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written by Sam Greenspan

I aggregated the results of 20 Valentine’s Day surveys to figure out what you should spend, the most and least wanted gifts and why steak delivery companies are greedy.

Valentine’s Day is a very survey-able holiday.

Around this time of year, surveys flood out about Valentine’s Day. After all, it’s difficult (“aggravating,” as one might put it) to figure out what you should do, how much you should spend and what gift you should get. But there’s a problem with all the surveys: They never come up with the same answers. Shouldn’t they? You’re going to tell me ebates.com, Georgetown University and Omaha Steaks don’t know how to find a truly representative sample?

I thought it would be fun to aggregate the results and see what we could learn from that. Well not “fun” in the most traditional sense of the word. “Fun” in the way that, I don’t know, buying a new pack of mints is fun.

I’ve did three of my own meta studies using the results of 19 [updated: 20] surveys here (although not all asked the same questions). Let’s have a look…

Valentine’s Day spending: Men versus women

Source Men avg. spend Women avg. spend Spread
American Express $296 $213 $83
National Retail Federation $190.53 $96.58 $93.95
Rakuten $104 $45 $59
RetailMeNot $213 $85 $128
Georgetown Institute for Consumer Research $116.26 $77.75 $38.51
Offers.com $61 $47 $14
Hugs and Disses $137 $86 $51
eHarmony (UK) $107.27 $60.25 $47.02
Averages $153.13 $88.82 $64.31

Conclusions:

(1) In all eight surveys, men outspend women, by anywhere from $14 to $128.

(2) Believe it or not, AmEx surveyed people who like to spend a lot of money and Offers.com surveyed people who don’t.

(3) The standard deviation for what men spend is about $71, so spending less than $82 or more than $224 takes you more than one standard deviation from the mean and may make it seem like you under/over spent.

(4) The standard deviation for what women spend is about $50, so spending less than $38 or more than $138 may make it seem like you under/over spent.

(5) Based on these eight surveys, the average human — gender blind — spends $120.98.

(6) Basically, just do whatever.

Most and least purchased items

Almost every survey includes a question on what gift people want the most (or are most likely to buy), and what gift people want the least (or are least likely to buy). I pulled both results…

Source Most wanted / purchased Least wanted / purchased
American Express Dinner / flowers (tie) A night at a friend’s house
National Retail Federation Candy Clothing
Rakuten Chocolates Quality time together (ha!)
RetailMeNot Dinner Electronics
Georgetown Institute for Consumer Research Chocolates Something homemade
Offers.com Vacation Jewelry
Hugs and Disses A night out N/A
eHarmony (UK) Dinner A card
It’s Just Lunch Flowers Lingerie
What’s Your Price? Gift card Something homemade / teddy bear / chocolates (tie)
WP Diamonds A night out Something extravagant
Daymon Worldwide Dinner N/A
Walmart Canada Candy Flowers
LoveSales.com Dinner Hot air balloon trip
ebates.com A night out Donation to charity in your name
Brad’s Deals Dinner Something homemade
Cardlytics Flowers Spa trip
Harris Interactive Candy Day off parenting duties

Conclusions:

(1) For the most wanted/purchased gift, dinner or a night out came in first in 8.5 of the 18 surveys… candy or chocolates came in first five times… and flowers came in first 2.5 times. Those seem like the smartest bets.

(2) Least wanted/purchased did not quite have that consensus. Something homemade is the only gift that appears more than once, with 2.33 votes. Virtually every other gift made the list at least once.

(3) Every Cosmo-type publication will tell you lingerie is the worst gift to buy, but only one in 17 surveys came to that conclusion.

(4) I am torn between my favorite picks for worst gift: Quality time together or a donation to charity in your name.

(5) Don’t believe the hype from the Liberal Media over at LoveSales.com. If you get someone a hot air balloon ride for Valentine’s Day, they’ll love it. In fact, I believe that once happened in an episode of Full House.

Self-serving surveys

And finally, my picks for the most transparently self-serving results in this year’s batch of surveys.

Source Survey result Self-servingness
American Express 54% say worst thing that can happen on a date is a credit card being declined. AmEx cards have no limit!
Rakuten 38% of people most want to shop online after a bad breakup. Rakuten is (apparently) a huge online shopping destination!
RetailMeNot Only 12% of people would be upset if a date used a coupon — making it a far lesser offense than being rude to a server (70%), drinking too much alcohol (60%) or flirting with the server (59%). RetailMeNot is a leading coupon website!
eHarmony (UK) SIngles are most interested in signing up for online dating in January and February. eHarmony is an online dating site!
Daymon Worldwide 72% of people will buy stuff from a store where they also buy groceries. Daymon Worldwide works with retail brands in grocery stores!
Brad’s Deals Only 37% say using a coupon on a first date shows you’re cheap. (They probably should’ve gone with RetailMeNot’s numbers.) Brad’s Deals curates all the best coupons!
BeFrugal.com 97% of people would not be disappointed if they knew a Valentine’s gift was purchased at a discount. BeFrugal.com is a coupon and cash back site!
Omaha Steaks 43% of Americans say steak is the top food to show your love on Valentine’s Day — tied with wine. Also, 90% of people want to be surprised and have dinner at home this Valentine’s Day. Omaha Steaks sells steaks! To serve at home!

And finally, shout out to the one survey that had an un-self-serving result. That WP Diamonds one I mentioned earlier, where the least-wanted gift was “something extravagant.” Like, ya know, diamonds.

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