How much should you really spend on an engagement ring? 7 things to consider
Saving Money / Relationships
You’ve finally met the one person you can plan to spend the rest of your life with. They understand you. You share the same dreams, the same goals and, of course, boundless love. It’s time to propose to that special someone. How much should you spend on an engagement ring?
What you need to know about the “three month rule”
You’ve probably heard the axiom that three months’ salary is the appropriate amount to spend on a diamond engagement ring. This amount is actually based on a very successful marketing campaign by De Beers, a diamond company, to boost diamond sales and dates back to the 1930s.
The company also launched the iconic slogan “A Diamond Is Forever”, successfully pairing engagement rings with diamonds and boosting company profits. Fortunately, this outdated “rule” is not taken as literally as it once was, as quality rings can be found in any budget range.
How much should you spend on an engagement ring?
According to The Knot, the average cost of an engagement ring in 2021 was $6,000. Keep in mind that this number is not a benchmark. This is a national average of all engagement ring purchases and is influenced by a variety of factors, the most notable being region.
Plus, on average, millennials and Gen Z think an engagement ring should cost less than $5,000. They tend to reject the axiom of three months’ salary, while young couples often foot the bill for their own weddings, making less money available for the engagement ring.
The short answer? Spend an amount you can afford. Marriage is worth so much more than jewelry, no matter how much it costs.
Do you have to go into debt to buy an engagement ring?
Buying a diamond engagement ring probably shouldn’t put you in debt. An investment has the potential to make your money growand the value of a diamond is not likely to increase over time.
The amount you spend on a diamond does not reflect how happy your marriage will be. In fact, one of the main reasons couples divorce is because of finances, so starting a marriage in more debt could portend a difficult future.
How to buy an engagement ring
Here are seven factors to consider when it’s time to buy the perfect engagement ring.
1. Set a budget
Budgeting for your engagement ring should be part of your overall fiscal strategy.
How much can you afford to spend? Set a budget before you go shopping so you don’t get tricked into spending more than you can afford. Nowadays, more and more couples buy the engagement ring together, which has many advantages:
- Ring shopping is an experience you can share.
- No guessing what size to take.
- They can try on rings and see what they like best.
There are a wide variety of engagement rings with different bands, different stones and different cuts to choose from. An engagement ring is a major purchase that you want your future spouse to be happy with, so it makes sense to shop together. Granted, you lose the element of surprise, but you can instead offer a surprise.
Debt for Millennials and Gen Z
Many women today often earn less than men, while couples often struggle with student loans and other debts. Perhaps that’s why the majority of Gen Z and Millennials think it’s appropriate to spend less than the national average.
Budgeting together will prepare you for a strong financial future. The wedding and engagement industry might want you to think that the more you spend, the happier your marriage will be, but that’s not entirely true. It seems there is a sweet spot.
Finance a ring
If you need to finance a ring, look for a credit card with 0% financing and pay it off as soon as possible. Jewelry stores have financing options, and some may offer 0% for a certain period of time.
But be careful, because if you take longer to pay than the 0% interest period, you will incur finance charges from the date you took out the loan. Spend what you can afford right now. Keep in mind that you can always get a better anniversary ring later.
2. Comparison store
Visit a few different jewelry stores to get an idea of what’s out there. The markup on diamonds at a jewelry store can be up to 200% of the original cost. If you shop at Tiffany or Cartier you will pay more, but there is some wiggle room and some jewelers may have better prices than others.
In general, jewelry chains are more expensive because they have higher overhead and advertising budgets.
You can negotiate on more expenses than you think, and engagement rings are one of them. Find an independent jeweler or wholesaler and get started. Here are some trading tips you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Go when the store is quiet – jewelers don’t normally want to bargain in front of an audience.
- Make sure the person you’re talking to has the power to negotiate.
- Don’t shop during busy seasons like Valentine’s Day or Christmas.
- Mention that you are shopping.
- Be ready to go.
Even if you only receive 5-10% off the sticker price, the savings can run into the hundreds of dollars. Make sure the diamond is certified by the American Gemological Appraisal, that’s how you’ll know the ring is worth what you’re paying for. All diamonds are beautiful, but unless you are an expert in gemstones, it is difficult to tell a quality stone from an inferior one.
4. Buy online
You are more likely to get a good price from an online retailer because their overhead is lower. Make sure you buy from a reputable jeweler and read reviews before shopping, and that the ring is certified.
You can save money by buying online, or you can use the information you find to negotiate a better price at a local jewelry store. If you decide to buy from an online retailer, make sure that the shipping of the ring is insured and that there is a money back guarantee.
5. Consider a different stone
Diamond engagement rings weren’t a thing until just after World War II. Consider a sapphire – it worked for Princess Diana. Sapphires can make great engagement rings because they are strong and have great hardness. Emeralds and tanzanite, on the other hand, are more delicate and prone to chipping.
6. Sacrifice clarity, carat weight or color
You can save money by going for a smaller stone. You can also save money by getting a lower clarity rating, since diamonds are graded by how colorless they are.
Completely colorless diamonds are graded D and go all the way to Z, which would be slightly yellow or brown. While you can probably tell a Z-graded diamond from a D, you probably can’t tell the difference between a G and an H.
Likewise, diamonds are often accompanied by small bumps and birthmarks. The complete absence of these marks occurs in flawless diamonds, which are both very rare and very expensive. Diamonds are graded on a scale from Flawless, rated FL, to Included, meaning they have obvious flaws under 10x magnification.
Go with a less than perfect diamond box save you money.
The only thing you want in a diamond is a nice cut. Cut is a major contributor to diamond cost and is responsible for sparkle and brilliance.
A lower quality cut will look fine when you buy it, but over time it will start to look less clear and it won’t shine as brightly. Cuts are graded from Excellent – the top 3% of diamonds – down to Poor.
Consider buying something other than a round brilliant diamond, which is the most expensive cut. The round brilliant is also the most popular cut, but consider these other beautiful cuts that can save you money:
7. Buy vintage
For a truly unique engagement ring, consider buying an antique ring. Talk to your future spouse before you jump in, because some people like the story and some don’t. Vintage means you’ll guarantee not everyone has a ring that looks just like yours, and older diamonds generally cost less than similar modern diamonds.
Despite what diamond companies would have you believe, the success of your marriage does not rest on the engagement ring you choose. The ring is a symbol of the love you have for each other, but it doesn’t define your relationship. Buy a ring that you can afford and that your future spouse will love.
Elizabeth Constantineau contributed reporting for this article.
The information is accurate as of May 20, 2022.
Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create accurate, unbiased and up-to-date content. We verify every statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to ensure that the information we provide is correct. You can read more about GOBankingRates processes and standards in our Editorial Policy.