How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?

How much will you spend on your wedding ring?

Jewelers recommend you spend 2-3 months of your salary on a wedding ring.

Back in the day, when I was a single college student in love, I remember asking myself this question. I was all set to propose to my now wife but I needed to get a ring to make it all official. Corinne and I started casually browsing at rings so I could get an idea of what she might be interested in. I remember the jewelers telling me the 2 to 3 month rule. But at that point I was primarily a college student and I had a side job as a teaching assistant. So when I told the different jewelers this they would then say I should spend 2-3 months of whatever my expected salary would be when I graduated. My income at the time was about $11 an hour. I remember the maximum the university would let me work as a full time student employed by them was 20 hours a week, which I made sure I maxed out every week. So with those numbers looking at 2 to 3 months of my salary it would be somewhere in the 2 to 3 thousand range. Looking at what my expected income would be after I graduated, I figured I would be able to make about 40-50 thousand a year. That would put my total 2 to 3 month income at somewhere in the 6.5 to 12.5 thousand range. I was a college student I was working part time to pay the bills and avoid taking on more debt. So, even two grand seemed like more than I could afford at that point in my life. Then considering the second scenario with my expected post graduation earnings in mind, there was no chance I would be able to come up with anywhere close to 6.5 grand let alone even think about 12.5 grand. So I told the Jewelers that I can not afford those numbers. They assured me this was fine and that most people did not pay cash for a wedding ring and would either use there financing plan or put it on a credit card. They started pulling out all the easy financing paperwork and showed me how “affordable”, their words not mine, it could really be for me even in my current situation. They would set up an easy payment plan for me so for with low interest rates and all those other things they do to entice and entrap you into getting the ring. I remember all the jewelers telling me to not worry about the price and all kinds of other things to help convince me to spend way way more than I had in my bank account. They are very well trained sales men and women who know how to pull on the heart strings of young engaged person I was at the time.

I began to think about financing options or just putting it on a credit card, at least for a minute. But then I kept coming back to questions like-

Do I really want to start my marriage off with monthly payments?

Would I even be able to afford the monthly payments while I was still in college?

What if I couldn’t find a job right away when I get out of college?

At this point I started to see the flaw in all of this logic I was being fed by salespeople and advertisements. These people don’t really care about my happiness. They don’t care how much financial stress they will put me in. They just want me to spend as much money as they can get out of me at their store.

So just to make things clear, all of these jewelry shops would give me credit for something I cannot afford even making the payments on right now and are betting that I should be able to afford later!?! Does this sound crazy to anyone else? Who in their right mind would do this? Surprisingly enough, most people! When you have a salesman telling you this is what everyone does, marketers telling you that you have to do this to show love, and the rest of the world seeming to tell you this is the way it is, that’s what you do. What about the saying love don’t cost a thing? I knew several guys around the same time also buying engagement rings. I watched them spend what I thought was ridiculous amounts of money on those rings. One of my friends went into a good amount of debt to get the ring. Another guy even sold his car on top of taking out a loan to afford his ring. All I could think was that it was crazy to me seeing all these guys, who I thought were smart guys, start out there marriage with such a large amount of debt. First school debt, now ring debt. Not the best way to start off a marriage in my opinion. Especially considering that one of the top reasons for divorce is finances. Wouldn’t you rather start your marriage with a better financial footing if you could? Wouldn’t it be nicer to start this portion of your life with a clean financial slate? Marriage is difficult enough, why would you want to add the stress of expensive monthly payments to that?

When I was out ring shopping I knew I didn’t want to go into debt. I loved my wife so much and wanted to show her I loved her but monthly payments long into our marriage was not how I wanted to show it. As we talked about marriage and the ring, I asked her her feeling on going into debt and how she would feel about me getting her a ring that I could afford without any debt. We were so in love that I realized that the ring was a small part of the entire thing. Sure every girl dreams about her engagement ring and wants something nice to show off to her friends and Corinne was no different in that respect, but is that worth holding off getting married or not getting married at all? Is that worth the debt it would take? For Corinne it was not worth that much. So we started exploring more affordable options.

So are you ready for our deep dark secret? Up to this point the only people who know about this are Corinne and I. We have never shared this with anyone and I am surprised we are even sharing this with the world now. Here is the engagement ring that i purchased for Corinne. Did you notice it? The main diamond…the “expensive” part… is not a real diamond. When I purchased the ring I paid cash for it, no debt, no monthly payments. It was something I could afford with the cash I had in savings. I always told Corinne that when I could afford it I would go back and purchase a real diamond to replace the cubic zirconia that was the main diamond. We have talked about it several times since we have been married (over 13 years at this point) and have had more than enough money to do it, but we have always decided against it. In the end paying off student loans, mortgage, or investing was always more important to Corinne than to get that diamond. Even with a net worth of over a million dollars we have decided to hold off on replacing the cubic zirconia with a real diamond. She is amazing.

How much did you spend on your engagement ring?

Author: KC Beavers

KC Beavers is a semi-retired entrepreneur. The subject of personal finance has always fascinated him. In an effort to not bore those around him with all his love of personal finance as much he has come here to bore all of you instead.

9 comments
debtfreemormon
debtfreemormon

This is good! I get this question asked quite often. I actually wrote an article offering some tips on money management for newlyweds. The I was asked a bunch of questions similar to this. Obviously the jewelers are going to say 2-3 months! I'd heard that it should be closer to 1 month, but still in many scenarios that is way too much. I agree, probably whatever you can afford that doesn't put you in debt and payments. Thanks for the info!

Glen
Glen

My wife how should I put this delicately, way more high maintenance than this. I wish I could of gotten away with something like this but a ring is not an area I could have cut back.

Financial Independence
Financial Independence

My engagement ring cost a lot for me.  
I think that we work to live, rather than anything else.

Do not overspend, but if you can, why not ?

Jen at Sprout Wealth
Jen at Sprout Wealth

Trust sellers to try and wheedle buyers into making a purchase however impractical. I remember how my daughter's boyfriend, now my son-in-law, discussed the kind of engagement ring we should expect from him. I was like "seriously???"!  I told him that a simple life with simple thing but free of financial worries is more important to us especially for my daughter. A year later into the marriage, I could see that my daughter is one very happy wife and soon-to-be mom.

Raymond Lee Jewelers
Raymond Lee Jewelers

If a jeweler suggests you spend 2-3 months salary on a ring, leave. That number was cooked up by De Beers, and we tell our customers to buy what they can afford. If that's a gold ring with no stone, fantastic, let's engrave it or create something ornate. If that's a diamond band with several smaller diamonds, rather than an expensive larger one, beautiful, let's start shopping. If it means buying a gorgeous setting and a CZ, great, we'll make a note on the file to remember while cleaning it. And in 10, 20 years if they want to come back and replace it with a diamond, we'll be there. Starting a marriage with ring debt is never a good idea, thank you for sharing!

Sail
Sail

What do you think of spending 50k on a new car.

Andy
Andy

Her engagment/wedding rings = Free via inheritance

Cleaning and repairing the 60+ year rings = ~$900

Appraised value of the platinum/diamond rings = ~$3000


His tungsten wedding band = ~$15

KC Beavers
KC Beavers moderator

@Sail That all depends on a number of things. If you are looking to spend 50K on a new car for me I am totally okay with that, please do go ahead.

KC Beavers
KC Beavers moderator

@Andy Inheritance is the way to go for sure, just not available to us all.