Ah, Valentine’s Day. What used to be a dewy-eyed date night for boyfriends and girlfriends, wives and husbands has turned into a colossal spend-a-thon for people. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Valentine’s Day is second in spending only to the Christmas shopping season.

Here’s how the stats break down for American spending last Valentine’s Day, courtesy of the NRF:

Average annual Valentine’s Day spending $17.6 billion
Number of Valentine’s Day cards exchanged annually $180 million
Average number of roses grown for Valentine’s Day $196 million
Percent of Valentine’s Day cards bought by women 85%
Percent of flowers bought by men 73%
Amount the average consumer spends on Valentine’s Day $126.21
Percent of consumers who celebrate Valentine’s Day 61.8 %

Feeling faint? While your heart may want to spend a lot on your loved ones, your wallet probably tells you to stop. Spend a little time prepping and you can find some great deals and unbelievable savings. So, in the spirit of being generous but not too generous, we offer this thrifty shopper’s guide to a great Valentine’s Day:

Understand This

The retailers have you right where they want you. Floral retail outlets acknowledge Valentine’s Day as their busiest time of the year, and they’re not just selling flowers. Retailers of all sorts stock up on everything related to the big day many weeks in advance; having chocolates, pink and red clothing accessories, heart-shaped balloons and Valentine’s Day flowers handy helps drive sales as consumers pull out their wallets to express their love. Even family pets get in on the action – the NRF estimated that people spend about $5 on Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets as well.

Make a Budget

Naturally, determining exactly what you’re comfortable spending on each family member and friend is a good first step. Find a good budgeting app, determine what you can spend during this time period and make it work.

Get a Gift Strategy

It’s time to strategize. Many retailers offer specials on candy, chocolates and jewelry in the days and weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, so peruse what’s on sale at your local discount retailer or at an online boutique. For him, search online to find great bargains on cologne, clothes, books the latest gadgets; for her, check out the multitude of makeup, lingerie, accessories and jewelry sites to find a great price on a gift.

Bring It Down a Notch

A great way to save money is to pare down the traditional Valentine’s Day gift-giving. Instead of a dozen roses, give her one. Instead of dropping $5 on a card, declare your love for him in a heartfelt letter. Light a candle and eat dinner at home that evening. Offer her a massage, no strings attached, or bake him a heart-shaped cake pops. There are lots of things you can do to observe the day without spending a small fortune.


Another idea is to book a photographer to snap pictures of you and your beloved, or have a friend take some of just you. A series of intimate boudoir photos delivered in a heartfelt way sends big signals about how attracted you (still) are to your mate. Whether it’s a bedroom pose with smoky eyes or an outdoor shot with arms and legs akimbo, a for-your-eyes-only photo for your loved one on Valentine’s Day is never a bad idea. Find local boudoir photographers online or post a “wanted” ad on Craigslist, and watch all the photographers come to you (and then bring down their price).

Valentine’s Day can be an exhilarating day for lovers of all ages, no matter what your budget is. It’s not how much money you pour into the day that counts, but how much of yourself you put it in.