How Much Money Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?

by Erika Torres

de beers

Google has led me astray.

In conversation the other day, I was under the impression that it was still common practice (as stated by those fancy “a diamond is forever” De Beers commercials) that rings should cost two months’ salary.

In my opinion, two months’ salary was still a pretty penny to be spending on a ring. But after doing a 30-second Google search, I was told the norm is now three months’ salary. Really?! Three months?

We’ve got some screwed up priorities, America. Spending 25% of your annual income on a ring?

No wonder we’re broke. How are you able to save up three months’ salary for a ring, but can’t pay off your credit cards?

I especially love the comments on this article:

Ladies,  a $700 ring is really your “dream”?  I find that hard to imagine or I have pity for you that you were not raised to dream bigger.  3 months is perfectly adequate and is the rule, not the exception.  Please evaluate your standards and the standards to which you hold your men, you deserve better. 
health, wealth, happiness, and bling bling to you all!
Glamour must be right, right? Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from Glamour.

According to a 2013 report from Jewelers of America, an average of $4000 was spent on engagement rings in 2012. This number ebbs and flows with the economy.

A little more research and it turns out that the whole idea of an engagement ring became popular in the 1930’s due to…a De Beers advertisement!

And in 1980, De Beers was the company that claimed an engagement ring should cost two months’ salary.

So let me get this straight– a popular consumer tradition created by and inflated by a diamond company?

I guess we really are suckers.

I know we’re all mostly personal finance related so perhaps our answers will be skewed, but I’m curious…

What do you think is appropriate to spend on an engagement ring?




Bennett Fischer December 17, 2015 - 12:11 pm

I’m looking to propose to my girlfriend soon, and I want to make sure I get the right engagement ring for her. This being said, I really appreciate you giving me some insight about how much it should cost. I was really worried about under spending on one. I’ll be sure to follow your insight and see what I can find. Thanks for the help.

White sapphire September 17, 2015 - 6:29 am

Well the choice is yours, if you asked me would you mind spend three months of salary for a ring, then I will say there are lots of ways to buy a new ring today. For example, if you cannot afford for diamond so please consider another affordable ring such as a white sapphire engagement ring will be fine. Perhaps you may consider paying in the range of time, 12 months maybe?

Holly July 1, 2015 - 7:14 am

I have found my perfect diamond story that was very affordable using this post. Very helpful.

Victoria June 30, 2015 - 10:26 am

You spend as much as you can, and when you choose with love, choice will be perfect.

Peter June 30, 2015 - 5:57 am

Good post, this helped me a lot to find something very special for my beloved one.

Alison June 26, 2015 - 5:02 am

My husband spend too much, if you ask me, but I need to say that ring is really perfect.

Holly June 24, 2015 - 3:50 am

This is very good post, all people need to read this before purchasing jewelry.

Melissa Johnson June 4, 2015 - 8:51 am

Not much, because you will need money for the rest of your life. Buy engagement ring that you can afford.

jenny May 8, 2015 - 3:28 am

Hi there, great article. I believe that girls really wants something expensive, but if you guys can not afford something like this, than it’s ok.

John Smith March 17, 2015 - 7:57 am

My opinion is that you don’t need to spend a fortune on this. You need to search a lot, to look a good offer, but first of all is that you need to know what your girlfriend wants. This helped me a lot , and i think that I have found the right one for my loved one.

Buying a Diamond May 7, 2014 - 7:32 am

Great post! Been reading a lot about the best way to buy a diamond. Thanks for the info!

How to Balance the Books Following Your Wedding | Newlyweds on a Budget April 16, 2014 - 11:00 am

[…] a house and a PhD, a wedding is one of the most expensive investments a person could make. With a total spend cost of around […]

Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans February 24, 2014 - 9:22 pm

I’ve heard the three-months-salary rule very often and I always disagree! I told my BF that the less he spends on my engagement ring, the better! If I had a ring worth thousands of dollars on my hand, I can’t help but think that that money could have been spent on something much more practical. But hey, maybe that’s the #pfnerd in me.

Cameon February 24, 2014 - 6:57 am

My husband spent more than 3 months salary on my engagement ring and while I love my ring, I wish now that he wouldn’t have gone all out. Not to say that I would trade it for anything, but the money side of me (I handle our finances) wishes I would have been more involved in the monetary decision for the cost of the ring.

dojo February 24, 2014 - 6:45 am

Wow, thousand dollar rings … I might have missed something 😀

I didn’t get an engagement ring, we lived together for years and then just decided to ‘tie the knot’, so no engagement. our wedding bands cost us 70 bucks (the fee we paid for their manufacture) and we had an old gold ring they could use as the material. Half an year later … we’re happy and it didn’t cost us an arm and a leg

Fehmeen - Loans and Lifestyle Blog February 24, 2014 - 4:47 am

I found myself smiling when I read DeBeers came up with the idea of engagement rings. This very idea is the driving force of consumerism and we fall prey to it like, well, like a hoard of dodos 🙂 It makes absolutely no sense to spend so much money on a ring, even if it were one month’s salary. That’s an awful lot of money spent on something so tiny.

