How Much To Spend On An Engagement Ring

how much to spend on an engagement ringThere’s too many opinions on how much to spend on an engagement ring. The only opinion that really matters is your lady’s. The problem is, you may feel like a chump for straight up asking her how much you should spend. And you don’t want to ask her friends that question either.

I would normally advise men in serious relationships to be forward with an important question. But I don’t know your woman, and I don’t know your financial situation. If you’re stressing a little bit on how to spend on an engagment ring, here are some tips to guide you.

Should I be spending two months salary?

I’ve heard that a gentleman should spend 2-4 months salary on an engagement ring. Here’s some questions I have:

  • Who made up that number? De Beers? Zales?
  • When did that guideline get made up? 60 years ago?
  • Should that apply to young couples in their 20s?

If you’re established and debt free, spending 4 months salary on a wedding ring shouldn’t be a big deal. But if you’re 23 and just graduated college with $40,000 in school debt, you should consider the morality of that guideline. Is it really wise?

Don’t feel pressured by societal norms on how much to spend on an engagement ring. Those societal expectations are the fabrication of a marketing company (N. W. Ayer & Son to be exact), not the dreams of little girls woven inside their little hearts by God at 2 years old. These monetary pressures can be ignored. Even still, you want to make her feel special, so you don’t want to go cheap on the rock.

What to really weigh when asking how much to spend on an engagement ring

How much should I spend on a wedding ring? Whatever you would like to spend that you can actually afford. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Don’t be ashamed to go smaller rather than mortgaging yourself into debt. If she needs you to hurt yourself financially for a $10k ring, maybe it’s not the best thing.

Consider Conflict Free

Ever seen the film Blood Diamond?

After watching it I swore to myself the day I pop the question I would watch that film with my woman. I’ve dropped that from my planning now, even still, I’m inspired by the film to make sure that whatever diamond I buy it’s “conflict free.” As in it was not dug out of the ground by some mis-treated captive in a foreign country.

She’s “buying” it too

I chuckle whenever I hear a young lady say she wants her man to buy her a fat rock.

I usually ask “How much are you willing to spend?”

To which she’ll normally respond, “What? He’s the one buying it.”

And I’ll say, “If it’s expensive, he’s probably gonna take out a loan. Like a car. And once you’re married and share the bills, you’ll be paying for your own diamond ring.” Then I laugh at her.

It’s actually pretty amusing when someone realizes that oh-so-expensive rock they wanted is something they may be working to pay off for a long time. Whereas they may also want a nice house, or car, or wedding, or wardrobe. If either of you have deep pockets (or your pops is Daddy Warbucks) then this won’t be a problem. For the Average Joe, the opportunity cost is reality.

And that is why, if you want to unload so much cash on a ring you’re going to sign a loan, you should be consulting with your lady first on the cost. You should be discussing together a budget for you wedding, the rings (yours included), down payments on any other new big ticket items (house or car for example), as well as looking at any debt either of you may be bringing into the relationship. Not to mention school debt.

Diamond buying guide

When  asking how much to spend on an engagement ring, you should also ask how to even buy a diamond. There should be a school for that. Some things you’ll want to educate yourself on:

  • Diamond cut (what does she want)
  • Diamond clarity
  • Diamond color
  • Diamond carat (weight)
Aren’t other rocks more valuable?

Why yes, there are other rocks that are more valuable than diamonds.

I have a friend that married a woman originally from Albania. She didn’t want an expensive diamond—to her family it would look wasteful and arrogant. They haven’t been exposed to the diamond marketing we have in the States. Even still, he didn’t want to be embarrassed not buying her a nice ring so he got her one ring for the wedding overseas, and another ring for her to wear in the States. A decent compromise.

Ultimately, rubies and other precious gems can be just as or more expensive than diamonds. Diamonds are a common rock, meaning even though wearing a different wedding rock may not be as revered in the US, that rock may actually be rarer and more valuable than a diamond. You might just consider asking if your lady wants to break tradition and get a different type of rock.

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  1. An engagement ring doesn’t have to cost much. Hey, it’s tough time and everyone should be practical about it. Besides, there is the wedding to be planned and it’s not all about the ‘rock’.

    • You highlight a good point for a couple to discuss–does more spending on the “rock” men less spending on the wedding event and guests, honeymoon, etc?

  2. Most women in the United States have grown up thinking bigger (rock) is better. I remember working at a bar, ogling the bartenders 2-carat rock. A waitress also had a 2 carat rock.

    Thinking back now, I see that they had to work at a bar to be able to afford that rock. What?!?

    One thing I would consider when choosing rings without your woman next to you, is the size of her hands. If she has larger hands, a small rock looks even smaller. If she has small hands, a larger rock looks even bigger. There are rocks that are wide, but not deep. They look bigger than they actually are.

    A big ring does not guarantee a happy marriage. The most important choice is the right bride.

    • Wow these are great thoughts–I wish I had included such in the article. I might update it.

      I was unsure how to advise guys about buying the rock. It’s not something I would do without her present, but some guys truly want it to be a surprise.

  3. In college, one female friend told me that she expected a man to spend 8 months with of salary in a ring!

    Since my wife and I are both part Irish, I bought a traditional ring called a claddagh which can signify different things depending how it is worn. It cost me about $100 and it was able you’ll double duty as a wedding ring.

  4. I spent around $1200 for my my wife engagment ring which could have been a heck of a lot more but I decide to keep it reasonable and not to over priced.

  5. My bf is well established but I don’t expect him to spend a small fortune on a ring – I would get too paranoid with scratching or losing it. I’d rather have a house or travel!

  6. This seems to go hand in hand with the 20k plus weddings. What a nice way to start a lifelong relationship. Deep in debt for a “rock” and a day of celebration. Wouldn’t it be better to take that money and put a down payment on a first home?

    • Yeah I think putting the $20k down on a home is a much better investment. There’s a lot of couples that WISH they could start out with that!

  7. Conflict-free diamonds are a must. The more consumers insist on this standard, the more large diamond resellers will be forced to insist as well.

  8. I’ve always heard that you should spend at least 3 paychecks on an engagement ring. But there is no way I would ever spend that much money on a ring. I literally put a ring pop on my wife’s hand and we later bought a ring for $500.

  9. Wow! I didn’t realize buying an engagement ring would be so tricky!!! This post surely help, thanks.

  10. Ha. I think super expensive rings are stupid… and mostly tell people that. I also think diamonds are stupid in general, even though my spouse worked in diamond mining for a little bit. I also really hate it when that level of financial expectation/who is going to pay for things exists. When you ask how excited people are to pay for their own rings, maybe you should also ask what they plan to buy their fiance for the same amount?
    Sorry, I’m pretty judgey on this topic!
    I’m also looking forward to the rise of the “mangagement ring.”

    • Hmmm that’s good to hear a lady out there feels that way! Do you think diamonds are stupid b/c your spouse worked in diamond mining?

      Haha what’s the “management ring”?

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