romantic evening out. NRF President and CEO, Mathew Shay, is “encouraged” by American’s willingness to spend money when told to do so (my words, not his). The original St. Valentine’s Day massacre took place in Chicago; nowadays it happens every year about this time.


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22 Responses to The Real St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

  1. Allyson says:

    Along with most people, I have confused feelings about Valentine’s Day. Sometimes it is a very happy day because Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to show that special person in your life, along with your other loved ones, how much you love and cherish them. Other years, however, Valentine’s Day is depressing and only an excuse to eat as much as ice cream as you want. Either way it is just another excuse to spend money because that is what is demanded by our society.
    Reading Facebook posts and statuses about Valentine’s Day around this time of the year vary from people saying thank you to the gifts they received, telling their significant other how much they are truly loved, or complaining how stupid this holiday really is (most likely because they do not have a significant other.) On any given year, depending on the circumstances that surround us, any one of us can feel like any one of these posts, yet it is always the same holiday. Confusing? Yes.

  2. jim_roberts says:

    Hello Allyson,
    It can be a confusing holiday and it’s not made any easier when money becomes the currency for love. A content analysis (tally) of Facebook pages on the subject of Valentine’s Day would make for an interesting study. I hope your Valentine’s Day is a good one.
    -Dr. Roberts

  3. Meghan says:

    Largely because my mom is a kindergarten teacher, Valentine’s Day has always been a beloved holiday in my family filled with traditions right in line with Halloween, Easter and Christmas. Growing up I would wake up to the smell of heart-shaped chocolate chip muffins baking in the oven on February 14th. Once I was dressed in something pink or red to wear to school, I would join my brothers at the kitchen table to enjoy our yummy Valentine’s breakfast together. Mom would always have a spot marked out for us at the table with a personal Hallmark card that was always both cute and thoughtful. Mom always makes sure to find the perfect card for every occasion. Next to our Valentine’s card nameplate there would always be a little gift from Mom and Dad. These gifts would never be extravagant, but they would always relate to the holiday and never failed to remind us that we are loved and special to our parents. I think my senior year of high school I opened a gift bag to find fuzzy red and white heart flip flop slippers from Old Navy. I still use those from time to time. Since I have been in college I have no longer been able to wake up to a Valentine’s breakfast Mom woke up early to prepare, but I have still enjoyed the Hallmark cards and little gifts my mom sends in the mail. Last year I was living in Johannesburg, South Africa on Valentine’s Day, but my mom still air mailed me a card from Texas. Due to the snail mail that infects Africa, it didn’t get there until the end of March, but I still appreciated the thoughtfulness that comes from my parents on February 14th and every other day of the year. True love doesn’t require fancy gifts, but when you love someone, you can’t help but want to show them – whether through word, deed or a box of chocolates.

  4. jim_roberts says:

    Amen to that sister! Am I too old to be adopted? What great memories and they had little to do with money but everything to do with thoughtfulness. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Meghan says:

    Maybe it’s because she was born in Minnesota.

  6. jim_roberts says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with that one – it must be the Minnesota gene 🙂

  7. Kathryn Zollars says:

    Valentine’s Day is a holiday that I don’t know how I feel about. This year is the first time that I have been in a relationship on the holiday, but I’m not expecting much. We have been together for over 8 months, so there is no real reason to “go all out” to try to impress each other. Sure, I bought over $ 40 of embarrassing balloons that read cliche love thoughts all over to be delivered to him at work, but that’s because he works at the American Football Coaches Association and I wanted to embarrass him. People always spend money on holidays that seem bogus so I don’t really know why Valentine’s Day is thought of any differently than Mother’s/Father’s Day or even Grandparents’ Day. I mean should we really need a day to remember those we love? No, but we do it anyway so why not just grin and participate if we feel the desire to do so!

  8. jim_roberts says:

    As Americans (and others no doubt around the world), we spend money in an attempt to be happy and have been told that our love can be measured in dollars and cents. It’s not working and love can’t be measured in dollars and cents. I say we all make home-made cards for our sweeties this Valentine’s Day and then share a home-cooked meal together. I will let the reader decide who cooks the meal :). Home cooked meal: @ $15, love: priceless.

  9. Megan Figueiredo says:

    Valentines Day, like almost every other major holiday, has strayed from its true meaning to become a day filled with gifts. The problem is, gift giving is so ingrained in our culture that if we took it away it would be weird. What would Christmas morning be without a visit from Santa? What would Easter be without an Easter basket? What would Valentines day be without a box of chocolates? It is about tradition more than anything else. I don’t think that gifts need to be expensive to show someone how much you love them. More importantly I don’t think gifts should only be given on holidays. I think it is a lot more meaningful to receive something from someone you love on a completely random day, it shows that they love you no matter what and they don’t need a holiday to remind them to tell you.

  10. Tyler Trevino says:

    This article truly intrigued me and made me re-evaluate the art of how are society forces us to believe things are necessary such as Valentines Day presents. Although it is a nice gesture to show ones love, I feel that in our culture of buying one’s love this has gotten extremely out of hand. Although I am guilty of this as well. This just tries to prove that money buys happiness although this is quite obviously not the case.

  11. jim_roberts says:

    You are correct on both accounts: (1) gift-giving and major holidays in the US are synonymous, and (2) that random acts of kindness mean a lot. Next valentimne’s day we should all try to spend nothing and still show our loved ones how much we care. How about a hand-made card and a dinner made by your own two hands (some expense involved) – the dinner, cost: $20.00, showing soemone you care: Priceless. That last line shows I am a product of the current consumer culture.

