Here’s How Much You Should Spend on an Engagement Ring, According to Experts
You want the moment to be amazing, so don’t let the question of how much to spend on an engagement ring stress you out. Here’s what you need to know before buying.
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Will you marry me? People dream of the moment they get engaged, often citing it as one of the happiest days of their lives. And while, sure, you can just pop the question, doing it with an engagement ring is a powerful symbol of your love and commitment. Of course, you want something with a wow factor that your significant other will love and wear every day—but you also don’t want this one purchase to bankrupt you. So, while you’re looking at sparkly little works of art and learning all about cuts, color and clarity, your other big question will be how much to spend on an engagement ring.
The short answer? Perhaps not as much as you think. “It is a token of your love, but it’s as much about the effort you put into it, how well it fits the style of your partner and the memories as it is about the cost,” says Carrie Speed, an engagement ring specialist who co-owns Jewelfire Diamonds, a chain of jewelry stores in Colorado, with her husband, Grant.
“If I could bust two big myths about buying engagement and wedding rings, it would be the idea that you have to spend a lot to show your love and because it’s an ‘investment piece’ for your future,” adds Grant Speed, a gemologist. “Neither of these are true, and thinking this way can get you into financial hot water quickly.” Recognizing that you’re shopping mainly for sentimental value and taste can actually make the process a lot more free, fun and, ultimately, more affordable.
Since this may be one of the biggest single purchases you ever make, it’s important to know how much to spend on an engagement ring, as well as how to make a budget to finance it and whether or not to insure it. We talked to a variety of experts to gather all the info you need before you take the plunge and then start thinking about other engagement details, like whether you should propose before or after dinner and which knee you should propose on. Before you know it, you just may have a new fiancé … or is it fiancée? (Don’t worry, we have the answer to that too!)
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How much should you spend on an engagement ring?
The answer is as much practical as it is romantic: Spend only how much you can afford without going into long-term debt. “There just isn’t a concrete rule for what you should spend on an engagement ring anymore,” says LaDonna Cook, a certified financial counselor with GreenPath Financial Wellness, a nonprofit debt-counseling company. “In the past, you may have heard something like ‘spend at least two or three months’ salary,’ but that is more marketing than real advice. It does not consider stagnation of wages, increases in prices, new trends of student-loan debt and more.”
To figure out exactly what you can afford and how much to spend on an engagement ring, Cook recommends taking a holistic look at your financial situation. This includes:
- Your current and predicted income, including your average monthly income
- Your regular bills, like rent, utilities, food and medical care
- Your current credit card debt
- Your longer-term debt, like car, student and home loans
- Where you live (prices for rings vary widely around the country)
- How much you have in savings
- Large future expenses
- Your partner’s opinions, as this will likely become a joint debt
Sound overwhelming? Before you pick the perfect sparkler to slide onto your beloved’s ring finger, check out this simple engagement ring calculator, which takes into account other factors like your future goals and current lifestyle. “The important thing to remember when deciding how much to spend on an engagement ring is that it’s just one part of your life together as a couple,” says Grant Speed, adding that you’ll have several large major expenses in the near future that will impact you far more than the ring—think: the wedding, honeymoon, purchasing a home and/or children.
You should also avoid buying an engagement or wedding ring as an investment piece. “In the past, people saw jewelry as an important part of their household wealth,” explains Grant. “But the truth is, it is a depreciating asset, and you’ll never be able to sell your ring for what you bought it for.”
How much does the average engagement ring cost?
As of this writing, a one-carat diamond engagement ring—the most commonly sought-after style—typically costs around $5,500. But this can vary widely based on the source of the stone, cut, clarity, setting, whether the ring is custom-made or off the shelf, and the jeweler, says Grant Speed.
This tracks with what people are actually spending. According to a 2022 study from Credit Donkey, most couples reported wanting to spend between $1,000 and $5,000, though the average cost of an engagement ring was around $5,225. (This is actually down from 2019, when the average rang in at a whopping $7,750.) The survey also revealed that 9% spent more than $10,000 on an engagement ring in 2022.
Stunning engagement rings
Should you insure an engagement ring?
Yes, you should always insure your engagement ring, wedding rings and any other pieces of fine jewelry, says Grant Speed.
