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How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?

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You don’t have to spend as much as you think on an engagement ring. But is the infamous “3 months’ salary rule still the king? Or is there a new standard?

How much should you actually spend on an engagement ring?

This question has been asked for centuries. Ask your friends and they’ll all tell you something different. Ask the internet and you’ll get 15 million responses.

Here’s the tricky thing about engagement rings: they’re not an investment, they’re not a necessity, and they’re not cheap. Sure, spending 3 months’ salary would buy your future fiancée a beautiful ring. So would 12 months’ salary.

If you spend too much money, however, then you’re shooting your marriage in the foot by introducing unnecessary debt and financial stress. No marriage needs that – especially before you even get off the ground.

Editor’s Note: Before you buy, find an online jeweler you trust—preferably one that specialized in engagement rings, like James Allen.

How much should you spend on an engagement ring?

When you’re buying an engagement ring, one important rule is more important than anything else you read:

Spend only as much as you can afford to spend.

Yes, your fiancée would love the look of that $30,000 ring – until she heard the price tag. Yes, spending 3 months’ salary on a ring would be nice – unless your bride is concerned about your credit card debt and student loan debt.

At this point, you’ve probably heard that spending 2 or 3 months’ salary on a ring is a myth: in the early 20th century, diamond company DeBeers perpetuated that myth to get people to spend more on diamonds.

Don’t let a diamond company tell you how much to spend on your ring. While you’re at it, keep the following rules in mind when you’re thinking of how much to spend on an engagement ring.

Don’t listen to other people

Your friends will all tell you something different. Stop listening to them, and start listening to your fiancée.

Do your friends care about the engagement ring you’re going to buy? Probably not. However, they’re going to give you plenty of advice about how much you should spend. That advice may be good – but don’t let it influence your decision. Everybody’s financial situation is different, and the price of your ring should be based on how much you and your fiancée are prepared to spend.

Don’t be afraid to communicate. Talk about how much your fiancée expects you to spend – if she has an expectation at all. Make sure your relationship is prepared to handle the financial burden.

Consider the meaning, not the price tag

Meaningful engagement rings make a bigger splash than pricey engagement rings.

Your relationship isn’t about money. Your relationship is about love. Don’t let money take precedence over the meaning of the ring. Buy a meaningful ring: not an expensive one.

Some people use the ring of an old relative, for example. That ring may have been passed down through generations. It has vastly more meaning than a $10,000 ring from a diamond store at the mall.

Or, some people make a custom ring using a gem that’s less expensive than a diamond. They work with a local jeweler to create a custom design that reflects the love and commitment you’ve put into the relationship. It’s cheaper, and it doesn’t look like a diamond engagement ring, but it’s very meaningful.

Or, some people walk into a diamond store and drop $20,000 on the first ring they see.

You get the picture: engagement rings are a symbol of your love and commitment. Treat it like that, and let the meaning of the ring become more important than the price tag.

Why you should ignore the 3 months’ salary rule

The standard answer to the engagement ring question is to spend 2-3 months’ salary. A growing number of people, however, believe this benchmark is outdated and doesn’t reflect modern society.

You’ve probably heard the story about the diamond company DeBeers inventing the 2 to 3 months’ salary rule as a ploy to increase diamond sales. In fact, before DeBeers launched this advertising campaign, diamond sales were stagnating around the world. People were using alternative gemstones to propose.

Here’s the thing: DeBeers launched their advertising campaign in the late 1940s. We don’t live in the late 1940s anymore.

Today, spending 2 to 3 months’ salary on a ring is increasingly unrealistic for couples who want to get married in their 20s or 30s. Today’s young people graduate with debt, accumulate more debt, and then struggle to hold down steady, full-time employment at strong salaries. The cost of living has risen out of proportion with inflation, and many people continue to live with their parents until their late 20s.

Compare today to the 1940s, when well-paying jobs were plentiful, homes were cheap, and education was virtually free, and you see why it’s not fair to compare today’s world to the world where people paid 3 months’ salary on a ring.

Some other stats to consider include the fact that in many countries, women actually earn more than men – particularly young women in their 20s and 30s. And, the median age of marriage is rising throughout most of the developed world.

All of these stats mean one thing: traditions are changing, and we no longer live in the 1940s. Stop worrying about that silly rule.

Editor’s Note: Before you buy, find an online jeweler you trust—preferably one that specialized in engagement rings, like James Allen.

Should you ever borrow money?

After you’re married, you and your spouse share your debt. If you borrow money to pay for the engagement ring, then you’re essentially loading your spouse with extra debt from day 1 of your marriage.

Today, many people don’t get married debt-free. Debt may be more acceptable these days, but that doesn’t mean you should add more debt to your situation.

Do you really want to hand your spouse a big credit card bill from the moment you’re married? The less debt you’re bringing to your marriage, the better – especially if you already have debt from cars, homes, or education.

With all that being said, some people want to buy an engagement ring, but don’t have money at the moment. In that situation, the cheapest option is to save a little bit of money every week and wait a year. Or, if you don’t want to wait, explore your financing options and make a decision that makes sense for you – just try to pay it off before you share finances with your spouse.

How much should an engagement ring cost?

The easiest way to answer this question is this: it should cost whatever you feel is right.

Yes, that’s a bit of a cop-out response. So here’s a better answer: most studies show that the average person spends between $4,000 and $6,000 USD on an engagement ring.

Of course, that number varies around the world, and even between states, which is why it’s hard to give a specific dollar amount. Don’t forget what average price means: it means half of all people spend less than $4,000 to $6,000, and half of all people spend more than $4,000 to $6,000.

How to save money on engagement rings

You’re making a big purchase, but that doesn’t mean you should waste your money. Today, smart shoppers explore ways to save money on engagement rings.

One of the most common tips you’ll find online is to buy your engagement ring online. Most research shows that you save 40 to 50% off the cost of your ring by buying online.

This makes sense: after all, online stores don’t have the same overhead costs of brick-and-mortar stores you see in the mall. They don’t need to hire salespeople, nor do they need to pay rent, security costs, etc. It’s a simpler, cheaper business model online.

Of course, buying an engagement ring online comes with some obvious downsides: you can’t pick up and see the ring in-person. You can’t always be sure of where your payment is going. There are plenty of drawbacks.

Another way to save money on engagement rings is to wait for sales. Engagement ring sales aren’t as common as, say, buying a TV or computer on sale. However, a growing number of retailers now participate in major sales events like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Take a look at your local diamond store and see if they have any upcoming sales.

Alternatively, you might be able to find extra lucrative deals at a going out of business sale. If your local mall jewelry store is closing down, then an “Everything Must Go” sale could be right around the corner.

Overall, however, I wouldn’t depend on engagement ring sales. The best-looking jewelry rarely goes on sale, and you’re rarely going to pay less than what the ring is worth.

By paying attention to the tips listed above, you can stay informed on everything you need to know about spending money on an engagement ring.

Shop now: Visit James Allen, our recommended diamond jeweler.

About Johnson Hur

After having graduated with a degree in Finance and working for a Fortune 500 company for several years, Johnson decided to follow his passion by embarking on a path to the digital world. He has over 8 years of experience with large companies setting marketing strategy.

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