Sally @TinyApartmentDesign February 21, 2014 - 5:04 pm

Spend way less than you can afford. I am glad when we look at my ring we dont think, damn that was way too much money!!! We both love the style of the ring and that it didn’t cause either of us pain (I didn’t want him to go into debt for it, that’s my pain too!) It took him 2 months to actually have that money in one place, but it was definitely not two month’s salary! I like big and sparkly but I knew that wouldn’t matter in the long run.

Cece@Pink Sunshine February 21, 2014 - 4:17 pm

You pay what you can afford. Assigning a formula like 2 months salary or 25% of your income is ridiculous. It doesn’t account for bills, debt, or other expenses that may be going on in life. I think it’s important enough to spend the money that will buy a quality ring that will be liked and loved forever. This is going to be different for everyone.

kathleen February 21, 2014 - 6:20 am

I have a lovely engagement ring that did not cost Brent two or three months salary, holy cow. He lucked into a diamond from his mom, and just designed the band himself, for something under four digits. I would not be comfortable with something gaudy and fancy. The ring is just an indication to the outside world that I am spoken for anyway, right?

Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life February 20, 2014 - 12:09 pm

I’m thinking I don’t want an engagement ring at all. I like the idea of wedding rings because both you and your partner wear them as a symbol to one another, but the engagement ring just seems redundant- unless of course there’s one that’s already in the family- that could be special.

Dear Debt February 19, 2014 - 7:58 am

Two months salary?! Yikes. I would be pissed if my boyfriend did that. I think small and simple is best to me. Everyone has their own opinion though and for some people I guess an expensive ring is important. But I’d rather spend it on the honeymoon 🙂

Well Heeled Blog February 19, 2014 - 7:44 am

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong amount, as long as you spend according to your means and your priorities. For some people, maybe they really do need to spend 3 months salary (and is that net or gross?) in order to get the ring they want, and they are either able to spend that without cutting their lifestyles or they are willing to sacrifice some other spending to get it.

There’s so much judgement about engagement rings (just like weddings, ugh) – it’s something you can’t win. “Oh, you spent $X amount? Your husband must not love you.” Or, “oh, you spent $XXXX amount? You must be a stupid materialistic person who will have a failed marriage and no retirement.”

Katrina February 19, 2014 - 4:51 am

Seeing how my husband was in grad school when he proposed, his 2-month salary would have been $0. He used some of his school loan money to pay for a (comparatively) inexpensive engagement ring (probably not the best way to pay for one, but we were young and ignorant about money). So yes, a ring that cost less than $700 really was my dream–I married my husband because he is a good man that I could see building a full life with, not because I thought he would bring us a life of wealth.

SammieK February 18, 2014 - 4:18 pm

I got engaged a month ago, but my partner and I chose the ring together in Nov and he put it away until he was ready. I had originally told him that I didn’t want him to spend a lot of money, we have combined finances now anyway. He got a deal on a certified 0.5 carat solitaire ring valued at $2100, reduced to $960 including tax in the Black Friday sales. I love it, and I still consider that an expensive piece of jewellery!

Tiffany February 18, 2014 - 2:02 pm

Honestly, I told my honey that should we get to that level, save the money for our house. He thought I was joking. I’m horrible with jewelry, I told him do not spend so much money on a ring that I very well may lose!! I get why people do it, and if they have the means then more power to you, but we don’t have the means and I prefer a home to a ring. 🙂

Jessica February 18, 2014 - 11:32 am

I can’t imagine spending more than $1000 on a ring, I’m not big on wearing a lot of the same jewelry everyday so I say a simple ring is my best option that can match anything. Plus I rather spend my money on vacations and having fun 🙂

Michelle's Finance Journal February 18, 2014 - 10:00 am

My hubby ended up spending way more money on my engagement than either of us expected to. But he did pay cash for it which ended up not leaving much money for our wedding that caused us to go into debt. The wedding debt is all paid off now and I still love my ring. I think it depends on your net worth and should not be linked to your salary amount.

eemusings February 17, 2014 - 4:19 pm

The PC answer: whatever you feel is appropriate for you personally.

