How Much Should You Spend On An Engagement Ring?

in Financial Planning by

KEY POINTS
  • Traditional engagement rings could cost you about 2 months worth of your salary.
  • How to shave off thousands on your engagement ring.
  • Instead, pay for a more extravagant wedding, travel, or invest.

Spring is just around the corner, and you know what that means – love is in the air! If you’re thinking about asking your honey to tie the knot as you watch the flowers bloom, it’s time to talk about money. As we all know, engagements rarely happen without a ring, and deciding how much to spend on one is the first of many wedding-related money decisions a couple will have to make together. And like so many other large ticket purchases, the process can be confusing and stressful. Even more so because of the emotional significance attached.

The Price Of A Ring

So, just what is the right amount to spend on an engagement ring, anyway?

The jewelry company DeBeers, which created the “A diamond is forever” slogan in the 1930’s, began an ad campaign in the 1980’s that suggested spending two months’ worth of salary on an engagement ring. That message seems to have stuck, as two months’ (sometimes three), is the guideline referred to most often, especially by jewelry marketers.

If you ask the couple themselves, however, you’ll find that most (around 74%) of unmarried couples feel that somewhere between $500 and $10,000 is the right amount to spend on an engagement ring, with $2,284 being the average. 21% feel that less than $500 is a more appropriate amount, while 5% are comfortable with $10,000 or more.

What people actually spend can be quite different. The wedding website TheKnot.com estimates the average price of an engagement ring for the brides they surveyed was $5,598.

And then there’s this: two Emory University economics professors completed a survey that showed that spending more than $2,000 or less than $500 on an engagement ring was correlated with higher rates of divorce than spending $500-$2,000. Now there’s something to think about when you’re in the jewelry store looking at price tags…

What You Could Afford If You Spend Less On A Ring

But let’s look at things another way. The couples surveyed above felt that, on average, $2,284 was an appropriate amount for a ring. But suppose you’re in the 5% that is willing to spend $10,000 on a ring. What else could that $7,716 difference mean for you? Here are some examples:

Pay for your wedding: $7,716 will pay for over a fourth of the average wedding, which runs around $28,400.

Ditch student loans: It would also pay for over 25% of the average amount of individual student loan debt, which ironically was also $28,400 in 2013.

Travel in style: $7,716 would foot the bill for a lavish honeymoon to Europe or Hawaii.

Mortgage payments: $7,716 could be a 5% down payment on a $154,320 house. Or pay for a year’s worth of mortgage payments on that same house.

Invest in your future: But perhaps most impressive of all: $7,700 invested with a 4% return over 30 years would grow to $24,974 during that time. If the return was 6%, the amount would increase to $44,224. 8% and the nest egg would be $77,482.

So, let’s assume you’re sold on paying less for a ring and putting that money elsewhere. What’s the best way to cut back on the budget but still end up with a ring you’ll both treasure for a lifetime? Try these easy tricks:

1. Choose a gem over a diamond.
Less precious stones such as rubies or sapphires can be lovely, and they’re more unique than the diamonds everyone else is sporting. If it’s good enough for Kate Middleton, who wears a sapphire, it’s probably good enough for the rest of us too.

2. Go vintage.
Does your family have an heirloom ring that could be passed down to you? It’s a beautiful alternative that won’t break the bank.

3. Buy just under that next carat size.
A 0.9-karat instead of a full carat, or 0.6-karat instead of a three-quarter carat will cost less with little noticeable difference for the average person.

4. Sacrifice just a bit on color or clarity.

Again, a savings in cost for something you probably won’t notice.

5.Choose a smaller center stone surrounded by much smaller diamonds.
Sometimes called a halo, this will give you more bling for less money. And consider something other than a round shape as well. Round diamonds are the most popular cut, and they’re usually the most expensive.

6. Shop around.
Don’t go with the first mall jewelry store you walk in to. And look into buying online, which is the easiest way to compare prices to make sure you get the best deal. Just do your due diligence to make sure you’re buying from a reputable dealer.

So if you’re thinking about popping the question this season, make sure you consider not only the price of the ring you buy, but what that cost means for your other long term financial plans.

Track Your Engagement Costs

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Julie Mayfield

Julie Mayfield is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in personal finance and lifestyle topics. She is the creator of two blogs: The Family CEO and Creating This Life. She has written for the U.S. News & World Report website, is a contributor to The U.S. News Guide to Paying for College, and has appeared in Woman’s Day magazine and on NBC’s TODAY show.

19 comments

  1. Gary K

    My particular thought is to spend your money wisely. Don’t go cheap and buy a fake diamond, better to get a smaller REAL diamond rather than a larger fake one, unless you want to gamble she will never find you out. Second spend your money on the Ring and the Honeymoon and don’t spend as much on the gown and Wedding ceremony, cake, flowers and all. That will all be over in a blink of an eye and the dress will be worn once and closeted for decades in the future so really its better to treat each other wisely and put your money where it can do most good.

