Updated April 5, 2019

How Much to Really Spend on an Engagement Ring

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Forget the "two months' salary" rule. Find out how much you should REALLY spend on an engagement ring here.

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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?"

This decision is both emotional and rational. You have two major things to consider:

  1. Your Lady's Expectations
  2. Your Financial Situation

The goal is to find a balance between the two.

Of course, every person's situation is different. And that's why it's important to know where you stand. Do not rely on an outdated two months' salary rule that was invented by a marketer.

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.

In this article:

PRO TIP: You should research pricing online to avoid overpaying. Online retailers are up to 40% cheaper than local jewelers and many offer free shipping and returns. If you want build your own engagement ring, check out James Allen.

Your Girl's Expectations

There's no getting around it. The ring does matter. And here's why:

  • An engagement ring is a symbol of your love and commitment. It shows you're invested in a shared future.

  • Many women have dreamed about their perfect ring for a long time, including the style, diamond shape, etc. It'll be a big disappointment to get a ring that's not exactly what she wants. Build your own engagement ring with this tool

  • Women are the ones who wear the ring every day. This is going to be the single most important piece of jewelry she owns. And naturally, they want something that makes them happy to look at and show off to their friends.

Just how much should you spend? According to recent surveys, most American couples expect to spend between $1,000 and $5,000 on an engagement ring. The actual average cost for an engagement ring is over $6,000.

With all that said, most women are reasonable creatures.

They will love and appreciate the fact that you spent the effort to find the perfect ring. Most women are not looking to bankrupt you with unrealistic requirements.

Your Financial Situation

You have your future to think about too. After all, finances merge when you get married. So along with her expectations, an equally-important factor to consider is what you can afford.

There is no right or wrong answer. But there is a good way to look at it:

You should not put yourself into a crazy amount of debt for the ring. Most young professionals are already up to their necks in student loan debt. Plus you have the rest of your life to think about.

Here are some things that might help you determine your financial ability:

  • Your current income

  • Your expenses: Things like food, bills, and any debts you're currently paying, like student loans and car payments.

  • Your savings: How much can you actually save per month if you cut down on extraneous things? 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 want to put that into consideration. But don't go overboard.

Using these factors, you should be able to estimate how much you could reasonably spend. Ideally, you want to be able to buy the ring without financing so you don't incur debt. Or at least you'll want to be able to pay off the debt you might incur in a couple of months.

Once you know how much you can reasonably afford, consider buying your engagement ring online. You can stretch your buying power because online retailers are around 40% cheaper than local jewelers. At minimum, you should at least visit James Allen to get a better idea on how much rings actually cost.

Why "2 Months' Salary" Rule No Longer Works

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Did you know the two month's rule was started by a De Beers ad? De Beers happens to be the same company that convinced the entire world that men need to propose with a diamond.

If you obey DeBeers' rule, that means that if you make $3,000 per month, you should spend roughly $6,000 on the ring.

However, that rule has some serious flaws. After all, it was invented to get you to pay more money to a diamond retailer.

Deciding how much to spend on an engagement ring based on your salary is the #1 mistake you can make. Spend what you are comfortable with, whether it is $1,000 or $50,000. We'll show you how to find the perfect ring for your budget.

First of all, most people get married in their late 20s, when they are still in the beginning of their careers. They haven't come close to reaching their full earning potential. Plus, you have to calculate what you actually take home in net pay as opposed to your gross salary. Unfortunately they are quite different.

Secondly, most people graduate with student debt. Combined with the increasing cost of living, spending thousands of dollars on a ring may not be feasible. Especially when you're trying to get out of debt as quickly as possible.

Instead of overspending at a local jeweler, consider checking prices online. Two trustworthy retailers are Blue Nile and James Allen. You might also consider Brilliant Earth for lab-created diamonds.

Other rules: Here are some other "salary rules" you've probably heard:

  • 3 months' salary: That's 25% of your earnings on a ring.
  • 1 month's salary: This is probably more realistic for young couples today. This is less than 10% of your annual salary. It could be used as the goal, but only you know your personal situation.

Average Cost/Size of an Engagement Ring

It's always good to have a basis for comparison. Here is the average cost and carat size of engagement rings in different countries.

CountryAverage Cost (US $)Average Size (carat)
United States$5,5001.0
United Kingdom$2,0000.5

To give you a better idea, see pictures of recently purchased diamond rings here.

Don't Be Pressured by the National Average: We get it that you may want to measure up to the average man. However, if the average is still a lot higher than you can afford, you should NEVER feel pressured to match it. Remember that certain large cities often have much higher average diamond sizes. And you still need to think about your own financial situation.

Find Your Own Rules 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 share a life together, you really should be on the same page about things like this.

You should have an honest chat about where you are financially and what your goals for the future are. For instance, do you want to save money for a down payment or pay off student loans? Then you can figure out how the engagement ring fits in with those goals.

For example, let's say you already have $1,000 and you can save a couple hundred dollars a month. That means that after 5 months of savings, you'll be able to afford a $2,000 ring. Once you have a number in mind, you can work to find exactly the kind of ring she would like that fits within that budget.

Talking about the cost of the ring may not be romantic, but it's important. Maybe she doesn't even want a diamond. Maybe she's frugal and appalled by the thought of spending more than $500 on a ring. Either way, you want to know.

