Valentine’s Day is promoted as the holiday of love, with millions giving tokens of affection to family and significant others. However, despite its reputation, Valentine’s Day has become less about love and more about spending. The pressure to spend big is no secret, with expensive products lining store shelves and advertisements in the weeks approaching the holiday. It’s become a tradition in the U.S. for couples to buy gifts, with the pressure to perform is incredibly high. These items are not cheap either, requiring a person to empty their pockets to please their significant other.

Who Actually Benefits?

While some may believe that spending big on Valentine’s Day is the way to please their love, that isn’t necessarily true. It’s not the gifts or the dinner that make couples happy on Valentine’s Day, it’s the time they get to spend together. Couples are simply meeting an expectation to buy gifts, rather than making purchases that hold meaning. So, what’s making people feel that pressured to spend so much on the day of love? The answer is simple, the companies. In the weeks approaching Valentine’s Day, they line store shelves with red and pink hearts, while kicking their advertisement campaigns into overdrive.

Valentine’s Day chocolate in a heart box. Image from Love + Chocolate

The reason for this is simple, the people who benefit the most from Valentine’s Day are companies, not couples. The American Greeting Corporation, which earns 1.7 billion annually, makes 25% of its sales within the month of February. They aren’t the only ones, with flower and chocolate companies seeing a notable jump in sales during this time period. These companies are businesses, their concern does not lie in the happiness of couples, but in their own revenues. 

Don’t believe the items are overpriced? Just look at what happens to prices the day after Valentine’s. It’s well-known that the day after Valentine’s Day prices on themed chocolate dramatically drops. While it is partially due to the difficulty of selling such a branded product once the holiday passes, they can afford to drop prices as the product wasn’t that expensive to produce. These items, and their packaging, were never any more expensive than what is normally sold.

In addition to the expensive gifts being exchanged, many couples go out to dinner. However, even this has a higher price on the day of love. Many restaurants actually raise their prices during Valentine’s Day. With primary couples dining out, more tables are required for fewer people. This means that most restaurants raise the prices on their menus to make up for any chance of lost revenue.

A Better Way to Say ‘I Love You’

Valentine’s Day has long since abandoned the idea of togetherness and love, becoming a competition to impress significant others with empty, yet expensive, gifts. That’s not to say that the holiday is pointless and a waste of time, in fact, the opposite is true. Valentine’s Day can serve as an excuse to spend more time together, to go out and enjoy the quality time together. This is possible without having to empty your bank account for something your loved one won’t truly enjoy.

This is not to say that gifts are a great evil that plagues Valentine’s Day, that simply isn’t true. The evil is the pressure to spend high amounts on gifts that won’t actually be appreciated. Instead of breaking the bank, couples would be better-served spending on personal gifts, that will be appreciated beyond the holiday. While this can include gifts such as jewelry or items that the other genuinely desires, experiences work equally well. Concert tickets, movies, hiking, a night in, or any form of genuine-time spent together can form memories worth more than any overpriced gift.