Economics of Valentine’s Day and why we spend so much for our sweethearts

This year, people will spend, on average, $185.81 on their special someone this Valentine’s Day.

Jadrian Wooten, an economics professor at Virginia Tech, said there is a lesson in why lovers spend so much on one another — it’s called “signaling.”

Basically, it means someone thinks that how much they spend on their significant other demonstrates how much they love them, Wooten said.

“There’s this temptation to spend more money to essentially send a bigger signal.”

He said that means many people will find themselves spending more than they are truly able to afford.

“We have this very natural inclination to show up at the store. We have an idea on what we want, and then we end up just leaving and feeling a lot of regret as soon as we swipe that card in the cash register,” Wooten said.

The spending total that was tallied by the National Retail Federation is also a per-person number, meaning a couple will spend close to $400.

“You’re just sort of trading those values to each other,” Wooten said.

He recommended love birds establish a spending budget for the day of love and stick to it when shopping for flowers, dinners or a special outing.

A more affordable gift or thoughtful gesture — such as preparing dinner for your sweetheart — can go a long way and not break your bank account, Wooten said.

It’s important to remember, he said, that the money spent is not a direct reflection of how much you care for somebody.

Economically, Wooten said Valentine’s Day spending can be seen as a good sign by economists during a time of inflation concerns

“If things were really as bad as we thought they were, we would be cutting back in some of these spending categories,” Wooten said.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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