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photo of man holding roses and a box of chocolates for his partner

13 Feb 2018

An economist’s guide to Valentine’s Day spending – love on a budget

Loved-up millennials are expected to be the biggest spenders this Valentine’s Day with an average outgoing of more than £80 on wining, dining, flowers and gifts – but you don’t need to break the bank to melt a heart.

Loughborough University economist Dr Jon Seaton, a Reader in Business Economics, has looked at the £650 million UK money-spinner, which sees couples’ affections and courtships flourish on February 14, each year.

With one day to go, he has put together some helpful information for celebrating sweethearts looking for love-on-a-budget.‌

Understanding why people feel the need to spend big is key, said Dr Seaton.

He said: “Economics is the study of people making a living, part of that study involves the economics of the household and that involves the search for a mate and the games couples play over household resources which may depend on their earnings, age, experience, signalling, power play and outside threats.

"A paper entitled, Bargaining versus non-cooperation; transaction costs within marriage, from my doctoral thesis, showed that the earning power and the cost of partner-time can force a marriage from sharing to non-cooperation, because of the extra cost of negotiation and monitoring it creates.

“As most partnerships and marriages occur for people in their early thirties it is no surprise that ages 28 to 37 will be the biggest spenders – an average of 81% - and that’s reflected in the one day of the year where lavishing gifts upon your loved one is expected.

“Men and women are, after all, feverishly contemplating, engaging in, and hopefully completing the search for a partner – known as the ‘marriage market’.

“Recent studies into Valentine’s Day behaviour indicate gift-giving as a crucial signal of a healthy, strong match to warn off potential rivals and plays a significant role in the psychology behind how much people spend.”

It is men who spend more compared to women – although the difference is lessening.

Last year, 53% of men spent an average of £72, whilst 39% of women spent £44 on average.

The average for both sexes combined is £60.

Read more about Dr Jon Seaton's guide for Valentine's Day spending here, with more information on supermarket tactics and tips on finding the perfect box of chocolates.