How much should you spend on an engagement ring?

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Here’s one of my favorite money and gender questions: How much should someone spend on an engagement ring?

Out of curiosity, I once asked this at the dinner table, and my entire family put their forks down and stared at me. Not good.

I like this question because it highlights the gap between rational answers and emotional responses.

Whenever people talk about engagement rings on the internet, here is exactly what happens:

PERSON 1: “Hey guys! I’m going to get engaged to my girlfriend next month. How much should I spend on the engagement ring?”
PERSON 2: “Ugh! What a heteronormative paternalistic anachronism.”
PERSON 3: “I spent $42 on my engagement ring and we’ve been married 58 years.”
PERSON 4: “Forget diamonds. They’re all stained with the blood of exploited people. What about Mossanite/CZ?”
PERSON 5: “Any girl who *expects* an engagement ring is a gold digger! You need to break up with her now. You’re welcome.”

PERSON 1: (Commits suicide at the stupidity of the internet)

Before you answer, I’d like you to consider a few key points from this article: “Have You Ever Tried To Sell A Diamond?” This is the single-most interesting article I have ever read. Learn how diamond companies used highly sophisticated marketing and distribution to position diamonds as a luxury good, and how they have changed consumer perceptions over time.

Questions to ask before you leave a comment below:

  • Does how much to spend on an engagement ring depend how on much the guy makes? Or the woman?
  • What if the woman makes more than the guy?
  • How does Conscious Spending play into this purchase?
  • Do women want an engagement ring? Why or why not?
  • How does culture play into the decision of how much to spend on an engagement ring?
  • Does this change for same-sex couples?

Answers that will not be accepted because they are stupid:

  • “The divorce rate is 50% for everyone! Save your money!” (No, it’s really not.)
  • “This is ridiculous because it’s all anecdotes/stories. I want PEER-REVIEWED RESEARCH!!” (Attention, ass: There is no peer-reviewed research on how much you should spend on an engagement ring. That’s because this is water-cooler discussion, which is a valuable addition to quantitative data.)
  • “I hate you Ramit because you assume that only men buy women engagement rings and you are making all kinds of assumptions! Men and women are all different!” (First, this is obvious, but even within a heterogeneous group, there are still patterns. Second, if you’d like to offer up another view that applies to more than 10% of my readers, I am very open to it. However, edge cases of aboriginal nomads getting married on a crocodile farm in Malaysia (“THEY don’t buy engagement rings!”) do not count. We’re talking stories and averages, people.)

So, the QUESTION: How much should a man spend on an engagement ring?

Leave your comments below.

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369 Comments

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  1. I would say $2500. Anything more and it seems over the top. Anything less and you need to get your finances in order before getting married. Oh, my husband didn’t ask, he just bought it…. after asking my dad’s permission.

    • Some people may never be able to afford a $2500 piece of jewelry. (Or at least may have priorities that make a $2500 piece of jewelry unaffordable). Does that mean those people should never get married?

    • My spouse spent $1200, and I thought that was excessive (though appreciated it!)

    • I think it’s a horrible way to spend money, no matter how much of it you have. Spending $2500 on a little pretty rock would have been laughed at before people started mindlessly following the famous de beers ad campaign back in the 40s.

    • EPIC first comment. It’s astonishing how you assume $2500 is a good fixed price for every single person in every area of the US. Somehow you manage to take it further and assume everyone that can’t afford a $2500 ring (and I stress “EVERYONE” as I defined above) needs to “get their finances in order.” Thanks for the laugh. XD

  2. Personally, I believe it is whatever you want to afford. If you only making 60k a year, but want to buy a ring that is 8k, that is a choice you make and it will take you longer to save for it. I think as long as you can pay cash for it and you buy a rider for your insurance to cover it, you can buy as big as a ring as you want. This same question about cost of rings can be switched and rewritten as “how much should one spend on a car/clothes/house/etc.” and the answer really isn’t much different. If you can afford it, I think it is up to the individual on what is important and that should dictate how much they spend.

    • I agree with Chris H: whatever you can afford. My husband and I shopped for my ring together (I only wear 1 ring and it’s engagement-style, not a wedding band), and I talked him out of a flashier one for something that fit our budget and lifestyle. Money was tight then, and was about to become tighter so we have to be reasonable. My ring cost $1500 (in 2008). I love my ring and the commitment it symbolizes, and never take it off–unless I’m doing something like making meatballs or kneading bread dough. Every so often I think it would be nice to have another ring/more diamonds glittering on my fingers, but that’s just ego. I’d really rather have the money in the bank than on my fingers.

      I like the tradition of some European countries: the engagement ring and the wedding ring are the same ring (usually a plain gold band). When engaged, it’s worn on the ring-finger of the right hand; when married, it’s worn on the ring-finger of the left hand.

    • “This same question about cost of rings can be switched and rewritten as “how much should one spend on a car/clothes/house/etc.” and the answer really isn’t much different. ”

      Actually, the big difference in this question is that it deals more specifically with a romantic relationship between man and woman. The other material things are more of an individual thing.

  3. I think there’s two main factors:
    -What does your significant other expect
    -What can you afford

    If you don’t know what your significant other expects, have a conversation about it. Seriously. It doesn’t mean you have to go ring shopping together, but if you’ve talked about wanting to get married in the future, s/he has thought about this. In my case, my grandmother’s engagement ring was up for grabs in the family, and I really wanted it. My now-husband got the ring from my mom and spent a few hundred dollars on a new setting for the diamond because the ring itself was falling apart. We were seniors in college and that was probably literally all the money he had at the time (I am the saver, he is the spender). Given that once we were engaged the majority of my savings went toward paying his grad school, it would have been ridiculous for him to go into debt buying me a ring because I would have been the one paying off the debt.

    So if your significant other wants a basic ring with no stones, better to know that than to spend a lot of money on a more expensive ring s/he may not like anyway. And if your significant other expects a ring with five diamonds on it, then you have to look at whether you can afford a ring like that (and want to spend that much money on a ring). If there’s a big mismatch in your s.o.’s expectations and your financial ability, that’s a really good conversation to have NOW, before getting engaged, because it may have ramifications for the future.

    • I think the two points you mentioned here are key. My wife had a lot of expectations bottled up around her engagement ring, and I think that is true for a lot of women:

      - Finally receiving a gift they have likely anticipated their whole lives (and have probably already envisioned very specifically)

      - May wear it for the remaining duration of their lives–what will others think of it when she announces engagement/what will they think in thirty years

      - From what I’ve seen, for some women the price, size, quality, cut, number of stones, setting, etc. compared with the fiancee’s salary serves as a barometer for how strongly he actually cares about her (and definitely how much other women THINK he cares about her)

      In my situation, my fiancee and I had a very open dialog about the ring. I wasn’t making a lot of money at the time, and I’m generally extremely frugal, so I really needed to determine how much each of those expectations mattered to her.

      With engagement rings, price definitely does not determine quality, but could determine fulfillment of expectations. It also turned out that she had some very specific ideas about what she wanted–so specific, that I wanted her to go with me to help pick out a few ring styles.

      I nearly blew it by purchasing one she liked from a chain jeweler at the mall, but decided at the last minute to hold off. A few weeks later, we worked with a local jeweler to pick out a diamond and design a custom setting.

      I ended up spending a lot more than 2.5 months salary, but I can honestly testify that it was worth every penny–way more than our expensive wedding. Unlike a lot of things we buy, this one has really seemed to continue to make her happy. The key was understanding exactly what her expectations were, and determining where I could involve her to ensure they were fulfilled.

    • Meghan Williams Link to this comment

      Jessica and Jeff have got it: the most important thing is getting everyone’s expectations lined up. That means what does the woman want in the one piece of jewelry she’s assuming she’s going to wear every day for the rest of her life? What kind of ring did the man envision buying his bride to be? So as romantic as the idea of a surprise ring is, its much better to have very direct conversations before hand.

      After all, this is the first purchase of their lives together, so it deserve some attention.

    • Exactly this.

      We bought rings designed the way we wanted them to look. They were inexpensive compared to most general “rules” about ring costs. But they are exactly what we wanted.

      A fiance who wants to be surprised by her ring is a more troublesome issue to solve.

    • I totally agree with you, Jessica. And my son did the same thing with my mother’s diamond for his sweetheart. They were juniors in college. Two years later, they have automated their money (thanks to the IWTYTBR book I gave them) and due to their decision to continue living in their tiny student apartment even after he got a great job, they have saved enough for a down payment on a great house. I am thrilled to have a son and daughter-in-law who (IMHO) have their priorities correct.

    • Wish there was a “like” option for these comments. I think Jeff Haines does a really good job of explaining the myriad of factors that goes into getting a ring.

  4. The general rule of thumb is that you should spend 2.5x your monthly salary on a ring. But it really depends on a lot of variables. It depends on the (possible) wife’s expectations, your actual financial situation, what you would be comfortable with, amond others. And when I say, ‘what you would be comfortable with’, it may be that you would want to give a bigger ring than you ideally should for various reasons. Myself, I couldn’t see spending a ton of money on a ring, I’d rather give something simple and elegant and spending more money on a down payment for a house or something.

    • The 2.5 rule is total BS IMHO. It’s a guideline set by the diamond marketers. 2.5 MONTHS salary for a ring? That’s like a car…but for a ring.

      I spent less than .5 months salary on a ring. I found a jewelry design I really liked and had it custom designed based on an idea I had specific to our relationship so that it was very meaningful (this counted WAY more than stock-but-expensive in my case, and I suspect in many cases thought trumps dollars), went with a red stone instead of a diamond, had a platinum setting…all without breaking the bank. The ring is killer. Granted, I make a fair amount of money so the .5 months goes a decent ways, but if I made less I would have compromised on the metal (example: my wedding ring is titanium, so it’s light and indestructible, cost only $40, is and awesome), or found another designer or something. But with Etsy these days you can be very, very creative.

      I think a much more healthy guideline is, “as much as needed to make her happy,” which for most people will probably be much less than 2.5 MONTHS salary, especially, as Ramit talks about, if you get into the head of your customer (e.g. the girl) and get some tailored to make her happy vs. something based on some guideline that doesn’t apply to her. If you’re going to propose this shouldn’t be too hard a thing to do!

  5. Wow. The first few responses are excellent, thoughtful comments. I am impressed.

    • I completely agree with Jeff’s response. Having an open dialogue from the get-go and really talking about those expectations and what you can afford is so important, not just with purchasing a ring, but with any big ticket purchase. I told my (now) husband exactly what I had wanted (general guidelines) and he did all the research and figured out what fit into his budget. He did an amazing job picking out my ring, based on a few helpful guidelines from me, and I couldn’t be happier! Every single time I look down at my engagement ring, it reminds me of how much time and effort he put into finding the perfect ring for me! That in and of itself is priceless!

  6. In keeping with the spirit of I Will Teach… here are the HONEST guidelines for what a man should spend on an engagement ring (based on the criteria I used when buying one):

    1. Enough to buy a ring that is about as big and shiny as her friends’ rings;
    2. About 50% more than you can genuinely afford.

    If you’re tempted to use other criteria: think again.

    (The exception to that is if you have a very nice family heirloom that you can give as an engagement ring. Emotional AND thrifty, which is a rare combo.)

    • Hamed I totally agree! I didn’t have any preconceived notions of rings or diamonds when I got engaged so the “about the same as her friends have” was something my husband used in his selection. I always liked emeralds was all I told my husband. We had moderately high incomes at the time but are both working full time in an industry where we can expect them to grow over time so stretching to about 50% more than you can genuinely afford and incurring some debt for the engagement ring was ok for us. God willing it will be with our family for generations, just like the Amish made hutch that we got this year on the 5 year anniversary of our marriage.

    • Hamed,

      I worry about the answer that you have given because I see these things daily. I live close to 2 big universities and there are jewelry shops EVERYWHERE! My wife and I just celebrated our 6th anniversary and we spent $800 on her wedding set.

      I have a young friend getting married next month, and despite any council I could share with him he purchased a $4500 wedding set and a matching $2200 band for himself. He did thins because that was her expectation to be able to compete with her friends in sparkle and size.

      This would be fine if he had a job. They are both college students and big diamonds are what all of the little girls on campus want. He justified that it was affordable because they were on sale, and they could afford the monthly payments.

      Just my thoughts – all of these young women expect to be treated like a princess regardless of the consequences.

    • I agree with Hamed and I did the same thing. I wanted to get something that made her stand out to everyone else the way she stands out to me (man, that’s super corny – another crass way to say it is “I wanted her to have the biggest rock in the room”). In the end, though, the only reason I went out of my budget was because I was able to get 0% financing and pay it off before that expired. However, I would tweak #2 slightly:

      2) About 50% more than you were willing to spend, but not more than you can genuinely afford.

      For instance: I went in there with a number in mind, but ended up going above and beyond and as a result of that I had to sacrifice other purchases that I wanted to make.

  7. When we got engaged, I was prepared to spend ‘as much a she needed me to spend’. I took her with me to pick out the ring.

    I was pleasantly surprised and delighted when she turned her nose up at diamonds altogether. She only wanted a simple band without a stone.

    You see my wife did not grow up in America. In her country, all that is expected is matching bands. (she comes from a nation that is considered an economic powerhouse in the western world).

    Diamonds are not a necessity at all. She chose her own without any prompting from me.

  8. Question #1: What does your fiancee-to-be like? [I went ring shopping with my wife-to-be and she actually picked out a less expensive ring because she liked the smaller diamond. Apparently size doesn't matter to her. :) Also, does she want an engagement ring/wedding ring set that works together or does she want an engagement ring and a simple wedding band is something that factors into everything.]

    Question #2: What is your budget? [I would suggest paying cash for a ring. And how much you spend on it is a completely personal decision.]

    I made the choice to return to my hometown and get all 3 of our rings from a family friend who is a jewelrysmith. Sure, it helped budget-wise as he gave us a good deal, but I also liked the fact that our rings came from someone we knew as opposed to someone who we don’t know.

    And we are celebrating our 12th anniversary in a few days, so it’s worked out great so far!

    • James, your tale of how you bought the rings brought a smile to my face. When my husband and I were married, our venue was a greenhouse where I had volunteered in younger days. And our officiant was a fellow volunteer I had worked with. You brought back some very fond memories for me, and your story serves as a good reminder that lifelong memories can be made regardless of the dollar figure you spend (or don’t) on “The Big Day”.

  9. I didn’t get an engagement ring because we had no money when we got married, and what we didn’t have needed to go toward immigration expenses. Once my husband is naturalized, I’ve told him I want a nice ring. I joked that we should spend on it what we spent on his immigration (about $12k). Realistically, I think we’ll probably spend the money to get my great grandmother’s ring remade for me, plus whatever it costs for a nice matching wedding ring that didn’t cost $20 like my current one.

    When I was engaged, a lot of people didn’t believe we were “for real” because we didn’t have a ring, and this frustrated me. (Either that or they assumed I was pregnant). I actually considered getting a cheap zirconia ring just to shut people up. I can understand why women want one. I don’t know what a diamond ring goes for these days, but it seems that if you are reasonably able, a mans should spend whatever is “normal” for his/his fiancee’s peer group. The fact that Kim Kardashian got a huge pink diamond matters less to most women than that she has a ring that is like most of her friends’.

    • Partly we bought a ring to look ‘real’ to immigration. I do sometimes think he got the better end of the deal – he spends $1200 on a ring, I spend something ridiculous on his visa fees and citizenship. Oh well, I’m always going to earn more than him!

  10. It’s not how much you spend, it’s how much better the ring looks when compared to the engagement rings that all of her friends get!

    In all seriousness, this is the wrong way to look at the question. It isn’t about setting a dollar figure and then hitting that; it’s about getting what you want and using money as a means to that end.

  11. What should someone spend? Should seems like a very weighted word.

    People are told to spend between 2 and 3 months worth of salary (of course, they’re told that by the same industry that’s selling them the rings, so, I’m not certain why that’s considered ‘gospel’).

    My husband spent 2 months salary on my ring, but, he was working at Starbucks at the time so this was under $1000. He also had over $30,000 in savings at the time and was able to pay for the whole thing in cash.

    Perhaps some other girls would have been angry he didn’t spend more (especially since he had it in the bank) but I appreciate his frugality (except when he spends 20 minutes deciding which cereal to get). It was potentially a risky move as his brother had dropped $12k + on a giant Tiffany’s ring for his wife just 2 years earlier, but, I have a feeling he knew me well enough to know I’d prefer the smaller, less-expensive ring and more in savings.

    The one disagreement we had is that he wanted the engagement ring to serve duel functions as the engagement ring and wedding ring. I wanted an actual wedding band. The solution was simple, I found a platinum band I adored at an estate sale for $200 and bought it with my own money.

  12. In the US (at least, the part I’m from) the general rule of thumb is that you pay approximately 2.5x your monthly salary on an engagement ring. From the other comments, it looks like this is probably still the norm. Other factors obviously go into it, like savings, expectations from the soon-to-be fiance, cultural norms, etc. It also doesn’t hurt to know her preference in cut ahead of time ;)

    When I went ring shopping 14 years ago (ironically, it woulda been about to the day, as I got engaged on the 19th), I went in knowing what cut I was looking for, and intent on following the 2.5 guideline. There was nothing in that range that I thought she’d like. Everything was either way outside what I could afford, or about 1.5x my monthly salary. Rather than start our life together in debt, I opted to pay cash for something that I knew she’d love in the 1.5 range, which left enough in the bank for deposit and first month’s rent for our first apartment together :)

    • I like almost all the responses so far. People are right, it needs to fit in the budget, period. And most women appreciate thoughtfulness over expense. Who care if it cost 2 months salary if you can’t pay the bills. But if it cost 1/2 a months salary and she loves it, then that is all that matters.

  13. ASK HER what she wants attached to her hand for the rest of her life. I was happy with matching bands (seriously) because I’m a clutz and manage to scratch the bejeezus out of myself and everyone around me with a sharp ring. But we got a big rock, because he likes seeing it on me. I’m happy because he’s happy. Everybody won because we compared our expectations and went with the greatest satisfaction solution. Also, we have comic relief when my ring attacks him randomly.

    Who wants to live with even a little bit of resentment every single day? Over something as silly as jewelry? You’ll have to learn to discuss money eventually – this is the best time to start.

  14. Well I can give several answers to this one.

    We wed 23 years ago. I was a geology student at the time we got engaged and remarked at how expensive a bit of metal and some grit was… yeah that was a good comment! :D

    I’m UK based and have never heard the 2.5x monthly wage line – it’s “a month’s salary” over here… but I spent more than that as I was a student. :)

    I’ve got a different line now that I am a wedding photographer – you should spend more on your wedding photography than on the engagement ring! Well you’ve got to be hopeful, haven’t you? ;)

    And the serious answer: a month’s salary still seems like a good number to me.

  15. The Atlantic article was great, I read it the first time you shared it. I wish I’d known that when I was looking for a ring (We would have ring-shopped at a pawn store!). I have a frugal wife with simple tastes and I spent about two weeks worth of income on a platinum band, 3/4 carat diamand.

    I didn’t read your divorce rate article yet, but anecdotally, I’d say the larger the ring insisted upon by the wife, the greater the likelyhood of divorce. When you want things solely to impress others, you’ll never be satisfied with life and by extension, your husband.

    • This is the best comment so far. I also spent way less than 2.5 months salary on my wife’s engagement ring because even though I was making a lot of money at the time, my wife and I both agreed that there were better things we could do with that money, like pay for our own wedding and go to Brazil on our honeymoon, for instance.

      One thing I would add is that over the long term, the proposal story is more important than the ring, so make it romantic. I randomly popped the question on Xmas eve, without a ring, and I’ve been hearing hell about it ever since.

    • A good solution for people who are marrying someone with very specific tastes is to pop the question with some kind of symbolic ring. Pick out something affordable or that holds special meaning and use that to pop the question. Having a ring to show off right away – even if it is just a placeholder – means a lot. Another option is to buy a ring from a jeweler you already know and trust. Then let your now fiance trade it in for the dream ring.

    • Henry, I fully agree with you. If she “want’s things solely to impress othres” you are in for future trouble in the relationship. Just say no to some other ‘like the Jones’s’ want or loose your job and see what happens..

  16. Michal Palczewski Link to this comment

    One should educate themselves and read stuff like that article you sent. Read about blood diamonds and what not(if you care about that sort of thing). Read until you feel educated enough about the purchase you are going to make. Whatever amount you feel is right after that is probably the right amount.

  17. This is a really interesting post, Ramit. Ultimately, like everyone else has implied or stated outright, it’s a highly individual thing and has to depend on all the factors you listed. But the most important thing to remember is that buying an engagement ring is a gift, and no one (ideally) knows your fiancee like you do. Have a conversation with her (not being able to do that doesn’t bode well for your communications skills going into a marriage). While I understand that I am the exception rather than the rule in this regard, I would have been horrified if my now-husband had spent more than $150 on my ring – I just didn’t care that much about price, I had a lot of things that were much more important to me (i.e. Conscious Spending), and I let him know that. I also would never have wanted a diamond. He knew all that about me, and he bought me a really cool vintage garnet from an antique store. My point is NOT that you shouldn’t spend a lot of money on a ring, but that an engagement ring is the most culturally, socially, and personally significant gift you will ever give someone, so you better be damn sure of what she likes and/or expects. And unless she is really an exception, DON’T skip it. If you do, like another commenter mentioned, people will not think you are “for real.” Marriage, after all, is a social convention more than anything else, and adherence to some level of social norms is key to group belief in the construct.

