For V-Day, 88 Percent Say It’s the Thought That Counts

Our survey found that Valentines want thoughtful presents—not expensive ones—but many gift-givers still spend dangerously beyond their means.

Valentine’s Day comes with a lot of buildup—store decorations, candy displays, hints dropped over dinner. It’s a time to show your special someone that you care. For many, there’s pressure to do that by spending. But our survey found that’s not what Valentines want.

We asked 1,400 adults who plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day about what kinds of presents make them happy. Eighty-eight percent said the thought that goes into a present is more important than it’s cost. Forty-one percent said they’d be happy with a thoughtful gift even if it cost $0.

That’s good news for Valentines on a budget. It’s also all the more reason to avoid celebrations that break the bank.

Another surprising result of the survey? A shocking percentage of respondents admitted to engaging in risky spending behavior to finance their purchases. Twenty-one percent said they’ve used a loan to pay for Valentine’s Day. Fifty-three percent said they’ve used a credit card to pay for Valentine’s Day presents they couldn’t afford. Forty-six percent have committed financial infidelity by overspending and hiding the cost from their partner.

It’s the Thought That Counts

What you’ve been hearing all your life is true: It’s the thought that counts. This sentiment was strongly supported by our survey results.

  • 88 percent of respondents said the thought that goes into a present is more important than the present’s cost.
  • 71 percent said the thought that goes into a present is more important than the present’s cost “by far.”

Our survey also found that thoughtful presents offer shoppers more bang for their buck. To please a Valentine, a thoughtful present would need to cost, on average, $39.16. A present that isn’t thoughtful, on the other hand, would need to cost $71.70 to satisfy a Valentine. Forty-one percent of respondents said a thoughtful present could cost $0 and they’d still be happy with it.

The Pressure is Real

While Valentines don’t need—or even want—to receive an expensive gift, many still enter the holiday with high expectations.

  • On average, Valentines said they want their partner to spend at least $75.60 on them.
  • 57 percent of respondents said they would be upset if their Valentine didn’t get them anything.
  • 41 percent said they’ve felt pressured to spend more than they want on Valentine’s Day.

Overspending has a Cost

Given the pressure to spend, it might not be surprising that many Valentines splurge on gifts and celebrations. But our survey found that a shocking percentage have turned to loans and credit cards to do it.

  • 21 percent have used a loan to pay for Valentine’s Day.
  • 53 percent have used a credit card to pay for Valentine’s Day presents they couldn’t afford.
  • 26 percent have spent $500 or more.
  • 12 percent have spent $1000 or more.
  • 16 percent admitted to having taken on “unmanageable” debt.

Financial Infidelity

While Valentine’s Day is meant to celebrate relationships, the holiday can put a strain on them as well. Our survey found that spending can lead to fights, and this has happened not just when a Valentine spends too little, but also when a Valentine spends too much. In fact, a large percentage of respondents admitted to financial infidelity—hiding the cost of their present because they were afraid their partner would be mad that it was so expensive.

  • 18 percent have gotten into a fight with their partner because they spent too little.
  • 17 percent have gotten into a fight with their partner because they spent too much.
  • 46 percent of respondents have hidden the price of a present because they worried their partner would be mad that they spent so much.

Our survey squares with recent research that suggests financial infidelity is surprisingly common. A recent Harris Poll commissioned by the National Endowment for Financial Education found that 41 percent of couples who share bank accounts commit financial deceptions.

Cost-Saving Tricks

To keep costs low, some Valentines have found creative ways to celebrate the holiday while staying within budget.

  • 32 percent have postponed celebrations to avoid upcharges and take advantage of post-holiday deals.
  • 70 percent have saved up to make Valentine’s Day purchases.

Methodology

The survey was carried out by Pollfish at the request of OppLoans. It polled 1,400 American adults age 18 and over who planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day with their romantic partner. The survey was conducted on Jan. 18, 2019 using a nonprobability sampling method. Fifty-nine percent of respondents were female and 41 percent were male. The sample size was statistically significant.

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