From Its Humble Beginnings, Valentine's Day Now Costs $18.9 Billion A Year

by John Haltiwanger

Valentine's Day is almost upon us.

On Feb. 14, around 62 percent of adults will be observing this annual celebration of love. The other 38 percent are likely either objecting out of principle or single and bitter about it (or, perhaps, they really don't care).

Regardless, do your thing.

In an ideal world, money and love would be kept completely separate. Yet, as we all know, that's simply not the case most of the time, and Valentine's Day is no exception.

Many people dish out an absurd amount of cash every single year on this holiday. But it wasn't always this way.

In fact, Valentine's Day dates all the way back to the Roman Empire and the 3rd century AD. At that time, Emperor Claudius II was struggling to maintain rule and was under the threat of constant invasion.

He decided to take a drastic step by banning marriage for young people, believing that unmarried men made better soldiers.

A Christian priest named Valentine wasn't too fond of this idea and began officiating marriages in secret.

Poor old Valentine was eventually found out, imprisoned and ultimately beheaded. He was later martyred by the Church for his efforts.

In the late 400s, Pope Gelasius I announced Feb. 14 would be a day to honor and commemorate Saint Valentine.

Sometime around the 1300s, Valentine's Day became associated with romantic love. By the 1600s, the tradition of exchanging Valentines was introduced.

It wasn't until the 1840s, however, that the holiday really took off. We can thank two entrepreneurial individuals for this.

The first was Richard Cadbury, from the extremely famous chocolate-making family. He introduced the idea of selling heart-shaped chocolates that come in a box.

The second was a woman named Esther Howland, who designed lace-paper Valentine cards, producing them in mass numbers on an assembly line.

Indeed, it was Cadbury and Howland who helped Valentine's Day become the commercial success it is today.

Valentine's Day might have humble and romantic beginnings, but in the present day, it's largely driven by consumerism.

Collectively, it's estimated that Americans will spend around $18.9 billion this Valentine's Day.

If this seems like a staggering statistic, consider the fact that $700 million of this will be spent on pets alone, and around $448 million will be spent on candy in the week before Valentine's Day.

On average, men spend around $150 on wives and significant others while women typically spend around $74.

Let's put this into perspective by guesstimating how much Americans spend on Valentine's Day between the time they turn 18 and the time they die.

Life expectancy in the US is around 79. Without adjusting for inflation and other factors, this means the average American man spends around $9,150 on Valentine's Day in his lifetime. Comparatively, it means the average American woman spends around $4,514.

This may not seem like a lot to spend on that special someone, and it's also a patchy calculation that omits a number of key ingredients.

Yet, consider the fact that simply saying "I love you" doesn't cost a dime, and money isn't particularly romantic.

Not to mention, the money Americans collectively spend on Valentine's Day could arguably be put to much better use. And remember that you're spending all of that money for just one day out of the year.

Imagine how much this country could save if it celebrated this holiday without spending so much on dinners, jewelry, candy and even pets.

Keep spreading the love, but consider the fact that you don't have to empty your pockets to do so.

Citations: Valentines Day on the cheap Saying I love you doesnt have to cost anything (The Washington Post), What men and women will spend their money on this Valentines Day (Quartz), 6 Totally Unromantic Truths About Valentines Day Spending (Time), The Bloody History Of Saint Valentine The Martyred Roman Priest Who Officiated Marriages (Huffington Post), HISTORY OF VALENTINES DAY (History), Life expectancy in the USA hits a record high (USA Today), New census data show more Americans are tying the knot but mostly its the college educated (Pew Research Center )