You found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, now you need to find the ring. Proposing is an exciting time in a relationship, but getting engaged usually comes with a price tag. As with most things wedding, the amount of money that people spend on engagement rings varies (as do engagement ring prices). The average ranges anywhere from $500 to $8,000, based on reports, with most people spending between $500 and $3000. That said, is there an etiquette surrounding how much one should spend? Read on as we navigate this popular and not-so-clear topic.
Right, right. You’ve probably heard of the traditional “month salary rule” that states that you should spend two to three months' salary on a ring. Rest assured, this “rule” is outdated, not at all required, and hardly the norm these days. Rather than abiding by a standard rule, engagement ring costs have largely become a personal thing. Individual partners need to determine their own personal price point and engagement ring budget based on various factors (income, expenses, wants, etc.). Naturally, these will differ greatly from person-to-person.
In fact, the average American spends just about 4% of their annual pre-tax income on an engagement ring, according to a poll conducted by Morning Consult. In other words, that’s closer to two weeks pay for most people. As expected, amount of spending tends to increase with higher incomes, but generally that percentage stays the same across most income levels.
All of this in mind, how do you know how much you should spend on an engagement ring? Here are some things to consider.
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth asking: What does your future spouse actually want when it comes to a ring? Have they sent you the name of a local designer that makes one-of-a-kind pieces? Have they mentioned that they love princess cut diamonds and white gold bands? Or is their style more minimalistic and subtle? It’s important to not only listen and observe what your partner desires, but to get them something that reflects that, as well as their personality. For example, if your partner has an active lifestyle and regularly hits up the gym, a flatter diamond design combined with a scratch-resistant band will be less prone to damage.
If you aren’t sure what your partner wants, try to find out. If you’ve been talking openly about getting engaged, ask them what ring styles and stones they prefer. If you’re keeping the proposal on the down-low, you may want to recruit one of your partner’s closest friends to ask for you or go ring shopping. Chances are they’ll be able to collect intel on your partner’s style preferences on your behalf.
Before you make a purchase—or even start shopping, for that matter—it’s important that you figure out how much money you can and are willing to spend on an engagement ring. Not only does having a number or range in mind prevent you from overspending, it also gives you a sense of what you can and can’t afford once you start looking. You want to wow your future spouse—we get it—but you don’t want to go into serious debt over it. For example, if you’re comfortable spending up to $3,000 on a ring, start by looking at designs priced slightly below that.
If you’re going to borrow money for a ring, make sure you can pay it off in a reasonable time. Also, think about who you’ll want to borrow money from. Credit cards have notoriously high interest rates, as do payday loans centers. You might get a better loan from your bank, but again, expect to pay interest. Plus, once you are married your debt becomes shared. Suffice it to say, your new spouse may not be thrilled about paying off their own engagement ring.
If you’re short on cash, you may see if a family member, such as a parent or sibling, can help you out. Just be sure both parties are on the same page about paying back the money. We’re talking an amount, a timeline, and a method that both parties are comfortable with. Again, you really don’t want debt or bad feelings over an engagement ring.
According to The Knot’s Jewelry and Engagement study, the average cost of an engagement ring in 2021 was $6,000. However, engagement ring price points vary greatly. The good news is, whatever kind of ring you have in mind, there are typically ways to make it more affordable.
Cut back on carats. Diamond engagement ring prices can significantly drop if you’re shy of the carat and half-carat mark. This means that, while 1.8 carat diamonds will look similar to 2 carats to the naked eye, the lesser-carat stone will be less expensive.
Consider clarity and color. You can also save money when it comes to the clarity and color of your center stone. Even center stones with the smallest and most imperceptible imperfections can be significantly less expensive than a “perfect” stone. It likely won’t be noticeable whether a diamond or gemstone is perfect or nearly perfect, but you can score a deal on the latter.
Cut matters. The cut of a diamond affects pricing, too. For example, emerald cut diamonds have fewer facets. Meaning, they’re not as reflective and shiny, but their shape covers more surface area than other diamonds, which makes them look bigger. (If your partner isn’t set on diamonds, other gemstones and alternatives like moissanite may be more affordable as well.)
Don’t forget the band. The actual band material of the ring can make a big price difference, too. Platinum is more expensive than gold because it’s rarer and mined less. It also won’t fade to yellow like white gold can, but it will dull over time (it can be shined professionally). Yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold, on the other hand, are more affordable and still look elegant. If your partner likes the aesthetic of platinum, white gold is a great, more affordable alternative.
Now that you’ve decided on a budget, know what your partner likes, and are well-versed in money saving tips, let’s talk engagement ring shopping. Engagement rings—and wedding rings, for that matter—can be purchased from a variety of places, both in person and online. The most traditional route would be to visit your local jewelers and jewelry retailers. If you aren’t entirely sure of your to-be-spouse’s ring size or preferred styles, we highly recommend taking them to the store with you for an initial visit. Shop around, ask to try things on, and get immediate advice from the professionals behind the counter. Then, with your newfound information, come back at a later (but not too much later) date and purchase a ring.
As with most things these days, you can also buy an engagement ring online. Online retailers like De Beers, James Allen, and Blue Nile make it easy to browse and purchase your partner’s ideal ring. The latter even allows you to customize a ring with lab grown diamonds. That said, independent jewelry designers on websites like Etsy also streamline the process of finding and personalizing high quality, affordable engagement rings. These websites should be your go-to if you’re looking for something a bit unique and out of the norm (e.g. gemstones and untraditional bands and settings). In any case, we encourage you to look at a range of stores, designers, and websites before making your final choice. This will give you the best opportunities to both stay on budget and find what you’re looking for.
The right ring is one that you love and one that won't place serious stress on your financial situation. Remember, you don’t want to go into a large amount of debt over a ring—especially before your wedding. Listen to your partner’s desires, determine a budget, and go with a ring that you think reflects their personality. Worst case scenario? Your partner modifies their engagement ring after the proposal. Saying “yes” to your proposal is what matters most.
Once you’ve secured your ring, make sure you and your partner know all about taking care of it.