Updated January 4, 2017

How Much to Really Spend on Engagement Ring

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Ignore the "two months" rule. Find out how much you should REALLY spend on an engagement ring.

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If you're thinking of popping the big question soon, one of the first thoughts in your head is probably:

"How much should I spend on the ring?"

Unfortunately, this is a question with an answer that's often more emotional than rational. But when it comes down to it, there are just two major things to consider: 1) your girl's expectations, and 2) your financial ability. The goal is to find a balance.

And luckily for you today, you're going to get this answer from a woman.

Rule of thumb: Spend 2 months of your income on an engagement ring. Therefore, if you are making $1000 per month, spend $2000 on an engagement ring. If you're making $2500 per month, spend $5000. Sounds simple, but the 2 month rule of thumb is a BAD idea. We'll explain below.

Your Girl's Expectations

Let's get real. There are expectations. Take it from a woman (that's me!), here's why the ring matters:

  • An engagement ring is supposed to be a symbol of your love and commitment. A ring you have saved up for shows that she matters and that you're investing in the future. A $100 ring isn't much of an investment, mister.

  • Most women have probably dreamed about a ring all their lives, including a specific style, diamond shape, etc. This is going to be the single most important piece of jewelry she owns. And it'll be a big disappointment to get a ring that's completely not what she wants.

  • We're the ones who must wear and look at it every day for the rest of our lives. We want something that makes us happy whenever we look at it. We want it to be a source of pride.

  • And lastly, some women (not saying all) want a ring that they can proudly show off to their friends and family. They don't want to be made fun of for having a "cheap" ring (though, my personal response to this would be to get new friends...)

But all that said, believe me, most women* are reasonable creatures! Our dream ring is not a 5-carat flawless diamond. Most women are not looking to bankrupt you with unrealistic requirements, but hopefully you see why the ring has special importance.

Really, all we want to know is that you are serious about our future together and that you are willing to invest in it.

*I said "most women". If you find that your girl has super high expectations and won't take anything less than her dream ring, then it may be time for a different kind of conversation...

Your Financial Abilities

We care about your finances too. After all, your finances become ours too, and we don't want to inherit the debt of a pricey ring. Or eat instant noodles with you for the next year. So the next equally-important factor to consider is what you can afford.

There is no right or wrong to this. But there is a good answer:

And that is that you should not put yourself into (further) debt for the ring. Most young professionals are already up to our necks in debt from student loans, and we're trying to get out of it. You have the rest of your life and other large life purchases to think about, and bringing debt into your newlywed life does nobody good.

Here are some things to think about to determine your financial ability:

  • Your income - how much you're making now

  • Your expenses - this includes necessary expenses like food and bills, and any other loans you're currently paying like student loans and car payments.

  • How much you can save - if you don't buy extraneous things, how much can you save a month realistically? Or how much you have saved up already?

  • Your potential income - are you at a job with a lot of growth potential in the upcoming years? If yes, you may put that into consideration and factor in a bit more. But still be realistic and don't go overboard.

Ideally, you want to be able to buy the ring without financing so you don't incur debt. Or at least be able to pay off that debt in the next couple of months. Of course, you want to get her something that shows you care, but destroying your savings account is the furthest from caring.

Why the "Two Months' Salary" Rule No Longer Works

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You've probably heard of this theory: that you should spend two months of your salary on your future bride's ring in order to prove your love and devotion to her.

This means that if you earn $3,000 per month, you should spend roughly $6,000 on the ring.

Well, we say this theory is wrong.

First of all, the most common marrying age is the late 20s, when most people are still beginning their careers and have nowhere near reached their full earning potential.

Secondly, nowadays most people graduate with a mountain of student debt. Not to mention increasingly more expensive costs of living. And spending thousands of dollars on a ring may not be feasible when you're trying to get out of debt as quickly as possible.

We here at CreditDonkey always recommend making smart financial decisions, which means putting priority on paying back debt and not spending more than you can afford.

Did you know: This "two months" rule was started by a De Beers ad, which also happens to be the same company that, in the 1940s, convinced the entire world that men need to propose with a diamond.

That's right. Before De Beers came along, there was no such thing as using a diamond to prove your love. This "guideline" is clearly an outdated rule from the century past, so why are we still listening to it?

What To Do Instead

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The best way to make sure you're both happy is to have an honest conversation about expectations and finances. If you're going to live with each other for the rest of your lives, you've got to be on the same page about stuff like this, and this is the best place to start.

Talk about where you're at now and your financial goals (such as saving for a down-payment or paying off those student loans). Figure out how the engagement ring fits in when you're both trying to reach these goals. You want to find a balance between expectations and what you can reasonably afford.

For example, let's say you are able to save a couple hundred dollars a month and after months of saving, you can afford only an $1,000 ring. But you spend the time to find exactly the kind of ring she likes for that budget. That's a very considerate and meaningful gesture. Even though the budget isn't huge, you have put in the effort to show her that you value the relationship. And she should be proud to wear that ring.

Having a talk about the ring may not be romantic, but it's important to lay out expectations. Maybe she wants a bigger stone than her friends'. Maybe she doesn't even want a diamond. Or maybe she's frugal and appalled by the thought of spending more than $500 on a ring. Either way, you'd want to know.

And besides, you'll be glad to get an idea of what style she likes too. Isn't it better to buy her a ring you know she'll like, instead of spending a ton of money to buy a ring that maybe she'll like?