You'll also be glad to get an idea of the style she likes instead of taking a blind guess. After all, there are a ton of options out there.

Tip: Over 40% of women want to be involved in the ring selection process. Read our beginner's guide to diamond prices so you don't overpay.

Where is Best Place to Buy Engagement Ring?

ForDiamond Retailer
Best Place to Buy OnlineJames Allen
Biggest SelectionBlue Nile
Best Diamond CutsWhiteflash

Average engagement ring cost: A 1-carat engagement ring costs an average of $5,500 and that's before you spend more than $1,000 (on average) for her wedding band. Don't be pressured into a ring you can't afford. Ignore the "two months salary" rule and set a budget for a ring that she'll love.

Things to Consider

Have an idea for a budget? There are a few other things to consider before putting down money for a ring:

  • Treat her as seriously as you treat yourself: If you spend quite a bit of money on your own hobbies and toys, then you should be willing to spend just as much on her ring.

  • Other future large purchases: Maybe there are other milestone purchases coming up, such as buying a house. Make sure you know how the ring will affect that. Or maybe the two of you find that taking a 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. 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?

    With low-cost, fully-customizable jewelers like James Allen, you are able to design your fiancée the perfect ring without creating financial stress on your young marriage. Explore their Inspiration Gallery to learn how everyone else is doing it.

    Plus, there are many ways to show you care without going broke. Trying planning an unforgettable proposal. Maybe look into a one-of-a-kind handmade ring from a small independent jeweler. Or perhaps your grandmother's ring would actually be the perfect way to show her that she's part of the family.

    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 a story she'll want to tell forever.

Should You Borrow Money to Purchase an Engagement Ring?

The best thing to do is to put money aside each month until you can buy the ring in cash. But that might not be possible, especially when you have other loans to deal with. Saving up what you need could take a year or more. We get it that you might not want to wait to propose.

In that case, you could consider financing the ring or putting it on a credit card. But be careful: financing a ring doesn't mean that you should pick the largest diamond you can charge. You still need to choose one that fits within your budget.

  • The more cash you can bring to the table upfront, the better. If you must borrow the rest, develop a pay-off plan (the wedding date is a great deadline).

  • Some credit cards come with 0% APR promotional periods if you're a new customer. But you need to have a feasible plan to pay off the balance before the promotional period ends. If you need more time, try to find a credit card with low interest.

  • Some diamond retailers will have financing options too. But be careful because they could have some tricky terms. The interest rate is also usually very high.

What about borrowing the money from a family member? This option has pros and cons. The good thing is that a family member won't do credit checks and, most likely, won't charge interest either. However, if you don't pay back the money in a timely manner, the relationship could be ruined forever. If you go this route, make it as official as possible, with a written contract and payment terms.

How to Save Money on an Engagement Ring

This section has some tips on how you can lower the cost of the ring even more:

  1. Don't shop during peak times
    Avoid buying a ring between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. Proposals are at an all-time high during this period, which means the engagement ring prices are too.

  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 4Cs (carat, clarity, cut, and color) so you'll have the knowledge you need to negotiate the best deal.

    Tip: You can save almost 20% just by buying a diamond a fraction of a carat smaller (0.9 instead of 1.0). And nobody will be able to tell the size difference. And by focusing on getting an excellent cut, you can go cheaper on color and clarity (as the excellent cut will hide flaws and tints). For more of these expert tips, see our full article on how to get a diamond for best value.

  3. Make the diamond look big with a flashy setting
    If you can only afford a small diamond, you can still make it look larger with certain settings. The halo setting is a favorite for making a huge statement with less. Not only is it pretty and trendy, it has serious bling factor and makes the center diamond look a lot bigger.

  4. Go for an alternative shape or stone
    Have you considered a cushion 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.

    If you truly cannot afford a diamond but want an alternative that looks like a 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.

  5. Customize the ring online
    Shopping online for the ring makes customization even easier. Not only will the engagement ring be unique, but you could possibly save a wad of cash by thinking outside the box. Diamonds at online retailers can be as much as 50% cheaper than popular mall jewelry stores.

    If you're thinking about buying an engagement ring, James Allen is one of our top recommended online retailers and they offer a no interest for six months financing plan.

  6. Check out some estate sales
    There are hidden treasures to be found at estate sales. But make sure to request a private appraisal before purchasing.

Bonus: Download diamond buying cheat sheet to help you stretch your dollars.

Bottom line

How much you spend on a ring is a very personal choice. To make sure everyone is happy, it's best to get expectations lined up. And the only way to do that is to have an open and honest conversation about it.

Talk about what she wants and how that works (or doesn't) with your financial situation. Come up with a budget that works for both of you. A reasonable budget shows your beloved that you are making an investment for your future together. It should also be within what you can reasonably afford.

Remember: The ring is the most important piece of jewelry she will ever wear. It is the most important gift you will ever give, so you should both feel happy and comfortable with the decision.

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Tips and Tricks to Get the Best Deal on the Perfect Engagement Ring

Allison Martin is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a diamond jeweler comparison and reviews website. Write to Allison Martin at allison@creditdonkey.com

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy 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.

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