    Romance, yay!

    • Nice point about the deep significance of a ring. Thanks.

    • I agree. The actual act of giving a ring at all is more significant than the price of the ring. Giving a ring signifies the willingness to take on the cost, not of a ring, but of marriage itself. Moving in together and putting both of your junk (material, financial, emotional, all of it!) under one roof is no small sacrifice, and certainly not one to be taken lightly, or done on a whim. I do think that it can be good to spend more on a ring than you would on a standard impulse buy, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a lot. I spent $175 on the ring I gave to my wife. It doubled as the wedding ring, she LOVED it, and it took 3 months of layaway for me to pay for at the time.

    • Yeah. Conscious spending is a big deal to me, too. My first wedding ring was just a band, and I was fine with that. If I get married again, though *and we have money to burn* I’ve always wanted a really nice emerald ring, and a wedding is a good excuse to get one. If I can get a vintage one at an estate sale, so much the better.

  18. One should spend what they’re comfortable with on a ring they’re happy presenting. This is an individual decision – and I made it earlier this year. I’d been saving up for a long time, so I had $5,000 as my ceiling. Money is relative and I’m fortunate to be in a place where I had such a budget.

    I sat down with my semi-wife-to-be and discussed diamond alternatives. We also talked about colored stones. After several discussions, nights looking at rings, and a few shop visits, I knew full well that I could “get away” with spending as little as $500 and she’d be happy. I also knew what really caught her eye, but she wouldn’t ask for because she thought it was too expensive.

    I wanted to give her a real gem, not an imitation, though not an overpriced diamond. I decided that I wanted to go with a blue sapphire – which didn’t end up being much more affordable than a similar-sized so-so quality diamond. I also wanted her to have something unique, something you wouldn’t spot on another finger, and found a beautiful designer setting to put the sapphire in.

    I used my budget up and don’t regret it for a moment. I had the money saved, it didn’t impact my savings/retirement goals, and she adores it. It was perfect.

  19. I looked at this from a logical angle.
    1. I love (now my wife) this person
    2. How much am I willing to risk to show her my love
    3. What would she like
    When we got engaged I know it would be a while ( 4 years ) before we got married. We both were graduating from Undergrad and about to start professional school and work together. To my point (1) I loved and still love her with all my soul, but again poor college student didn’t have the capital to put that in a ring. So to my point ( 2 ) I put as much as I had in my savings account and borrowed a little extra from my parents ( only to find that the setting and rock was not a package deal , should have done more research) I spent 3,500 dollars. I made sure I was not going into debt but spent all I could even though I was in-debt to my parents it carried no interest. Now to my point ( 3 ) I got her a setting she dreamed about a setting i found took forever to find for my price point. I had a woman laugh at me when I said I wanted to get the setting for less than 2k. Yet I found my ring after 6 months of searching for less than 2k .. to find that it came with no center stone so I borrowed another 1.7k from my folks.
    I am now married and happy with this decision. Everyone has a different take but this was mine and I do not regret it. In the end remember that this purchase should have no regrets if you regret it today than you will regret it later and maybe into your marriage. Now I plan for my 10 year wedding anniversary I plan to upgrade her .75k hearts on fire diamond to a 1.5k diamond. It will be 20 years that we have been together at that point and it is my way to show her how much she means to me. If i could buy her the world I would. Like one guy mentioned he had 30k in the bank I had about that in non-liquid funds cashing out some stocks I think my now wife would have killed me, but I was considering it. I was happy that I didn’t need to and had my parents help. The only thing I would tell my future son or anyone is get what she wants and don’t feel regret on the purchase it should come from the heart. If you go into “Real” debt negotiate more or lower your expectations on the ring. If she is really the person for you it will not matter in the end. What will is if you regret paying to much or too little. My dad told me he spent too little and he regretted that till today. My grandpa spend too much and he regretted that as well … Just took 3 generations to get it right ;-)

  20. This is the kind of question that has no right answer. It is just very personal. I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell what we did when we were about to get engaged.
    Recent graduates, buying our first house (at the time we were moving in together. The engagement was more of a comforting msg to my parents than something I felt necessary) and without many assets. At some point, I told him that, if I was going to wear the ring for the rest of my life maybe we should go window shopping together to give him an idea of what I liked. But me, being an engineer, looking always at the practical side of things, had to ask the question…
    “Are you really willing to pay that much money for a rock?”
    “Uhhh… Yes. Do I have an option?”
    “Of course. Why don’t you write me a check instead?”
    “WHAT?”
    “Look. We are buying a house, we still don’t have furniture, I am sure the house will need some upgrade. Let’s be realistic. At this point in our lives, this money would be better invested on something we can use, rather than on a glittery thing hanging on my finger.”
    … I think he fell in love with me all over again. :-)

    • I really like Emily’s answer!
      I was engaged in 1984. And we are still happily married :-)
      I never cared for jewelry, but I loved music.
      So my fiance bought me one of the first CD players, about $500 at that time which was almost one month net salary for him… With a great CD: Pink Floyd, Dark side of the moon.

      It was a fantastic surprise and I loved it! It also meant that he knew me and knew my values.

      Not all girls like a ring… Thank God for diversity!

  21. Having recently gone through the process (proposed on Christmas Eve), I can say it depends on the relationship and the expectations that follow. I spent much more than “what people would tell you,” and it was well worth it — I WANTED to do it.

    For me, I came down to what I thought she’d love that wouldn’t destroy my bank account. She also loves cocktail rings, so I ended up getting her something custom. But here’s the interesting thing: we’ve recently had to get it resized and my mother decided to loan her engagement ring in the meantime, which is much simpler, smaller and nothing like what I got her.

    She LOVES it — I feel it’s a purely emotional thing. When I asked her, “what if I proposed with my mum’s ring,” she said she’d have taken it — of course she says that knowing she has her own ring. But who knows — I totally believe her.

    For some, it’s emotional and a ring’s monetary value is irrelevant. For others, monetary value is important — but that’s assuming a ring is needed to begin with.

    This is one of those times you listen to people’s opinions, ignore them and spend what you want — as long as you don’t have to go back to having Ramen 3 times/day. Not that there’s anything wrong with Ramen.

  22. What is the purpose of the ring and of marriage? A marriage is not made or broken by the ring itself but rather the individuals who are uniting together. That being said the marketing behind the necessity of needing a ring is nothing short of brilliant. De beers, from what I can see, is the genius behind the slogan “Diamonds are forever” and the idea that a ring should cost 2-3 times your monthly salary…and they have been very successful with making this stick in our minds.

    The ring buying process is multifactorial and involves much more than simple economics. Culture and societal standing play a huge role in this..I mean when was the last time you saw a movie star with a $50 engagement band? Of course if they are conscious about their spending then who’s to say it’s wrong (though I suspect it’s more of an expectation rather than a conscious choice).

    My wife and I married right out of college (engaged when I was a senior). We bought a wedding band as her engagement ring for ~$100 (that was 11 years ago) because that was all I could afford. We then got some wedding rings on sale, on credit/layaway for a few hundred dollars each.

    What I find most interesting about this whole topic is the fact taht the man is expected to buy the ring(s). I suspect this comes from America’s long history of a male dominated society and one in which women were not really employed for very long if at all at any level. This obviously has changed over the past 50 years but some traditions just never go away.

  23. By the way, can we also talk about how jewelers make out with BILLIONS of dollars off of the ignorance of people when it comes to buying diamonds?

    Most guys hate jewelry so buying something like this is not only a pain, but also a one-time thing (ideally) and not many of them will put in the time to figure out exactly what the process is. That’s where jewelers take advantage and can gut your wallet.

    I did a crap ton of research before buying the ring (over a year) and even with all that knowledge, it still was hard to fight the emotions, knowing I was getting it for one I wanted to be with forever.

    For example, you can put a 0.99 ct. & a 1 ct. diamond together, not notice the difference visually but still pay up to thousands more because that “1″ puts you in a different Carat bracket.

    And we haven’t talked about the other C’s: Clarity, Color and Cut.

    It’s so fascinating…

    • Gutting the wallet isn’t just about buying wedding rings but about anything to do with jewelry. For example I lost a lot of weight ~65lbs and my ring became way way too big and wanted to size it down.

      I talked with several different jewelers who stated it couldn’t be resized and buy a new ring or buy a new ring and we will put it inside your existing ring. Either way estimates where in the $400-$1,000 dollar range. ~ 3 weeks ago on a whim I asked a small watch/jewelry repair shop about resizing it. They took ~ 2 minutes to look at it and said it could be done in two weeks for for $40. Two weeks later I have a ring that fits and a lot more money in my pocket.

      As a side this is also the same repair shop that rebuilt my watch for $60 a couple years back when everyone else was telling me to trade it in to them and spend a few hundred dollars to get a new comparable watch.

  24. My husband and I split the cost, both did our homework on buying the diamonds, and paid cash. We were both in grad school, making next to nothing, so it made sense to split the bill.

    I wanted a non-traditional ring anyway, and we ended up with something I truly love. We were making about 35K combined, and spent $1800 on the ring and warranty.

    We’re not perfect about money, but this felt like such a big deal at the time that we tried to do it the best way we know how.

  25. I don’t know what the typical “rule of thumb” is, and I don’t really care. I do care about symbolism and for me, being female, I would like a ring, but only if it was a mutual financial decision between me and my husband-to-be.

    The way I see it, every purchase made represents opportunity cost, and I’d want to put our (see, that’s a joint decision) dollars to something meaningful without compromising other things. Heck, I’d take a nice vacation, a down payment on a house, or just topping up RRSPs (I’m Canadian) before I’d take a ring. It’s about balancing societal pressures with personal desires.

    In fact, I hope that things over time change to meet a more relaxed and personal-driven choice. It should be mutual – after all, isn’t this a symbol of starting a life together with someone else? Best to be starting out on the right financial footing.

  26. The smallest amount that will make the woman happy. I know my wife wanted something to show her friends, and I knew she was really traditional and would want a legit diamond. I was therefore screwed. I spent about $4k.

    If I could have gotten away with less, I would have. Moissanite is a much cooler stone AND it costs less. If I were buying something for myself, or a less traditional woman, there’s no question that’s what I would get.

  27. I truly WISH I could say money is not an issue, and the point of the engagement ring is to make the significant other feel happy and feel special. This is supposed to be the only time this will ever happen, even if you spend lets say $10k, if you’re married for 50 years that’s just $200 a year.

    However, we don’t all have $10k to spend so it really depends on your partner. True love does not depend on how much a ring is.

    Even as I type this I feel like cringing inside because I know so many girls who care a lot about their marriage. I’m Asian, and the girls from Hong Kong do seem to have a big social pressure to have married well. The most obvious aspect of that is of course, how rich is her man……….

    I think I’m done trying to comment…this is too difficult of a topic!!! Save me Ramit! LOL

  28. I don’t think there’s really any “should” about it. It all depends on a) what you can afford, and b) what the expectations are of both people involved.

    If you’re marrying someone who expects an engagement ring to cost $2k and you get her a $500 ring, there are probably going to be problems. Conversely, if you’re marrying someone who wants a $50 ring or no ring at all and just a wedding band later and you buy her a $2k ring, there are also probably going to be problems. But if you go into serious debt to buy a ring you cannot afford, there are going to be problems there too. The ring itself is a symbol of commitment. And like most symbols, they can mean very different things to different people. If your fiance expects you to go into debt to finance a ring, or has drastically different expectations than you about how much a ring should cost, well, that might be a foreshadowing for things to come. After all, money and sex are the two things that couples argue about the most.

    Personally, my fiance spent about $500 on my ring, and I adore it. I would have been very happy with a less expensive ring than that, and knowing that $500 was VERY expensive for him (since he had been unemployed for about 5 months at the time he bought it) made me feel both like I was very important to him and also a bit uncomfortable that he stretched his finances that much.

  29. As many have said, it depends on several factors with the key factors being what can be afforded and expectations of the receiving partner. My “love language” is NOT gifts and I don’t need to show off anything (except my wonderful boyfriend). I’ve found some rings that I really liked for less than $100. It takes my boyfriend hours to pick out cards for me as they have to say “just the right thing” — he means all the stuff the cards say and THAT is a big deal because they DO speak from his heart. We have had the ring discussion … when he gets one, it will speak from his heart as do his cards. I don’t want or need a diamond — I saw some great sapphire rings a few weeks ago and absolutely loved them … heck, I’ve even seen blue tiger eye rings at the flea market that were spot on (and definitely under $100). At this point in my life (50+) … I have nothing to prove to anyone and there are lots of fun things we could do with the money one would normally spend on an engagement ring — a vacation or cruise would be nice :)

  30. Totally depends on the woman. Even though I was not a woman who dreamt all her life about getting married, the engagement became an important demonstration to me that he valued our relationship enough to do the planning to finance a ring of some substance. I don’t know and don’t really care what he spent, but understanding that he spent a long time making sure he was getting me something he would be proud to show off, while doing it in a financially responsible way, was so much more valuable to me than any number! I never thought a ring could mean so much until I had it on my finger as a reminder of all his hard work to show me he was invested in our future together.

  31. I find it interesting that some people talk communication and expectations, while others cite a “rule” in society. I definitely think short- and long-term happiness are much more likely if you follow the advice of the former.

  32. I spent 30% of my monthly income at the moment of proposal on the ring (it wasn’t a lot due to my career only starting back then). I wanted it to be white gold as she likes it most and to have a decent diamond, so I went for the one that was within my budget.
    I’m from Russia, btw, we do not have your tradition of spending multiple salaries on an engagement ring, so my decision was less dictated by the tradition and more by willingness to find the compromise between the looks and the emotion from the ring and my budget.
    She was a student at the moment, but when I think about it, even if she was making 10x I was, I still wouldn’t spend more. The value of the ring is the symbolism first and foremost.
    But this is an assumption of course, I do not know what I would think in real life if she actually spent 10x times more.

  33. I fall somewhere between “whatever she wants” and “what I can afford”. I took my girlfriend out ring shopping and she picked out the one she wanted. I looked at the price, thought “I can easily afford that” and we left. Bought it the next day, setting up the proposal now. Marriage is a partnership, so the ring and how much to spend on it should be a joint decision.

  34. Metaphorically – It is like asking “How much time should one spend in the Toilet?”
    – First you gotta get in and initiate the process and negotiate satisfaction level
    – Secondly, you got a keep an eye on how much Paper you have …

    Simple as that! – ( if you get the metaphor, of course)

  35. Everyone has some points here. Do educate yourself on assessing diamonds before you shop for one, and get a jewelers loop.

    Points I strongly agree with: Ask her input. Spend what you can afford and are comfortable with, not necessarily a preset number, like 2.5x your monthly salary. (Mine was 1/2 my husband’s monthly salary, $1600.) It is a personal gift, so the only really important factors are her happiness and your comfort with the price.

  36. I grew up in the good ole US of A but have never really understood the desire to get an engagement ring. I like other nice material things- shoes, clothes, furniture, bags- I even like jewelry in general- but I guess I’m not a jewel kinda girl. Also, why does only the woman get something? Why doesn’t the guy get a gift? And doesn’t everyone know already about the crazy De Beers cartel/monopoly by now?

    Instead of buying a ring, we saved up and took off for six weeks in Southeast Asia. Wasn’t planned (by me) as an engagement trip but worked out that way. Bought matching inexpensive silver wedding bands in Laos. Followed an old tradition from somewhere (Italy?) and wore the rings on our right hands until we got married and moved them to the left. Planned to replace the silver bands with something fancier when we got back, but then grew too attached to sentiment and memory of the Laos rings. So here we are, four years later, wearing silver rings that combined cost less than $50.

    In a post-1970s America, none of this feels revolutionary, but I guess I’m surprised there aren’t more IWTY readers that feel this way.

    • You guys are so cool. That’s awesome. I really want a beautiful ring someday but if that were on the table, I would be persuaded to skip on the ring.

  37. My personal answer is: NOTHING! I inherited a gorgeous heirloom diamond from my grandmother. If he tries to give me anything else, he’s crazy. If you need something to offer during the proposal, do it with the wedding band that you’ll eventually have to buy anyway.

  38. Perspective from a girl who hopes to get engaged soon:
    The one thing I’ve made perfectly clear is that I want an antique. I don’t care for the new styles and I love old things, and my boyfriend is fully aware of this. I’m also smallish, and a big stone would look ridiculous on me! (lucky him, huh?) We’ve discussed styles and price point, and have figured out that it’s easy enough to find a 1/2-carat, 100-or-so-year-old ring for well under $1500.

    I do think it’s important to cost a bit beyond what you would pay for a regular gift, because it shows that a man has thought about it, planned for it, saved his pennies for you, and can put forth the effort to make his girl happy.

  39. On “The Office” I think he spent 2.5 years salary.

    Discussion with your fiance is the most important part, including how it’s gonna get paid for.

  40. I ended up spending around $9k on the ring for my wife, so around 1.8x month’s salary at the time. I spent months doing research, went to stores, finally ended up using a site that one of my friends ordered his fiancee’s ring on (won’t say which so I don’t seem like a shill). She had previously said things like “I don’t know if I really want a ring or if I want a diamond” and what not. I knew her well enough to know that she would like it once it was on her finger. And she loves the ring. 1ct brilliant, f-color, VS2, excellent cut in a white gold setting with two 1/8ct pear shaped diamonds flanking it and worth every penny.

    Had to pay it off over a couple of months but that was a conscious decision to keep other cash available for expenses that I knew I was going to have coming up.

    In the end it depends on the relationship and people’s situation at the time.

  41. I LOVE this question ;)
    when I started thinking about buying my future fiance a ring I did what any sane geek does… research the shit out of the market!

    I came across many of the articles you highlighted in this post, found alternatives to diamonds, discovered the history of engagement rings and the relative newness of DIAMONDS as engagement rings and where the notion of X times the guy’s monthly salary (pre or post tax? 1x? 2x? 2x?) and after a lot of head spinning and anger, I came to the following conclusion:

    I wasn’t prepared to start a marriage on a massive boat load of debt on something that wasn’t even going to hold it’s value in the slightest (I’d only just clawed my way out in the first place)

    so rather than actually spend a fuckton of money on a single item that may not even make my intended happy (sh’e not in anyway a materialistic person and abhors the notion of a MASSIVE ROCK) I did what any mature and enlightened couple should do – discuss it.

    so we went shopping together in a known area of the UK for quality jewelry without too much retail markup, a place where there’s around 50 independent jewelers and what we discovered is that what she thought she’d like, was nothing like what she actually liked on her finger. it was a small 1/3 ct stone but large enough on her dainty hands that it was noticeable, but not so large it was grotesque. she was over the moon with it as we made the decision together and the cost wasn’t so huge that it would limit our spend on our impending nuptuals or cause us to scrimp on our honeymoon <– experiences over material goods any day of the week :)

    final cost was about 1/3rd of my monthly salary, easily affordable without looking 'cheap' – we had the ring valued for insurance purposes (of course it won't be worth this thanks to the stranglehold in the diamond market) but it was valued at about 30% more than we paid :)

    as a side note, we made our own wedding rings in a wedding ring workshop and for the same cost that the rings would've cost anyway, we had so much fun and now have two items that mean more to us personally than can ever be bought in a shop. and you'd never know they weren't made professionally, such was the quality of the workshop.

  42. I’m a lesbian and engaged to another woman. We had a frank discussion of what our values were around engagement rings. We decided that between $500 and $1000 was a good range for us based on what we earned and what we thought was reasonable for us. It helped that neither one of us wanted a diamond, and neither one of us wanted to wear our rings full time post getting married (for us, that’s what wedding rings are for). We both love our rings, and I feel great about what we spent. Really the important thing to us was that it be a conversation and reflect our values as a couple. (And yes, it was still romantic to get my ring, even after I knew the budget!)

  43. I’ll spend what it costs to get the ring she likes. If she’s hung up on making sure it costs at least X number of dollars then I don’t want to marry her. It’s a symbol of commitment, not an investment portfolio. “Investing” a higher dollar amount in a ring isn’t going to result in a better marriage.

  44. I think it’s ridiculous to spend lots of money on something that is supposed to be “symbolic” and has no practical use. Quite frankly, I would have been pissed if he spent more than $500 on the engagement/wedding band set. We shopped together and found a beautiful sterling silver/sapphire set that I adore to this day. The pressure on dudes to buy the “right” ring and spend the “right” amount of money is unfair. Ladies, be happy with what you get and lose the “princess” state of mind. There are more important things in life… and waaaaay cooler things to buy/do with that much money.

    • We spent less than $500 on our entire wedding, including dress and rings.
      There is no should on an engagement ring, as with any other gift given. Or anything expense. How much should I spend on at TV? Well depends alot. If you are with the right person he will either know or be able to ask what you expect from this ritual gift giving in making a promise that someday you will legally bind yourself to another person.

  45. Measuring how much to spend on an engagement ring based on income without considering debt and how much you’ve already saved / are saving is ridiculous. If I had to give an answer, I’d say pay as much or as little as you want, as long as you pay in cash. (Balance transfers and the like don’t count!)

    Also, if you’re really concerned about the ‘value’ of the ring (the only thing that *really* matter is how your wife values it, but anyways: ) buy an antique ring. They have character, they’re unique, and they cost much less than an equivalent ring new. In fact, I couldn’t buy a new ring like the one I bought– the techniques used are no longer considered cost effective, because back then people actually used to take pride in making something beautiful instead of worrying how much they could sell it for. How cool is that?

