Valentine’s Day is worth less to lovers the longer they’re together

For these newlyweds, Valentine’s Day is still cause for celebration.
For these newlyweds, Valentine’s Day is still cause for celebration.
Image: AP Photo/J Pat Carter
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

As love ages, Valentine’s Day starts to lose its worth. A new survey found that US couples typically spend less on Valentine’s Day gifts the longer they’re together.

In the first five years of a relationship, couples spend an average of $74 per person on Valentine’s Day gifts for each other, according to personal-finance site, which polled more than 3,000 people in the US about their Valentine’s Day spending plans. After being in a relationship for 20 years, spending on gifts drops to $59. (The totals don’t include spending on a meal out.)

The sweet spot for the most-expensive presents is between two and four years, when the relationship is serious enough to warrant a pricey gift and the cachet of the holiday isn’t lost yet.

“The significance of Valentine’s Day is unsurprisingly more pronounced in the early ‘courting’ stage of a relationship,” Fred Schebesta, chief executive of, told Quartz. ”This would become less important as a relationship develops and other dates like anniversaries and possibly children’s birthdays become more important.”

But it’s not all downhill. Spending tends to spike again around major anniversaries and milestones, like the 10- and 15-year marks, the survey found.

“[The trend] could easily coincide with the time couples, especially married couples with children, finally get a chance to focus on the relationship again after several years of more practical concerns,” Schebesta said, referring to buying a house, paying a mortgage, and raising children.

Even though people who have been together for a while don’t splurge on Valentine’s Day gifts as regularly, they do try harder to surprise each other. Couples who have been together for at least 20 years are four times more likely to hide their Valentine’s Day buys than those who have only been together for a year.

And when it comes to relationship statuses, fiancées get the most-expensive gifts on Valentine’s Day, while husbands often get the short end of the stick. Fiancés plan to shell out an average of $96 on their soon-to-be brides, while husbands will receive gifts worth a paltry $51, on average, this year.

That’s for those who even get a present. About 49% of husbands and 34% of wives shouldn’t expect to receive gifts this year, estimated based on the survey results, compared with 31% of boyfriends and 24% of girlfriends.

Overall, the National Retail Federation estimates people in the US will spend an average of $147 on gifts like candy, flowers, and apparel, or a special evening out this Valentine’s Day, up from $143 a year ago. As spending in the country is expected to reach a high of $19.7 billion, as low gas prices free up budgets and the expectations of good deals persuade people to shell out more on their loved ones.