Let me know if I'm in the minority here, but personally I'd be happy to have a say in my ring.

Did you know? Over 40% of women want to be involved in the ring selection process. Like I said, we're the one who need to wear it everyday forever, so we want to get something we love.

Average Cost/Size of an Engagement Ring

Just for comparison, here are the average cost and carat size of engagement rings in several countries.

CountryAverage Cost (US $)Average Size (carat)
United States$5,5001.0
Canada$3,500
United Kingdom$2,0000.5
China$3,5000.5
Australia$5,0001.0

Things to Consider

There are a few other things you should consider before putting down money for a ring:

  • Treat her as seriously as yourself: This is something that shouldn't even have to be mentioned, but you never know. When you've found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, she should be equally important. If you spend quite a bit of money on your own hobbies and toys, then you should take her just as seriously and be willing to spend just as much on her ring too.

    If you argue that you don't have the financial ability to buy her a nicer ring, yet you're still spending quite a bit on your own hobbies and toys, then that's putting her second fiddle. That's just being financially irresponsible. I would even argue that that means you're not ready for marriage.

  • Other large future purchases: Maybe there are other life milestone purchases coming up, such as a house you're saving up for. Will an expensive ring delay that? Or maybe you don't place too much weight on material things and taking your dream, once-in-a-lifetime trip together is more meaningful?

  • Expensive is not the same as thoughtful: If you're going broke buying a ring you can't afford, that's not showing you care, in our opinion. That's just putting your joint financial future at risk. Sure, your bride may have a beautiful ring on her finger, but will she be happy if you're struggling to make ends meet every month because of it?

    On the other hand, there are many ways to show you care without going broke. You can plan an unforgettable proposal. A one-of-a-kind handmade ring from a small independent jeweler that perfectly matches her style shows that you understand her. Or maybe giving her your grandmother's ring tells her that she's family.

    Spending time to plan a magical moment or giving her something sentimental are both much more meaningful than just buying the biggest diamond you can charge.

    Did you know? Over 50% of women say that they'll take a fairy-tale proposal over a large engagement ring any day. The proposal is going to be one of the most special moments of a girl's life, and it's a story she'll want to tell forever. And over 70% of women say that they'd rather be proposed to with a cheap ring (or none at all).

Should You Borrow Money to Purchase an Engagement Ring?

Ideally, the best thing to do is to put money aside each month until you can buy a ring in cash.

But we get it - you may not be able to do this. Especially when you have other loans and saving up may take a year or more (and we totally get it that you may not want to wait that long to propose!).

In this case, you could consider financing the ring or swiping it on a credit card, as long as you buy one within your budget. Be careful: financing a ring doesn't mean that you now get to pick the largest diamond you can charge.

In general, you want to avoid this scenario, as you don't want to bring debt into your marriage. The more cash you can bring to the table, the better. If you must borrow the rest, have a pay-off plan (the wedding date is a great deadline), ideally one with minimal interest.

Some credit cards come with 0% APR promotional periods if you're a new customer. But again, have a feasible plan to pay off the balance before the end of the promotional period.

Some diamond retailers will have financing options too, though it may take some math to figure out if you'd end up paying more under their terms or not. If you're thinking about buying an engagement ring online, James Allen is one of our top recommended retailers and they offer a no interest for six months financing plan.

How to Save Money on an Engagement Ring

© base2wave (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Finally, we have some tips on how you can lower the cost even more:

  1. Shop during non-peak periods
    Avoid the period between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. Proposals are at an all-time high, and so are the engagement ring prices.

  2. Know before you go
    Your knowledge of diamonds could play a major role in how much you spend at the jewelry store. So, before you go, research the 4c's (carat, clarity, cut, and color) to arm yourself with the knowledge needed to negotiate the best deal on an engagement ring.

  3. Go for an alternative shape or stone
    Have you considered a heart or oval shaped diamond? How about a sapphire, emerald, or moissanite gemstone? These options are easy on the eye and much more affordable than your standard round or princess cut diamond ring. (Bridal Musings shares a list of 20 diamond alternatives for engagement rings.)

    If you truly cannot afford a diamond, but want an alternative that looks like an diamond, consider these diamond alternatives. You'll be able to get a much larger diamond-like stone on a much smaller budget. Just make sure that your sweetie is okay with it.

  4. Customize the ring
    Did you know that you could get the stone and setting from two different locations? Not only will the engagement ring be unique, but you could possibly save a wad of cash by thinking outside the box. Shopping online for the ring makes this even easier.

  5. Try estate sales
    There are hidden treasures to be found at estate sales, but request a private appraisal before handing over the cash.

Bottom line:

How much you spend on a ring is a very personal choice. To make sure everyone is happy in the end, it's best to get everyone's expectations lined up. The only way is through an open conversation.

Talk about what she wants and your financial state and what you can afford. Come up with a budget that works for both of you. A reasonable budget would be something that shows your beloved that you have saved and are making an investment for your future together, but still within what you can reasonably afford without going into more debt.

Remember: not only is the ring the most important piece of jewelry she will ever wear, it's also the most important gift you will ever give someone, so you should both feel happy and comfortable with the decision.

Do you have thoughts on this topic? How much did you spend on the engagement ring?

Allison Martin is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a diamond jeweler comparison and financial education website. Write to Allison Martin at allison@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped consumers make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

More from CreditDonkey:

How to Buy an Engagement Ring

How to Buy Engagement Ring


Engagement Ring Statistics


James Allen Review

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