  46. As an aside, a friend of my wife’s takes the salary multiple to the extreme. whenever her husband gets a promotion, she damands a new engagement ring to match the new salary (1 month, 2 months? who knows…) and adds the outgoing one to a jewelry box with all her previous e-rings…

    well if that’s what makes you happy, each to their own!

  47. When it comes to an engagement ring, simple rule, buy the best you can afford and make a genuine effort to be able to afford as much as possible. I honestly, genuinely wouldn’t care if it cost $10 or $10,000 as long as I knew it was done in the spirit of giving me the best they could possibly give. I WOULD care if it cost $10 if he bought a video game the same day for $60, and I WOULD care if it cost $10,000 if he went into debt to get it or if it was to impress/compete with someone else. Guys shouldn’t stress over how much to pay for a ring, its the least important thing about what you’re about to ask, if you love her and you genuinely do your for best for her, you can never be wrong.

  48. LMAO at the ’2.5x monthly salary rule of thumb’ answers. That’s just diamond-company propaganda. Spend what you want, what you’re comfortable with. Some of my Indian friends get $10-20k cars for dowries, and that’s common. Guys, it’s insane to let someone else tell you what to spend on a ring. If you think it’s a good idea, spend what you want. But I’m not financially masochistic, so I won’t be dropping $2.5 k nor 2.5x monthly salary on the Engagement ring. Keep in mind, that’s not even the marriage ring. Sheesh. Look at the bozo that gave whichever Kardashian the $XX,000,000 ring and she dumped him just 7 or 9 months later.

  49. I realize this may sound like sort of a cop-out but a man should spend WHAT HE CAN AFFORD. I define what he can afford as what he can reasonably pay based on his income (and his other spending and saving habits). Personally, my husband took a line of credit and repaid it within 90 days. Some people may eschew debt, in that case I would say they should spend what they can comfortably save in cash. I don’t think there’s a hard and fast number, but it certainly shouldn’t be a disproportionate amount of one’s income.

  50. I went through this last year, and got to apply some IWTYTBR principles that saved me some money and made her super happy. I also learned some of the same things Thomas did (price jumps once you go from .99 carat to 1.0, and size differences in that range that are less than .2 carats are invisible unless you put them side-by-side, color & clarity have similar differentiating features that affect cost There are a lot of these things).

    I got my fiancée very involved in the process, what she liked, what she didn’t like, what she cared about, what she did not care about. For example, once she said she didn’t care if there were blemishes invisible to the naked eye, I knew exactly what level that was. Same thing with color. Depending on the cut there are similar features with size. I went through the same process on the band, and then bought the stone from an online retailer (this has its own pitfalls and you need to keep some things in mind) at a good discount and had and negotiated with jewelers on setting it.

    Ramit, I read that same article and thought it was great. However, I think many people underestimate the amount that can be saved on this purchase without sacrificing one iota in quality. I over-analyzed because I found the industry scammy and aggravating.

    BTW, it also helps to know the salesperson’s techniques. I live in Chicago where we have a diamond district. The sales person will sit you down and ask you about approximate size you were thinking of. They’ll then put three diamonds side-by-side: The size you asked for, one 15% bigger, and one 25% bigger. The middle one will generally be nicer quality and color. Great for getting people to instantly add $1k+ to what they thought they were going to spend.

    Anyway, I spent less than one month’s salary, and my fiancee, who makes 50% more than me, was thrilled.

  51. I think it’s up to the man … and woman ;) It also surely depends on the income, and how important the ring is to both involved.
    A fine ring can be inherited, bought, designed, whatever … anyway, it is not the ring that counts, it is the bond.
    Flashy rings can be cool, and some people need them, like others want flashy cars. Again, if you’ve got the money, it is a nice symbol of status ;) and if not, you gotta be creative search maybe a bit longer for the perfect solution, like with clothes …

  52. I think the rule of ’2x the man’s monthly salary’ is a good starting point. But how much money the woman makes matters as well – remember, she’s the one who’s going to be wearing it and showing it off. If she is making $100k/yr and wearing a $500 ring, it won’t fit people’s expectations.

    Hell yea women want an engagement ring. It’s jewelry, very nice, expensive jewelry. Women love jewelry, and they really love showing off very nice jewelry. Of course some girls don’t care, but they are weird and uncommon.

    I’m sure this varies by culture though.

  53. I bought an engagement ring about five years ago. I did research about what I should spend. The trusty internet yielded that the “generally accepted” range (aka, pushed by jewelers) is somewhere in the 2x-3x monthly salary. I asked at three jewelers (one national chain, one regional chain, one single store) and none of them knew if that was supposed to be gross or net. That’s a pretty big difference and I took it to mean that no one really had any idea and it was some marketing ploy.

    I think I ended up spending about 2x net wages, but I was looking in the 2-3x range. A couple people have mentioned the invisible factors of needing to show that you can provide for your fiancee and her needing to feel the same. It’s ironic in that you can go into debt to buy a big ring that prove you can provide, while that act reduces your ability to provide (and shows that maybe your enthusiasm outstrips your financial planning abilities). Even knowing that and knowing that she would have been happy with a $200 ring, I still bought something more expensive (bigger).

    All of the oohs and ahhs that she got (which indirectly reflected on my taste and resources) helped to emotionally reinforce that logic for both of us. So while there was a rational dollar amount to spend in my case ($$), I went with the more emotionally driven higher amount ($$$).

    One other interesting note: when buying a diamond, there are 4 main characteristics and they operate on a continuum. To generalize, if two diamonds cost $X and they have the same size, the bigger one will be a lower quality. So at some point you have to decide which diamond to buy with your budget. I’m oversimplifying, but you can choose to allocate your money to size (carats) or quality (cut, clarity, color). For me, there was a minimum acceptable quality level. But anything above that was invisible to the naked eye, so I put the additional money into size. So instead of a smaller, higher quality diamond, I chose bigger and slightly less quality. That was definitely the emotional/outside/invisible script driving things – why else would I have chosen a showier, but not as nice diamond? The ego is a powerful thing…

  54. 2.5x your monthly salary winds up being a big chunk of your annual income! Maybe 2.5x your disposable monthly income would be a better metric! Anyway, 2.5x my boyfriend’s salary before taxes would be almost $30,000, which IMHO is far too much for us to spend on a ring!

    I just want a beautiful piece of jewelry that we both love and that I will be happy about every time I look at it. I’m guessing about $11k will be spent – a little over a month of his salary – and he has it in savings.

    And for what it’s worth, I’m planning a lifelong semi-extravagant engagement present for him too. We joke about being in a race to see who gets there first. Ideally we’ll magically propose on the same day. :)

  55. Hmmm…. what should a man “spend?” He should spend the time to figure out what the partner for the rest of his life wants. He should spend the effort to do some research, harness expertise and figure out his part of the equation. When it comes to actual dollars, that part will work itself out if the other upfront “spending” has taken place.

    For me, I’ve never been much of a diamond girl and knew I wanted something unique and a Montana sapphire since those come from the same place I do. When my boyfriend at the time & I were ready to look for rings we took a trip to Phillipsburg where the stones are mined and spent the whole day at the jewelry store there looking at rings, learning about the stones together and even did a little mining on our own.

    Both of our rings together cost $1800 at the time (nearly 12 years ago) and we footed the bill together. Mine was custom made and both have Montana sapphires. I get compliments all the time on my set as it is very unique and every time I look at it I am reminded of what a great day we had and the time & effort my husband spent on me.

  56. Answer: as much as she wants you to spend.

  57. I went on a blind date once with a guy who bragged how he spend over $30,000 on his ex-girlfriend’s engagement ring, then dumped her when he found out she had been lying to him about her religious affiliation (he was a Lebanese Catholic and she turned out to be a Muslim). It was weird because he’s bragging the whole time what a big spender he was, but then he seemed upset that my Coca Cola he paid for at Panera was about $3. Very odd guy. Very odd, mobbed-up, Detroit dude with some weird personality problems. There was no second date. :)

    Personally, I think a man should spend what he can afford to buy a tasteful ring his fiancee would like. If she just saw the movie “Blood Diamond” and is upset about the diamond mining atrocities in Africa, get her an alternative stone. I was rereading the “Little House” books, that I enjoyed in my childhood, and I noticed that Almanzo Wilder gave Laura Ingalls a *pearl* ring, not a diamond. I wonder when diamonds became the standard engagement ring stone? It doesn’t have to be.

    I think it would be fun to go on a “rock-hounding” vacation somewhere in the US and pan for or dig up my own diamond. I think there’s a mine in Arkansas where you can do that. Of course, if your girl is a very girly-girl, dragging her off on a back-country hiking and camping trip to dig up her own diamond is probably not the thing to do. If she’s the outdoorsy type, ‘though, she might appreciate getting a diamond you dug up for her, and had cut and set in some interesting custom way. I think it would be cool. Why buy a standard ring? That’s what all the lemmings do.

  58. The correct answer is $0, why would a man get married in the first place.

    Second why is the man expected to shell out thousands for the woman’s ring however the men’s ring is a gold band that cost a few hundred at most. Sounds like a bad deal to me.

    Happily never married..bring on the hate.

  59. Love this discussion. As a woman getting married in exactly 30 days- this is my input.

    1. Do what makes her happy. I wanted something big and shiny and didn’t want to spend a fortune so I ended up with a gorgeous white topaz that looks just like a diamond. It’s big and flashy like I wanted, and we paid around $500 (but it easily looks like a $5000 ring).
    2. Unless you like getting screwed steer clear of mall jewelers. The quality of the stones you get for the money is disgraceful. If you can find a local jeweler or better yet an artist- do that.

    I would love to know how much folks are spending for their husbands wedding band. I feel a little strange that my left hand will have over $1000 (with my wedding band), and I only spent $30 on his. He wanted tungsten, he picked out the design, and I got him what he wanted. I wonder if this disparity is normal?

  60. Got married last year, so I went through this process recently. I just want to echo the sentiment that it’s more important to have a conversation and understand her expectations. For some, like my wife, the style and cut are much more important than the price tag. Thankfully for my pocket book, she has tiny hands that would make a large rock look very silly. I ended up picking out a beautiful, smaller diamond, with a unique band style (assymetric curves ftw), that cost a little less than a month’s salary. I actually went in planning to spend more than I did, but the “right” ring was cheaper. And she made it clear that she never wanted to know the exact figure on how much I spent.

    Also, just responding to the comment that, if you can’t afford a nice ring, you’re in no position to be married: in my view, there’s real value to getting married when you’re still poor. Struggle together, grow together, and succeed together.

  61. i don’t believe in engagement rings. i recognize they exist, and maybe what i should be saying is that i don’t support the engagement ring industry, although i’m not sure that exists.

    blood diamonds and horrific mining (for stones and metals) conditions aside, here’s why i’m not into engagement rings:
    -they objectify women (acting as a place holder or reservation on a human being, or as a decoration of one’s property)
    -they’re totally one-sided (why don’t dudes get ‘em?)
    -they are materialistic status symbols (let’s be honest, people judge women and their fiancees by how shmancy the engagement ring is)
    -marriage should not be about jewelry

    if you want to buy your special somebody a present to signify how excited you are that you’re getting married, go in together on a pinball machine or a piece of art you can hang in your home– and share.

    • Amen, sister!

    • Aha! I guess I found my peeps, Tiffany & Jess :)

    • +1 on all of this Jess. Agreed. All though I have to admit, the objectifying women thing, I get it and agree and I know this is odd, but I don’t wear any jewelry ever. Like ever ever. I’ve always said I’ll never wear any ring except my engagement and wedding ring. Maybe I’m party to my own objectification, but I like keeping that placeholder for someone…born in the wrong century I think.

    • THANK YOU. I’m reasonably confident that in a few decades, engagement rings will carry some sexist stigma… as, I think, they should.

  62. I would think no more than 2 months salary. I think my husband spent 1-1.5 months salary and we shopped for it together (well, the wrap…he knew the diamond cut I preferred so got the engagement ring himself). BUT, I will say, being young and surrounded by friends getting engaged, etc it is quite easy to think that the perfect diamond and ring are essential. After a few years, I was of the opinion that a nice simple band (maybe etched nicely) would suffice and also not get caught on all manner of clothes and such. If I had a do-over I would get a pretty gold band and elope.

  63. My husband spent $3,100 on mine, 7 years ago, back when we were broke fresh out of college. He found a jeweler that he liked and trusted early in our relationship (6 years by the time he was ready to do engagement ring shopping). He looked at hundreds of rings, settings and diamonds before deciding none fit what he wanted to give me. Mind you, he took me twice to look and get ideas from me, and I had pointed out a simple, 1/2 carat princess cut diamond with two 1/5 carat trillion cut diamonds flanking it on a simple white gold band. That ring was approximately $2,000 (though I did not know that at the time). He worked with the jeweler to custom design my ring, and I ended up with a 4/5 carat princess cut center stone, raised above a platinum band with channel set diamonds, including 2 emerald cut diamonds and 12 princess cut diamonds measuring slightly over 1 carat.

    Being 22 when I got engaged, I thought that my ring was excessive, especially when I compared them to other friends rings who had gotten engaged around the same time, in similar circumstances. My husband gave the jeweler $700 down, and made payments every week until he paid the ring off. It took him over a year, as he was in a car accident and had to replace his car while still trying to get my ring.

    7 years later, I still think my ring is excessive, even though we make over $100,000 a year more than we did then. Is it beautiful? Yes! Was it necessary for him to spend as much? I don’t think so. Do I love that he went above and beyond for me? Yes.

    I think it’s different for every couple. My parents would always tell me about their engagement, in the mid 70s, when it was “customary” for a man to spend 3 month’s salary on the ring. If my husband were to do that now, we’d be looking at a $15,000+ ring. That just sounds ridiculous to me, so I think common sense should prevail. Find something she likes (within reason) and go from there.

    Finding a jeweler (not a department store or a chain) is always your best bet – they can work with you to find exactly what you are looking for, and if you don’t find it, you can work together to custom make it, often still for less than “designer” items you see elsewhere.

  64. I proposed about 8 months ago.

    Leading up to the proposal I tried to “casually” figure out what types of rings she liked (cut, layout, etc.). I wanted the proposal to be a surprise so ring shopping was out of the question. I don’t think shopping for the engagement ring together is all that romantic…too much like a going to the hardware store and picking out appliances. During our chat sessions beforehand a common phrase that came from her was “I want to be surprised”.

    I did a lot of research on the internet about all the C’s and what not. I thought I had everything figured out and negotiated a good price on a diamond I was planning on getting a local jeweler to set. Once I received the diamond though the color wasn’t anything like the grading system indicated it should be like. I was able to return the diamond without any issue (if you buy online make sure the seller has a decent return policy). After some further research I found that the grading systems can be somewhat subjective (WTF…it’s a grading system it should be more cut and dry…something that was hard for my engineering mind to grasp) and that there are two associations that grade (GIA and EGL). It wasn’t until I went into the jewelry store to actually see the difference between the cut/clarity/color to really be able to select a diamond that looked the best for the best cost – I had a hard time telling the difference on the clarity scale but cut and color made a huge difference.

    I ended up paying just over $13k for the ring. I had saved up for this before hand and actually budgeted to spend more. I paid on my frequent flyer credit card which helped contribute miles for our first class tickets to Malaysia and Tokyo for the honeymoon and then quickly paid off the credit card with the savings.

    Both of us have some good paying jobs. I had the savings. I didn’t approach the purchase in a X months type of deal (BTW is this pre or post taxes? Big difference there) but rather from the mindset get something she will love and not be ashamed to show off.

  65. To be honest, I think you should spend as little as possible to buy a meaningful object (I say this as a custom jeweler, btw). Decide what would be most meaningful to your partner (their input is vital in this!) and shop accordingly. Do a lot of research (i.e. talk to people who actually make jewelry, peruse catalogs), and find the best price for what you intend to purchase. That’s seriously all there is to it. It’s a major purchase, even though it’s very sentimental, it should be carefully considered and treated like any other major purchase.

  66. A little follow-up…when we got engaged I was finishing grad school and he was getting ready to go. I knew we couldn’t afford anything too terribly expensive, so was happy one of the diamond cuts I preferred actually is shallow and has a large surface area on top so my slightly less than .5 carat marquis cut looked as big or bigger than a friends 1.0 carat round and we spent a lot less. Yes, I was sucked into the marketing of wanting a glitzy diamond while trying to keep my head about it.

  67. This is good question, indeed. Let me first state – I am of the opinion that the amount of money spent on your ring, in no way dictates how much your significant other values your relationship or you as a person. I think couples tend to get too engrossed in their emotions when this topic arises.

    I was engaged to another man before I was married to my present husband. He was finishing law-school and I hated the idea of him spending too much on a ring. I INSISTED that he purchase a cubic zirconia (sp?) since no one would be able to tell the difference with a naked eye. I told him that we would upgrade to a real diamond on our 25th wedding anniversary. Needless to say, we were never married and my parents lectured me about it being the one purchase that should never be “cheapened” by faux-appearances.

    I tried to convince my now husband to spend less than $5k on the ring since he wasn’t buying into the ‘cz theory’ and since he traded in his Porsche for a Kia optima for the sake of sensibility. He insisted on using the 3-month rule for the warranty value, not what he would spend on the purchase, which I thought was far too much and completely driven by emotions (monthly income x 3). My ring is classic and warranty coverage is slightly over ~$20k. My husband is good family friends with a jeweler here in Dallas so was able to purchase the ring at cost ~below $10k (yes, consider that mark-up).

    I will tell you that it made me sick for the first year to wear a piece of jewelry valued at that amount and I, sadly, saw it as a huge opportunity cost. I even threw the poor financial decision in his face a couple times during arguments -which I presently regret. Now that we’re in our almost-3rd year of marriage, I’m thankful for my ring and shut my mouth about the misplaced financial opportunity (even though I can still work myself up if I think about it for too long).

  68. I like Chris H’s response…you CAN switch out “how much should you spend on_____” (insert home, pets, cars, jewelry, clothing, food, bars, college tuition). Any material thing is subject to that question, some (like pets, engagement rings, and homes) are subject to more scrutiny and judgement than others. I mean, there’s lots of people out there who will tell you not to go to grad school, college, not to waste money on a home, to put your dog down the minute it’s sick. There’s so many people telling you how to spend your money, you really need to block it out and try to figure out what works for you. We follow Ramit’s conscious spending, and I think prioritizing and spending on what’s important and cutting back on everything else, works really well for is. An engagement ring is deeply personal, and while there are many people who get caught up in the “I want to have something to show off to people” there are others who want something that reflects thought and that your partner knows and listens to you. I just got engaged two weeks ago, and I while I had kind of always envisioned wearing a plain band, my fiance went above and beyond on his own accord and got me a gorgeous, non-traditional sparkler. We had discussed my style of jewelry and whatnot, but I always left it up to him and told him I’d be happy with no ring whatsoever. Still, he knocked it out of the park, I was blown away. No idea how much my ring cost, but it reflects that he’s observed and listened to me, and I still can’t believe someone bought me something this special, unique, and friggin stunning. I look at it constantly and I think of our proposal, and just how much thought went into this, it was one of the biggest surprises of my life. And it will become somethign we pass down through the family. You can’t let the experience and expectation of others guide your experience too much. You have to create your own experience, and your own life. And if your gf wants a $10K rock, and you’re more of a frugal guy…you’re expectations may not align on a lot of other things.

  69. The “should” in that question is really the killer. You get told your whole life that the engagement ring is the most important symbol of your most important relationship. If you’re a woman, you get judged based on how good the ring was (which might mean big, but it also could mean tasteful or personal or something else, depending on your community). If you’re a guy, you get judged on how much money you spent or how much time you put in. Plus, we have this romantic notion of the ring as a surprise gift. That’s the part that really baffles me. I would be incredibly upset if my partner bought me a car without talking to me about it beforehand, no matter how much he made. Ditto an engagement ring.

    Taken together, these ideas make it incredibly hard to apply principles of conscious spending to engagement rings. Because we’re taught that the ring is how we show the value of our relationship to other people, and because most of us (at least the Americans!) can expect to be actively judged for our choice, it’s really hard to say “Maybe this isn’t something we really want to be spending on.”

    My husband and I had a very long discussion about engagement rings. I didn’t want one; he felt it was an important symbol, especially one for other people to see. We eventually decided that we could choose our own symbol, one that was important to both of us. We picked having amazing wedding bands as one of our six financial priorities for our wedding. We bought a chunk of gold and hand-made each other’s rings. It was less expensive than the engagement rings he wanted, but it meant a whole lot more.

    This worked because we paid attention to what we actually wanted, and collaborated to use our money to satisfy our actual needs – not just doing what we “should” do. Even then, we both got flak about it (“What, he couldn’t afford to buy you a ring?”) because of that cultural narrative. Ugh.

