BOSTON (TheStreet) -- If love waits for no one, why are you wasting time planning your Valentine's Day date like it's 1986?
Getting fixed up on dates by friends, hitting multiple stores for gifts and chocolates, calling for dinner reservations and being put on hold, paying full price for that dinner and having a box office attendant tell you the film you wanted to see is sold out is for rock-bashing, knuckle-dragging troglodytes with no Internet access. Why bother? Everything you need this Valentine's Day -- from a date to dessert and beyond -- can be found online, and an increasing number of people are beating you and your technologically befuddled buddies to them.
According to ComScore, the population of online users eclipsed 1 billion back in 2009, with more than 163 million people accessing the Internet in the U.S. alone. Meanwhile, U.S. online spending has increased from $28 billion in the first quarter of 2007 to $32.1 billion in the third quarter of last year, or 13%, with fourth-quarter online spending on pace to break $40 billion. As the National Retail Federation predicts the average person will spend $116 on Valentine's Day -- up 11% from last year, but still less than the $190 spent by heartstruck consumers ages 25 to 34 -- it also forecasts that nearly 20% of Americans will do that spending online.
With little real estate between the procrastinating consumer and Valentine's Day, we've put together an outline for a great online date. Whether you need something as simple as a dinner reservation or as awkward as an actual date, we've got you covered: The date
There's a hardy, fun-loving, unattached segment of American society that doesn't feel pressured to spend a greeting card holiday sweating their way through the dating world's amateur hour. Research firm Piper Jaffray estimated in 2008 that $1.2 billion was spent on online dating sites and projected that would jump to $1.7 billion by 2013. A People Media study, meanwhile, found that nearly half of Americans knew a person who met a date online, almost doubling the number that said so back in 2006.
You can pay $35 to $60 for a month's worth of access to matchmaking sites such as Match.com, Chemistry, Lavalife or eHarmony -- with such niche sites as JDate, Shaadi, Manhunt and Amigos costing just as much -- but other sites such as OKCupid and PlentyofFish are giving it away for free. (For now; Match.com just bought OKCupid.)