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Surely, such candies are a staple of the average American's Valentine's celebration .

Money can't buy love. But that's a tough sentiment to remember on Valentine's Day. Saint Valentine himself -- a very obscure character who only became associated with romantic love after poet Geoffrey Chaucer made the reference over 600 years ago -- would probably scoff at the idea.

But that doesn't stop some of us from dropping a pretty penny to celebrate our partners. Bankrate -- along with help from research firms NPD Group and Nielsen, decided to quantify just how much the average American could spend if he/she buys the typical Valentine's day gifts.

What's included in those gifts?

  • Fine dining dinner for two
  • A heart-shaped box of chocolates
  • One dozen long-stem roses
  • A bottle of champagne

Not to forget the high-earners, Bankrate also included the cost of a pair of "princess-cut diamond earrings totaling one-quarter karat, set in 14K white gold."

Here's how those costs added up for 2016.

 

Price

Dinner

$80.46

Chocolates

$15.11

Roses

$41.66

Champagne

$51.54

Earrings

$323.26

Total

$512.02

Source: Bankrate

Ok, so to be fair, most middle-income Americans might make a splashy purchase like the earrings once every decade or so, and that brings the total all the way down to about $190. Still, that's not chump change for a single night out on the town.

A September 2015 report by the U.S. Census Bureau states that the median American household's yearly income before taxes is $53,657. That equates to just over $1,000 per week. In other words, a couple is spending about 20% of their weekly income in one evening.

Is it worth it?
If there's anything that's worth splurging on from time to time, it's the meaningful relationships we have in our lives. But because this is a finance (and not a relationship) site, I'll crunch the numbers and offer up an alternative.

If you buy a bottle of wine, make dinner at home, and include chocolate-covered strawberries in your Valentine's Day mix -- instead of everything listed above -- you'd only need to spend about $50.

That's $462 less than our earring-buying couple, and $140 less than our more practical pair. That money adds up over time. Let's say that you are 30-years old and were to take that extra $140 each year and simply invest it in the stock market (romantic, isn't it?).

If your investments returned the historical average of 6.8% per year after accounting for inflation, you'd be left with an extra $23,000 -- in today's dollars -- come your full retirement age of 67. While that's not enough to retire on, it'll be more than enough to jump on a plane and visit the grandkids whenever you want to during your Golden Years.

You really can't put a price tag on that kind of freedom, can you?

 

Brian Stoffel has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.