  70. I think there is a larger purpose to having an engagement ring be a big purchase (big is obviously a relative term based on income). It should encourage the purchaser to go through a thought process that is valuable for the relationship and stability of the future marriage.
    1) Would she want an engagement ring and if so, would she want to pick it out herself? If you know her well enough to propose, you should have a pretty good idea on this.
    2) What kind of ring would she want? This may involve talking to her friends and family – and if you don’t know or have a good relationship with ANY of her close friends and family, perhaps you should pursue one -or think deeper about whether you are ready to propose, or what kind of marriage you would have.
    3) What are her values on spending money? Which would she rather have – a large real diamond ring, a large imitation ring, a small real diamond, and/or a downpayment on a house?
    4) Does she have debt? You will become jointly responsible when you marry. What do YOUR values say about spending money on jewelry when you are carrying debt. If you are not willing to combine assets and debt, or if you have radically different values on money, you need to work this out before or during the engagement.
    5) How much money can you save up for a ring, without compromising long-range plans or going into debt, before she gets tired of waiting and breaks up with you? Again, this question has a lot of moving parts.
    6) How much money are you willing to risk if she says “no” or you don’t make it to the altar? If you’ve sunk years’ worth of savings that you can’t afford to lose, your bitterness level will go through the roof. Bad for the soul.
    So, I think an engagement ring should be expensive enough that the purchaser has to think long and hard about the relationship, pursue deep knowledge and coordinate values with the intended, but not so expensive that it will make the loss a life-altering wreck. Scale according to personal circumstances.

  71. Having some creative hobbies, I like my hands and fingers free and ready for action :) Any ring on my finger feels like an obstacle and makes it very difficult for me to understand that some people wear those things permanently. Like every woman, I do like to dress up occasionally, which might even involve a ring, but then I’m happy to take it off. So, should a man offer me a £2000 engagement ring, I would probably do my best to
    1/ show him my appreciation
    2/ try to convince him that a basic £20 ring would do for me, plus something like £10 for a pretty box where the ring would be resting in piece most of the time
    3/ inspire him to spend the rest of his ring budget on a trip we would remember for the rest of our days :)

    And yes, I’m not American, which might be a factor that makes things much easier…

  72. Coming from another country and a rather traditionnal family. The ring will actually be paid for by my bf’s family and we are both working, independent, in our late twenties and with plenty of savings.
    Of course, we discussed what we wanted and what we found reasonnable(an estimate of the budget) between us, but his family is responsible for the ring and I will not know the exact price.
    Also, it will not be a diamond but a colored stone because I just find them prettier.

  73. So, let’s look at an engagement ring as a signaling mechanism. The amount you should spend depends on the signal you want to be

    There are two signals to consider: the signal the ring purchaser is sending to the recipient, and the signal the wearer it is sending.

    Does the wearer care if it’s a real diamond? (Does the purchaser agree with purchasing a real diamond?) What does the wearer want others to think of him/her based on the ring size/setting/shape/etc? How will the wearer judge/view the purchaser based on size/shape/setting/etc? How will the purchaser judge him/herself based on size/shape/setting/etc? How will the purchaser’s friends judge purchaser/wearer based on size/shape/setting? Should these considerations be constrained by the purchaser/wearer’s yearly cash on hand/investment income/current debt/paycheck (either monthly or yearly)? If so, how much does the purchaser need to constrain the purchase in order to satisfy the outside world without putting him/herself into a troublesome amount of debt? (How bad will the purchase hit you in the pocketbook?)

    TL;DR: It depends. How do you want to be perceived and what means do you have? How can you best maximize intended signals from the ring within your emotional(/mental-health-based) budget constraints?

  74. Q: “How much should a man spend on an engagement ring?”
    A: However much he is comfortable with.

  75. My parents had very little money when they got married and my mom’s engagement ring has the TINIEST stones — an emerald that would be more of a side stone on most engagement rings.

    For their 10th anniversary, my father bought her the same ring, but in a more legitimate size: 3/4 of a carat stone. She wears it, but didn’t want to and hasn’t taken off the original one. She says that it represents a wonderful (if impoverished) time of their lives.

    I love that story.

    As for me, I want a stone from the mine on the mountain that I grew up on — a garnet. And, its made by a long-time family friend! The nicest ones cost 6 or 7 hundred. But, that is a far more meaningful and thoughtful gift than another ring ever could be.

  76. My boyfriend spent maybe $4 on a chain and lock from a hardware store, I’ve been wearing his collar for almost a year now.

    We may be an edge case…

  77. I think, assuming the man is buying a ring for the woman, that he should spend whatever he is comfortable with. Typically, an engagement ring is something that will be worn daily for many years, so it should be something durable unless they are planning to replace/upgrade, but certainly doesn’t NEED to be expensive. If he has the money and wants to spend $50k on a ring, fine. If he has a lot of money and wants to spend $500, fine. The only thing I thing is a little outrageous is going into debt for a piece of jewelry – spend within your means.

    Does it depend how much the guy makes? I think only so far as what he can afford. That would determine the ‘ceiling’ for the price, but I don’t think there is a basement for the price. And, of course, $0 is always a possibility if they choose not to do a ring or to use a family heirloom. If the woman makes more than the man, again assuming that a man is buying this ring for a woman, I don’t think that changes anything. In my opinion, this is a gift from him to her. His income/savings is the relevant factor, not hers.

    Of course, these are all my personal opinions. I tend to the pragmatic side of things, and also wouldn’t feel comfortable with a giant diamond on my finger. However, I do know women (my sister being one) who want that diamond and have a picture of the ring they want, the end. I don’t think my sister cared too much how much was spent on her ring as much as aesthetically it was what she wanted. But then, certain styles will end up costing more money anyway.

  78. Whatever the two people want–taking into account how BOTH feel.

    When I got married, no engagement ring. My fiance’s family didn’t believe in spending money on jewelry. If you had extra you should give it away to charity. Plus we were students. So I said okay. What I didn’t reealize was that it wasn’t just about what his family believed. He never asked what I would want. It was a signal I missed that he didn’t and never would really care about how I felt. Heck, I’d have been happy with cubic zirconia–IF HE HAD ASKED how I felt and we had actually made the decision together.

    We did pick out wedding bands together–spending a total of $30 for both–from pawn shops. And I loved them–because they were unique and unusual and we chose them TOGETHER.

    And yeah, we’re divorced.

  79. When I got married, the conversation that my (now) husband and I had was about price- what could we afford at the time- and about what I would want to wear on my finger for the next 50 years.

    I don’t believe in upgrading a wedding ring. Do what you want, other ladies, but I went in to this preparing to wear this ring for the rest of my life. That in mind, it was really about the look of the thing.

    What fit out budget and what did I like looking at on my finger? I found a ring that was new but had an older sensibility to it- no one would think that it’s an antique but it doesn’t have a very contemporary look.

    I know that I’ve changed over the past 10 years but I still love my ring.

    However, we did make the mistake and buy it on credit. At the time when we bought it, money was coming in fairly steadily and we assumed that it would continue on in that fashion, so we to the risk of borrowing funds to pay for both my engagement ring and our wedding bands.

    However, we moved to a different state shortly after our wedding and ran into some pretty serious financial hardships, which made it difficult to pay for the ring, making it purchase a point of stress. While I don’t regret the ring, and we have since paid it off, I would suggest paying cash for your ring, even if it means waiting to buy it and pop the question.

  80. There are no right answers, because the entire industry was fabricated by extremely clever marketing by De Beers which made diamond a symbol of commitment. They also for the most part ritualized the “once-in-a-lifetime” romantic ritual of engagement (DID NO ONE READ THE ARTICLE RAMIT LINKED???)

    Diamonds are not valuable because they rare (there are rarer stones that are worth less), but like Santa Claus, the engagement ritual and the ring were pretty much created out of thin air to sell stuff, but because they sold stuff so well, they eventually become inseparable from American (and even international) culture.

    For example, where do you think the 2.5x rule came from? Or the 4 Cs? Or the term “Diamonds are Forever”? Sorry folks, we got played. That’s all marketing, to give the illusion of value to polished dirt.

    Unfortunately, most women have been suckered into this (can’t blame them, it exploits them where they are vulnerable, much like how McDonalds or toy companies’ marketing preys on children), so that makes men assholes if we don’t play along.

    But what we as men want to make of it is entirely up to us. For example, instead of making it about the diamond or the ring, I decided to make it about something far more valuable… a story. Instead of getting an off-the shelf ring, we enjoyed the process of designing and creating our own custom ring. I involved her in the process as much as possible, and drew out the process as long as possible, so no matter the outcome was, she’d have a a great story to tell and the perception that it’s much more valuable because of the time and effort it took. The story (in tandem with the proposal story) makes her ring priceless in her mind, and any comparison with her jealous girlfriends becomes impossible (it was far more than the 4Cs or the price tag at that point).

    Now from the finance/economics part of it, I treated the ring as a hedge against the dollar. I.e., I converted my cash, into diamond and gold (that’s why even though I thought platinum would make a better-looking band, we went with white gold instead). And because we got the diamond at good time, the ring could be insured for more than what we paid for it (so if we lose it, we’d profit instantly). It’s a pretty good store of wealth actually, especially with the dollar taking a dump.

    (RAMIT, if you’re thinking of you ever decide to procreate and wish to acquire a custom engagement ring in the Bay Area for the female you will procreate with, check out Neil Dahl Jewelers. You’ll like him for his no-BS technical mindset (plus he’s Indian like you).

    • Yeah, Aaron, no one read the article, but since the article dates back to 1982, and every educated person already knows that you buy diamonds at retail and sell them back at a huge loss decades later at wholesale, perhaps they felt they didn’t need to read it again. Even perhaps you didn’t really read the article if you think diamond is a hedge against the dollar. As for the insurance fraud idea you hinted at, thinking that if you need the money you can “lose” the diamond, and you profit instantly because insurance appraisals for gemstones are for far more than you could ever sell the stone for — I hope you realize that people have been trying that stuff for years. I knew a couple that tried that in the 1980s, and they sure didn’t invent the idea. The insurance company agreed not to have them arrested, and they agreed to give up on their insurance claim. Then they came to me to borrow a metal detector in hopes that they could at least find the ring again, but it was gone forever. Real smart planning there. They should have been in the cast of Fargo.

      You didn’t get that insurance because you bought “at the right time,” BTW. All insurance appraisals for gemstones are ridiculously over-the-top.

  81. I spent $3K on my wife’s engagement ring, plus an extra $900 for the wedding band.

    In return, she bought my wedding band (she also works and makes about 80% of what I earn), which cost her $200 if I remember correctly.

    I thought the engagement ring, which she picked up, would would buy me some nag-free time…it didn’t. But that’s a different story.

    I bought the rings online, which helped me save some $$ vs buying them from a store. Funny thing, when we were shopping around, all stores would say “we also have layaway plans”…why would you spend money you don’t have for a ring? I learned it’s more common than I thought. We bought our rings out of our savings.

    The rings were considerably a bigger investment for me than hers, but then again, I’m not used to wearing jewelry or bling, while she cukoo for jewelry. I lost my wedding bank 24 hours after the wedding, at our honeymoon beach…she was kind enough (or smart?) to buy me a new one…for $150 this time, which I haven’t lost.

    I learned from all this ordeal that women have a status thing when showing off an engagement ring…akin like showing off your new driver to your buddies at the tee-off, or people admiring your BBQ grill. She would be all glowing and excited telling me how much her g/f at work admired her ring. So yes, there are big differences between men and women, despite what some people say.

    • But is that a “big difference?” You show off a BBQ, she shows off a ring – the big similarity is showing off a status symbol to a group of people who care about it. For example, you probably wouldn’t show off the BBQ to say, your 6 year old’s friends, whose status symbol is, IDK, Pokemon cards. To me, that actually shows how similar people are – the things we do are very similar, it’s just the details of what symbols matter and I don’t know if that IS that big a difference, especially because if you were a hipster boy, the BBQ might be a really cool fixie or sweet vinyl 12″.

  82. This is a really fascinating conversation. My now-husband is from a country where they don’t do diamond engagement rings (just a silver band for engagement and a gold band for marriage), but he wanted to honor the U.S. traditions I grew up with – though lucky for him, I really didn’t want anything fancy, and I see no reason to spend thousands of dollars on a ring!

    As most people said, I agree that it’s much more important to find out what SHE wants than to follow some formula about how much to spend. If he had spent according to that formula I probably would have ended up with something I didn’t want – and even more importantly, would have felt that he didn’t really know me if he thought that’s what I wanted.

    I was very clear about what I wanted: just a little bit of sparkle (I didn’t even care if it was a real diamond or not) and a white gold ring – and that’s exactly what I got. PLUS it’s a unique style that I love, and it means so much to me that he spent time finding exactly the right ring for me. THAT’s what matters, not how much he spent (I don’t even know, but I’d be shocked if it was more than a couple hundred dollars).

    Even this tiny fake diamond felt super-flashy to me when I first started wearing it, so I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to have a big rock, but that’s just me. It’s definitely a cultural thing and I understand it can be hard to escape what other people think. I’m glad I got engaged while living in another country where there are NO expectations about this and no one even asked to see my ring (except my US friends!). When I went back to the U.S. the first time after getting engaged, I even felt a little self-conscious about my small ring, which is just ridiculous.

    We just got married, and now I wear my engagement ring on my right hand since it doesn’t fit with my wedding ring. We had matching rings made by a local designer – they are totally unique and totally us and we LOVE them. We spent less than $200 combined for both of them.

    It’s not about the money, it’s about having something that you both will love and that supports your values.

  83. I’d try and reason about practicality, durability, appearance, feel, value, price, expectations (hers), fears (losing it). I’d probably be accused of destroying all the romance.

    I’d want something with meaning (of the sentimental, rather than astrological kind). Giving a grandmother’s ring would be much more significant than buying one, for me anyway.

    The ring isn’t the commitment to the girl. The marrying her – that should be the commitment.

  84. I say the amount should be however much has been saved for the purchase, so no debt. If this is just a small figure, meaning a small diamond (or no diamond), so be it. If she expects a more expensive ring that he can pay for outright, perhaps the cost of the ring is not the most important question they should be looking at, at that moment. Perhaps they need to wait a bit longer and save, if it’s that important. Perhaps she values the jewelry more than the marriage. Perhaps he is a cheapskate. Every one is different. It’s the kind of thing that a couple should be on the same page about, regardless of whether it’s a $100 plain gold band, or a $50,000 humdinger. In the end, it’s the relationship, not the jewelry.

  85. Engagements rings are tangible symbols of the next phase of life. So pick a ring that is symbolic or holds meaning, not one that is governed by price. To that, if you have married a woman that is judging the ring based on price, you picked the wrong woman, sorry to say. I chose a wood ring because a) we love nature b) we love fine craftsmanship b) it’s as unique as she is c) I spent $200 so I could save for more important things like trips, life experience.

    Check them out here. This is in no way a paid endorsement, just an alternative perspective on what doesn’t have to be expensive and what could be much cooler: http://www.touchwoodrings.com/index.html

  86. We got engaged when we were 21/22. My husband was making about 125k at the time and had minimal expenses. We live in the Bay Area and my engaged/married friends all had fancy 2 carat engagement rings, so being young and stupid and jealous of their bling, that’s what I wanted. I didn’t care about quality as long as it looked OK from arm’s length. I didn’t voice either of these opinions to my husband, but knowing what my friends had, he picked out a 2 carat round brilliant. Except he went with one that was really high quality, so it cost him $25k. I was about ready to die when I found out.

    He didn’t have to stretch a whole lot for it, but years later when we had a growing family, two mortgages, CC debt, and a lot of other expenses, I really contemplated selling it and getting a CZ or a much lower-quality diamond. He wouldn’t hear of it. I’m not dumb enough to think we would have put the extra money aside for a rainy day if he’d spent less on it in the first place, but it made me feel guilty to have a really expensive, pretty, but useless little thing on my hand when we were struggling to make ends meet.

    So I guess the lesson is–find out what your girlfriend’s expectations are for both appearance and quality. The jeweler is going to try to upsell you on both, and it may be that your girlfriend only cares about one or the other (or neither).

    • So did he get it to please your peer group as well? And how does one downsize the ring after the proposal if it is bigger than what you want as he purchased what he thought you should have?

  87. As much as he can and wants to afford. I know how much my husband spent on my ring, and, because it is an antique, he would have paid more than double for it elsewhere. But is that the real point here? I don’t think so.

    To me, the value of my ring is priceless. No one else in the world has my ring, or, much more importantly, my husband. Being fiscally responsible and knowing what would mean something to me is and was more important than the actual price or street value of my diamond.

  88. I agree with a lot of the commenters here. Her expectations and your expectations need to align. For instance, I never had an “engagement ring dream”, and I don’t like wearing rings anyway, so I wouldn’t want a ring. Then there are the girls I know quite a few of my girlfriends who’ve always had dreams of the perfect solitaire diamond/pink sapphire, and then there are the other girls I know who don’t want to carry a giant rock on their finger. Communication is key, just like in any relationship!

  89. Carla McCasland Link to this comment

    Hey Ramit,
    I kind of jumped the gun and ruined my husbands proposal plans–I told him I wanted to be his wife before he had a chance to ask me…doh! Chalk it up to the heat of the moment. Anyway, later, we found out that we’d been looking at the same engagement ring sites online.

    I was concerned about cost, I knew that my husbear had some interest in jewelry-making, and I love working on projects with my man, so I asked him if he’d be interested in making our own wedding rings (hammers and tongs and everything!) . He was overjoyed with the idea.

    For about $3,000 we made wedding rings exactly to our specifications and were left with enough metal for him to design and create a (non-diamond) engagement ring.

    Here’s a 2:30 video of the process, in case you’re interested: http://animoto.com/play/efTA0e0DtNnSZiYP0FhZsQ?utm_source=teamruncible.com&utm_medium=player&utm_campaign=player

  90. It doesn’t matter. If she really loves you she’ll just want to be married.

    • Mark, maybe you’re right, maybe not, but ask 20 women if this is true. See what they say.

    • count me as in agreement.

    • Mark-

      There is truth to that. Sure I hope you wouldn’t propose unless she loved you, but there is something about knowing the effort, and time you put into looking for something that is just for her, something that she can look at, admire and remember great memories just about you and her. Truth is that a ring does matter, just not how much you pay for it.

  91. Lot of signaling going on in these comments.

    I’m fascinated that in 101 comments, nearly every person had the same answer of spending frugally on a ring. Exactly zero women have said they wanted a “big” ring, and only one (“Sarah”) has a ring over $20,000. Zero men have said they spent a large amount (let’s call it over $15,000) on a ring.

    Real-life conversations are very, very different than these comments. (Yes, there are some self-selection issues, but on posts about wedding rings, you almost NEVER see a woman say she wanted a big ring, or a guy admit to purchasing an expensive one.)

    Why is that?

    • Because, Ramit, look at the readers you attract! You beat people over the head with the fact that you went to 15 car dealerships to track down a car. Your readers are obviously self-selected to be frugal and sharp negotiators. The other ones wouldn’t stick around for long–they’re typically going to be the same people who have 0 interest in planning their finances.

    • Hopefully this is attributed to the intelligence of your readers :)

    • Wrong, Erica, my readers make above-average salaries and spend thousands on self-development courses, travel, health & beauty, etc. They are not frugalistas — those are the people I intentionally send away.

    • I quickly perused the numbers too. Seriously, holy shit, I need to hang out with these people more.

      I work in New York City, and my friends have me so thoroughly mortified at the staggering cost of a ring, I’ve already started saving for one… even though I’m not even dating anyone right now. The numbers being tossed around are easily 3-10x the numbers being floated here.

    • I think what you’re seeing is community norms around conscious spending. It’s not frugality so much as not spending just because society tells us to. You should take it as an enormous compliment to your success as a teacher!

      I think there’s a darker side to it too, though. At the same time that our culture valorizes the “big ring,” we also despise it. The guy who spends all that money is a sucker. The woman who gets the huge ring is shallow or a gold-digger. Who would want to publicly identify themselves that way? In our own communities, we can make our behavior conform to the community values and get the approval we need. On the Internet, we run the risk of people deciding we’re stupid, vain, shallow, or easily led, without the benefit of making a claim for high status with the people we actually care about.

    • What a great comment, and not just because you praised me in it

    • Christopher Jones Link to this comment

      Ramit this reply is sinking to the bottom of the page (in my Chrome browser) and not sticking with the comment it was written for. FWIW

    • No, Erica is right Ramit. Even if you’re not attracting “frugalistas”, you do attract generally smart and pragmatic folks… exactly the kind of people who may be less concerned about this sort of status symbol. You preach about spending on what you care about and conscious spending. Well, perhaps your readers care more about clothes or travel than they do about rings.

      Meanwhile, the folks you have conversations with in real life are likely also self-selected… and likely primarily live in high income areas (Bay area, NYC).

      I’m not a frugalista. I live a comfortable life and often splurge on vacations and travel. I just don’t care about expensive jewelry. I wanted a ring – the symbolism was important to me – but I didn’t and don’t care about signaling status with it. (I’ll tell you what I *do* care about – wedding pictures. I’m planning to splurge on professional photography at our wedding because that means something to me. A super expensive ring just… doesn’t.)

      It certainly may be that some of the people who have commented on this post are reluctant to say that they want a “big” ring or want to spend $20k+ on a ring, but that definitely wouldn’t account for everyone. Maybe half, max. You really can’t look at the posts with those making their own rings or choosing wood rings because they liked them most or folks who didn’t have engagement rings at all because they can’t wear jewelry and accuse them of lying about how the felt about it.

    • Interesting questions Ramit! There’s a few things going on here. I’m also interested on your blog that sometimes attracts at least a few people with a great opinion outside of the norm. Selection bias is huge here. You’d probably get different answers if you did an anonymous survey.

      I’ve noticed in my own personal bias that a woman who wanted a huge ring felt to me like a cold bitch. Outside of obvious outliers (which we obvious all are), women equate the ring to personal worth. Perhaps my feeling of her being a cold bitch was the same idea that some women commenters fear would be associated with them. No one wants to seem like they’d postpone love (the idea of marriage) behind a wall of material possession.

