Valentine's Day Gotchas


Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. One of the most lucrative events on the retail calendar (behind Christmas, Back-to-School, and Mother’s Day), this holiday brings in about $20 billion dollars.

Love is expensive, but it’s also blind, as they say--particularly when you consider the inflated costs that consumers are suckered into paying:

Hotel Packages

When hotels put together their Valentine’s Day packages, they charge you their highest room rate, and then creatively bundle it to make it appear as though you’re getting a good value, says Chris Elliott, author of How to Be The World’s Smartest Traveler.

“They’ll throw in a bottle of cheap wine and some chocolate, maybe include breakfast in bed, and when marketed as a ‘romantic’ or ‘charming’ package, you’re charged a premium—which could be 10%-20% more,” he added.

Romantic Dinner

According to one restaurant ratings guide, the typical dinner for two doubles on Valentine’s Day!

Not only should you expect to pay a lot, but you should also expect a limited menu, crowds (According to the National Restaurant Association, one out of three adults eat out on Valentine’s Day), and rushed service given the heavy volume.

“Restaurants are looking to turn tables around as quickly as possible,” says Elliott, and since Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year, the rushed service will begin the weekend before, and extend through the end of the week.


Demand for flowers – and especially roses – peaks in February, and that pushes prices up -- to the highest level of the year, says Kerry Sherin, savings expert with Big demand means big prices, especially once you factor in additional costs for labor (More orders means more workers.), coordination and transportation – all passed down to the consumer.

Sherin suggests getting creative.

“A few easy ways to save short of placing your early order (and taking advantage of coupon codes for up to 20% off): You can buy local, go with a mixed bouquet instead of roses, give just one rose, or even go with a paper bouquet. At the end of the day, it’s about showing you put the effort in,” she said.


While jewelry is known to be one of the top 10 retail markups (Experts say a 300% markup is usual any time of year.), the markups for Valentine’s Day – when jewelers make a noteworthy chunk of annual sales - could be much more significant given the heavy demand, says Andrea Woroch, a consumer and money-saving expert.

A markup of 1000% is not unusual!

What’s a frugal lover to do beyond shopping on sites like Blue Nile or KayOutlet? Ideally, wait.

“The best time to shop for jewelry is after the holiday when sales fall dramatically,” says Woroch.

Valentine-centric jewelry – from heart-shaped lockets to cupid earrings - is often up to 80% off.

Vera Gibbons is a Senior Consumer Analyst with and founding editor of A former analyst with MSNBC who appeared regularly on the “Today Show,” Gibbons was previously a Financial Contributor with CBS News.