How Many Months Salary Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?

For centuries, men have given women a ring as a symbol of love and commitment. In fact, the exchange dates back to Ancient Egypt, where couples would exchange braided reeds. The reeds were circular to symbolize eternity together. They were typically placed on the left index finger, as it was believed the left index finger contained a vein that ran directly to the heart. In the centuries following, rings made of various materials continued to be exchanged to symbolize the promise to wed, or the commitments made during marriage ceremonies. Eventually, Romans began using rings made of durable metals, like gold or iron, in place of braided reeds. It wasn’t until centuries later that diamonds become a popular option as a symbol for love and commitment.  

In the 1940s, De Beer Mining Company-who dominated nearly 90% of the world’s diamond production-set out to boost sales in the United States. The company partnered with Philadelphia based agency, N.W. Ayer and Sons. Together they launched a major campaign famously known for the slogan, “Diamonds are Forever”. The campaign propelled the diamond into instant popularity, making a diamond engagement ring the norm. 

In the 1980s, after popularity had been established, N.W. Ayer released a new campaign series that questioned, “Isn’t two months’ salary a small price to pay for something that lasts forever?”. It is from this campaign that a cultural expectation for how much one should spend on an engagement ring was created.  

For decades since, two months’ salary had been the typical benchmark couples followed when determining how much to pay for a ring. By this rule of thumb, if your monthly income is $3,000, you would purchase a diamond engagement ring for $6,000. But is this still a widely followed rule? 

According to a 2017 wedding survey conducted by Ebates, the average price American’s expect to pay for an engagement ring is between $1,000 to $5,000. These amounts could satisfy the two months’ salary for some people, but for others it could be significantly less. Given the average amount American’s spend on an engagement ring, it could be assumed the rule coined by De Beer is out-dated. 

So, how much should you spend on an engagement ring? Here are a few tips we recommend: 

  1. Create a budget. Is two months’ salary reasonable for you and your financial situation, or would you be better off spending less than two months’ salary? Either way, you should spend an amount that feels comfortable for you. 
  1. Consider what characteristics of a ring are most important to you, or your partner. Do you prefer quality over size? What kind of cut do you prefer? What type of band do you like? Knowing what you like best and what is most important to you will help you settle on a budget. 
  1. Use a budget calculator. Using a budget calculator, like the Diamond Karma Budget Calculator is a great tool to better understand what size and what type of diamond a specified amount will afford you. Using the calculator can help you determine the type of ring and a price point to look in. 

Although the two months’ salary can be a great rule of thumb for some people to follow when purchasing a diamond engagement ring, it does not work for everyone. Thankfully, today’s social standards seem to not place as much emphasis on how much you should spend on an engagement ring. Ultimately, the amount you decide to spend should fit comfortably into your budget.