Can't Buy Me Love? Millennials Say, "OK, Boomer"

Study finds baby boomers spend far less on Valentine's Day than younger adults

Published Feb. 4, 2021

Key Findings

  • Millennials are the most extravagant Valentine’s Day spenders of any generation, spending 40% more on average than baby boomers.

  • Millennials place a higher importance on the cost of a Valentine’s Day gift than any other generation.

  • People who have been in a relationship for between 2 and 5 years spend 79% more on a Valentine’s Day gift or dinner than someone who has been in a relationship for 16 years or more.

  • People who are satisfied in their relationship spend 50% more on Valentine’s Day gifts than those who report being unsatisfied in their relationships.

  • 1 out of 5 adults have been upset by their partner spending too little on a Valentine’s Day gift.

  • 3 in 10 adults will spend less money on a Valentine’s Day gift this year because of COVID-19.

Study Overview

“‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mister Right.”

Madonna taught us in 1984 that we are living in a material world, and millennials took that to heart much more than baby boomers. In fact, our survey of 1,000 U.S. adults spanning four generations found stark differences in how much money baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials and Gen Zers spend on Mister or Misses Right on Valentine’s Day.

Older Generations and Those in Longer Relationships Spend Less on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day spending peaks with millennials and decreases with age. Millennials report spending an average of $129 on a gift for the big day, compared to $101 for Generation X and $92 for baby boomers.

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Graphic showing how much money each generation spends on Valentine's Day

Spending habits also differ according to the item being bought, but the trend remains the same: younger people spend more. 

When itemized, it was actually Generation Z that reported the most extravagant shopping habits, showing a willingness to outspend baby boomers in 10 categories of popular Valentine’s Day gifts. 

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Graphic showing how much money each generation is willing to spend on 10 popular Valentine's Day gifts

Generation Z is especially more generous with candy/chocolate and perfume/cologne than older adults, reporting a willingness to spend well more than twice as much money on those items as baby boomers.

Big differences were also found for Gen Z spending on wine/liquor (77% more than baby boomers), lingerie/underwear/pajamas (62% more), jewelry (57% more), event tickets (55% more) and romantic getaways (47% more). 

Our survey revealed that Valentine’s Day spending is not dependent only on the age of those involved in the relationship but also the age of the relationship itself. The longer couples have been together, the less money they typically spend on Valentine’s Day

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Graphic showing Valentine's Day spending amounts depending on the length of a couple's relationship

Low Spenders "Can’t Get No Satisfaction"

While the age of the couple and the length of the relationship can both influence spending habits, so too can the couple’s level of satisfaction with the relationship.

People who are satisfied in their relationship spend an average of 51% more money on a  Valentine’s Day gift or dinner than those who are unsatisfied with their relationship and 46% more than those who report feeling neutral about their relationship.

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Graphic showing the levels of Valentine's Day spending depending on the level of satisfaction in the relationship

Couples don’t always agree on how much their partner should spend on them for Valentine’s Day, or on how much they should be expected to spend on their partner.

1 out of 5 respondents reported dissatisfaction because their partner spent too little on a Valentine’s Day gift. 1 in 4 have been upset because their partner spent too much on a gift. 

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Graphic showing the percentages of people who have been displeased with the amount of money their partner spent on a Valentine's Day gift

So who places the highest importance on the cost of a Valentine’s Day gift? Our survey shows it’s mostly millennial men. Nearly half of millennials say the cost of a Valentine’s Day gift is important, compared to just 1 out of 3 baby boomers. Overall, men are 59% more likely than women to place a high importance on the cost of a Valentine’s Day Gift

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Graphic showing the percentages of people who think the cost of Valentine's Day gifts is important according to age and gender

One final factor that may affect Valentine’s Day spending this year is COVID-19. Nearly 3 in 10 adults say they plan to spend less money than usual this year on Valentine’s Day gifts and dinners because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

Graphic callout highlighting that 3 in 10 people will spend less on Valentine's Day this year because of COVID-19

Conclusion

Older adults, couples who have been together for a long period of time and people who are unsatisfied in their relationships are likely to spend less money on a Valentine’s Day gift than people who are younger, in a newer relationship and report being satisfied with their relationship.

A sizable population of adults have been upset with the amount of money their partner spent on a Valentine’s Day gift, and millennial males are most likely to feel the cost of a gift is important. And a sizable portion of adults will be spending less money on Valentine’s Day this year because of COVID-19.    

Methodology

This study was conducted on January 29, 2021, using an audience pool gathered using MTurk, an online polling tool. The total survey included 1,000 respondents, screening for participants who are currently in a romantic relationship or married.

Participants were filtered based on completion time and failure to follow written instructions within the survey.

Margin of error: +/- 4% (95% confidence interval)

This survey relies on self-reported data.

Fair Use Statement

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