How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?

A young woman surprised at the diamond ring her boyfriend is proposing with.

Whenever a woman gets engaged, there’s always a big fuss surrounding her engagement ring. People want to see it, they want to know how her partner proposed, and (even if no one asks you outright) they want to know how much it cost. After all, this ring represents the love between the affianced couple; it just has to be worth a huge chunk of change.

There has been much hemming and hawing about the cost of engagement rings over the years—and if you’re planning to propose, you probably know that everyone has a different opinion. Some people tell you to keep your costs as low as possible. Others claim that money’s no object, and your only limit is how much you love your partner. And others still insist that you need to spend at least two month’s salary on that rock.

But what is the real answer? How much money are you actually meant to spend on an engagement ring? The short answer is simple: it depends on your financial situation. But just for fun, let’s take a look at the various costs of popping the question.

The Average Cost of an Engagement Ring in the United States

It’s incredibly difficult to nail down a standard cost for engagement rings because the average ranges from place to place. Even in the United States, average costs vary wildly; couples in Mississippi spend just under $2,800 to show their love and commitment, while the average Californian proposes with a ring that costs just over $9,800!

These massive discrepancies are most often due to average income and cost of living in each state. However, this does prove that when it comes to engagement ring spending, there is no set standard! If you are concerned that the ring you want to buy won’t be “expensive enough” for your sweetheart, don’t sweat it—there’s no price requirement for you to meet. All that really matters is that the ring is given with love (and maybe a pretty diamond).

The “Two-Month Rule” for Buying a Ring

A diamond engagement ring and wedding band set.

You might be sitting here thinking, “But there is a set standard! I’ve always heard that you should spend two month’s salary on an engagement ring.” It’s true, you have heard that—everyone has for over 30 years. But there’s one very specific reason that this two-month rule is ingrained in society: the De Beers diamond company made sure of it.

In the 1930s, De Beers’ marketing team ran a campaign claiming that any bride-to-be deserved a ring worth one month’s salary. The ad was incredibly successful, boosting diamond sales and making the company barrels of money. Then, in the 1980s, De Beers upped the ante with a new ad. It featured a beautiful model, with a ring on her hand, and one very persuasive headline: “Two months’ salary showed the future Mrs. Smith what the future would be like.”

Let me say this loud and clear for the people in the back: YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEND TWO MONTHS’ SALARY JUST BECAUSE DE BEERS TOLD YOU TO. If you can afford to spend that much, and you want to, that’s great! But if you’d rather save your money for something else (a house, paying off debt, that wedding you have to plan), that’s OK, too!

A Business Perspective on Proposing with a Diamond

For many people, buying an engagement ring is a very emotional experience. They’re madly in love, excited for this new chapter in their lives, and maybe a little nervous about actually asking the question. It’s easy to get swept up in the moment and think “Sure, why not buy a nicer ring on my credit card? After all, she’s worth it—and the diamond is too, right?

Unfortunately, this line of thinking is a recipe for financial disaster. It’s never wise to begin a marriage in debt (particularly credit card debt), and that diamond may not be worth as much as you think. According to businessman and Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary, “Diamond rings are really expensive, and they don’t produce any dividends or any interest.” In fact, O’Leary suggests that young couples forego the engagement ring entirely, waiting until they have the disposable income to splurge on something special.

Obviously, this particular mindset is controversial; some of us ladies want that rock right away! And if you don’t want to wait to shower your partner with gifts, you don’t have to. But if you don’t have room in your budget to spend on a ring, don’t think you have to get into debt to propose.

At the end of the day, how much you spend on an engagement ring should depend on two things: your financial situation and your partner’s expectations. If you’re thinking about proposing, talk honestly with your partner about the kind of ring he or she wants and how much they’re expecting it to cost. If you’re ready, be open about your finances (you might be sharing a bank account soon, anyway) so that you can decide on a cost you’re both comfortable with. And if you decide you don’t need a ring yet, that’s OK, too! All that matters is that you both express your love and commitment in a way you both appreciate.

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