My real answer: I’m not into jewellery at all (my ring is the only thing I wear) and it was free (heirloom). I personally wince at the thought of any piece of jewellery costing more than, say $1000. (Which I think is actually about the valuation of my ring.)

Amy February 17, 2014 - 3:34 pm

He spent less than $2000 on the ring which was about 3 weeks worth of his salary. Having said that, we did go into debt for it along with the rest of the wedding, but that was over 7 years ago, and it has all been paid off. We are debt-free now and have been for a couple of years.

Emily @ evolvingPF February 17, 2014 - 3:00 pm

I think it’s kinda dumb to base a ring price off of income – net worth would be much more appropriate. And if you don’t have cash… I hate to say you shouldn’t buy a ring, but it better be an extremely modest one! My husband spent $4k, which was 2 months’ income but he had no debt and plenty of savings for his age (24).

Blake@Bean Counter by Day February 17, 2014 - 2:52 pm

I never had any intention of spending 3 month’s salary on a ring. That my sound horrible, but it’s just too much money. I ended up spending about a month’s salary on it, and I was able to get a very nice ring put together because I bought the elements separately.

The internet is a wonderful thing. I bought the band at Jared. Despite their many attempts to lock me down with a diamond too, I held my ground and found a high quality diamond on Blue Nile for a much better price. All in all, the ring cost me $4,500 (including setting) and appraised 2 weeks later for over $6,000.

I think you’re definitely paying extra for convenience if you buy the entire ring at one place.

Tonya@Budget and the Beach February 17, 2014 - 1:22 pm

Personally I don’t care about jewelry, or spending tons of money on a wedding (if I ever have one…geez!). I’d rather put money in our life and our life goals. I guess I can’t say what the dollar amount should be…that would depend on every person’s circumstances, but for me I think I’d like something special, but it does not have to be expensive at all.

Anonymous Coward February 17, 2014 - 11:28 am

I’ll say it anonymously because I’m not trying to one-up anyone, and I don’t care to be judged publicly.

The engagement ring I bought for my wife cost about an hour’s pay, and our wedding bands together (custom work, but in silver and with no precious stones) cost less than a full day’s pay. We’re both happy with this. We’re happy that we have no debt, that we were able to pay for our wedding in cash, and that we’ll soon be buying our first home and will be able to support a growing family. Our marriage is strong and our rings are satisfactory, and if we feel the need to replace or upgrade later, maybe we will. But the jewelry really wasn’t a priority for us.

Janelle B February 17, 2014 - 10:05 am

DH and I did not have an engagement ring before we got married. In fact had been together 15 years (married for 8) when we started looking for one, and after 2 years of not finding DH’s “vision” I was about fed up with jewelry shopping and wanted to forget the whole thing. We then adjusted our strategy, though, and went in search of a high quality center stone. Within a few months we found a 1 carat diamond and had it mounted using the simplest and least expensive gold setting the store threw in with our purchase. The diamond was $5000. We were in our mid-40s, had nearly grown children, and were pretty much established and debt-free at this time. In salary terms, this purchased represented about 1.5 months of annual salary for DH, 3 weeks of annual salary for both of us.

I love my ring, but honestly, if times were really tough I could sell my engagement ring without a lot of sorrow or drama. But my $40 wedding band, I would be completely heartbroken if anything every happened to it.

SavvyFinancialLatina February 17, 2014 - 9:48 am

The diamond industry is a cartel run by the DeBeers family. It did start in the early 1900s. If you read more into diamonds have no resale value because the DeBeers family controls this industry. One of the reasons why I find it hard to upgrade my wedding band to a diamond ring.

Sam February 17, 2014 - 9:26 am

A pretty funny video about this from College Humor: (some profane language)

I hate that there is a standard. It should be about what you and your fiance decide is the right amount for your budget and relationship. I love my ring and he spent under 3k for a matching set, but we discussed budget and expectations as a couple.

Jocelyn February 17, 2014 - 9:16 am

Here’s a dirty little secret…my engagement ring cost $26 on Amazon. Nobody knows it except the two of us (and you and whoever reads this comment! it’s not even on my blog because people we know IRL read it).

He wanted me to pick it out, I loved this little heart design and how low-profile it is as I race triathlons and work with plaster and tools at my job. I actually tried finding a more expensive version of this heart design but nothing looks as cute to me.

AND I really can’t justify an expensive ring. I feel terrified even walking around with $100 in my wallet! I would be freaked out walking around with huge bling on my hand!

