Valentine's day cards

The real costs of Valentine’s Day

Think you know how much your $2 Valentine's Day card costs? Sometimes it's about more than just the price tag

There’s countless movies telling us that true love doesn’t care about money - Titanic’s Rose chooses cheeky pauper Jack over her rich, pompous fiancee, and Princess Jasmine falls for care-free street urchin Aladdin. But that goes out the window when Valentine’s hits – £1.6 bn ($2bn) is spent in the UK alone.

So why do we do it? Let’s be honest, a lot of spending on Valentine’s Day basically comes down to the fact that if one person buys a gift and the other one doesn’t, it’s awkward. In other words, the ‘cost’ of not buying anything – the guilt, the regret, the grovelling – might actually be bigger than the financial cost. Even if you’re trying to keep it cheap, there are hidden costs in everything we buy.

The card

Valentine's day choo-choo-choose

Probably be a red one, with hearts on, left anonymous to keep ‘em guessing.

Cost: £0 - £4 ($0-5). Cards are both wallet friendly and meaningful with the right message, making them a Valentine’s winner. You can even print your own Tesco Value card if you’re on a budget.

Wider cost: If you’re testing out your poetry skills and writing a romantic sonnet in the card, that’s going to take up some time –time you could have in theory been earning money. That’s called the 'opportunity cost' – the thing you missed out on when you spend your time, money or any limited resource. There also might be an emotional cost – sending a card and not getting one back is a painful business. And they might not like your sonnet.



Sure, any kind of flower will do, but if the rom-coms have taught us anything, it’s that nothing says ‘I love you’ like twelve red prickly flowers wrapped in cellophane. Flowers are such a Valentine staple that florists tend to triple their revenue on the big day, and Tesco’s reckons it sells over a million Valentines bouquets every year. Want to make a bigger impact? Just send more roses. Like Kanye West, who sent a thousand to Kim K back in 2014.

Cost: £35-50 ($40-60). The price of roses can increase by 30-50% for Valentine’s – partly because we’re willing to pay more, but also because the costs of production are increased. Demand is so high on one day of the year that growers basically destroy roses in the run-up time in order to produce a bumper crop, meaning they lose out on the sales beforehand. More labor is needed to process those bouquets, so that’s a higher cost in wages.

Wider cost: February just isn’t the time to be growing roses in the UK, and that means they’re imported - mostly from Kenya. In fact, that’s where a third of all cut flowers bought in the UK are grown. Sending anything that far means a lot of fuel - especially flowers which need more energy to be kept fresh for our vases. The real cost of sending the flowers isn’t included in the price of the product, so there’s a gap, called an 'externality', which someone will need to cover.



Romantic and delicious. In the 1800s doctors used to recommend chocolate as a cure for unrequited love - and Cadbury’s jumped at the opportunity of linking chocolate and love, producing the first Valentines chocolate box in response.

Cost: £4-32 ($5-40). Keep it low key with a bar of Galaxy, or go deluxe with an up-market heart shaped box. Again, size is everything.

Wider cost: Most of our favorite confectioners are owned by vast corporations. The "Big Chocolate" companies are Mondelez (formerly Kraft Foods) which owns Cadbury, plus Mars, Nestlé, and The Hershey Company. Companies of that size swing some serious power globally, meaning they have more of a say over how much they pay cocoa farmers. Big employers can offer lower pay as the farmers don’t have many alternative buyers. Organizations like Fairtrade try to tackle this by promoting products which guarantee a fair wage for the farmers and manufacturers.



For maximum romance, dinner will be candlelit, with a Barry White playlist. Dessert is a must - preferably something shared and gooey.

Cost: £30-100 ($37-$120) So there’s a huge range here. You can go home-cooked as long as you remember the candles. Or you can splurge at a restaurant, where you’ll be paying about three times as much for the wine alone – but get out of the washing up.

Wider cost: Reaching an agreement on what to eat for dinner can open up a minefield of problems if your tastebuds aren’t aligned. If one of you wants curry and the other wants pizza, you might end up compromising with, say, burritos – a situation in which neither of you are completely happy. But that’s worth it if the cost of the compromise is less than the joy of the company!

Recent articles

Reader Comments

  • WhereAreTheVikings

    What a terrible, terrible shame. Western Civilization nurtured capitalism, and now capitalism is destroying it. And these young people seem to welcome the invasion of their homeland. The media and schools have been very efficient in wiping out all traces of blood and soil.

    • prollawalllynotahumanoid

      Capitalism isn’t the problem. It’s corrupt politicians taking bribes and kickbacks from Globalists and the Chinese.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        Maybe I should have said crony capitalism. Although Italians importing Chinese to make “Italian leather” shoes is not crony capitalism. It is capitalism, pure and simple.

        • prollawalllynotahumanoid

          That would be crony capitalism and globalism combined. They aren’t concerned with the affect their policies have upon their citizens, the health and welfare of their society and culture or their economy. What it isn’t is fair-free trade to further national interests.

          • WhereAreTheVikings

            I’ve always seen them as one and the same, but perhaps they need to be named individually, just to bring home the point.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        But now that travel is so easy and borders are virtually down through H1bs and the like, theoretically you can’t blame capitalists for the pursuit of cheaper labor, although I do heartily blame them not being more patriotic than that. Perhaps the emerging nationalism will force them to voluntarily do what they should have morally been doing all along, and that is employing business practices that preserve their countries and nationalities. The government should be doing everything it can to encourage that, to the extent that small government should do anything but guard the borders and strictly, drastically, limit immigration.

      • Henry Lam

        It is China with its corrupted mindset affecting the world.

        • prollawalllynotahumanoid

          No it is not. Capitalism is the fairest and least corrupt system of all.

          Socialism and communism is based on authoritarianism, coercion and police intimidation. It has and always will be rife with criminality, bribes and kickbacks.

          Corruption can be anywhere but it is the very basis of socialism and communism.

    • Henry Lam

      The government is too weak. They do not understand the mindset of communists and how they educate their people. Those communist people are only loyal to their country and could be dangerous. The immigration law should only accept those who accepted multiculturalism and taught from a democratic education system. This virus events clearly has shown how stupid to take China as a friend.

      • WhereAreTheVikings

        The government is not too weak. Just weak-minded about some things.

  • Gabi Rodrigues

    For how many days can a country maximum close their borders to foreigners maximum? Like now, with the virus, everyone is using 30 days. Can it be more?