How Much Should I Spend On An Engagement Ring?

by TTMK on December 23, 2013 · 16 comments

how much should I spend on engagement ringWhen the question of how much to spend on a ring comes up, there is often a quick answer that people give.  Three months salary for a ring is something that, we are told, is a rule of thumb.  As in, a man must allocate three months of his hard work in order to secure the right ring to give to his prospective bride.  Anything different, and he’s not doing it right.

Or so we are told.

Think about this.  Let’s say that Joe SixPack makes $40,000 a year, after taxes.  His expenses are $35,000.  Thus, he’s somehow able to set aside $5,000 per year.   Since his monthly net income is $3,333, he is really saving 1.5 months of income per year.  In total.

If Joe wants to set aside 3 months salary for a ring for the future Mrs. SixPack, he will effectively require two years of work in order to be able to afford a $10,000 ring.   He will have zero savings left over.  Isn’t that a lot of work, just for a piece of jewelry?

Some folks might say:

  • Man up, and deal with it.
  • She’s worth it (won’t argue with that one)
  • He should make more money
  • Get a second job
  • That’s just the way it is
  • Borrow money for it (bad)

Personally, yes – I was one of the 3 month people.  Or, at least I spent just about that much, if I recall.  But that doesn’t mean that everyone should do that, or that it’s really necessary.  I think the amount someone spends should be based on what you feel comfortable spending.   I spent more than I could probably afford at the time, but I wasn’t given an ultimatum to do.  That would stink, for either person, to be in a situation where she says “I don’t like my engagement ring“, or even suggests it in much more subtle way.

I was talking about this with someone a few months back, a guy not married but contemplating popping the question.  He’s money minded, and financial issues (spending a lot of money) are obviously stressing him out.   My thoughts quickly distilled to the notion that the amount of money spent on a ring is a nice litmus test of compatibility on at least some dimensions.

If the two people have different expectations of what quality the ring should be, and can’t come to common ground that both feel happy with, then that is something to consider.

  • Maybe he’s cheap, and doesn’t get some aspects of being a man.  Perhaps he isn’t truly interested in her happiness?
  • Or, maybe she’s too materialistic.  Perhaps she wants a fairy tale, and isn’t interested in his happiness and priorities?
  • OR, maybe the people have different views on things that they need to work out.

Ultimately, I unscientifically think it’s probably the 3rd situation with a lot of people who have varying expectations.  There’s probably no right or wrong, other than the extreme cases of truly cheap guys or truly over-demanding ladies.   It’s all about being able to compromise on finances in a relationship, or about compatibility.

Oh, and about that 3 months salary rule.  Don’t bother, it’s not real.  That might mean  spending far less, or next to nothing at all.  Or you never know, maybe it could mean spending far more, depending on assets and what you both value.  Do what’s right for you and your significant other.

My Questions for You

What do you think about the 3-month rule?

Do you think that spending much less means the guy is cheap, or that a woman wanting much more is greedy?

Or, do you think that there are truly no rules and anything goes?

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Little House December 23, 2013 at 11:29 am

I don’t think the 3-month rule is a hard/fast rule. I think it boils down to what the person can afford. If they’ve chosen the right person to begin with, their soul mate will like the ring no matter what. There are also ways to save money on a ring; buy a smaller diamond, buy a beautiful setting with a CZ and upgrade later, forgo diamonds and choose a less expensive stone, etc. I also think that if the person that is given the ring balks at it, then perhaps that’s not the person one would want to marry!

Reply

TTMK December 27, 2013 at 11:15 am

Little House – wise observations, I agree on all points.

Reply

Michelle @fitisthenewpoor December 23, 2013 at 5:47 pm

My husband spent about 1 1/2 months of his salary. I gave him a price estimate of what I hoped he would spend and he stuck to that mini-budget. Honest between partners over their expectations is the best bet!

Reply

TTMK December 27, 2013 at 11:14 am

Honesty is the way to go, so true.

Reply

dojo December 25, 2013 at 4:28 am

I didn’t get an engagement ring. We lived together for a while (let’s say a decade) and then decided to ‘close the deal’. So we just had the wedding bands. We had an old ring we gave the jeweler and the ‘manufacture’ cost us 60 dollars. That’s what we spent for our wedding bands. They’re simple, elegant and nice.

I don’t see any reason to spend a lot of money on a ring I can lose/have stolen. I have a saying: you shouldn’t wear your gold, you should stash it 😉

I’d rather save the money or invest in something than get a ring on my finger that for me doesn’t mean anything. I don’t like to show off and I’d clearly not be comfortable wearing a piece of jewelry that’s too expensive.

