How Much Should You Spend On An Engagement Ring?

“Will You Marry Me?”

If you’re thinking of asking someone that question. You’ll probably first ask yourself this one: “How much should I spend on the engagement ring?”

It’s one of my favorite money and relationships type questions because it never ceases to get people fired up and passionate about their answers.

The cynics among us say that we shouldn’t have to spend anything on an engagement ring. It’s just an overpriced piece of jewelry and a sign of outdated traditions. If I’m going to drop all that money on a ring, the least my bride-to-be can do is reciprocate the gesture by buying me a Breitling Navitimer, right?!

The romantics will say that we want to buy engagement rings. It’s an everlasting sign of our commitment, dedication, and undying love!

I think you’ll find most guys don’t mind the tradition of buying engagement rings. We just don’t want to have to sell a kidney on the black market to be able to afford it!

So, if you’re thinking of popping the question, what’s the right answer? How much should you spend on an engagement ring?

Outdated Traditions

Tradition states that you should pony up two to three months salary. Because, after all, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!”

This tradition is outdated for a number of reasons.

First off, most people have so much student loan and credit card debt that they don’t have three months salary saved up for a life emergency, let alone for a piece of jewelry. Secondly, a more expensive ring isn’t going to result in a happier, or longer lasting marriage. So there’s no point in over-spending with the hopes that the ring will mask any issues you may have in your relationship. The three months salary rule is just an old marketing gimmick and shouldn’t have any effect on what you eventually spend on your ring.

Bad Financial Moves

I write this a few months after I went through the engagement ring buying process. Since that time I’ve had numerous conversations about getting engaged, buying rings, and everything that comes along with it. One of the most common things I’ve found people do is that they take out loans for their engagement rings! I couldn’t believe the shock on face after face when I told them I paid for my ring in cash.

Don’t go into debt to buy an engagement ring. Sure it may sound like a great idea to get her that huge flawless diamond, but what happens after the wedding when you combine finances? Then your partner also gets the gift of helping pay off the payments on her own engagement ring! Doesn’t sound like such a grand, romantic gesture now, does it Romeo?

Ways To Save Money On Engagement Rings

So we’ve established that you shouldn’t go into debt just to buy a fancy ring. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get a great ring for whatever amount you plan to spend.

Learn the 4 C’s of diamonds (Cut, Color, Carat and Clarity) in order to make an informed purchase. Regardless of what you may think, size isn’t everything! A diamond with spectacular color and clarity will look superior in every way to a larger carat diamond that lacks quality in those areas.

You can also save upwards of 30-40% by buying an engagement ring online. I bought the ring I gave my fiance at Blue Nile and paid hundreds less than similar quality diamonds I had found in brick & mortar jewelry stores.

So, How Much Should I Spend Then? 

The average amount a guy spends on an engagement ring is around $5000. But that number, just like the three months salary rule shouldn’t even be a factor in your decision. As with most financial decisions there is no “one size fits all” answer. For some people $5000 is a drop in the bucket. For others, spending $5000 on a piece of jewelry would be a huge financial commitment.

The only real answer to the question is: Spend what you want to spend, and only what you can afford to spend.  

The ring is just the first expense in the line of many you’ll encounter before you actually say “I do.” So plan accordingly, take the time to properly save, and start your future together off on the right foot financially.

Readers: How much did you spend on your engagement ring? Did you follow the three months salary rule? Do you regret not spending more/less in hindsight? 

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18 Responses to How Much Should You Spend On An Engagement Ring?

  1. What a great conversation starter First Million. I would couch my response by saying that it’s up to each couple…..some are flashy and some are not. My wife and I are of a similar mindset about spending on jewelry. She has simple tastes. She actually didn’t want to get an engagement ring at all. Instead, we bought our wedding rings and wore them on the other hand as engagement rings, in the old German tradition. That’s right, I wore mine too. Trust me, my wife was not going to have my ring on her finger without me reciprocating.

    Even though I have a jeweler in the family, our rings were simple and inexpensive. They were less than 20% of what my best friend spent. I don’t know that I could I have married my wife if we weren’t on the same page about such things. We just aren’t flashy people. We spend big on travel and memories…..not really stuff.
    -Bryan

    • Interesting, I’ve never heard of that tradition before!

