Weddings How Much Should I Spend on an Engagement Ring?

by Deborah Ziff Soriano | January 03, 2019

A sparkly engagement ring is probably the most recognizable symbol that a wedding is in the works.

But it’s a deeply personal symbol too, and what you choose — whether it’s a diamond, an heirloom ring or a custom creation — all come with varying costs.

Betrothed couples spent an average of $5,000 on engagement rings in 2017, according to WeddingWire, an online marketplace for the wedding industry. Its 2018 Newlywed Report surveyed more than 13,000 couples.

“While the average cost of an engagement ring is $5,000, there really are no rules,” says Anne Chertoff, trends expert at WeddingWire. “People should spend the amount they feel comfortable spending.”

Here are some factors to consider:

Tips on how much to spend

Diamond companies encourage the idea that an engagement ring should feature a diamond, and that it should cost the equivalent of two months’ salary. An advertising campaign that started in the 1930s and continued into the 1980s embedded the concept of one month’s salary — and later two — into American culture.  

“The important thing for people to realize is that the whole notion was part of an advertising campaign created by DeBeers,” says David Weliver, founder of the website Money Under 30. “This was created a long time ago, and the reality of people getting married today is very different than even 20 years ago, but especially 50 years ago.”

One significant difference is that people are now waiting longer to get married, and they may be burdened by more student loan debt than in the past, Weliver says.

“Two months’ salary is a rather outdated theory,” Chertoff says. “It’s more important to do research and determine what you want, determine your budget, and then save up or adjust your budget.”

Two months’ salary is a rather outdated theory.
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Review your finances and consider the costs

Like any other large purchase, take the time to review your financial position before making any decisions. Do you have an emergency fund? Are your retirement savings on solid footing? Do you have savings for additional things like a ring? How much money can you put aside each month to save up?

“The most important factor in deciding how much to spend on an engagement ring is determining a budget and what you can afford,” Chertoff says.

Weliver suggests that a more modern benchmark might be to spend no more than you would on a month’s worth of expenses. For instance, if it costs you $2,000 a month for rent, food, transportation, etc., then that could serve as a baseline for what you should spend on a ring.

However, he adds, it’s a “personal decision,” and ring buyers should set their budgets accordingly.

And since weddings themselves are an expensive proposition — averaging about $28,000, according to WeddingWire — Weliver says it might also be wise to consider your ring budget as a part of a larger, overall wedding budget.

hand holding dark red velvet ring box with diamond engagement ring inside

Types of engagement rings

"The ring’s stone, carat weight, band and setting will all determine the final cost," Chertoff says.

“There are ring options at nearly every price point, so it’s important to be clear with the jeweler about what you’re expecting to spend,” Chertoff says. “They can show you designs within your budget and discuss areas where to cut costs if needed.

You could also consider an alternative to a diamond, such as a gemstone, a bespoke ring from a craft jeweler or artist or a man-made diamond.

“That could be just as meaningful, especially if it’s one-of-a kind and created just for you,” Weliver says.

Likewise, an heirloom ring from a relative usually costs nothing with the exception of having it reset or re-sized.

The ring’s stone, carat weight, band and setting will all determine the final cost.
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Align on expectations

When you get married, finances become intertwined, so Weliver recommends making sure you have a sense of your partner’s expectations before you buy a ring.

“My advice is, as you’re going into this, that it really should be a joint decision,” he says. This can be tricky if you’re trying to engineer a surprise proposal. But even if you’re not shopping for a ring together, a general conversation about preferences can be helpful, he says.

You can also ask friends or relatives to do some reconnaissance work, Chertoff adds.

Man proposes to boyfriend on the grass in a field

If you’re purchasing a ring, Chertoff suggests getting an appraisal and calling your homeowner’s insurance company to add it to the policy immediately, or purchase a plan specifically for jewelry, she says.

“The number one rule is to work within a budget and determine exactly what you can afford,” Chertoff says. “You can always upgrade to a larger-sized stone or a more elaborate setting on a special anniversary.”

Deborah Ziff Soriano

is a freelance journalist based in the Chicago area who writes about a range of topics, including higher education, personal finance and business.