Valentine’s Day is approaching, and it’s time for lovers to value their relationships…literally. In addition to deciding how much to spend on a Valentine’s Day gift, people across the country are contemplating how much to invest in a possible future with their current heartthrob. And financial savvy is high on the list of relationship requirements, as 46 percent of people would break up with their significant other if he or she spent irresponsibly, according to a new survey from the personal-finance website WalletHub.
That may sound harsh, but it’s understandable in the aftermath of the Great Recession and considering the state that many Americans’ finances are in now. Consumers hit $1 trillion in credit card debt for the first time ever in 2018, for example. The fact that financial irresponsibility can be a deal breaker romantically also is demonstrated by 53 percent of WalletHub’s survey respondents saying they would not marry someone who has bad credit.
But can a pretty face or an athletic body outweigh bad spending habits? Not according to the 6 in 10 people who say they are more attracted to educational and financial success than physical traits. However, there is a gender divide: 44 percent of men still find physical appearance most attractive, compared to just 30 percent of female respondents.
“According to research in evolutionary psychology, men typically place a greater value on physical traits, particularly those that signal youth and fertility … while women tend to place a greater value on a man’s ability to provide for her (their) offspring,” said Abigail B. Schneider, an assistant professor of marketing in the Anderson College of Business at Regis University. “In our society, educational attainment often translates into financial success or a man’s resource acquisition potential.”
The long-term picture may also factor into the value people place on looks versus success. Financial responsibility and education benefit people for their entire life. “Good looks fade,” said Steve Sherman, an instructional specialist at Montclair State University. “Also, with a little grooming and exercise, it’s fairly easy to alter physical characteristics – personality and wealth, not so much.”
Men are also more prone to putting their finances in jeopardy in the interest of love, WalletHub found. Men are two times more likely than women to spend over $100 on a Valentine’s Day gift and three times more likely to say a Valentine’s Day gift is worth credit card debt.
“Research shows that some behaviors tend to align with and reinforce our gender-identity – and that includes Valentine’s Day gift-giving behavior,” said Constance Porter, a professor of marketing in the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University. “It is well-known that men have assumed the societal role of taking on more of the gift-giving burden on Valentine’s Day. They spend more, and are more willing to go into debt to do it. Doing so could help some men reinforce their sense of male-identity and help them express this identity with others.”
Even though they plan to spend more for Valentine’s Day, men are not as concerned about what they will get in return. Men are more likely to not expect any gift than women are, while women are more likely to expect gifts of $50-$100 and $100+.
“I think there’s still a sense that men are supposed to be the one who do most of the courting, and the Valentines present is part of that,” said Karen Becker-Olsen, an associate professor of marketing and interdisciplinary business at The College of New Jersey. “Also, there are more things that girls would appreciate than men – girls are more likely to expect a gift, while men are less interested in having a classic V-Day gift.”
While it’s wonderful to spend money on your significant other for Valentine’s Day, there are plenty of presents you can give without overexerting your wallet or taking on debt. There are also lots of ways to reduce the cost of gifts that do cost money. For example, the best credit card sign-up bonuses now offer $500+ for spending a few thousand dollars within the first few months of opening an account. If you’re going to spend that much over that timeframe, anyway, why not get a hefty discount in the process?
At the end of the day, your partner probably won’t appreciate his or her gift if your Valentine’s Day spending ends up causing financial hardship throughout the rest of the year. After all, WalletHub’s survey found that 4 in 10 people say irresponsible spending is an even bigger turnoff than bad breath!
Valentine’s Day Spending Survey – Key Stats
46% of people would break up with their significant other if he or she spent irresponsibly.
Women are 33% more likely than men to spend $0 on a Valentine’s Day gift. Men are two times more likely than women to spend over $100.
Men are over three times more likely than women to think a Valentine’s Day gift is worth going into credit card debt for.
4 in 10 people say irresponsible spending is a bigger turnoff than bad breath.
53% of people would not marry someone with bad credit.
Valentine’s Day Facts
$20.7B: Total Valentine’s Day spending projected for 2019 ($161.96 per person celebrating).
$196 vs. $100: Men spent nearly twice as much as women, on average, for Valentine’s Day 2018.
$7.6 Billion: Amount Americans will spend on jewelry ($3.9B), flowers ($1.9B) and candy ($1.8B).
9 Million: Number of marriage proposals made each Valentine’s Day.