      Being a male, I have more trouble analyzing the barriers in mindset. Too be honest, I’ve never really felt the need or talked to guys about wedding rings. My married friends I don’t even know how much they spent. I really never cared as it seems very subjective to current situation and the partners with biases of course.

      If I was to get married. I’d get help from my girlfriend in picking it out. If it was more than 2.5x, I’d attempt a discussion about costs of rings and come to an understanding/compromise. If she couldn’t handle my rationality and frugality barrier we shouldn’t be marrying anyways. Guys don’t seem to get the symbol of a ring. I’ve asked my lady friends their feelings about the ring and costs. Being an engineer, I always ask if they’d accept me spending more on something more useful for them (house, car) and then less on the ring. It’s usually met with distaste. The car example gets hit with “But cars don’t last forever”.

    • Ramit, because it is a co-ed discussion. A woman may think, or say to her girlfriends, that she expects a ring at least x size. She wouldn’t say it in front of men because she doesn’t want to get called a “gold-digger”. Just like men say in front of men what they are looking for in terms of physical attributes – but they don’t say that in mixed company because it is “chauvinist”. And I use that comparision intentionally – Most people rail against the money/attractiveness matrix, but it is still operating.

    • Another excellent comment. Tons of stuff men will never hear women talking about because of social stigmas (and vice versa).

    • Another intriguing (to me) thing going on in these comments is that a lot of these numbers though stated to be low by you are enormously high to me. That probably says a lot more about my background than expectation levels. I will say I didn’t want to know how much my ring cost – I didn’t want to be assigned a dollar value – because I grew up in a home where it was often said, “you think you’re worth xx?” for some item or experience. And I think it’s a shame that the view of how much your worth, or your love is worth is based on the type of ring you have. If there’s a small diamond or a large CV or glass stone people look sadly at you: you have to have some sort of story to explain why you’re okay or happy with your apparently sub-par ring. It’s the aftermath that’s the bigger deal.

    • Hopefully it’s that your readers are pragmatic and selective spender types.

      But it may have something to do with the Wedding Industrial Complex myths about engagements too… Like Ellen says, some women may not want to appear greedy / interested in mixed company, but it may also be that the dream proposal we’ve been sold is supposed to be a SURPRISE. If you tell him in advance that you want an extravagant ring, how can it be a surprise? The myth is that somehow, without the woman ever bringing it up (cause that would be nagging, right?), the man will pick the ring of her dreams, and even if she said she wanted something subtle, she will secretly LOVE the bling and cherish it forever.

  92. I just got engaged, so it seems fitting to weigh in here!

    My fiance and I bought our rings in Grand Cayman while on a cruise with his family. Then he got to propose to me in front of his family. We planned the whole thing together, but I still teared up when he got down on one knee even though I knew it was coming.

    For me it wasn’t about the size of the diamond, but more the style of the ring. I have a more unique-looking ring and got a better deal on it since we were in Grand Cayman. I had already priced a bunch of rings here and I negotiated hard with them. I ended up paying $2300 for mine and he paid $800 for his. (Note: We’ve already combined finances for the most part, so his money is mine and vice versa.)

    I think: Do whatever makes you happy. And realize that whatever you put into the ring is something you can’t use later. I bought a house recently and we have tons of plans, so I didn’t want to spend a lot, but I also wanted something I’d be proud to wear. I’m happy and he’s happy. That’s the most important part.

    And now we can move on to planning the wedding…oy vey!

    -Erica

  93. I agree with many of the comments above: You should pay whatever it costs to buy the ring you and your partner would truly value (and that you can afford). Joe’s wood rings are perfect for them, but may be inappropriate for others. I paid in the $3k range for my wife’s ring which is a lot, but frankly every time my wife and I look at it, we feel an immense sense of satisfaction. I feels like a tangible embodiment of the essence of our relationship and makes me happy every time I see it on her finger. Frankly I’d pay more for daily happiness like that.

  94. The only 3 things I am sure about how much a man should be spending on an engagment ring for a girl are:

    1. He should buy it with cash. If he can’t even save up for that, the couple may be headed for financial disaster. Finances are one of the primary reasons couples get a divorce.
    2. He should ask her what the expectations are & style/metals desired. If what he wants & she wants are miles apart, they should be able to both compromise to where it’s a win-win. If he can’t communicate with her on something that simple, the couple may be headed for a relationship disaster. Lack of communication is one of the other primary reasons couples get a divorce.
    3. If he can’t do 1) or 2) very well and he STILL wants to propose, he should at least wait till the fiancee is out of college & not surrounded by a bunch of other gals pouring over wedding magazines and receiving engagment rings at the same time. If the one she gets isn’t bigger, she will feel like she’s loved less. Comparison envy can destort the desires of even the most frugal person. Yes it is dumb and most people wouldn’t admit it, but I’ve seen it happen with my friends.

    • ” If he can’t do 1) or 2) very well and he STILL wants to propose, he should at least wait till the fiancee is out of college & not surrounded by a bunch of other gals pouring over wedding magazines and receiving engagment rings at the same time”

      This seems to assume that there has been both a long dating period and (at least the expectation) of a long engagement. What if that’s not the case?

  95. Well, if you want a contribution from the world’s most unobjectionable lesbian couple – I spent $1300 on the engagement ring — she spent about $300 on mine because all I wanted was a colored pearl ring (also she’s 8 years younger than me and was broke at the time). We went looking together because she’s picky and likes jewelry, and I paid for it out of a severance package (not the whole package) the day the next job came through.

    I doubt we are really that different from a lot of hetero couples except for maybe the part where I don’t really resent paying for an engagement ring. She likes jewelry, it’s fun to make her happy, and I had the cash, so why get all persnickety about it?

  96. Oh, such good thoughts here. I love this discussion:

    An engagement ring is a pretty important ritual object, so one thing I wouldn’t react to well is anybody being cheap — whatever that means for them. In an ideal situation, I would never, ever have a discussion about how much the thing cost, and never want to ask — I would just want to know it was special.

    Something like “I took a jewelry class and forged you this simple gold band with my own hands. . . ”

    Or, “I know you love art nouveau jewelry, so I found this beautiful ring in that style that reminded me of you. . . ”

    Or, I knew my brother was seriously and forever-committed to his finacee, when he asked my grandfather for my grandmother’s engagement ring to give to his love. Seriously important object. Who cares what it is worth monetarily?

  97. I’ve heard 2-3 months salary. That makes it proportional to what you make.

    A man that practices conscious spending should have no problem doing this in about 4-6 months.. which is probably how long someone should spend thinking about it!

    I think an engagement ring is a great financial commitment and statement that every man should make as a part of deciding if they’re ready to marry a specific girl.

    If you can’t get it together to save up 2-3 months’ salary for a ring, or can’t make it a high enough priority (in your conscious spending), or feel uncomfortable making such a bold statement about your commitment.. maybe you need to reconsider. The fact that you planned everything out that much, makes it even more of a statement to the woman you give the ring to. And that, can mean even more than the ring itself.

    It’s as good in process as it is in result.

    • Thanks for adding a different opinion than everyone else, Chelsea. I appreciate it. Hearing this view publicly aired is EXTREMELY rare in discussions on engagement rings online.

    • I disagree Chelsea. I spent 6 months ‘deciding’ whether/when/how to propose. It was an incredibly nerve racking time, since I couldn’t ask many friends for advice lest my partner caught wind of my plans. That would’ve killed the romantic surprise! But spending that planning time to also save my money? Noooo

      At the time my wife-to-be an I were serial entrepreneurs, make money from one idea to pump into the next. If I had just taken 2 months of cool profit from this cycle, it would have hampered our business – all for the sake of some marketing object to say ‘I love you.’ Actions speak louder than words, and even words speak louder than materialism.

      Fast forward 5 years and we are sitting on the profits from those business ventures and my wife is still sporting a lovely (cheap!) custom wedding band. Hell, if she wanted to she could go and buy a $40k ring today and rub it in all the soccer mom’s faces. But that wouldn’t make her happy. Is that what makes you happy Chels?

    • I’m with Chelsea on this one. I’d like to know he’s capable of spending (and willing to spend) a large sum on me because he has the determination, discipline, hustle, and generosity necessary to do so. What type of ring actually gets purchased is secondary to all that.

    • I agree. My husband bought me a gorgeous (and, it turns out, pricey) engagement ring, and he found a way to do it even though he had just finished his doctorate and had only been working for a few months.

      I’m fairly pragmatic and minimalistic in the rest of my life but to me, the engagement ring symbolized commitment. I basically changed my entire life to marry my husband. I left a lucrative job, family and friends, and a city I loved to move to a smaller city where I knew no one but where he had a job in his field.
      If circumstances had been different maybe I would have been happy with a ring made of tin foil. I’ll never know.
      In this case it was important to me that he put a stake in the ground. And damn it, he did! My ring is gorgeous and glittery and I love it.

    • Great comment Chelsea! To help with saving for my ring my husband moved into a friend’s house after his lease ran up. Of course I didn’t know that was one of the reasons at the time he was living there (surprise proposal) but it was just something he did which showed me his commitment . He saved while he was considering marriage, and had his buddy right by him for some guy time before moving in together.

  98. There is no *should*.

    If the fiance’s “love language” is not gifts then the price or perceived value of the ring is irrelevant.

    If the fiance has very specific expectations then the amount spent has be budgeted accordingly, taking into consideration how much you can actually afford (and whether it’s worth going cheaper for a more grandiose wedding, or if the ring is the bulk of the wedding budget – I’d rather have a giant diamond on my finger than a giant wedding.)

    • Why? It fits with my priorities of how I spend my money. I buy myself shiny things and expensive shoes but I rarely eat out and I don’t drink.

    • Hi Hilary, I agree with you. If you want to do marriage the ‘traditional’ way, there are lots of expenses – ring, engagement party, wedding reception, honeymoon. We looked at how much we had to spend on all this, and divided it up. I chose a more expensive ring, and spent less on the engagement party (had it at home) and honeymooned locally. In answer to Ramit’s ‘why’ – because I will look at my ring every day, forever, and the wedding only lasts a few hours. Every time I look at my gorgeous ring, it makes me happy that we bought the best ring we could afford. (married 16yrs and going strong).
      PS Ramit, do you have a romantic event planned that we shouid all know about?

  99. When I got down on one knee I just had a placeholder $20 zirconia ring in the box.

    After all the excitement settled down I explained to my girl that I’d love to make an EXPERIENCE out of the engagement and wedding ring process, so she would always be able to look at the ring and remember the moments that it inspired.

    We’d have special dates where we would drink champagne and select various features for the ring, or even research stone dynamics. We didn’t even consider Diamond, who wants the same stone as everyone else? hahahaha

    At the end of the day I would never spend more than $1k on a piece of jewellery. Some girls would balk at that, and to them I say “good luck to your husbands.” My wife and I both share the same views on materialism and happiness – having a bigger or more expensive ring on her finger doesn’t make us any happier in any way at all. Just spending time together was enough to make the engagement ring incredibly special – for both of us.

    • Larry this is an excellent answer, and my thoughts on how I’d propose! I’m not married and have not experienced my own case of mindset vs. savings vs. women-involved to comment on how I’d handle the cost side!

  100. Buy what you can afford and what will make you happy. We did not have much money when we decided to get married. We went together and I picked out a 10k white gold ring with a small, poor quality, princess cut solitaire. Didn’t have the money to buy anything nicer, and I was perfectly content to get that – I was happy to have a ring.

    We’re now debt free including two nice cars, a house & enough money in the bank to feel secure. To spend 2.5x monthly income seems outrageous – we make very good money now and I would not be able to find anything in my taste at that price (nor would I want to spend that kind of money on a ring). We are going to replace it once I find something I like, and it will most likely be no more than 1/3 of our monthly income.

    It’s very much an individual decision, but don’t go in to debt over it unless you know you can manage it ( I think you should have the cash in the bank to cover it but if your money is better off in investments or something else, so be it ).

  101. Erin Heckenekmper Link to this comment

    I’m sorry, but if I get a ring that costs more than $3k I won’t marry him out of principle. Put that money into something more “practical.” Like building my classic dream car.

    • An engagement car! I like that. A thoughtful guy will plan for the girls expectations before popping the question.

  102. I just don’t believe there are a lot of people who spend a large amount on engagement rings. A lot of times, we just assume rings are expensive because it’s of the taboo nature of talking cost but those we actually do hear, are probably the ones that spent a fortune (ex. Kimmy K and Kris Humphries).

    I don’t think there are many women here who would refuse an expensive ring (of course under the circumstance the person didn’t kill someone / or themselves for it) but it’s just not likely — and seems they are ok with that.

    Agree / Disagree?

    • Thomas, when my husband and I were dating, one of the things we talked about was financial values and aspirations. He was in debt and I was not, and I would not have married him if unless I knew he was carefully and intentionally working his way out of debt.
      If he had shown up with a very expensive ring, I would have certainly refused it and probably broken up with him, as it would have shown that he was willling to throw our plans away on an emotional implulse (not a good character trait in a marriage partner).

  103. I cringe every time I hear the 2.5x month salary rule. I believe the right price is whatever it takes to get something you think she will like, and will be respectable to her friends. I looked at rings with my fiance to see what she was into, and she ended up picking out a ring that cost $700. She said she didn’t care that much. When it came time to buy one, I ended up spending $3000 more than that because I wanted to make sure the diamonds were high quality. Size wasn’t much of a concern, the fiance has small hands and even 1 ct. would’ve looked absurdly big.

    After news of our engagement broke out, it was amazing how many people would demand to see the ring. For that reason, I’m glad I got something of good quality. It kind of sucks that the whole point is living up to American society’s demands. Also, we had always talked about having a city hall wedding. After our first serious conversation about it, it was clear that there would be a lot of unhappy family members and friends if we didn’t have a traditional ceremony and reception. Thankfully Ramit prepared me for this realization a long ago.

  104. My fiance gave me a ring that has been in his family for over 80 years. Not big, not flashy, but incredibly meaningful (and he didn’t have to spend any money… on the ring that is). Now the bed and breakfast he took me to cost some money, but certainly not a couple thousand dollars. I know not everyone has this luxury, but for us it was perfect.
    And on another note… Most women I know do want a nice engagement ring. Not because they are gold diggers, but because it is something meaningful and something to be proud of. Its kinda like the “cute” thing vs. the “wow, that’s amazing” thing. Guys, do you want girls to look at your penis and say “aw, its cute” or “wow, that’s incredible.” Just saying… kinda goes the same way.

  105. Chris H. has the right idea. Buy what you can afford. My husband was in grad school with little money when he bought mine 21 years ago. Even though I could have a different, more expensive ring now I cherish the one he gave me. Besides there are much better things to spend money on and not every woman wants a big diamond. The other caveat is to know what your future spouse wants. Some women want a different stone other than a diamond and some like vintage rings. Make it your own style and you’ll find a way to figure it out :)

  106. Ramit left a comment about how few people backed up their comments with tangible numbers, so to back up my post above:

    My expectation was that my fiance would spend $1500-3000 at most on my ring.

    He bought me a $12,000 ring. But, he had a family friend that’s a diamond wholesaler who helped him get it for $7,000.

    He saved up for 5 months, with the goal of saving up $10,000 which is 3 months’ worth of post-tax salary.

    He’s proud of it and says he loves to see me wear it. He’s proud that he splurged on a setting that’s handmade in the USA.

    We’re both so satisfied knowing that we’ll never feel the need any add-on anniversary stones or other upgrades as many couples do as their liquid assets go up with age. It looks great now, and will look great when we’re 80.

    And, like I said in my post:
    The fact that he planned it out, adjusted his conscious spending and actually saved up cash.. that dedication and commitment is what I remember every time I look at it. It’s a symbol of where I fit into his priorities and his life. This ring as a symbol of his effort & focus, means so much more to me than what it actually is.

    Really, it can be any object.. a house, the wedding, the honeymoon. Having a future spouse re-adjust their priorities and spending on their own accord without any prompting or planning from the other partner… and to give it to the other as a symbol – that’s what it’s really all about.

  107. I’m not going to give any simple formulas, like 2-month’s salary or anything like that.

    What I am going to say is the man should get a ring that a) his to-be-fiancee likes, and b) she won’t be aghast at the amount spent (high or low), and c) won’t seriously hinder other financial goals he has — alone and shared with the to-be-fiancee.

    For guys, of course, this means knowing about the woman you are going to propose marriage to. A shocking idea, I know. Even so, there are some things you may want to watch for, to get an idea:

    A) Is she impressed by any of her friend’s or relative’s rings? What are they like? Will she want to “better” them in some fashion?

    B) What rings does she actually like? You may have to (*gasp*) go shopping with her in some context or another to try to discern this. If you’re worried about surprise, try with necklaces or earrings instead. The basic idea is, what kind of metal does she like? What sparkly bits? What shapes? Patterns?

    C) Would she get mad if she found out you spent so much (or so little) on a ring? What is in those ranges?

    D) What can you actually afford? What priority does impressing this woman with an engagement ring have compared to your other goals? Would she actually prefer an engagement trip to the Caribbean instead?

    Other sources for this sort of information might include sisters or good friends. Or just do what I did, and ask the lucky woman outright which ring she wanted ($200 or so, also used as the wedding ring, and it was probably about 1-2 weeks of my income at the time).

  108. Ramit, I never said that I didn’t want a big ring…just that I already have one. It would be dumb to have two pieces of jewelry that cost as much as my brand new convertible.

  109. Also.. in agreement with what Erin said above..

    When I found out how much he spent on the ring (and you have to understand, the only reason how i found out at all is that I own a house and needed a copy of the appraisal of the ring in order to purchase an insurance rider for the ring)… when I found how he spent on a piece of JEWELRY, I was actually a little peeved.

    We could have saved that for a house, a vacation, or our kid’s college education… But, like I said above, it’s a symbol of the effort, dedication, consideration and time he took deciding and saving up for it. And.. one of his last purchases as a carefree bachelor. ;-) So I appreciate it for what it is as a symbol. There’s plenty of time for houses, vacations, and other more practical items that won’t last or be with us as long as this. This is something we can pass on to our children.

  110. I honestly can’t see why anybody would buy a ring that costs more than $10-50. Even if the marriage lasts forever, the ring is just a finger trinket. Even if you’re a billionaire, who are you trying to impress? It’s especially bizarre if the ring’s recipient makes more than the ring’s supplier (gender be damned).

    True, conscious spending means that a person who considers a super-awesome ring to be really important has the right to pay whatever s/he desires. It’s a head-scratcher to me, though.

    Most of the women I’ve dated want an engagement ring, at least in the abstract “someday” sense. At least that’s what they say. From what they told me, they value the social status of both having a husband and having something impressive to show off. From what one woman told me, “There are three things people pay attention to regarding a wedding: the cake, the dress and the rock.”

    I’m only familiar with a few cultures, and I know that poor culture doesn’t care much about such status symbols (as institutions like marriage aren’t trusted or particularly respected). I know middle class and wealthy society tends to view conspicuous consumption as a modifier to one’s personal status, so how much one spends is probably a 7-8 on a 10 scale.

    While I don’t know too much about same-sex couples, I do know that it makes very little difference who is offering the ring — some people like a lot of flash, and some people don’t. One of my bi friends explained that it wouldn’t matter if a man or woman was proposing to her — big spending is no big deal.

  111. I knew exactly what I wanted my ring to look like, and I wasn’t willing to compromise on that at all. However, it didn’t matter to me if it was “real.” So we got an emerald-cut .75 “carat” center stone with channel-set baguettes on either side, and it was I think $350 (we went with CZ). What was a surprise to him was that I also wanted a wedding ring (which I think a couple other people mentioned that you should talk over as well). He said off-hand in conversation one day that at least his ring-spending was over, and I said, “um, what about the matching band?” When he acted shocked, I pointed out that EVERY SINGLE picture I sent him of the type of ring I liked was accompanied by a picture of a matching band.

    What it boils down to, is that the total cost of both my wedding and engagement rings was less than $600 and no one knows they aren’t real unless I tell them. As an anecdote, when we went shopping for wedding bands for him, several of the jewelers complimented my engagement ring, one going so far as to ask whether it had been purchased at her store because “it was so high quality and of a unique design.” If trained professionals can’t tell the difference with the naked eye (I imagine if she’d used her equipment to really look at it closely she would’ve seen the truth in a second), then I am confident that no one else can.

    In addition to my female desire for something sparkly that perfectly suits my taste, there were additional reasons to want something that looked a certain way. My fiance is in a fairly conservative profession (lawyer) where if he brings me to an event, we need to look as if we fit in with the most affluent people there, because those are the people he wants to hire him or recommend his work to others. Because of this, I try to stay involved with my sorority alum club, which in our area is VERY wealthy (as opposed to the chapter I was a member of, on the other side of the country and which was not as well-to-do). Literally, I took my fiance to a party hosted by someone in our alum club with free valet parking, FIRE BREATHING DANCERS, and models hired to sit in the pool dressed as mermaids. INSANE.

    These people’s business may be the key to getting me and my fiance out of our combined $200 in educational debt (I have a PhD) and they are DEFINITELY not the type of people to appreciate the “do what works for you” or frugal mindset. They are the type of people who don’t respect you if you don’t appear to share their values. Note I wouldn’t consider myself “friends” with any of them, I just try to network. My fiance feels the same about the more high-powered attorney events he goes to.

    Obviously the most important thing to us was that we ended up with something that we both liked, and didn’t spend more than we were comfortable spending – all the things everyone mentions above. However, for us there were additional layers to the purchase. It is an “investment” in the sense that it garners us credibility among the type of people that we need to know to continue to improve our financial situation.

