Valentine's Day dilemma: How much to spend, handling Ash Wednesday and the day of love


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Love is in the air as many Americans celebrate that special someone, but cupid's arrow may puncture your wallet instead of your heart this Valentine's Day!

Americans are expected to spend about $19.5 billion. A National Retail Federation survey breaks down where that money will go:

  • $4.7 billion - jewelry
  • $3.7 billion - an evening out
  • $2 dollars - flowers
  • $1.9 billion - clothes
  • $1.8 billion dollars - Valentine's Day candy

A new study out of Carnegie Mellon University finds romantic staples like red roses, a box of chocolates or even diamond jewelry are not necessarily the best gifts to give. The research shows givers too often focus on creating that "wow" moment, but they should be buying what the recipient really wants or needs.

"There's a whole host of different errors that people make but they all fall into the broad category of giving gifts that put a smile on somebody's face -- but aren't all that useful,” said Jeff Galak, an assoc. professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon. "I doubt you remember the box of chocolates; but you may remember that really special customized matching luggage tags that your wife gave you that you're always with, always using and something that you really enjoy."

This Valentine’s Day could also pose a problem for many Christians. For the first time since 1945, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day are falling on the same day.

Spiritual leaders say you don’t necessarily have to choose between a day full of chocolates and champagne, and ashes and fasting. There is a way to balance the holidays.

Many spiritual leaders say it's okay for Christians to observe both Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day on the same day this year. They said the two holidays don't have to conflict with each other because both are about love.

"For Christians and Catholics, the ultimate valentine is God sending Jesus to the world,” said Fr. Michael Miller, St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Chino, California.

Fasting and abstaining from meat are rituals many observe on Ash Wednesday, and priests say you can easily save your main meal for a dinner out. You might just have to save the chocolates for Thursday, though.

"To do their major meal at night with their special person, their husband or their wife or their family. They might even go out with foreheads that look dirty with ashes on them but some people don't like to wear it out so they might take it off,” said Fr. Mike Quinn, at Holy Family Church in Hannibal, Missouri.

Many restaurants say they were busy this past weekend and expect to be busy this coming weekend as well, as people move their celebrations to a time that doesn't conflict.

If you are wondering what big events are happening in West Michigan for Valentine's Day, check out the full list here.

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