Husband knows how I feel and he didn’t get any ideas to spend a lot on the rings. We have more important things in our plans than to squander thousands of bucks on rings that won’t serve us for anything. The money we’d pay for this can go into getting him a reliable car or an RV for us to travel with. I see more use in this 🙂

So .. I’d say – keep it small and ‘cheap’. Of course, if he missus wants fancy rings, you’ll have to oblige, otherwise spend the money elsewhere.

Reply

TTMK December 27, 2013 at 11:13 am

Great points, Dojo. I really like your comment on preferring to stash gold instead of wear it. That’s a practical, common sense view that many would be wise to adopt. Great stuff.

Looks like you guys made sound decisions, good for you. You also made a really good point at the end that if the lady wants fancy rings, the guy will have to oblige. I think compromise is important, but it also means the guy should be prepared to compromise a bit more….or find another lady:)

Reply

Scott W December 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm

I have always found the 2 or 3 month suggestion absurd. I don’t care what you make, 2 or 3 months salary for young people starting a life together is too much in my opinion.

I married a great girl that never would have wanted me to spend a lot although to be fair she is not a big jewelry person. We have been married 10 years and if it was important to her and she wanted to upgrade at this point I would have no problem since we are in a much better position financially speaking. I don’t believe she would.

Big surprise we spent about 40% on our wedding that most of our friends did as well.

These two decisions were the first in a long line of decisions that have helped us get in a strong financial position sooner in life than our friends.

Obviously if other couples choose to spend a lot more power to them just not for us.

Reply

TTMK December 27, 2013 at 11:07 am

I tend to see things your way, and it seems like you made some good decisions. It’s all a matter of choice, compatibility, and compromise between 2 people.

Reply

Mel @ brokeGIRLrich December 26, 2013 at 10:51 pm

I think the sort of people likely to be reading your blog are all the types to think 3 months on a ring is a little ridiculous ;o) Now you just need to reach the mainstream masses.

Personally, it seems like such a waste to me. I loved dojo’s comment that “you shouldn’t wear your gold, you should stash it.” My boyfriend and I have been together for years and know each other’s money habits pretty well. I wouldn’t want a engagement ring worth 3 months of his salary… now, a honeymoon trip around the world that cost that much, that’s more my kind of spendthrift. ;o) But seriously, I’d rather just put that money toward a down payment on a house. I bet lots of women would.

Reply

TTMK December 27, 2013 at 11:05 am

Great point about the audience, Mel! You know, I’d really like to get to get the input of the masses as well.

I too liked that comment about stashing gold versus wearing it. It’s all about priorities.

Reply

The First Million is the Hardest December 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I think any “rules” regarding how much you should spend are ridiculous. The only rule regarding what you should spend on a ring should be that you should only spend what you can afford! I bought an engagement ring over the summer and spent about 2 months salary, but during my whole shopping process that never factored into my decision. I set a max I was willing to spend, and knew what grade of diamond I was looking for and did my best to get the most for my money. If she was disappointed I didn’t spend more, she’s with the wrong guy 🙂

Reply

Tushar @ Everything Finance December 29, 2013 at 10:15 pm

This one is tricky.I think the three month rule is overkill, and I can’t imagine any wife-to-be wanting her future husband to blow that much money on a ring, and I definitely don’t think that the person is cheap if he doesn’t spend 3 months of his salary. I think that what you can/should spend depends so much on your expenses, as well. It’s not just salary! Plus some women don’t want a ring, or want a very small one.

Reply

Nalani January 5, 2014 at 11:00 am

My husband spent about 1/2 a month salary. He brings in a nice paycheque, so it was enough for a nice ring that I liked. We picked it out together online, I actually bought it because we realised it would be a lot cheaper, if I bought it on a business trip I was taking. The guy in the jewellery store was a little shocked when he realised what I came in to buy. We didn’t want to spend tons and 3 months salary would have been ridiculous! I don’t wear any other jewellery other than my engagement ring and wedding band, so maybe it’s also just the fact that I don’t really go ga ga over jewellery.

Reply

Ben May 13, 2015 at 1:59 pm

I think openness between couples is the best policy. Although the 3 month rule is pretty standard for most, I believe that its just a generalization that can be used, but does not have to. An engagement ring should be more about the symbolization between a couple and also the representation of the person wearing it. If a woman wants more than what a male wants to offer, I believe that its greedy and used for social status.

Reply

Kacey June 19, 2015 at 11:28 am

My beloved, now husband, spend 10000$ on my very special engagement ring. I was very surprised and so happy, my opinion was that he spend too much, but he wanted something that is beyond the limits. So thank him on this, and for the record I wear my ring every day. I am so proud.

Reply

Delicate Gem January 8, 2017 at 12:55 am

The 3 months rule is not applies to me, as I have purchased my diamond engagement ring on sale and the rate was nominal and I got the certified diamond ring that was loved by my fiance.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: