Valentine's Day Shoppers Plan to Spend $21.8B in 2021

The average shopper will spend nearly $165 this Valentine's Day

Couple celebrating Valentines Day
••• Photo: Cultura/Spark Photographic/Riser/Getty Images

Valentine’s Day is the fifth largest spending event in the U.S., after the winter holidays and Mother’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Even in the depths of a global pandemic that has shaken the economy and claimed millions of jobs, consumers aren’t cutting back much when it comes to celebrating their loved ones.

Key Takeaways

  • Valentine’s Day is the fifth largest consumer spending event in the U.S.
  • People plan to spend less in 2021 than they did last year, but more than they had in any of the years prior.
  • At-home celebrations are poised to eclipse flowers as the third-most-popular source of spending for the holiday

In 2021, about half of  U.S. adults plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day and spend a total of $21.8 billion, down from $27.4 billion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). But 2020 was a record year, and the 2021 anticipated spend is still the second highest since the NRF first published its annual Valentine’s Day spending survey in 2009. 

“This speaks to consumers’ desire to make things feel special,” Katherine Cullen, the NRF’s senior director of industry and consumer insights, told The Balance. “They might cut back on things like travel and takeout, but they want to take occasions to celebrate.”

The celebration looks likely to help boost the U.S. economy as well, because consumer spending drives almost 70% of the nation's total output, making it the largest component of gross domestic product.

How Much People Spend on Valentine's Day

In 2021, the average American plans to spend $164.76 on Valentine’s Day, down from $196.31 per person last year but up from $161.96 in 2019, the NRF said. Men plan to spend more than double what women spend at $231 versus $101.

But not everybody will be buying gifts this year. “With so many people in precarious financial situations, we might see...homemade valentines become the norm,” said Elizabeth Nelson, associate professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, noting that this goes back to the traditions of the pre-industrial era.

And it’s not just people who are the recipients of our Valentine’s Day affections. Although the origins of the holiday are romantic, Valentine’s Day has transformed into a celebration of all loved ones, including children, pets, friends and coworkers.

How People Spend Their Money for Valentine’s Day

People usually spend money on the same things each year, mainly candy, cards, and flowers. More than half of Americans plan to spend money on candy and 44% plan to spend money on greeting cards this year. But this year, flowers are taking a backseat to a new major source of Valentine’s spending: dining in.

The Impact of COVID-19

Unlike in previous years, 41% of Americans are planning a special dinner or celebration at home to adhere to social distancing rules, while just 24% will spend an evening out.

The coronavirus pandemic has not only shaped Americans’ celebration decisions, but it also affected the way people shop. Online shopping has become a large growth area for Valentine’s Day shoppers, with 38% of Americans buying gifts online, up from 32% the previous year, according to the NRF. 

In addition, small businesses joined the list of the top five shopping destinations this year, as Americans felt inspired to support their local shops amid the economic downturn.