Promising Forever Without Blowing Your Budget
Three months' salary? Four times what your dad spent? Whatever the Ouija board says? When it comes to figuring out how much to spend on an engagement ring, most people start out baffled. After all, isn't it the ring itself that matters rather than the price tag? In short, yes—although you may find it helpful to consider the average prices of engagement rings when deciding how much to budget. When you're buying a ring for your beloved (or, heck, for yourself), only spend what's comfortable.
What Others Spend
Hold onto something: The average American spends more than $5,000 on an engagement ring. It's common to spend between $1,000 and $5,000, though, and most people agree that that's a reasonable price range for this investment.
What You Should Spend
First, let go of any notions about the connection between a ring and your monthly salary. That idea was invented by diamond company De Beers. Starting in the 1930s, the company ran ad campaigns stating that men should spend one month's salary on a ring, and increased the figure to two months by the 1980s. Many people still use those figures as a guideline, but you should feel free to ignore them completely.
Spending within your means is crucial when you have kids. You might be willing to survive on ramen for months if you overspend, but they won't be. That's why it's essential that you only spend what you can truly afford to lose.
To determine the right price tag for you, look at your bank account. Financial strain ends many marriages, so don't buy a ring that requires you to take on any debt. Figure out how much money you can afford to lose without affecting your ability to maintain a financial safety net in case you lose your job unexpectedly. That's your maximum ring budget, but ideally your target budget will be just a fraction of that number.
For many people, that number may be small. That's okay! Jewelry stores offer rings in a huge range of prices today. You can find a beautiful ring with real diamonds for $500 or a bit less. The gems may be small, but a strategically designed setting can make even tiny diamonds look impressive. If even that's not possible, ask a parent if you have any family heirloom rings you can use, or buy a simple band as a placeholder. You can always upgrade it in the future.
Who Buys the Ring
Tradition says that a man buys an engagement ring for his future wife. Of course, that tradition dates back to a time when many women didn't work and all marriages were between a man and woman.
Either one of you can buy an engagement ring today. A woman who wants to propose to her boyfriend might opt to buy him a special piece of jewelry to present when she pops the question and buy herself an engagement ring to celebrate when he says yes. In a relationship between two women, whoever decides to propose might buy the ring as a surprise, or you might both buy yourselves engagement rings after the proposal.
It's still most common for men to buy engagement rings, for sure. But if that's not the way it happens in your relationship, you're far from alone. Especially if you already have kids, either with your partner or from a previous relationship, you're already doing things a little bit nontraditionally.
How to Save on an Engagement Ring
If money's tight, you can try to maximize your ring budget in the months leading up to the engagement. Set up your bank account to automatically transfer a small portion of your paycheck into a separate savings account, or go the low-tech route and make it a habit of putting all your spare change in a coffee can at the end of the day.
Selling things you no longer need is an option too. If you think you're done having kids, take your children's gently used, outgrown clothes and toys to a local consignment shop or sell them online.
Finally, look for ways to trim your monthly budget, like canceling premium cable channels, eliminating takeout and having date night at home so you don't have to pay for a baby sitter. Little changes add up to big savings. Save $50 a month by cutting out non-essentials and within six months, you'll boost your ring budget by $300.
When it comes to buying the ring itself, shop strategically. Look for a ring with several smaller stones rather than one big one, and consider options other than traditional diamonds. A ring adorned with an emerald, pearl or sapphire might be more your style, or you might bypass gems altogether and opt for a beautiful filigree band instead. Whatever you do, don't buy impulsively. This ring has to last a lifetime, so it had better be perfect.
Kathryn Walsh has more than 20 years of experience working with children and has been writing about children and parenting topics for more than 10 years. Her work has appeared on sites including TheBump, Working Mother and Mamapedia.