February 10, 2011 / 8:50 AM / 7 years ago

Valentine's Day: It's the dollars that count

TORONTO (Reuters) - Despite an anemic economic recovery, the old adage “it’s the thought that counts” likely won’t apply this Feb.14.

A man sells heart-shaped balloons for Valentines' Day in Cairo February 14, 2010. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

The average American couple plans to spend nearly three times more on Valentine’s Day ($189) compared to what singles would spend on the average date night ($67), according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker.

The biggest spend thrifts? Young professionals, who plan to shell out $255, on average, for a special night with their significant other.

“In January we asked the entire population if they felt optimistic or frugal or frightened as they were going into this new year, and what we’ve seen is young professionals definitely feel a bit more optimistic about the economy,” says Mona Hamouly, public affairs manager with American Express. “Perhaps that’s what drives them to be willing to spend a little bit more.”

For those willing to indulge, a quiet dinner and movie at home have been replaced with a night on the town for 2011. More consumers will be dining out, expecting to pay $111 on average. Smitten partners will also come bearing gifts, planning to spend $70 on average for that little special something.

Chocolates and lingerie take a backseat this year as nearly half of all men (49 percent) say they’ll be purchasing flowers to show their love, while 48 percent of women said they would be buying nothing.

“There are some social conventions that are still very much in place and that Valentine’s Day is still thought of as a holiday where a man is supposed to carry most of the weight apparently, even in 2011 that’s still the case,” says Hamouly.

In a separate survey from Citibank, Americans who typically spend on Valentine’s Day say they’ll continue to forgo frugality this year. The survey reveals roughly 45 percent say they plan to spend the same amount, with an additional five percent pledging to spend more this year compared to 2010.

Living with a partner? It seems the common-law cohort will be spending the most (averaging $180), while those who are married will be spending the least at $100. Singles and those who are divorced will both spend roughly $125.

The motivation for consumers to open their wallet this year? To spark some romance, of course, says American Express. But, despite the urge to spend with abandon, 44 percent of those surveyed said their Valentine’s Day purchases will likely depend on how padded their wallet is rather than how much they like their significant other or how long they’ve been together.

However, not everyone is enthralled by cupid’s consumerism -- 12 percent say spending on Valentine’s Day “is a waste of money.”

As personal finance producer, Ashleigh aids the team in building personal finance coverage at Reuters.com and other Thomson Reuters platforms. She first joined the Thomson Reuters online desk in 2008 as an editor for Reuters.com, Reuters.ca and Reuters.co.uk. Thursday, 10 February 2011 02:57:47

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