“What are you getting her for Valentine’s Day?” – we’re focused upon the gifts given or activities paid for on the day, not what the day is about. As individuals, many of us declare our annoyance at its use as a revenue tool by the greetings card, chocolate and restaurant industries. Just as every year we complain that Christmas grows to encompass most of November and October, we are now starting to see the importance of Valentine’s Day grow.
Indeed, it feels like you’ve just saved up and spent all your hard-earned cash on an extravagant gift Patrick Bateman would approve of, and then suddenly the 14th February murders your bank account as brutally as… well… Patrick Bateman would approve of. The whole holiday does seem too commercially-based – with pressure from advertisers mounting upon us, couples are increasingly feeling the pressure to celebrate the day in ostentatious ways. In a 2012 survey by TIME magazine, it was estimated that the average American would spend $126.03 on the holiday, up 8.5 per cent from 2011. This increase in spending year on year ties in with another remarkable statistic – as a populace we now demand divorce lawyers 40 per cent more in February than any other time of the year.
The commercialism surrounding the day is ridiculous – you can see that from a quick trip down the high street. Chocolate shops thrive, restaurants run nauseating specials based around couples, Clintons is a nightmare – but the standard boxes are not the only ones being ticked by this money-making machine anymore. Americans spend roughly $360 million on Valentine’s gifts for pets. That’s right, Pets! As Screen Editor, I feel obliged to mention the hatefully twee film Valentine’s Day which grossed over £3.7 million in the UK alone on its opening weekend, despite Mark Kermode deeming the film a “greeting card full of vomit” (look it up, no word of a lie). The fact is irrefutable; we spend $17.6 billion (by Forbes’ estimate) worldwide, every year, upon a holiday which has lost all sincerity in the marketplace.
I realise this harping on about our collective consumerism is nothing new, but some of the facts are staggering, as marketing accounts for almost all of our product choices and lifestyle choices today. The music we listen to is governed by YouTube and Spotify’s recommendations, a “skip advert” click away, as streaming revenues have increased 40 per cent to $1.1 billion globally. The music may be free, but you are still paying attention to the adverts. We are simply so oriented around consuming we cannot change the unstoppable advertising machine. Compare your average spending in a day to the poorest nations in the world – the World Bank estimated in August 2008 around three billion people live off less than $2.50 a day.
Base your gifts this Valentine’s Day around emotional or sentimental worth
Whilst we can’t stop how we spend money towards necessities, we can affect our perceptions of what neccesities are. Think of how wasteful and thoughtless it is to purchase a greeting card or chocolates when you could express your sentiments with something personal. Base your gifts this Valentine’s Day around emotional or sentimental worth, not the price tag accompanying the gift – take your partner to a show she really wants to see, find his favourite band’s tour dates and get tickets, cook a Valentine’s Dinner yourself. Or, better yet, do these things throughout the year, not when it’s commercially prescribed.