LaReesa February 17, 2014 - 8:40 am

I would kill my boyfriend if he spent that much money on a ring. Maybe it’s because of the financial situation we are in, but I can’t IMAGINE wasting that much money on a piece of jewelry. I want to take a trip to Prague! I want to take ballroom dancing lessons! I want to get a new car! I want to buy a bigger TV and a set of awesome knives! I want to take my mom on a cruise! I want to bind some of my dad’s poems into a book and give it to my family members! There are approximately a thousand things I can think of that I would rather have than a big ol’ blood diamond on my finger, which, as you said, is only a “necessity” because of a successful marketing campaign by a jewelry company. Yuck.

That being said, to each their own! No judgment here. I just can’t imagine spending that kind of money on something purely decorative.

Angela February 17, 2014 - 8:15 am

I just wanted my ring to look like I was married (very young looking 21 at the time), so it had to have a center diamond, but small. Our three rings (my engagement and wedding band, and his band) cost all of $500, and our wedding was low budget too. But 2 years later, we were able to buy a house, and I’d have to say that was a MUCH better deal than the big ring and the big wedding that I didn’t want anyway 🙂

Kathy February 17, 2014 - 7:25 am

When we got married, I wanted the money to go toward the down payment on a house so I selected a gold band with some beautiful carving on it. I was always happy with it and still love it. In 2009 my hubby received an inheritance and since we didn’t need it for bills, investments etc. he bought me a magnificent 3+ carat solitaire diamond ring. But I waited 32 years to get it and don’t regret if for an instant.

Tanner February 17, 2014 - 7:23 am

2 months’ salary for anything outside a big useful purchase (a car, a down payment, a TV or computer) is absolutely frivolous! That comment is absolutely disgusting. Dream bigger in terms of house, family and friends. Not in a piece of earth’s metals. No wonder divorce rates are skyrocketing. Diamonds are forever? Ha! Until they go to the pawn shop. If you want a big ring and can afford it, by all means… but don’t let the media (and certainly not the stores or producers!!!) tell you how much you *should* spend on it. Bet on yourself.

I think an engagement ring should be reasonable… it should be about the ring and not so much the price. Something durable, but reasonable. Without any prior knowledge in rings and such, I’d cap it at $1,000. Anything higher and I would feel very crappy and guilty about carrying it. I can think of a hundred better uses than a ring.

E.M. February 17, 2014 - 6:50 am

Wow, $4,000 or three months of your salary is a lot. As long as it’s pretty and sparkly that’s all that really matters to me :). I was given a $350 ring as a gift and I’ve been perfectly happy with it. Thankfully, my grandma was gracious enough to offer us her engagement ring when the time comes, so we don’t have to worry about it.

Army Amy February 17, 2014 - 6:39 am

I actually listened to a podcast about this very topic a while back. I think it was on Stuff Mom Never Told You. Very interesting.

I love my ring, but I like to think I would have liked whatever Stephen picked out for me.. He did not spend three months salary on it, but he for sure spent more than he should have. I often have guilt over expensive purchases, so even though I didn’t buy it, I was carrying a lot of guilt on that little finger for a while. (It’s a lot of money for something that doesn’t actually do anything.) He has since said he will never buy me another diamond. Haha! I think he wised up to their actually value.

Ris February 17, 2014 - 6:36 am

I was horrified at the idea of my then-boyfriend spending 3 months’ salary on a ring. Horrified. It’s just a rock. I told him I didn’t really want a ring at all, but we eventually found an eternity band that is recycled metal and ethically-sourced diamonds from Canada. That was the most important thing to me, and I couldn’t care less about not having an enormous rock on my hand. There are so many other things I’d rather do with that money.

Ris February 17, 2014 - 6:37 am

This 1982 article about the whole idea and how it was created is fascinating

Mysti February 17, 2014 - 5:04 am

It has been awhile, but I think mine cost about $2000, and I think it was overpriced for the quality of the stone.

While I would like to say “get the best quality you can afford”…depending on where you are in life, that will drastically change from person to person. If you are 24 and recently out of college vs 33 and established? No comparison.

Additionally, it is “easy” to say that you will upgrade it later. Some people cherish that first ring and don’t want a new one…but also wish that the first ring was a bit more “blingy.” Also, as you plod along in life, your money priorities will change. You may say you will upgrade at 10 yrs (or 20, whatever). Well, if you have kids, house, blah blah….most people will have a hard time justifying that purchase.

So my long answer to your question is…you spend enough that if this ring is it forever and ever….that you love it enough to never get a new one. Keep it classic (settings can always be changed), keep it in a price range that may be a stretch, but in the long run you can handle.

Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies February 17, 2014 - 3:34 am

My ring was appraised at around $1200 (we had it appraised so we could include it in our homeowner’s insurance policy), but it cost $0 to us since it belonged to Mr PoP’s great grandmother before us. In general, I think either of those two numbers are pretty reasonable, depending where you are in life.


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