The first step is getting an independent appraisal of your ring, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t want it to appraise for a surprisingly high number. “People think that means they got a great deal, but in reality it means that you’ll pay more for insurance premiums and yet you won’t make that much money back if you ever try to sell it because the jeweler likely sold it to you at the market value,” explains Carrie Speed.
Once you have it appropriately appraised, you will generally need to purchase a separate rider for the ring on another insurance policy, like your homeowners insurance. “People often assume their homeowners insurance automatically covers their rings, but this usually isn’t the case,” explains Grant, adding that you can add a ring rider to nearly any type of insurance policy, including renters insurance and car insurance.
Speak to your insurance agent for more information about what your policy covers and any changes you would need to make to insure your rings.
How can you save money on an engagement ring?
Pay cash or get a personal loan
The number one mistake people make when buying an engagement ring is using the store financing, says Grant Speed. Big-box jewelry stores will heavily push their own in-house finance options, which come with very high interest rates. They often make more money on the financing than the ring itself. The solution is to either pay in cash or get a personal loan through your own bank before shopping, he says.
Use credit cards wisely
Cook doesn’t generally advise making large purchases like engagement rings on a credit card because they have very high interest rates, but they can save you money if you’re smart about it. There are two things to look for: cards that offer airline miles, money back or points that could be used toward your honeymoon; or cards that insure the ring through the credit card company. “Just make sure you have a plan to pay it off immediately,” she adds.
Make the proposal the surprise, not the ring
This is a ring your beloved will (hopefully) wear the rest of their lives, so one of the top etiquette rules of getting engaged is to make sure it’s something they really love—which usually means shopping with them before the proposal, at least to get an idea of what they like, says Donnie Brown, a celebrity wedding planner from the Style Network series Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? and the founder of Donnie Brown Weddings and Events in Dallas. If you surprise him or her with a ring they don’t love, they may feel pressured to accept it anyway because they want to say yes to the proposal.
Be flexible about stone options
These days, lab-created diamonds are about 30% cheaper than those mined from the earth, and they’re generally indistinguishable from traditional diamonds, even to trained gemologists. “Plus, they’re more ethical, sustainably sourced and better for the environment,” says Carrie Speed. She adds that many couples now are looking at more unique options like moissanite, colored gems, sapphires and pearls—although you should talk to your jeweler about the durability of those stones and how to set them so they last. “It’s still true that nothing is as hard as a diamond,” she notes.
Research the price of metal
Metal prices, like everything else, have skyrocketed over the past few years, but they do go up and down with the market. Do your research and look for a good time to buy the metal you’re interested in or consider a metal that is more affordable at that time. For instance, while you may really want platinum or titanium, you can often get the same look for less by using a different metal, like white gold, says Carrie Speed. You can also save money by choosing a premade band style rather than making it custom.
Another pro tip: Don’t limit your search to things named “engagement” rings—many cocktail rings work just as beautifully. You should also know the times of the year when it’s cheaper to buy certain items, including fine jewelry. This can save you a bundle.
Talk to your soon-to-be husband or wife
Open and honest communication is Cook’s top tip. “Financial issues are one of the top things couples fight about and can really affect the relationship. Use this as an opportunity to practice talking about money,” she says, adding that you should do this even if you want the ring itself to be a surprise. “Discussing how much you should pay for an engagement ring could be one of your first open conversations about money and an important step toward your and your partner’s future financial success.”
Look at heirlooms, not pawn shops
Do you have a ring that’s been in the family for generations? These make beautiful and sentimental engagement rings, says Cook. You can even take the existing stone and put it in a new setting to freshen it up. Some jewelers offer secondhand rings at a lower price as well. Avoid buying secondhand from pawn shops, though, as you can’t know what you’re really getting, says Grant Speed.
Once you’ve decided how much to spend on an engagement ring and have found “the one,” it’s time to move on to other pre-wedding plans—including figuring out the best wedding registries and which wedding traditions you should incorporate into your big day.
- Carrie and Grant Speed, engagement-ring specialists and co-owners of Jewelfire Diamonds
- LaDonna Cook, certified financial counselor with GreenPath Financial Wellness
- Donnie Brown, celebrity wedding planner from the Style Network series Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? and founder of Donnie Brown Weddings and Events in Dallas
- Credit Donkey: “Study: Average Engagement Ring Cost”