  112. I recently came across a booked called the Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live. It is an amazing book that discusses the histories of our modern ideas about life by examining how these ideas came to be and what we can learn from ancient civilizations and their practices. The first chapter is about our modern notions of Love. In a subset of the chapter the author details us the history of De Beers and diamonds. It also discusses how purchasing fine jewelry for one’s significant other was practiced only by the most affluent individuals prior to 1938 and the diamond marketing campaign. Just as the article in Ramit’s link says, a diamond’s value is only what we precieve it to be.

    I had a discussion with my girlfriend about an engagement ring. She is anti diamond (the whole blood diamond thing), but she want’s her ring to be special nonetheless. We discussed the option of getting a ring while traveling together abroad and/or choosing from another precious stone. The underlying message of the conversation was that regardless of the price, the ring and the significance should be special and meaningful to both of us. It’s not about the rock and impressing other people, but about us and what our love means. To that end, price is secondary.

  113. Katherine Chalmers Link to this comment

    It depends on the circumstances of the couple. We got married at 24 when neither of us had much money. We researched diamond buying together, looked in horror at the quality/price offerings at the mall stores, and then had a nice ring made at the much less glamorous diamond market for about $1100. I loaned him the money to buy it and he “paid me back” with fancy anniversary dinners for the first decade. It was fun.

    My ring is clearly a “first wife” ring, but I cared a lot more about having a very good quality stone and setting than about the sheer size of the diamond. The ring sparkles nicely and looks bigger than it actually is. We figured we could always upgrade it to a “second wife ring” by switching out the small diamond for a larger one later and adding another small one to have two baguettes on one of our later anniversaries.

    Now 20 years later, it’s noticeably smaller than most of my friends’ rings since they married later. The upcoming milestone anniversaries might be good times to consider upgrading the stone, but in the grand scheme of things it’s just not that big of a deal. For the same cost, I’d rather upgrade my laptop and iPhone. :-)

  114. I find it surprising that nobody has commented on Ramit’s headline: “How Much Should a Man Spend on an Engagement Ring” (emphasis on man). I think this is an interesting point in itself on gender and money, and considering it’s Ramit it was written that way for a purpose. What other big ticket items have clearly defined gender exclusivities on who’s buying?

    It’s obviously dictated by tradition, but funny how strongly it’s held.

    • One of my friends in grad school bought her own engagement ring (without telling her boyfriend), shipped it to herself, took him out to dinner (interestingly they had a huge fight about where to eat which ended up with them missing her reservation and having to be sat at the bar while they waited for a table), proposed to him, and then pulled out the ring she had bought and put it…on herself! It always flabbergasted me, but the fact that he said yes means I guess she chose the right guy for her.

  115. When I was purchasing my engagement ring I already knew approximately how much I wanted to spend. I took my girl friend around and had her look at a few styles and it seemed that she wanted a bigger diamond than I planned to purchase. As ridiculous as it sounds people are just not rational.

    Here are some reasons give to me from my girlfriend:
    “I want a ring that’s not the smallest in my group”
    “Some of my female friends have smaller diamonds and they all try to give an explanation on why it’s small, for example they say it’s a very good cut, but I don’t want to be that girl that explains why.”

    So I have reason to believe that the woman’s peers have a big influence over the size of the ring she desires. You may say, that’s so illogical but social proof and conformity are very real thing. I tried my best to reason to her about blood diamonds and the fact that diamonds can be manufactured but she didn’t care about the value. I told her what if I took this money and put it in a retirement account for you and she said, it’s not about the money. She said, “If you give me that money, I can’t go out and buy the ring myself can I?” Just like why girls don’t send flowers to themselves.

    Certainly I think many factors play into the desired diamond size
    -The girl’s social group and their diamond sizes
    -Her values – desire to fit in vs be different
    -Her need for proof that the guy loves her

    Some of you might say, your girl friend is crazy, why doesn’t she just take the money, it doesn’t make any sense. But try arguing with a 14 year old out of asking for an iPhone. Sometimes children and adults just don’t behave rationally.

    • Wow. Is your girlfriend aware of how little respect you show her in public? You have compared her to a child, called her ridiculous and irrational. Is that really what you want out of a relationship? Is that what she wants in a relationship? Or do you just think it’s normal for men and women to relate that way?

  116. Wow. This is a popular topic.

    I skimmed most of the comments and noticed the common theme of meeting your girlfriend’s expectations, within your budget.

    What many might be forgetting is that how good your fiancee feels about her ring is strongly influenced by how her ring compares to her peers. This is subconscious and she will not likely express this directly when “discussing expectations”.

    Before they get their ring, many women may say that “size is not important”. Hogwash. Size makes a big difference, even if she is not aware of it before she gets her ring. Size of diamond is the one thing that she will compare with her peers and will influence how proud she is to show it off. We know about studies that correlate happiness/life satisfaction with material wealth *relative* to those around us — the keeping up with the Joneses effect. I think it’s reasonable to infer that this applies to engagement rings too.

    Of course all women are different. Whatever, this is still human nature and we should acknowledge that this influences us all to varying degrees. Just remember to consider that your future wife will probably be happier if she has a ring that compares well, at least to the naked eye, with those of the people she hangs around with, especially if they are of comparable socioeconomic realities.

    • EXCELLENT comment, Dan

    • I couldn’t describe any of my friends’ engagement rings except one, and that because she made a big deal of it and sent photos (she actually cared about having a really ornate band, so her band is Tacori but the stone is a sapphire). Her wedding band is a super cheap-o one with tiny diamonds that have flaws visible to the naked eye. I remember that one too because I was on a trip with her when she saw it, called him, and said she was buying it herself. I’ve ogled over other women’s rings when they were newly engaged, but promptly forgotten what they looked like. Similarly, I’ve been engaged for a year and no one looks at mine anymore.

    • Dan, keeping up with the girlfriends is huge. My wife and I were engaged young and she had her engagement ring 2-3 years before any of her girlfriends. It was perfect for her at the time, but now I’ve noticed that she seems less proud of it now that her friends are all engaged (with bigger rings of course)

  117. My general observation is that girls are so happy to be proposed to that they like ANY ring–until one of their friends inevitably comes along and says “oh honey, how much did the ring cost? He OWES you 3 months salary for a ring.” Then they become dissatisfied with their ring and complain. Source: watching many women talk about their rings at the office.

    As a man I think anything beyond a simple band is a prolific waste of money that could be better spent on a house to live in, fun honeymoon, or expenses that inevitably come along with the first child.

  118. Mine was $1200. I had never planned to get married (on principle) but my husband was from a different country so we ‘had’ to. He worked in a call-centre and I was unemployed, so we didn’t have a lot of money to throw at it. I would recommend other people get more financially together, but for us the marriage was a gamble — we couldn’t live together first to test it out.

    We did spend a lot of time picking it. I think that mattered more than the cost. We got a diamond from one ring put into another band, so my ring ended up ‘unique’ and I was very specific about wanting an eco/fairly-traded diamond – no ‘blood diamonds’. We made sure we insured it as well!

    My friend (who is a lot more girly than me) also got picked out a nice ring, don’t know how much it cost but a lot more than mine, and they didn’t insure it and she lost it (before the wedding!!) So whatever you spend on the ring GET INSURANCE.

    I have changed my mind about spending the money. It was a lot to us then (we would probably be okay with spending more now). People always comment on it, and since I was one of the first of my friends to get married I’ve found a lot of the women have shown it to their boyfriends and gone “this is what I want but without this and with this instead”. I think it is more about picking it out being one of the first lasting things we did together. I’m pretty sure I would have thrown a fit if he had just ‘surprised’ me. (But other women LOVE that, my friend did – she got a proper down-on-one-knee proposal. It really is about KNOWING YOUR GIRLFRIEND AND NOT MAKING ASSUMPTIONS BASED ON WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY.)

  119. I spent $9,000 for my wife’s… It was the only ring I saw that embodied her style. I love the way it looks on her finger, and she still gets compliments to this day. I don’t mind saying that I like to hear the compliments, and I get some kudos because she always answers “Thanks, he picked it out on his own!”

    I didn’t take into account resale value. I didn’t do the math of 2x my monthly salary. I found a ring I loved, and knew she’d love. It was an expense that I thought was worthwhile. So I bought it! I couldn’t be happier with the choice.

    • Jared -

      I think you had a very good approach. My husband also did a similar approach, and he also get’s all the kudo’s for picking it out himself.

  120. I think the appropriate price is up to the person giving the ring. Why it is so hard to decide how much to spend on a ring is because it is so subjective. My husband and I had kind of discussed an engagement ring in an abstract way, and I did mention that I wouldn’t mind not having a diamond and thought moissanite or another hard gem would be fine. But the ring he popped the question with was a $5k diamond. It was a gift from him, and I loved it because I know how much time and thought it but into it, not just because how much it is worth. Esthetics matter, because it reflects what you think the other person would enjoy, but size and type of gem are not everything.

  121. A bit more about conscious spending on engagement rings:

    My partner and I calculated the cost of the engagement and wedding rings as part of our total wedding costs. We chose an overall budget of $15k as our starting point, because we could afford to pay that without going into debt. We each got to pick three priorities for the wedding, and we agreed to cut costs ruthlessly on everything else.

    We both picked “wedding rings” as one of our priorities. Neither of us picked “engagement ring.” That pretty much answered the engagement ring question for us!

    Since we both agreed that awesome wedding rings were a priority, we set our maximum spending range as 1/3 of our total wedding budget, but with a goal of spending less if we could find something meaningful.

    We spent some time brainstorming about marriage meant to us, and what values we wanted to express with our wedding rings. We knew one of the things we wanted to express was “Love is a doing word.” Marriage is something you build, not something you have. When we realized that there was a local studio where we could make our own rings, that seemed totally perfect.

    We spent $800 on gold for the rings and another $800 for a day in the studio with a jewelry maker. I made his ring, and he made mine. Every time I look at my ring, I remember that amazing day of literally forging our commitment to each other, and I decide to forge it anew.

    $1600 / $15000 is just over 10% of our wedding budget, which is a bargain for something that was so important to us both – but we got exactly what we were looking for out of the rings, and they still make us happy every time we look at them.

    I know this is technically about wedding rather than engagement rings, but hey, it’s how we made our decision.

  122. Ramit, where do your readers live?!?!?!

    I live in NYC. Every single one of my friends has at least a 2 Carat ring – which is at least 20k depending on the color, and can be way more. I was honest with my boyfriend. I told him I really wanted a gorgeous ring and thankfully he wanted to make me happy and bought me a gorgeous 2 Carat ring for $23,000.

    I think you WANT your readers to make above-average salaries and spend thousands on self-development courses, travel, health & beauty, etc. Because people who don’t invest in themselves are worthless to you. But I’m not so sure they actually ARE.

    I think your ideal readers are too busy making it happen rather than reading about it. Regardless, I respect your hustle.

    The highest number I’ve seen on here is 8k?! Crazy to me!!

    • I also live in NYC, and none of my close friends gave / received a ring worth more than $2k. I think it’s a question of what community you live in and what the norms of that community are. This totally makes me want to have coffee with you, though, and find out more about your social world!

    • I agree with Jess. It’s not just about where you live, it’s about the social circles you’re in.

      Of the friends I know about (e.g. the rings where I know how much they cost), none of them has spent over $1k. I suspect the one I don’t know about was in the $2,500 range, but the man in that couple had a fairly substantial inheritance to draw from. Some gay friends of ours got Tungsten Carbide rings… I don’t think the spent more than $60 for the two of them. My other friend got a small $900 ethical diamond ring from Blue Nile. And my fiance spent $500 on mine (which was actually a tad bit more than I would have ideally liked).

      If all my friends were getting $10k+ rings, and/or actively commenting or comparing out loud, would I feel insecure about mine? Maybe. It’s hard to say. I’m not sure if I would enjoy being friends with people who were like that. Which is probably part of the reason why my social circle is what it is.

  123. It’s up to the couple. Some of my friends wanted very nice rings, some wanted ethical stones, one (divorced) wanted one bigger than the last one she had, some wanted something smaller than what they got but their husbands thought it was important to be blingy. Some did installments, some paid in cash, some used family heirlooms. (I’m a little older – I’ve got lots of married friends). It was just whatever made the most sense to those people at that point in time.

    I personally didn’t want diamonds. I actually didn’t think we needed an engagement ring at all – just an eventual wedding ring. But it was really important to my husband that I have one. So I went on eBay, found 5 or 6 rings that I liked that were a price range I felt comfortable with ($300 or less. I’d never spend more than that on a piece of jewelry for myself, so why on earth should he?), sent him the links, and then he could pick out something I’d like, I’d feel comfortable with, but he still got to make the final decision on it and I got to be surprised.

    I’m sure a facet of it was the fact that I make more than my husband does. Probably more than he ever will. I would have felt weird walking around with a ring on my finger knowing he was taking out a loan or making payments on it. But I’ve just never been an expensive “thing” person. So a fancy or expensive ring really wouldn’t have fit who I am anyway.

    To be honest, it mattered more to me how amazing the proposal was. The amount of time, effort, coordination, and planning was huge. Then again, we’ve always been more about experiences than things. So this worked for us. We spent a little more on the wedding rings – about $1,900, because we physically made them for each other – the bulk of the cost was the guy who was there to make sure we knew what we were doing and didn’t screw it up.

  124. What does a 1 karat VS or better stone cost? that is what you should spend..

  125. Wow, reading this comment thread was an interesting glimpse into the American culture (since I assume that most of commenters are from US)!

    I didn’t know that engagement ring was such a big deal over there and that there are so many subtle and not-so-subtle issues surrounding the topic (since I only heard references to that in movies, never from real people).

    Definitely very interesting.

    P.S. I’m from Lithuania. In my country, people usually get either plain bands or some simple rings. I don’t think that many women would expect to get a ring with diamonds unless the guy is very rich.. It’s simply not such a big deal there.

  126. I recently bought an engagement ring and spent $5,300. I make $35,000 a year. I have no idea how many months/weeks/lifetimes of a salary that is, but I do know that I am proud of the ring that I bought my fiance and I believe she is proud to wear the ring.

    I approached ring buying as a goal-setting process. I decided about a year ago that I wanted to ask her, so at that time, I started to look at rings and get a ballpark of how much the one that I thought she would want would cost. Spending the year saving like normal (and opening a Roth IRA thanks to Ramit), I finally reached my goal (which was to have $7,500 in the bank and spend $5,000 on a ring). At that time, I asked her parents if it would be ok if I asked her and began seriously ring shopping. I did go a little over my planned spending amount, but I also went a little over my savings goal so it worked out just fine.

    It doesn’t take long to figure out that buying a ring is going to be a similar process no matter where you go, but I didn’t even look at that $5,000 as being my money. It was a goal I had set to purchase her a ring and that was that.

    It’s not about how much you spend or how nice/big the ring is, it’s about being a responsible adult with your money. Financing a ring – whether interest free or not – is not the way to go. What if you get married in 6 months, combine your income with your wife, and then have to spend HER money to pay off the ring that you bought for her? That just doesn’t work. Also, do not wipe out your entire savings to buy a ring. You will have to purchase a honeymoon shortly after you get engaged and eventually buy a wedding band. Wait until you have the money to buy her a ring you’re comfortable with and one that you know she will like to wear. I would highly recommend buying the engagement ring and wedding band at the same time and working out a deal (like an Indian) with the salesperson so that both are cheaper than they would have been if you bought them separately.

    Remember, the ring is a bonus compared to actually getting engaged and married. If your girl is calculating how much ring you should buy her using your pay stubs, you probably need to run away as quickly as possible and find a normal person to marry. Enjoy the process, it’s supposed to be fun, not painful.

  127. Personally, I think Caleb Huitt says it well. It doesn’t depend solely on the woman, or the man, like everything to do with marriage, it depends on the couple.

    I knew, and I think this is practical, that I wanted a ring from a jeweler with a good reputation for quality, because I wanted to spend as little time as possible for the rest of my life getting the ring fixed or a stone replaced. So that meant a ring that would be at least a few hundred, which I was fine with. Conversely, I didn’t want a diamond, because most diamond engagement rings are boring-looking. My fiancé makes a good salary while I am a struggling artist type, so I knew I would feel awful forever and a day if he spent more than, say, $750. And he respected that, as I’d hope he would, or I would be uncomfortable with marrying him.

    So in the end I got a beautiful amethyst ring I adore which, while I don’t have the exact figure, I am told cost a little under $500. And for us, I think that’s perfect.

  128. Unless I misread your tone, I am surprised that someone who is an economist and so rooted in logic is so fascinated and wholly supports the diamond industry, specifically spending a large amount of money for an engagement ring. I am not wholly opposed to diamond engagement rings or even expensive ones at that but you present this survey to your readers and before they have a chance to answer, you dismiss anything that might not agree with your views by calling such answers “stupid.” This is a strange post, all around.

  129. How much should a man spend on a ring? Well I just bought one and proposed to my soon to be wife. She said yes! This is how I look at it.

    Over about a two year period I saved up a good chunk of change after I started Ramits conscious saving spending system. (3K+) I already knew what rang of rings my fiance was looking at and could have easily gotten her something she would have been happy with and have a little extra money left over. If you knew me you would think thats exactly what I did because I have had an issue with the whole social pressure and expectations with relationships and marriage. But in the moment, I went the opposite direction. I scrapped even more money together and am on a self restricted spending plan for the next 2 months to get me back on track. Why?

    I didn’t want to get her a ring she would be happy with. I wanted to get her something she would out right love and continue to love for years to come. I mean this is the women I love and the mother of my future children and I want to give her something that is truly remarkable. I was able to do this because I chose to and had a financial system that allowed me to. (did not go into debt)

    In the end the proposal itself was more important to her and I, as I new it would be, then the ring. She was crying with happiness and didn’t really even notice the ring. After about a minute of her crying and hugging me and being so happy I had to calm her down and force her to put the ring on. It wasn’t until then that she actually noticed it, and fell in love with the ring as well. I know it has only been a month or two, but she still can’t stop looking at and talking about the ring. She even almost got us in a car accident when she was looking at the ring instead of the road. This is what I was going for. I feel completely happy with the amount of money I spent on the ring and wouldn’t change a thing.

    So if the average guy is expected to spend good money on a ring, should the average women be expected to provide an engagement gift to the man as well. I mean, we live in a world of equality where we should all be the same, right? If you are a man and have purposed did your fiance get you a gift? My fiance got me a several hundred dollar engagement gift. Am I the only one?

  130. I wouldn’t want to marry someone who will give me a cheap engagement ring. It’s for life so they should at least spend some money on it!

  131. I’m surprised nobody has brought up how much people spend to improve the diamonds they already have. I was completely STUNNED when my co-workers spent ~$20,000 to $30,000 on upgrading their wives rings (which were already very expensive) after we got a little bonus money.

    Overall this is a very interesting topic.

  132. Spend whatever you want. The cost of a ring pales in comparison to the money you’re about to spend on vacations, kids, house, in-laws, an suv like the neighbours’ etc.

  133. Ah, diamond engagement rings. They are a huge waste of money. We buy them because everyone expects to get one when they get engaged, and that is because of marketing by the diamond industry. I’m in my late thirties and I can tell you that the only women wearing diamond engagement rings are either recently engaged or recently married. Every married woman eventually realizes how impractical diamond engagment rings are. Most rings tend to get caught on things or are uncomfortable. And there is always the fear of getting mugged or losing it. So after a few years of marriage, the ring goes into a safe and it’s never worn again.

    Nevertheless, if you are a guy, there’s no way around it. You’ll have to get your future bride a diamond engagement ring. How much should you spend on something that will be appreciated for only a couple of years? As little as you can get away with. One suggestion I have is to buy a nice, simple engagement ring without the diamond. Ideally, shop with your girlfriend to make sure she likes it. Then ask your mother or grandmother if you can have the diamond from her engagement ring (which she certainly isn’t wearing anymore, right?). She will be so happy that you are going to get married, the answer will be yes! Then have the jeweler transfer the diamond to the new ring.

    When you propose and your new fiance’ says “yes”, tell her the story about how this diamond is meant to be passed through the generations. This adds significant sentimental value to the ring!

    • You absolutely do not HAVE to get your future bride a diamond engagement ring. There are tons of women in this thread alone saying that their experiences don’t conform to that particular story – me included. (I don’t even have an engagement ring, let alone a diamond one. My husband wanted to get me one but I told him I wouldn’t wear it.) I think it’s really interesting that the experiences of real-world couples get subsumed in this story about what “women” want instead of, you know, what the real woman in your life ACTUALLY wants.

      Have you ever been married, Eric? Can we hear about your own story?

  134. It’s about prioritization. You should know where your and your future spouse’s priorities lie if you are going to be married to them. That’s quite a generalization, but let’s pretend its true.

    Are your priorities keeping up with the Joneses? Style? Beautiful things? Travel? A house? Something else? There is no SHOULD in buying an engagement ring. I didn’t even have an engagement ring, and we went to Europe my with husband instead. I’m not better or less materialistic than anyone else – that was just my priority.

    And it’s really funny when you tell someone you are engaged and they ask to see “the ring,” grabbing your hand when there IS no ring. I laughed way too many times. My “rock” was in the French Alps instead. :D

  135. I am an a-typical female that doesn’t want a big diamond ring and would actually be ticked off if my guy spent a ton of money on one without my input. Rings are ridiculously expensive and although the sentiment is sweet about wanting to value our relationships by showing that in an expensive ring–I would rather use the money to travel someplace amazing or as a way to furnish our home.

