5 Ways You'll Regret Spending on Valentine's Day

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Valentine's Day is an immense waste of time and resources, but America seems bent on marking it anyway. Fine, but you may as well set the tip of one of Cupid's arrows aflame and shoot it directly into your savings.

The National Retail Federation is predicting an upturn in spending this Valentine's Day after its consumer survey showed lovestruck buyers planning to spend $130.97 this year just to keep up appearances. That's up from $126.03 last year, but it's easy to say such things when you're dealing with theoretical money.

Go ahead, tell the retailers and restaurateurs of America that you intend to spend $37 on flowers, $157 on jewelry and $77 for a night out. Get everybody's hopes nice and high just so you can grit your teeth through the inevitable markups and manipulative marketing.

We all really know you're just going to jam into the nearest drugstore at the last minute and pull the closest red thing within arm's reach off the shelf. The market research firm NPD Group knows it to be true, as its latest research found that 78% of Valentine's Day shoppers wait until the last week to pick something up. Keep in mind, stores began stocking Valentine's Day items approximately a second after the all-Christmas holiday stations started playing Call Me Maybe again.

About a third of women make their Valentine's Day purchases on Feb. 13 or Feb. 14, while a whopping 47% percent of men hold out until the last minute. Think that frenzied rush results in more than a few unfortunate purchases?

Don't worry, procrastinators: You're not the only ones joining the ensemble cast of Bad Decision Theater this holiday season. When just going out on Valentine's Day is a poor choice, anything that follows is bound to be a lead-footed skip through a sprawling minefield. Here are just five ways you can go wrong with Valentine's spending:

5. Flowers

The Society of American Florists says 78% of flowers given on Valentine's Day are roses, with 224 million roses grown for Valentine's Day 2012 alone. That's a tough order to fill after Christmas, which sucks up 30% of the year's plant and flower purchases and gives growers only 50 to 70 days to work on the Valentine's Day supply. It doesn't help that Valentine's Day, which ranks third behind Christmas and Mother's Day, with 20% of annual plant and flower volume and 25% of sales, vaults to No. 1 when it comes to sales of fresh flowers. Roughly 36% of all flower volume and 40% of flower revenue comes from Valentine's Day sales.

With 37% of Americans planning to buy flowers for Valentine's Day, according to the NRF, the holiday lead-up becomes a bizarro Black Friday for flower sellers. A dozen roses that sell for an average of little more than $59 in early January suddenly go for closer to $86 the week before Valentine's day, according to Cheapism. That's a nearly 40% premium before you even step out the door.

4. Dining out

Price isn't the only problem in a restaurant on Valentine's Day, but it's a big one. The folks at restaurant ratings guide Zagat say spending on a dinner out jumps from $70 for a typical dinner for two to more than $146 on Valentine's Day. Overall, the NRF says Valentine's Day dinner spending will jump from $3.576 billion in 2012 to $3.976 billion this year. It's amateur hour, and all the rookies want to play at your favorite venue.

Not that they'll enjoy your favorite dishes, mind you. Most restaurants ditch the full menu and specials for a short list of easily prepared entrees that encourage diners to turn over their tables quickly. Think wedding dinners. Think dry chicken. Now you have the idea.

Those prix fixe banquet-hall offerings don't come at a discount either. Last year, restaurant reservation site OpenTable ( OPEN) found that 93% of the Valentine's Day reservation holders they surveyed plan to either match last year's dinner bill or increase it. Among all diners, 54% planned to shell out $101 to $200. Another 10% planned to clear that $200 bar easily.


3. Jewelry

So you're going to be the genius who proposes on Valentine's Day, huh? Join the club.

Jewelers of America reports that February makes up 8% of jewelers' annual sales -- lagging only behind the November and December holiday season's 32.3% and May's Mother's Day and bridal-driven 8.3%. That's a big crowd waiting to pop the question, and they could spend a whole lot less on their dinner, flowers and other romantic touches if they just waited a few days.

In fact, it's going to cost exponentially more to get down on one knee and present that engagement ring this year than it has on recent Valentine's days. The Jewelry Industry Research Institute's Ken Gassman says that average engagement ring prices hit $3,500 last year. That's higher than the $3,450 average in pre-recession 2008 and far more costly than the $3,200 average in 2009 and the $3,150 suitors spent in 2010.

2. The movies

Like an engagement ring, a movie ticket costs the same on Valentine's Day as it does the rest of the year.

Like the engagement ring, though, it's the circumstances surrounding that movie ticket that make hitting the theater on Valentine's Day a fool's errand. As Comcast ( CMSCA)-owned movie ticket site Fandango found out two years ago, more than 60% of Valentine's Day moviegoers buy their tickets weeks in advance.

Also, the Academy Awards nominees have already been announced and will likely still be in theaters on Valentine's Day -- just 10 days away from the awards ceremony. This means showings of Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln that have been half-empty for weeks will be packed with the texting, chattering, shifting, question-asking hordes who seemingly have never been to a movie until just this moment, when they decided to sit right next to or behind you.

1. The complete and absolute lack of thought

What makes Valentine's Day most depressing is that it wouldn't even be necessary if those doing the spending cared this much about the person they were spending on the rest of the year.

Shoveling money at Valentine's Day isn't a show of love; it shows you haven't completely forgotten you love someone. Putting some actual thought into it, being original and paying attention the other 364 days a year is a better investment in your Valentine than any trinket you'd pick up during your commute home. Cook someone their favorite meal for Valentine's Day, rent that movie you saw together on your first date, make a slideshow of the trips you've taken together. It's called effort, and its the rarest gift of all around this time of year.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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