Valentine’s Day: how to be romantic but not a fool

Can you be romantic on the cheap this February 14th? If you plan carefully, act thoughtfully and are prepared to queue for roses, yes

Love is not only blind, it can be stupid too, particularly when it comes to Valentine’s Day. It is a day when many otherwise sensible people will lose the run of themslves in the name of love.

The run-losing will see some spend more than €300 by midnight on Saturday. There are the roses, the card, the bottle of champagne, the thoughtful present, and of course the “romantic” candlelit dinner. But where are the roots of our Valentine’s Day splurge, how much does the world spend, and is it ever okay to cut corners?

1 Around one billion cards are exchanged globally on February 14th, making it the second largest card-sending day of the year. If the average price of a card is put at €3, then we are collectively spending a colossal €3 billion on something quite ridiculous every single year. An Post expects to handle about 100,000 Valentine cards this year; it's lot more when St Valentine's Day falls on a weekday. "Advice to the loved-up, lovelorn and lusty is post early on Thursday for Friday delivery," a spokeswoman tells us.

2 Hallmark is often accused of being the ultimate card sharp, but it's not its fault. The company is barely 100 years old and the tradition of sending Valentine's cards goes all the way back to the 15th century. The first written Valentine – known back then as an amorous address – is attributed to Charles, Duke of Orleans. The Duke was kicking his heels in the Tower of London after being captured in the Battle of Agincourt and passed his lonesome days writing romantic verses to his wife. The practice caught on and spread across Europe and then across the Atlantic – although it did take over 300 years.

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3 Another Charles can probably be blamed for our love of red roses in the middle of February, when they don't grow anywhere near here. In the early part of the 18th century, Charles II of Sweden happened upon a poetical art known as the "language of flowers" in Persia and brought it home. It became a fad, with well-heeled Swedes exchanging secrets on the petals of lilies. Certain flowers became imbued with more meaning, and the red rose was adopted by romantics.

4 Grand Prix roses are the Rolls Royce of the rose market and by far the biggest Valentine sellers. A dozen long-stemmed roses can cost upwards of €80 at the best of times, but the price spikes on Valentine's Day. You will pay around 20 per cent more on February 14th compared with February 17th.

5 While they get a lot of flak for increasing prices, Irish florists are neither alone nor really to blame. Prices climb worldwide because extra demand sees every link in the international flower chain increasing its prices this week. African growers have to hire and pay extra staff, freight companies pay premiums, and florists pay overtime to staff. While a normal-sized flower shop can expect to shift a couple of hundred roses on a normal day, that number rises closer to 5,000 on February 14th.

6 And where do our roses come from? Well they're not grown in Ireland, that's for sure. There's a good chance the roses you wake up smelling on Saturday morning will have come from Kenya via Amsterdam.

7 Pricewatch came across some alarming figures on romantic spending in the US. The National Retail Federation's Valentine's Day Consumer Spending Survey found that 91 per cent of American adults plan to treat their significant others to something special, while 58.7 per cent of people will buy presents for family members and children's classmates and teachers. In all $1.5 billion will be spent on almost 200 million Valentine's Day cards, and $1.7 billion will go on chocolates and the like. Around 224 million roses will be grown, with $2.1 million spent on flowers. Another $3.6 billion will go on a night out while the jewellery bill will come to just under $5 billion. The total spent by Americans on this one day will be $18.9 billion.

8 Fancy cutting the cost of Valentine's Day while making yourself seem super-romantic? We found some heart-shaped cookie cutters for €8.95 on kitchenessence.ie. Make heart-shaped eggs, romantic pancakes and loved-up toast at a total cost of less than a tenner. Get a cheap bottle of cava and some freshly squeezed orange juice and add in a dozen roses from Aldi at €7.99, and you're good to go for less than €30 all in.

9 If you were very organised you could have planned a date with a difference at Dublin Zoo. Couples have been snapping up dates at one of the city's most unique Valentine's Day destinations as it is waking up for the day. For €65 for two people, ticket-holders are given special entry to the Zoo from 8am. The deal includes a romantic breakfast and keeper talks on the courtship, breeding and exotic romantic rituals of some of the animals. At the time of writing all the tickets for February 14th were gone but there were still some available for the following day.

10 Valentine's Day is a different story in South Korea: cheaper and just a little more prolonged. On February 14th women give chocolates to men. A month later, on what is known as White Day, men give non-chocolate sweets to women. Then on April 14th or Black Day, those who did not receive anything on Valentine's Day or White Day descend on restaurants to eat black noodles and moan about being single.

11 Valentine's Day is payday for restaurants. It is the day they shoehorn diners into every available space and push tables for two so close together that you could probably lean over and help yourself to the soup of the couples surrounding you.

The really special thing about all the Valentine’s menus that will be on offer is the price. Research from the UK suggests that average restaurant prices increase by 35 per cent on Valentine’s Day, and there is no reason to believe things are much different here. To be fair to restaurants, they have had a very lean January and it is not like they have forced people through their doors with a cattle-prod.

12 While Valentine's Day might be big business, we came across a survey from last year by a company called Empathy Research which found that 49 per cent of Irish people plan to have a home-cooked meal with their significant other on Saturday. Just over a quarter of those surveyed fessed up that they did not plan to actually cook, and would instead rely on the special meal deals from supermarkets such as M&S and Tesco.

13 Lidl will be selling a dozen Grand Prix roses for €29.99, while Aldi's Grand Prix Rose bouquet will cost €29.99, and we are assured the flowers will be delivered "fresh in store" on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week. By any definition, these are remarkable prices for the Grand Prix roses.

There might be a catch, however: supplies are sure to be limited and unless you’re at the doors of one of the stores as they open on the days in question you could end up disappointed and looking for petrol station forecourt flowers for your Valentine.