      It’s great you and your wife were on the same page. I’ve heard stories of more than a few women how have actually returned the ring their fiances picked out for them and gotten their “dream” ring instead!

  2. Wow I can’t believe that some people still go with the 3 months of income rule. That’s excessive. I think most women nowadays would rather see that money put toward something more practical like a down payment.

  3. David says:

    I agree with Poor Student. It is kind of crazy how much people are willing to pay for a ring, like you mentioned. By the way, when you buy online, even though it is cheaper, in the long run it is really not. When you buy a ring for a decent price in the store, first you have insurance, second they can repair the ring, adjust it, and fit the ring exactly. Also, it is not sketchy and you can pick from an assortment of rings. However, I see where you are coming from when it come to buying rings online,.

    • I bought my ring from Blue Nile, the initial ring I bought was just a bit too big for her finger. We called customer service, sent the ring back to be resized, which they did for free & sent it back to us really quickly. Online you can pick from a wider assortment of rings and diamonds than your local jeweler could ever dream of. I don’t think you should have any more of a reservation about buying a ring online than you would be about anything else.

  4. When I was shopping for my wife’s engagement ring, I did some searching to see how much people were paying. Then I cried. I disregarded everything I read and spent what I could afford – a shocker I know! I was able to buy more of a ring by taking some steps to cut the cost – I went with white gold vs platinum for the band. I bought an odd sized diamond (visually you can’t tell its not a standard carat), I used some tricks to make it look bigger too – I put some smaller stones around it). Finally I didn’t go with 100% flawless diamond since I don’t know of anyone that walks around with a jewelers magnifying glass. I bought a diamond that was flawless to the naked eye – much cheaper guys!

    • I did some similar things. I bought a .95 carat diamond instead of a full carat and saved several hundred dollars. A friend has a true 1 carat diamond and if you put them side by side you can’t even see the difference. Best way to save money IMO.

      Knowing the “4C’s” is key so you know what ratings you can drop down to and still have a stunning diamond. The change in price over a change in color or clarity that is only visible under 10x magnification is a bit nuts.

  5. Whatever you spend, it effectively comes off the money you both have even if you elect for separate finances. 3 times salary is way excessive IMHO and probably promoted by the trade to make you think that she will feel worth it. A sensible girl knows differently – if she doesn’t then run!

    • I’m amazed the three months salary rule has lasted as long as it has. I guess it works though, a lot of guys get suckered into overpaying for fear of being shamed by going cheap.

  6. Daniel says:

    I spent over $10,000 on my wife’s engagement ring. I was making $50,000 at the time (plus some online income), but I didn’t go into debt to do it.

    In retrospect, I have no problem spending a lot of money on the ring. It’s a source of pride for us, and it still looks great!

    • As long as you didn’t go into debt, more power to you! I’m a firm believer that we should spend the money we have on whatever we want. It’s when we people start taking out loans or maxing out credit cards to buy things that it becomes a problem.

  7. Moneycone says:

    I agree. Spend what you can. Let not DeBeers tell you what to spend!

  8. I spent $2,500 on an engagement ring for my now wife (about 3 years ago), and she loves it. I’m sure that I could have spent more, but I’m not sure she would be any happier if the ring had been more expensive. I cazme up with my $2,500 number because that is the amount I was able to save… I figured she wouldn’t want me to spend so much that it would put me in any financial trouble, but I wanted to make sure to spend enough to get a nice ring as a little sign of my love!

  9. I was making great money when we got engaged. And I got the ring at an estate sale and put it in a new setting. All in I ended up spending less than one month take home on it, but most people think I spent much, much more.

  10. Happily married says:

    How about zero. My wife said if I spent money on an engagement ring, and spent more than $100 on her wedding band, she wouldn’t marry me :-)

    Two of the MANY reasons I married her. I can’t even get her to buy a new pair of shoes.

    She loves me dearly and her pawn shop wedding band, and I her.

  11. Michelle says:

    I would not want my future husband to go into debt in order to purchase a ring.

  12. Great advice. I think following these crazy standards is wild. But I’m much older and less likely to let other people spend my money – so it’s much easier for me to say this.

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