  12. jim_roberts says:

    As Megan mentioned in an earlier post, we currently equate majors holidays and even our love to how much money we are willing to spend on somebody. This just seems wrong. Can I get a hallelujah?

  13. Bobby Draughn says:

    I really don’t know how I feel about Valentine’s Day. I have always felt that it’s not how much you spend but the thought that was put into it. It’s strange how people go all out in one day just because it’s a day to show that you care/love someone. Instead of buying an expensive gift on one day, I believe we should show the person we care about them throughout the year with little things. This does not mean I’m not going to celebrate Valentine’s Day at all. All I’m saying is we should show how girlfriend/spouse that we care/love them year round.

  14. Jordan says:

    I believe that since there is such an emphasis on Money in America, it is a somewhat sad but true reality that people put there money where their hearts are. In the case of this holiday, that is simultaneously good and bad. Good in the fact that it shows that even with all of the meaningless trinkets and materials we accumulate, somehow, a holiday of ‘love’ is still what people really want to spend their money on. Though the con to this is the sheer amount of money that could be used on other priorities in life, I personally believe that in a hollow, spiritually vapid culture, this is one of the few areas of hope for people to fulfill humanity’s inner need for something other than material connection.

  15. Tori Moore says:

    I think Valentine’s Day has truly lost it’s core meaning. I personally don’t believe that we need to assign one day to shower the people we love with gifts. I think this day should be focused on not the monetary portion of what you give but the thoughtfulness of what is given. The amount of money that is poured into this single day is ridiculous, and defeating the purpose of what the day is about. Growing up my dad would always bring my 3 sisters and me roses and a card on Valentine’s Day and would “take all his girls” out to a dinner. My mom would dress us up and we would all go to a nice dinner. For us, Valentine’s Day meant being with the ones we love, not shedding out money to show our love. The money that people are spending on this day is out of control and in summation, completely missing the point.

  16. Carly says:

    While I cannot speak for earlier times, our generation has been considered the generation of global change. Because of that I think our generation likes to believe that in order to show how caring and compassionate we are, we mark it with material things. This is capitalized especially on Valentine’s day because it gives purpose to the purchase. Unfortunately, as we approach this day our nation has not been so steady economically and yet we still continue to spend the enormous amounts of money that we do on Valentine’s day. That, to me, is the true paradox of Valentine’s day.

  17. Griselda Ibarra says:

    I probably should not be surprised, but people actually spend money on their pets for Valentine’s Day? What is there to buy?
    My dog must hate me. haha

  18. Cameron Bell says:

    I found this post very interesting, and also a little shameful. We as Americans do spend a lot of money on Valentine’s Day (as was stated in the post, around $17.6 billion) but it seems that a lot of times we spend money on this day to impress the one we’re with. It seems that buying your wife or girlfriend a new necklace that every year, women expect it. My question is this, why can’t we as consumers be content with a simple home-cooked meal, breakfast in bed, or a hand-written card? It seems we’ve gotten into this mindset that if we don’t spend more and more money every year on this holiday, that our spouse will stop loving us, a notion that is completely ridiculous by any stretch of the imagination.

  19. Clare Berlinsky says:

    February 14th.

    Take the opportunity to serve 14 people that day. That really isn’t very hard.

    Buy someones groceries, write a note and stick it on someone’s car, bring someone coffee while they are working or studying, stop and help someone on the side of the road, pick someone up if they are walking home from class in the rain, hold the door open for someone,

    Every year on Valentines day I buy a dozen roses, and I go an give 1 rose to 12 people who make me feel special every day to remind them that I appreciate the things that they do for me.

    While some of these things cost money, you aren’t buying things that will go wasted, but you are buying things that will actually HELP someone, or even better, SERVING someone who might have needed the encouragement that day more than any other day.

    These things will bring you far more satisfaction than spending a hundred dollars on worthless junk that will go away in a week. I don’t care who you are.

    And the best part is, you don’t need a designated day to do it!!

  20. Tyler Minchew says:

    I’m not too sure about how I feel about all this Valentines day spending… I can’t believe we almost $5 on our pets so they don’t feel left out.

  21. William Alford says:

    The sheer number that is spent on valentines day gifts is very shocking. But I do not think it is necessarily a surprise that most everyone participates. I think it has become such a cultural influence that many people don’t even think about it anymore, they just buy through impulse. I think many people show up the day of and buy valentines day gifts, but I think that has changed over time. I feel like when people first started celebrating valentines day, they did it for another excuse to really share their feelings with someone else. Now it seems that it has become an “I guess I’ll get my wife flowers and chocolates” kind of holiday. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to buy a significant other gifts, I just think with regards to valentines day, the gifts have become the reason for the holiday, not the feelings themselves.

  22. Anton Melin says:

    I like valentines day since I think it is a nice gesture to do something or buy something for the person you love.
    I think many argues that if you love someone you would give them gifts to please them without a special day. But for me that is very unromantic, I appreciate these kind of days, because the partner expect me to buy something. And when they expect to get something, I find it less awkward to give them a something. I don’t know why but would have felt very stupid if I would have given flowers or some kind of gift to my last girlfriend without it being a special day like birthday, or valentines day.
    Even though I like valentines day, I think the most important thing is to show that you care about them. That should not be important what you do, that you buy, or for what amount you buy. The importance should rather be that you do it!!

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