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EDITIONS
Monday, 15 February, 1999, 09:55 GMT
The bottom line of true love
Valentine's Day could cost you a lot, but it doesn't have to...
Valentine's Day could cost you a lot, but it doesn't have to...
The Taj Mahal is said to be the most extravagant monument ever built for love. The Emperor Shah Jahan constructed the marble mausoleum in memory of his second wife whose death in 1631 left the emperor so heartbroken that his hair is rumoured to have turned grey overnight.

The building took 20,000 skilled craftsmen from Asia and Europe more than 22 years to build.

Don't worry, times have changed.

This Valentine's Day, even the most ardent lovers don't expect such a grand testament to love. Nevertheless, consumers across the world will be laying down wads of cash this February 14.

Can buy me love ...

Valentine's day is big business. The holiday boosts the UK economy by 100m each February.

What US men buy on Valentines Day (Source: IMRA)
What US men buy on Valentines Day (Source: IMRA)
UK Retailers are expected to rack up about 50m in sales. More than half of that amount will be spent on greeting cards; the remainder on flowers, chocolates and trinkets.

Valentine's Day falls on a Saturday this year for the first time in 10 years. This, according to travel agents, has led to a surge in weekend getaway bookings . Even the prospect of flying on Friday 13 has failed to deter lovers, with 97% of holidays departing at the end of the week.

In the United States, sales are expected to keep pace with last year when Americans spent $709m (417m) on candy, $700m (412) on flowers and $900m (529m) on cards.

According to a random survey by the International Mass Retail Association, most US men will give flowers (38%), candy (23%) and cards (17.6%). Women, on the other hand, prefer to send candy (28%) and cards (26%) with flowers accounting for only 8% of gifts.

...but it doesn't need to cost a bundle

Can you still be romantic without spending a fortune?

An ad in a national newspaper costs about 20
An ad in a national newspaper costs about 20
You could show your feelings by advertising on the side of London bus, but that would cost 485. For just 20, lovers can place an ad in a national newspaper.

If you are looking for something more "cutting edge", the Web offers a host of creative ways to show your love. And, they're free.

Countless sites allow Net surfers to send virtual flowers. Simply choose a bouquet, enter an email address and your Valentine will receive a password to pick them up.

For the more creative, try the Cyrano Server, which writes letters to friends, relatives, colleagues. All you do is fill in key words, phrases and the name of the recipient and Cyrano will compose unmatchable prose for your friends.

Keep in mind that big isn't always better. It really is the thought that counts, says Leah Hardy of the Women's Journal.

"It doesn't have to be roses. It's just the thought that someone is thinking about you when you're not there, something romantic."

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