  136. I think the engagement ring is just like a home, a car or whatever other purchase a couple can make, a reflection of the couple financial ideas. You must have talked about finances before take this step. Maybe a more wealthy couple don´t think it is important to spend a lot of money in engagement ring, and they preffer spend this money in the honey moon or weeding celebration, home…While another couple not as wealth preffer to save money for this ring which they give much value but be merciless about spending on weeding dress (which I don´t think so,since they cared to spend a lot on the ring already) or honey moon.

    I think it doesn’t depend only on the girl or the man incomes. If you spend much money on an engagement ring just to make your girl happy, while you don’t feel comfortable spending this much only for a ring, it can brings future problems, because it reflects your financial values are not matching so well.
    Also a girl may not feel comfortable with her man spending a lot on a ring.
    And ya,even if here no one recognize, we all have heard of someone complaining about the ring (women and men as well), even if not openly.

    No matter how much you love each other and how happly you are in love with each other living in a pink colored world full of flowers, love and birds singing. Finances matter in a couple, it is not about how much you can earn, but about how you feel about the matter. What may seem little differences on perceptions now can be big things in the hard times of thunderstorms.

    It is not just about money, it can apply also to raising childs or having them at all or any other subject. It is about the life you want to live. The other person will not accept or like everything as you do just because he or she loves you.

  137. I spent $550 on my wife’s engagement ring, which I bought second hand off of a jilted bride. If I would have bought it from a jeweler, I would have paid something like $1,750.

    My wife was happy that she didn’t get ‘blood’ diamonds and I was happy that we bought a traditional ring and a good price.

    We bought our wedding rings from a department store that was going out of business at 90% off. All told, we paid under $700 for all rings.

    On a different but related topic, we had a very nice wedding but after some shrewd negotiation and opting for a simple menu and cash bar, we spent under $3,000 and brought in more than that in gifts and financial contributions.

    Four years later, we are in much better financial shape than many of our peers that spent 3 or $4,000 on rings and another $20,000 on their wedding and we have a great marriage to boot!

  138. Tony Zarembski Link to this comment

    My girlfriend doesn’t like diamonds (I don’t either), which is a relief. We’d much rather pour money into a Roth or go on vacation, and I’m starting to save up to replace my dying car.

    I am astonished that marketers were successful enough that people assume there’s a specific guideline for the minimum salary (2-1/2 months) that anyone should spend on a ring. Kudos to them for positioning a rock as a rare commodity!

    But what really blows my mind is this: most people would never feel safe walking around with a few thousand dollars in hand, but they think nothing of giving the person they love most a giant, shiny, visible-from-far-away, status symbol that makes them a target for robbery or mugging.

  139. It depends on how much you want to buy into the marketing of diamonds or from another perspective, it depends on how much the bride to be has bought into the fallacy of diamonds. I think most men would love to debunk this marketing scheme, it is very costly. I believe it is just a luxury item and status symbol, kind of like a luxury automobile, do you really need it? It’s a status symbol and people that play those “keeping up with the… whoever” games, will buy into it. I personally do not believe in diamonds, but I do believe in making a happy wife which makes for me a happy life. If she really wants a diamond, I guess I’m stuck, unless I can find a way to convince her otherwise.

  140. Back when my male friends were all getting engaged, about 5-7 years ago, the rule they tossed around is “3 months’ worth of salary”. They almost all ended up buying rings with 1-2 karat VVS1/VVS2 diamond, spending $10k-20k on it, more if the guy decided to overpay for something from Tiffany & Co.

    Background: these guys were about 25 years old then, making mid-high five figures. The relationships were all long and stable, many started back in college days. Their girlfriends were in the same age, making similar amount of money. Everyone, including the couple themselves, were expecting them to be married and buy a house in late 20′s. If it seems a little traditional, that’s because we (my friends and their spouses) are all first-generation Chinese immigrants.

    Having said that, I received something very different. I have been dating my then-boyfriend/now-husband since grade 11. Years before we decided to “settle” into marriage, I have already told him, repeatedly, I didn’t want a diamond ring.

    At all.

    For one, I didn’t (and still don’t) wear any jewelry, save for our wedding band now. The nerd in me couldn’t wrap around paying so much for carbon atoms. The economist in me said it’s irrational to spend so much on an item with little utility (since I don’t enjoy wearing it or looking at it) and little resell value. He, someone who is still driving a ’99 Corolla to this day, probably couldn’t be happier about my proclamation then.

    When he eventually proposed, he gave still me a “diamond ring” — albeit a sterling silver one with three tiny rocks, something you can buy in a shopping mall for less than $100. It was symbolic and suited us well. I wore it every day until our wedding. Now I only wear our wedding band (PT 950 platinum, plain round band, cost about $600 each then).

  141. The conventional “rules of thumb” differ, depending on whom you ask. Many people say one month’s salary; others swear that two months’ salary is the accepted standard. This is the first time I’ve seen people suggest 2.5 times their monthly salary. I think marketing for jewelers has gotten out of hand, and this has inflated popular expectations about price, carat size, etc.

    I think we need to consider more than “How much should a man spend on an engagement ring?” An important, and related, question is “How much are you getting for your money?”

    I paid about two months’ salary for my fiancee’s ring, but price wasn’t the principal factor in my choice. I knew what my fiancee wanted (e.g. shape and carat size were important to her); and, because it was a major purchase, I felt the need to make sure I got a “good” stone for my money (based on color, cut quality, and clarity rating).

    I did the research, noted the price for a ring with the characteristics I wanted, and I saved for several months to make the purchase. I set up an automatic transfer to my savings account, so I didn’t have to think about it.

    An engagement ring — especially a diamond ring — is a highly subjective and emotional purchase. Different couples use different metrics to evaluate their purchases. I know many women who strongly identify with the Tiffany & Co. brand, who expect their future husbands to pay a premium of thousands of dollars simply for the “little blue box.” Some couples want larger stones, regardless of the color or clarity rating. Some prefer different gemstones, like emeralds, rather than diamonds.

    I purchased online to ensure better objective value for money (i.e. the “4 C’s” — color, carat size, cut quality, clarity rating). I did a lot of research, and the vendor allowed me to choose the exact diamond I wanted, based on the GIA certificate. The certificate had a diagram of the stone which showed the cut dimensions, and the size, type and placement of inclusions; which I found very helpful.

    I was very comfortable with the purchase, and my fiancee is very happy with her ring. Ultimately, that’s what counts.

  142. Maybe part of it is that the women don’t necessarily want a big ring until they see the beautiful big rings?

  143. I hope my future-husband spends no more than $1,000 on the ring regardless of his/our collective income. IDEALLY, he’d have in his possession an heirloom ring passed down in his family so that NO money would be spent but it would be incredibly valued and treasured. The way I personally look at it is: it’s a ring. I’d much rather we put money towards the wedding (which, even if frugal, will still cost a shit-ton since I plan to have an American ceremony and my mom will kill me if there’s not an additional Hindu ceremony – and Indian food is expensive in bulk) and a house. To each their own, but I would never wanna wear a $25,000 ring outside the house for fear of losing it.

  144. I seem to recall when I was in the market for an engagement ring, one of those Hitchcock-style ads popped up on the TV and told me “three month’s salary” (I assumed they were talking gross).
    My wife has no interest in the “why” of things, she just expects me to beat the curve, so that’s how I approached it. The important thing is, you should know what’s important to your (future) wife. The ring was an important symbol for mine, and so I took it seriously, ignoring all the back story from friends/family about the artificial inflation of diamonds, the corporate bullshit surrounding the culture of weddings, worldwide travesties, etc.
    Where is the ring now? Well, that’s another story…

  145. I’ve always heard 3 months’ salary. But it depends. If she’s ready to marry you she should know what you can and can’t afford. If you’re ready to marry her you shoul understand what matters to her. Discuss before you buy.

  146. In 1986, my husband and I went to the jewelry district in NYC just to browse. Yes, I saw lots of glittery bling but we chose a one carat emerald cut stone , set in a band with two rows of side diamonds on each side. The cost then was $2650 for the ring and it was a VVS-1 , G color stone. This at the time seemed outlandishly expensive but it was what I desired and I had what typically happens to a lot of women—it was a defining moment where I just knew it was the ring. Never even had a thought of buying an emerald cut stone as I thought I had wanted a oval or round. I have never doubted my choice and my husband was happy that I took the weight off his shoulders of making a decision , rather than making a mistake of buying something I did not care for.

  147. Christopher Jones Link to this comment

    My engagement ring for my wife (interesting phrase, that) cost $580. She gets compliments on it all the time. It’s an Art Deco-ish 1920′s or 1930′s ring that we found in a pawn shop and that I snuck back and bought. Has a matching band we found on ebay for $220 and they look like they were made for each other.
    The engagement ring has a respectable size diamond on my wife’s small hand. (If she had bigger hands I don’t know what I would have done, as I didn’t have more money than that, had to borrow that as it was.) But the thing is that it looks like her, it fits her personality to a T. We talked about it while we window shopped and she didn’t want a envy-sized ring (one to make people envious) or that would catch on stuff like those giant projecting “rocks” some people buy (many people buy). So she won’t feel out of place with low-income or high-income people. You can always ADD expensive jewelry. So, bottom line, we wanted one that would fit her personality and a wide variety of social environments (thinking long term) and also our relationship.
    She’s told me over and over that it’s the perfect ring. We clink our engagement rings together from time to time. (Married 15 months.)
    Postscript: My wedding ring ($200 gold band) vanished with my silver neck cross on the honeymoon; we have reason to believe it was stolen. My wife found a titanium band worth over 200 new at a garage sale; it was size 9-1/4 my EXACT size, looks a million bucks next to hers, and cost us exactly twenty five cents. If you knew my wife that would strike you as a perfectly normal thing for her to come up with.

  148. From a mathematical perspective:

    X dollars spent = Y status achieved (much like any other luxury item)
    May substitute Y status with ” Y for Yes to proposal” ;)

    From a guy’s perspective, I can’t ever recall myself taking note of another women’s diamond ring and thinking to myself, “wow,” “that’s nice.” I’d have to say I’m to wrapped up in thinking about my own life then to envy the status of others. But I did notice the jet black Lamborghini with chrome rims and a racing stripe parked in front of the neighbors driveway the other day, damn.

    Hard to know how women see the world, but I’m sure my wife notices other women’s bling. She sure mentions when she notices an expensive hand bag another women is carrying, and mentions it to me. Just a thought…

    Love your style Ramit, keep the ideas rollin

  149. A man should spend a little more than the woman expects him to?

    Unless she has really crazy expectations that he could never meet, let alone exceed, in which case, that’s not a good sign! :)

    I feel like my husband spent too much. It was a much bigger rock than I expected. But I love it. And I don’t care if it’s shallow or silly or whatever–when I look at it, it makes me smile, even four years later. Not so much the size, which gets comments from time to time, but the fact that he merged two styles I loved and came up with something I never thought of. I look at my ring and it reminds me of how well he knows me — sometimes better than I know myself.

    I would have married him no matter what, but I think most women are lying if they say it wouldn’t be a bummer to get a ring from the man they want to marry and it’s…disappointing. Or obvious he was trying to cut corners. Or if she wants a ring and he’s wearing his frugality or anti-establishment stance like a merit badge. I think most women want the magic when their boyfriend proposes.

  150. 2-3 months salary, as others have said, is the general rule I hear tossed around. I’m a 26 year old engineer, and that would mean I’m buying a ring that cost more than my car… INSANE! (I’m also perpetually single, and somewhat cynical about relationships in general, so read this with a grain of salt)
    Some of my friends have dropped massive amounts of money on rings, and their significant others hardly ever wear them for fear of losing them, getting robbed, etc. I prefer the approaches taken by my parents and sister: my parents bought a very affordable set when they got married, and my dad presented a much nicer set to my mom for their 25th anniversary, and stored the originals. My sister and brother-in-law had zero savings and essentially no consistent income, so they went to an antique store and bought one they thought looked cool for $75. They’re rock climbers, so my sister never wears it anyway.

  151. It’s about the best match for the couple TOGETHER. When my long-term boyfriend and I first talked about our expectations for marriage, we had a lot to cover – we are both from big Catholic families, so a “family only” ceremony is 100 people minimum. But neither of us is religious, so we have to navigate those expectations, in addition to divorced parents, both of us being the oldest sibling (and thus first married), etc., not to mention the cost of all those choices.

    Ultimately, a ring symbolizes a choice made to commit to a partner over other available choices. And so the ring symbolizes the new family being forged. I don’t want a brand-new diamond with the marketing schemes, psychological brainwashing, or blood wars. Likewise I don’t want a traditional marriage either. My boyfriend has always said the girl he’d buy a diamond for would never want one in the first place. That’s not something we value, as opposed to say, a mountain climbing trip to Denali or stable retirement.

    We both work full time and we have our own financial objectives to accomplish the lives we want to live, ideally together, for as many years as possible. We haven’t decided on a budget yet, but when we do, all options will be up for discussion, including what our life together looks like now, what we want it to look like at age 40, at age 65, and at age 90. I expect picking out the ring – and financing it – to be a mutually agreed upon decision. Even if we end up with an heirloom diamond ring that he purchases for me and surprises me with, it will be because that fits US best.

  152. Thank you Stacy for being so real, yours is one of the very few comments that makes sense.

    Engagement rings are not cheap nor should they be. They cost a minimum of $20,000 for the kind of quality that one should expect. And that’s just the starting range. I would go even higher and price it at $30-$50K.

    To the guys, I would say, this is your future WIFE. She’s going to be the mother of your children and (theoretically) the most important person in your life. Why wouldn’t you want to spend at least that much to show her how much you love her? And for those cost-conscious individuals, let’s break it down:

    $20,000 / 20 years of marriage = $1,000/yr

    Not to mention the cost of maintaining, cleaning, re-setting, etc. Some of which if you purchase at a high end jeweler often comes complimentary.

    You’re telling me that she isn’t worth a minimum of $1,000/yr? That she’s only worth a TOTAL of ~$1,000 from the prices I’ve seen so far.

    And ladies – let’s be a little more honest. Who doesn’t have friends with GORGEOUS rings? I do and you know what they tell me? Once in a while, they’ll glance down at their rings, and they just know they’re LOVED and there’s something so special about their marriage and their husbands.

    Being perfectly real here, that feeling costs a lot more than $1,000.

    • One of the few comments that disagrees with almost everybody else. I appreciate it, Annie.

    • Not all wives are going to be mothers of a man’s children. Some are gay, some are infertile, some just don’t want them.

      Also, my ring was a lot less than 20k and I am still loved; I still feel loved, I know exactly what is special about me and my husband (like the fact he was prepared to give up his country, his home, his family, his job to come and be with me in a rural town and not be allowed to work in order to be with me!).

      If you have that money, fabulous, treat her. But the size/price of the ring is NOT the foundation of love, ask any dissatisfied trophy wife that’s been traded for a younger model.

    • If my husband spent $20,000 on my ring, I would have been PISSED. That’s a down payment on a house in our city!! How nice it would have been to start married life with $20,000 in the bank.

      But to be fair to circumstances, we married about 2mths after I graduated university, and right when my husband quit my job due to the immigration process he was starting. So we knew I’d be supporting us financially with my entry-level salary for approx 2 years.

    • That’s all lovely in theory, but where is the money supposed to COME FROM? Hello, marriage is not about a My Little Pony vision of rainbows and daffodils, it is about making it through everyday life together.
      If my husband had saddled me with 50K of debt for a shiny rock, I would NOT feel loved, I would feel decieved and cheated. I would be the one paying it off, and I would NEVER have chosen that.
      If he waited to save up 50K before proposing, that would have taken years. YEARS. I would not feel loved if he refused to marry me! I would have broken up with him because he was stalling and would not fish or cut bait.
      If he somehow hustled and got 50K quickly, and dropped it on a shiny rock, I would have broken up with him for being an IDIOT. He spent about $1.300 on the engagement ring. We spent 8K on our wedding (for 125 people). 9 years later, even after a layoff and getting screwed in the real estate market, we still bought our current house for cash, and own both cars 100% paid for. I like my nice little shiny rock and the thought he put into picking it out, and I really like the fact that I didn’t marry an idiot.

    • Annie, the fact that you are trying to translate love into monetary terms summarizes the inherent problem with our consumer culture. You cannot commercialize love. Engagement rings, much like Valentine’s day, are marketing propaganda. They take real human relationships, and try to turn them into a financial competition of “who’s spouse loves them the most” based on the size of a meaningless shiny rock with no utilitarian value.

      Women who want a ring to brag to their friends are getting married for the wrong reasons. Additionally, this tradition is only setting back women’s rights and equality movements from evolving.

      There are many ways to show that you love someone, and you don’t have to follow suit just because the television and a bunch of insecure, brainwashed people suggest that you should.

    • For me, that feeling isn’t something you can buy with any amount of money. Buying an expensive object is a one-and-done moment. My husband shows me he loves me through his actions every single day.

      Believe me, my marriage is special. I think I’m the luckiest woman alive. I know plenty of women with gorgeous rings who would kill to have the kind of husband I do, and I don’t have an engagement ring at all.

    • All’s rational from your point of view, except that marriages these days tend to last significantly shorter than 20 years.

      Again, from a pure utility perspective, is this the best way to spend $20k (or if you want to rationalize it, $1k a year)? Would the bride-to-be be happier if it were an extra $20k to spend on the wedding? Would the couple be happier if it were towards down payment for a house? Paying off student debt? Seed capital for a business? A fantastic, unforgettable honeymoon? A cottage? Retirement savings? The answer is different for everyone.

      No, I don’t have friends with GORGEOUS rings, but a close friend is a jeweler, routinely buying 6 or 7-figure gemstones from Sotheby’s auctions and custom-design them for his clients. I see his wares every time I visit his office and I don’t find them any more impressive than a house worth that much. If you’re the type who envy people with those GORGEOUS rings, limited-edition designer handbags, and huge mansions, all the power to you. I don’t think you’re any more or less real than anyone; you just have different value system than the majority of commenters here.

  153. I would put it into an equation:

    enough to make her happy > $$ of ring > what you can comfortably afford

    If that doesn’t work out, you probably have the wrong girl

  154. How much should one spend on an engagement ring? I believe the engagement ring is optional and a simple gold band for the wedding is adequate. However, I am a strange woman who doesn’t understand the allure of shoe shopping, so my comments probably don’t count.

    I have found that many of my female friends (who married years ago), went with an inexpensive wedding ring, because that was what their fiances could afford (and even then, a whole month’s salary would have been stretching the cost). Fast forward 25 years or more, and the women are earning fairly good salaries. Those who feel the need for a flashy ring go out and buy it for themselves. Those who feel the real significance of the ring was to show their unity with their spouse stick with the original ring.

    BTW, as a person who is on marriage number 2 (24 years and counting), I do own an engagement ring, as my husband wanted me to have one. I designed my ring from a few small gems I already owned (in other jewelry). My husband bought a gold band and paid a jeweler to set the gems as I wished. The total cost was minimal. We did this because we wanted a house and it seemed silly to spend a lot on a ring when our money could be used toward a down payment on a house.

    I’m hoping that no woman ties her sense of worth to what she wears on a finger. Can someone explain to me why 2.5 months of salary is needed to feel loved? Does it make women feel like being a 10-cow bride instead of a one goat bride?

  155. It really depends on a number of factors:
    - Does the woman care at all about diamonds/jewelry?
    - Does she judge her friends’ rings?
    - What can the man afford?

    Something about wearing anything worth as much as a used car makes me uncomfortably paranoid (hence not wearing diamond earrings from my mom and not owning designer bags). I’d be more thrilled if my engagement excluded a ring, but included plane tickets to Paris instead.

    Half my girlfriends gossip about whoever’s ugly/small/whatever ring. The other half could really care less. The judging girls will most likely compare their rings to others, so if your girl judges her friends’ rings, she’ll probably want something comparable or better than what her friends have.

    If the girl doesn’t believe in diamond rings, it wouldn’t matter how much the guy makes because they can be engaged minus ring. If your girl expects a diamond ring, the guy needs to save up according to a combination of what he can afford and what would make her happy.

    Recent related debate among my friends: A guy friend read that a celebrity bought her own engagement ring. All the guys at the table were shocked and offended that she would buy her own ring instead of accepting whatever her fiance gets her. The girls didn’t see what the big deal was. If she makes multi-million dollars, why not buy her own ring so she can get whatever she wants. Surprised the guys were so sensitive to men maintaining their gender role when it came to engagements.

  156. I didn’t think about my future engagement ring until my fiance proposed! It ended up being about 1/3 of his salary and I picked out the design I wanted.

    I’ve been asked: This is from Tiffany, isn’t it!? – it’s completely not; AND it’s about a tenth of the price.

    Moral of the story:
    - for all the waffle around about the 4Cs, few people (even those wearing pricey jewels) can tell at a glance what your ring is worth if you select the design and stone/s well.

    Personally:
    - I prefer to channel a five figure sum into the down payment for our house, which will appreciate in value and in which we will get to build our lives
    - I don’t want to carry the social expectations that come with looking wealthy – we may get criticised for not being generous with financial help or have our thrifty ways commented on, in contrast to the bling. Or worse, become walking targets for robbery.
    - I’m not a fan of the diamond industry and figured that the 2-3xmonthly salary thing was a marketing ploy even before I read those articles linked by Ramit.

