This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions about engagement rings. It’s also one of the most practical.
You’ve probably already heard the “two to three months’ salary” saying, but that is at best a misguided suggestion and at worst a marketing ploy from the diamond industry. If you want an actual average of how much is usually spent on engagement rings, here are some figures from a paper published by Lee Cronk and Bria Dunham in Human Nature:
Average Amount Spent on Ring: $3,531.72 ($0-20,000)
Men’s Average Incomes: $41,858.20 ($0-500,000)
As you can see, the men surveyed spent on average the equivalent of one month of their annual salary on the engagement ring. And this was pre-recession (2007). For more on this study, you can view it here: Cronk, Lee, and Bria Dunham. 2007. Human Nature 18(4):329-333. [pdf]
But don’t take the one-month average spent on engagement rings in this survey as a rule, or even a norm. The honest truth is: there is no fixed dollar amount rule that you should spend on an engagement ring. In lieu of rules, the best advice is that you should plan to spend as much as you can can afford for the best ring within your budget.
In other words: the best amount to pay for an engagement ring is simply what you can afford. How much you should spend on the ring is entirely up to you (and even your wife-to-be). After all, when you get married, your finances will be joined. Will she want to help pay off the cost of her own engagement ring? Most likely not.
Remember that the point of an engagement – and the ring that comes with it – is a promise of a new life together and isn’t a new life best started debt-free?
It’s also worth noting that for engagement rings – they’re more valued for their meaning than the monetary cost. Rings that are meaningful trump rings that are just expensive. For example, an heirloom ring that is passed down from your family or hers doesn’t cost anything – except maybe a few hundred dollars for a new setting – and it’s rich with history and meaning.
Or if you manage to save just $25 a week for one year to buy a $1,250 ring or $50 a week for one year to buy a $2,500 ring, she’ll appreciate the thought and effort you put into the long-thought-out expense more than whatever the ring cost.
Not to mention that there are so many options out there for engagement rings that you can easily set a budget and find an amazing piece of bling that easily falls within the range of your budget. For example, there are plenty of online jewelers that don’t have to pay the typical expenses that brick-and-mortar retailers do and can afford to offer the same bling at better prices.