Valentine’s Day gets pricier for Illinois couples in 2022

Valentine's Day

| Photo courtesy of Illinois Policy

Couples across Illinois are planning for the upcoming Valentine’s Day weekend, but gathering their loved one’s favorite flowers or candy comes with a painful reminder: inflation has made virtually everything more expensive in the past year.

Inflation has reached its highest level since 1982, with average consumer prices jumping 7.5% from January 2021-January 2022, according to the most recent Consumer Price Index data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prices across the entire basket of goods on which the index is based have risen an average of 7.5%, but inflation has hit each component of this upcoming date night differently.  Making matters worse, pretty much all prices have been rising faster than wages in Illinois, which only grew by 3.6% in 2021.

Let’s start with the quintessential Valentine’s Day gifts. Expect a trip to the flower shop to cost 4% more this year. And the candies? That’s an extra 4.8%, too.

Heading out to dinner and a show? That’ll cost 7.1% and 5.5% more than last year, respectively. Thinking about grabbing drinks before or after? Those prices are up 4.2%. Getting dressed up for the occasion? Women’s dress prices are up 11.1%, while men’s suits and sport coats cost 13.6% more this year.

Don’t forget transportation for the night out on the town. Vehicle prices are at a premium. Used vehicle prices are up 40.5% and new vehicle prices are up 12.2%. Oh, and the fuel? An extra 40%.

Maybe, with Valentine’s Day falling on a Monday, a trip out of town for a long weekend is the plan. Good news: airfare prices are only up 4.9%, but that’s just about where the good news ends. The hotel? That’ll be an additional 23.6%. Rental car to get around? Prices are up by 29.3%.

So, all these price increases are creating second thoughts about date night? Maybe it would be best to just stay in this year, have a quiet meal and get that significant other a nice gift. Well, sorry, but the cost of food for home consumption is up 7.4%. For delivery, that’ll be an extra 9%. As to that gift, jewelry will carry an 6.5% inflation surcharge this year.

In most years, rising prices are an inconvenience, but when wages don’t keep up they threaten people’s way of life. This is especially true now, with more than 333,000 Illinoisans still out of work. The state’s job market is one of the least recovered since COVID-19 and state-mandated lockdowns caused more than 1 millionIllinoisans to lose their jobs.

Unfortunately for Illinoisans, inflation follows a long line of taxes that have eaten into their purchasing power. State taxes and fees have gone up by nearly $5 billion annually since Gov. J.B. Pritzker took office.

Now, during an election year, Pritzker is proposing a temporary suspension in grocery taxes – Illinois is one of only 13 states to impose such a tax. He’s also offering a one-year freeze in the automatic increase in gas taxes, which he doubled in 2019 to second-highest in the nation, as a way to put money “back” into Illinoisans’ pockets.

Unless these changes become permanent, they’re nothing more than an election-year gimmick that will leave Illinoisans to battle higher prices and taxes next Valentine’s Day. Not much to love there.

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