    Yes it only happens once (well for some folks given a 50% divorce rather among many) so choose wisely where you will spend your money and make the most of what you spend. The ring you will have with you forever (hopefully) and the Honeymoon is just for you two and will be a source of many great memories (hopefully) so some things are worth spending on more than others. Flower’s die quickly, Cake and the food is gone super fast and that BIG wedding ceremony well really only benefits the caterer, photographer, videographer, florest, and Pastor as for most it becomes a fast evaporating vision as you began the honeymoon and start living in your new life.

    Good luck out there but be realistic and practical as well and hopefully all your marriages will truly last forever and not be one of the many that end in divorce.

    Reply
    • G. C.

      There is a world-wide glut of diamonds. If the diamond cartels ever reach a point where they can’t absorb them all, those stones will be worth no more – perhaps less – than more brilliant, artificial zircons. We’ve all been ‘played!’

      Reply
  2. lou

    0

    Reply
  3. Kim

    I think that this is a crock. I helped pick out our rings both times (we just replaced our original rings last year) and both time my engagement ring wasn’t even $200 and as of Valentine’s Day we’ll be together for 25 years and as of September 7th we’ll be married 25 years. The price or size of the ring doesn’t say how long you’ll be married at all! Even though I’ve loved my of my rings I love my husband more. The rings don’t make the marriage, the couple does.

    Reply
    • Cathy

      I absolutely agree with you. My engagement ring didn’t even cost $200 either and my husband and I have been married over 35 years. I’d never have suggested that he spend thousands on an engagement ring because I think that would make me pretty shallow. You’re right, the couple makes the marriage, not the rings. My hubby and I aren’t into all that commercialism that so many people got sucked into because of people and news articles manipulating them. We spend what we can afford to (and even then not really all that much), not what people say we should.

      Reply
      • Tiim

        They said correlation….Correlation doesn’t mean causation. gezz

        Reply
    • Anonymous

      This is true, however the under 500 and over 2000 relate to how much money a couple has to spend many times. Not a lot can lead to many financial hardships and a lot of stress. Obviously this doesn’t mean all people, just a correlation

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      Very Truthful!

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Zero, save the money for the divorce.

    Reply
  5. Deborah

    money, money, money…wheres the LOVE, COMMITMENT, COMPASSION, LOYALTY, TRUST?
    buy a cz, no one but you will know and put that $10,000 in Savings. Newly married you will need it sooner than you think.
    be wise and cut back on all that fancy expensive wedding and reception too. Get friends and family to chip in making food, making decor, and keep the brides maids gowns simple…its the BRIDE that steals the show on YOUR day not the bridesmaids.
    when babies and bills start arriving you will be more than grateful for saving your money and putting it in Savings.
    remember to have your own separate account as well. sure it’s nice to think you’ll never part HOWEVER, if something happens to one of you, you’ll be GLAD you have YOUR personal account with a savings of YOUR OWN.

    Reply
  6. G. C.

    One should spend no more than he can afford on such a trinket. No need to waste big bucks on a tiny lump of compressed coal when a gold band will do the job nicely. No one benefits from such extravagance but the jeweler!

    Reply
  7. Drew

    Good advice to go with a gem instead of diamond. It’s much more unique and you get more for your money that way. Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  8. Addie Harris

    I have always loved sapphire. So when we started to talk of marriage I let it be known that I would rather have a sapphire with one or two small diamonds on the side. But I didn’t want one until we could really afford it. Unbeknowst to me he started to save that day. An emerald cut sapphire with the two small diamonds is what I received on our fifth anniversary. The expense of kids tends to get in the way of luxury items. I still wear it even though I am now a widow. I moved it over after 40 years of marriage to my right hand right beside my plain gold wedding band.

    Reply
    • G. C.

      He sounds like a keeper!

      Reply
  9. Jewelry Store

    Shop jewellery at AAA Diamond and jewellery.

    Reply
  10. Wedding Bands

    Very nice and thoughtful article!! I also believe the same. One should spend money according to their budget for an engagement ring. How much you spent for the engagement rings doesn’t matter, how much you love your partner matters a lot. Thanks for sharing your great thoughts with us. Good job. Keep sharing!!

    Reply
  11. Two stone engagement rings

    Engagement is really specific and rare, so I guess you shouldn’t watch price too much.

    Reply
  12. Men wedding bands

    You just buy one that you like the most, no matter the cost. It’s once in life thing.

    Reply
  13. tank trouble

    Sure, it’s a good thing to enjoy your work, but there is such a thing as enjoying it too much.

    Reply

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