    This is not an attack on those who choose to spend big on their rings, it’s about the ring comfortably fitting into how the couple wants to conduct their lives.

  157. Oh man, it depends on so many things.

    1. How much do you make?
    2. How much do you have saved?
    3. Does your girlfriend like diamonds?
    4. Does your girlfriend need to “compete” with said diamond?

    So if you make $100,000 a year, have a lot of money saved, but your girlfriend likes sapphires? You’ll spend zero on a diamond. Make $20k, your girlfriend likes diamonds? Find an estate sale. Make $80k but your girlfriend has to keep up with her friends? Bigger diamond or halo setting, but lower quality (more inclusions, and whatnot, that most people can’t see anyway). No savings and need to buy an engagement ring? Pawn shop, estate sale… I can’t really help you with that one.

    It boils down to priorities and preferences. If your priority is to buy a diamond ring, you can make room for it in your budget. If your priority is an amazing honeymoon instead? Whatever floats your boat.

    My first husband (sheddap) bought me a ring at an estate sale, and I hated it– not because it was from an estate sale, but because he didn’t think about what I liked when I bought it. Second husband asked my friends and finally brought me to see it before he bought it, and I love it. He spent about a month and a half’s take-home salary, and that seemed more than reasonable to me. I hang around with a lot of women with some ice-rink-quality diamonds, and they all compliment me on my ring because it catches the light (it’s not an ice rink, but it’s very well cut).

  158. This all depends on how much the man wants and needs the woman. Someone who is only looking for a live-in cleaning lady or fuck buddy, probably won’t spend much. Whereas, someone who is looking for and life partner will spend more, but won’t go to extremes. And someone intending to marry someone who is “out of their league” will spend everything they can to impress the idea that he is willing to go to any lengths to keep her near. It’s the image thing, much like the kind of car a person drives.

    • Ridiculous. Anyone buying a ring, planning to get married, and spend the rest of their lives together is not looking for a “fuck buddy” or “live-in cleaning lady.” Come on now.

    • I don’t think that’s what Joyce means, per se, but that some people just reach a point in their lives when it’s time or perhaps more convenient to get married, and not about love or the woman at all.

  159. I love reading these comments! I’m not engaged nor even dating anyone seriously, but I’ve hit the point in my life (mid-twenties) where people in my peer group are starting to get married. Thanks to Ramit’s advice, I’ve started saving/budgeting/planning for the wedding I’m 99% certain is going to be in my future within the next ten years. All my friends that I’ve told about this pre-planning think I’m a hilarious nerd for doing this.

    First, I should make clear that for me, weddings, engagement/wedding rings, and all the hoopla around marriage are social signifiers above all else. They are opportunities to gain social capital and approval from many people at once. As a few other commenters have mentioned, the social approval/pressure comes from various groups: family, friends, people in you or your fiance’s professional network. I happen to be lucky in that my family and close friends don’t really care about what I do regarding weddings and have no expectations regarding what kind of ring I might end up wearing–but I know this is a pretty unusual case.

    The real pressure would come from my professional network. I’m in a conservative profession (an attorney) and part of doing well in my career is conforming to certain expected norms. If I want to work with high net worth clients or with high net worth attorneys, I need to make them like/feel comfortable with me to some degree, and part of that is conforming to whatever their expectations are in terms of many things–an important one being appearance.

    I’m not really into rings (I rarely wear them) so I would actually prefer not to have to wear an engagement/wedding ring every day for the rest of my life. However, women who are engaged/married are expected to wear rings and to NOT wear one would make people confused/suspicious/angry (see what other female commenters have mentioned about an engagement ‘not being real’ without a ring).

    I also know that wedding rings that are too small (whatever size that is varies by social group) or ugly (this can be gaudiness or a ring being too simple) or otherwise weird in some way (colored stones, depending on the group, or unconventional materials) will lead people to assume that my fiance/husband is a cheapskate, weirdo, or doesn’t love me very much. And, on top of that, there’ll be the assumption that I have no self-respect/am a sucker/am desperate because I didn’t hold out for the “right” man as represented by the “right” ring. These assumptions are all based on perception and have nothing to do with fairness or wrong/right–they’re simply part of the social pressures a lot of women have to face when wearing a ring (even if they’re not all able to articulate them clearly).

    So the commenters who advised looking to a woman’s friends were quite right. But that’s not the only social group she’ll be interacting with for the rest of her life: there’s also her family and her professional peer group (I think this is applicable even when a woman is planning to be a stay at home mom–in that case, look to what the other stay at home moms in the neighborhood you’ll be living in are wearing). I would advise seeing whatever group has the highest expectations–whether that’s her wealthy family or her CEO friends–and trying to match that. Because people WILL judge a woman for the rest of her life based on her ring, and the last thing a guy should want is for her to associate shame/embarrassment with his gift, their marriage, and him.

    I’d also advise any guy to talk to his future wife about her expectations. Maybe she’s the unconventional type who loves bucking the expectations of her friends/family. Maybe she’s been dreaming of a particular ring her entire life. Maybe she wants something as sparkly as her best friend got last year. Whatever it is, don’t shame or guilt trip her about what she wants and try to avoid feeling resentful about the purchase. Think about the positives you’ll be getting: if you get her a great ring that she and all her friends/contacts/family love, then every time she looks at it it’ll create a positive experience relating to your marriage/you. Every time her friends/family/strangers comment on her beautiful ring, she’ll be receiving social validation of her great taste in selecting a ring and selecting you. More positive emotions & social approval = happier wife = happier marriage.

    So my take: a guy should spend whatever it takes to meet his future wife & her peer groups’ expectations. The number will vary by the woman.

    • What a phenomenal comment. I also like that you’re a hilarious nerd

    • So many great points made in this comment, which I completely agree with. It introduces some perspectives I hadn’t even considered before. Definitely true that an engagement ring is something a woman will be looking at every day for the rest of her life, so it should be a source of pride rather than embarrassment! I hope to look down at my ring one day and each time get a warm fuzzy glow thinking about how much my fiancee/husband loves me, how well he knows me, and how much he sacrifices to make me happy, not “ew I can’t believe he thought I would like this…”

    • Mia -
      I am also one of those nerds, but it’s ok because we know how awesome we are. Your comment makes so much sense, sure we don’t want to judge our ring versus other girls, but we do. My brother told me before I got engaged the the best advice he had about engagement rings was to find out the size of all of the girl’s friend’s rings, and then get a ring that was bigger. After I got engaged, I can tell now that was actually really good advice.

    • Thanks, Ramit! I’ve been studying weddings within the US as a cultural & anthropological phenomena on my own for the last few months, so have been giving a lot of thought to all aspects of the topic. It’s also fascinating from a marketing standpoint since the wedding/bridal industry generates billions of dollars in revenue every year.

      I just realized that despite writing a novel of a comment, I forgot answer a few of the questions you set out. Here are my thoughts:

      Does it depend how much the guy makes? Or the woman? What if the woman makes more than the guy?

      I’d argue that what he makes should be less important than what she makes (piggybacking on my last comment in that it should be about the woman & her social groups’ expectations). The only twist on that is if the guy’s in a field where low income is regarded as unavoidable AND the field has a certain kind of social cachet. For example, the guy is a starving artist, a teacher, or works for a nonprofit bringing water to starving children in Africa or something. In that case, a small or unconventional ring might be something a woman can spin into a great story for friends/acquaintances at cocktail parties: while my husband was in Asia feeding blind orphans and saving baby seals, he found this beautiful stone hand-carved by an artisan and brought it back to propose to me with, etc. This only works if the woman in question 1) is a decent storyteller and 2) wants to tell this story for the rest of her life. This also only works with certain fields that have some veneer of creativity or coolness or nobility to them. Working at McDonald’s and finding a shiny pebble in the deep fryer doesn’t work.

      Also, if a guy is known to work in a lucrative field or be independently wealthy otherwise, a ring perceived as cheap could be VERY detrimental. Then the script is, “wow, this guy is rolling in cash and couldn’t fork over $10 to spend on you. what’s that say about how much he cares about you?”

      How does Conscious Spending play into this purchase?

      I’d say that on the guy’s end, it really depends on much he values his future wife’s happiness. From everything I’ve read about marriage, there are arenas where there are challenges with no easy answers. This is an arena where it’s easy to get a “big win” with some communication and some money. Saying that it’s stupid or irrational or illogical to spend so much on a piece of jewelry misses the entire point and the social significance of the thing. Objecting that it shouldn’t be this way so you won’t play into it is like shouting that the sky should be orange and you’re not going to shower until it turns orange: totally pointless and hurts nobody but yourself in the long run.

      So cut back on unnecessary expenses and save whatever sum is needed to make a future wife happy, whether that’s $50 or $5000 or more. You can even think of it as an investment that pays out happiness over the rest of your married life.

      Do women want an engagement ring? Why or why not?

      Depends on the woman and her relevant social groups. Also depends on how she relates to them: does she identify as someone who rebels against norms or does she want to fit in and belong?

      How does culture play into the decision of how much to spend on an engagement ring?

      It’s all about culture. Some of the commenters from non-American cultures have noted the differences in significance and ritual re: rings.

      Does this change for same-sex couples?

      I’d say that it’s individual for each couple and for each person in the couple. Some couples want to replicate the heterosexual romantic norm down to having a big wedding, having kids, and buying a house in the suburbs. Some couples want to live apart from those heterocentric norms and ideas about what a marriage means. Because there’s less of a widespread idea within the gay community about a proper long-term same-sex relationship should look like, there’s a lot more freedom for each couple to decide what arrangement they’d like to follow. This can be both freeing and scary.

      So my thoughts for a same-sex couple: talk to your partner about what they’d like, whether they want to wear a ring and what kind, and what message they want to send with that ring. Then give them what they want.

    • My fiance’s an attorney, and I said almost the same thing as you in my comment. To not have a ring that matches your more affluent clients = not being able to professionally advance. You’re going to have to wear your ring to work, fo’ sho’.

    • This is one of the many reasons I didn’t go into law. (My parents were lawyers, and I remember all kinds of stuff being done for appearances.) All of the female scientists I know who have been engaged have wanted an atypical ring or no ring at all… because their fashion decisions have no repercussion for their science. It’s too bad that other professions have to rely on such indirect signals of quality.

    • “Saying that it’s stupid or irrational or illogical to spend so much on a piece of jewelry misses the entire point and the social significance of the thing.”

      Not exactly. The point is that some people will think a couple has it made because the woman is wearing 2 carats, and other people will think they’re anachronistic, irrational, and/or self-absorbed. The “significance” is totally context-dependent.

  160. • Does it depend how much the guy makes? Or the woman?
    Yes income matters. it should cost enough that the purchaser feels the expense in the form of having to give up something else. so, higher incomes have to spend more.

    • What if the woman makes more than the guy?
    some might expect a man to buy more than he can afford knowing that the combined incomes will eventually take care of the extra expense.

    • How does Conscious Spending play into this purchase?
    It should be 100% conscious…

    • Do women want an engagement ring? Why or why not?
    Every woman I know wants one. Why? Strictly culture, but they can make up lots of reasons that are really just corollary.

    • How does culture play into the decision of how much to spend on an engagement ring?
    Uh, 99%. 1% is the personal preference of the recipient.

    • Does this change for same-sex couples?
    I have little data… never seen a man wearing an engagement and wedding ring. Never seen same gender women with engagement rings either…

  161. It should cost enough so that it’s painful. I went on a nine-month payment plan for it, and each payment was painful. This is not somewhere you should cut corners. That being said, I can look at her ring finger and be proud that it was a sacrifice and it was worth it. This number will vary from person to person. I spent about two months’ salary on it.

  162. the diamond history was interesting, but i already knew diamonds were hype, just like gold. you can’t eat them. the value is 100% emotional. it is all about culture and the resulting hidden scripts…

  163. Julie above has it right. And it really does depend on the two people involved. I have dated people from I would have been thrilled to have received a $1500 ring, and people for whom 2.5 month’s salary would have meant a rock with its own zip code. I wouldn’t really want one that large, but I do want to know that I matter. The reason the salary percentage number works better than a set dollar amount is that an engagement ring is symbolic of a commitment, a decision, a plan, a sacrifice, a choice, a request, etc., and so relative size matters more than absolute size. That having been said, there are probably social subcultures where material display is prominent whose members may have to further calibrate their dollar amount beyond just % annual income to stay socio-normative.

    • I would presume your partner asking you to spend the rest of your life with him would tell you that you matter to him? As well as the marriage ceremony and continually living with you and sharing his life with you being a concrete showing of his choice, commitment, sacrifice to you.

      Why do you require a symbol?

      What kind of price says you matter vs you dont matter?

  164. Shesh. I have trouble with a lot of these replies, because they’re so focused on me or I instead of us. If you’re guessing at what your SOs expectations are with regards to a ring, that’s trouble!

    My wife and I picked out a stone (traditional sapphire) together and had it custom made at a local jeweler. 3k was a lot of money at the time, but no complaints 10 years later.

  165. I think how much is spent on an engagement ring also largely depends on when in life you are getting married. If you are in college or fresh out of college or even in grad school, a modest dinky little ring is more acceptable. So men, if you are young or still in school and you think you have already met the love of your life, you would save money by locking it in early!

    However, most people, especially college grads, are getting married much later–about 28 to 35 (at least based on what I have observed in my own life, but all the people in my life are for the most part educated young professionals), so they are already more established in their careers, making decent money, should have a decent amount saved up, and therefore should be able to afford a decent ring. As the female is typically working full-time as well, I think she is going to expect the ring to cost a good amount, it kind of sucks if the ring is something she’d easily be able to shell out for herself! Which is why I think the 2 to 3 month salary measurement is a good rule of thumb. It may be just marketing, but it is pretty romantic and a symbol of commitment when a man decides he wants to marry you and starts saving up to do it.

    I’m 25 so most of my friends are still unmarried, and those who are I’m sure have pretty modest rings. But of my older sisters’ and their friends, I know they all have and expect pretty expensive rings, in the $10 to 25K range at least. I went ring shopping with my older brother when he got engaged and he was making decent money at the time but he adamantly thought two months salary was way too much to spend when both he and his wife had tons of graduate school debt and a mortgage to worry about so he only spent about 10K on a Tiffany ring. I have a cousin who put off marriage a couple of years specifically because she wanted her fiancee to be able to afford a bigger ring and her ring is pretty humongous. Personally, I think a big ring is really ostentatious and would be uncomfortable wearing something so flashy, especially when it’s something you’re supposed to wear all the time. I mean, what about when you’re walking through bad neighborhoods (or am I just crazy paranoid)?? At the same time though, receiving a ring that only cost $5K or less, I could see how it would be kind of embarrassing because your friends might perceive your fiancee as a cheapskate or question his commitment to you.

    When I first met the love of my life we were both pretty sure about each other so discussed engagement after dating only a few months. He wanted to know what my expectations were and I told him my preference for a smaller and more modest ring (but I understand from reading this thread that my idea of small/modest is not exactly what other people’s might be). However, I work in fashion so I’m obviously the type of person who cares a lot about appearance and puts a lot of thought into what I wear and he knows that so I’m pretty particular about what I want, especially for something I will be wearing the rest of my life! So I send him links and images to help him get an idea of what I want from time to time even though our actual engagement is quite a ways off as we save for both the ring and wedding. Since I am not comfortable with him spending a lot of money on the ring, he plans to propose to me with a Leica M9 in hand ($7K camera I have always wanted) in addition to the ring. Completely his idea, but I think it’s kind of sweet that he thinks he should spend a lot on our engagement and has been saving (even changing jobs) since we met to do so. His money habits have changed a lot since we met too, where he used to spend a lot of money going out and on clothing without even thinking about it, most of his money not spent necessary expenses now goes to savings. The fact that he plans for our future shows how serious he is about our relationship and thinking about it makes me realize what a lucky girl I am, I never have to question his love or commitment.

  166. Buy at auction. The mark up on retail is frightening. I bought the wife’s ring at auction. 10 quid on a box at a jewelers round the corner. Done.

    Same size stone in a ring retail was 600% more. 7 times the price. ie. A stone that makes other women jealous (isn’t that one of its purposes?).

  167. I spent what it cost to get her the ring she wanted. Luckily she’s into Etsy. Handmade, unique, stone with a ton of character, reasonable price.

    Every couple is different, and everyone has different expectations. A good relationship is about communication, and that involves communication about expectations about thing like rings. If my fiancée insisted on a $3000 ring, and thought I wasn’t fit to marry without one, I would never have proposed.

  168. I never wanted a diamond ring because I have a negative view on the diamond industry in general. I’m more interested in the metal in the wedding band than the rock on the engagement ring. I will probably just get a nice gold band.

    What should a man spend? Don’t base it on your monthly salary just because a commercial told you to do so. Find out what she wants. If it seems too high either save up for it, or try to negotiate. If you can’t find a price you both agree on, then maybe you should consider if you want to be married to someone with such different views on money than you.

    While this is beside the point of the question, I will say this to any men looking to be cheap…. DO NOT buy her a fake diamond engagement ring and try to pass it off as real! She will find out. She will be angry. You have been warned.

  169. I agree with the comments about meeting both peoples’ expectations. When I was a teenager, I always said I wouldn’t marry a man unless he gave me wedding socks instead of a ring. After my husband and I had been dating awhile, we talked about marriage and decided neither of us liked the “man proposes to woman and she decides whether to accept” thing. He did want a ring to signify that he was taken, so we bought matching hammered silver bands on Etsy for about the same cost as the fancy wedding socks we picked out. We proposed to each other on a beach at the end of a weekend camping trip, drove back to Seattle and spent the day celebrating our engagement. It was awesome and I love my simple silver band – it gives me all sorts of fuzzy loving feelings about my guy.

    I haven’t ever been the sort of person to worry about status, but it’d probably get to me if my friends were really concerned about ring size. Most of my friends are unmarried, so I guess I don’t really know. Past arguments with my husband have resulted from unmet expectations around minor things, so if the ring is a big deal to your partner, make sure you’re meeting their expectations, whatever those might be.

  170. When my now-husband proposed marriage, he did so without a ring, so the act of engagement was separate from the presentation of an object (an appeal to my feminist tendencies). He explained that he knew I hated surprises, and that I should get to choose something I wore for the rest of my life (the promise of a ring was an appeal to my traditionalist sensibilities).

    So I ended up with the uncomfortable reality of having a lot of say in how much he spent on my engagement ring. As much as I like to think I’m pragmatic, aware of the debeers scamming and the diamond olympics, I also thought this:

    1. I didn’t ever want to “upgrade” the ring, but I wanted to feel like the one I had was appropriate for where we were and where we were headed.
    2. His disposable income was such that he had consciously spent plenty on luxuries for himself, like a high performance secondary car and a fancy computer/entertainment setup, in the previous year.
    3. I wanted a classic bridal set (engagement ring and wedding band) in an unusual cut (shape).

    I told him all of this (made sure he read a few articles about false scarcity and marketing etc, plus an essay on the evolving symbolism of rings) before we started our search the next day.

    Based on #3, we looked at fancy cut diamonds and settled on one shape that we both thought looked pretty spectacular. I tried on lots of settings and chose the simplest one in palladium (a white metal with many similar chemical properties as platinum but lighter and less expensive, both obvious pluses).

    So then we talked about stones. He indicated he liked dainty stones. And it’s hard to submit this, but I asked him not to get less than a half carat. Honestly, I think we were each comparing this new ring we were making to our mothers’ rings (he to his, me to mine), and how they looked on our mothers’ hands. And of course, that’s based on where our fathers were financially and geographically thirty years ago. It was a delicate moment, because I knew I was in essence asking that he spend a few grand more than he would have done. Just because I asked him to. We talked it through. We agreed there was no reason to get screwed by the jeweler. Then he then said something that makes me all misty eyed every time “No ring could never show how much I love you, not if I spent all the money in the world.”

    The next day, with our guidelines of quality in place, indicated which stone he’d like to add to our setting with my approval- a stunner, quite nearly a carat, and I gave him the go ahead to begin negotiations with the jeweler. I think the final number came down to ~$5k.

    Ultimately I felt it was fair for him to spend an amount commensurate with what he’d spend on a functional luxury for himself, on something beautiful just for me. I love my rings, every single thing about them. I even love that we had to have that conversation, tough as it was.

    And I’ve never begrudged his car modifications or upgrades since then.

  171. I have to weigh in on the side of “it depends on the couple involved, and their backgrounds, desires, resources, and expectations”. I don’t think there’s a “should”. I think that talking about it together and making it a shared financial *and emotional* decision bodes well for a healthy and mature partnership.

    I also think it’s rather chauvinistic to suggest that women only *say* they don’t want a big flashy ring because it’s mixed company or they don’t want to seem like a gold-digger but they’re actually either lying or don’t know their own minds. I think the number of thoughtful, intelligent comments left here by women who aren’t into rings or didn’t want big/expensive rings says it’s not just a knee-jerk “say the expected demure thing” situation.

    So much depends on the lifestyle and culture of the couple. I’ve observed social circles that got all fluttery about the trappings of marriage, sure. In my social circles though, which are pretty alternative, nearly all my married friends had non-traditional weddings. Many of them married later. Many others cohabit and don’t marry at all. I couldn’t tell you which of my friends *have* engagement rings, let alone what a single one looks like. My female friends would be far more likely to mock someone who judged a woman or her husband by her ring, than to judge the ring. There’s a lot of conscious spending involved in our decisions, too– it’s just that our version of conscious spending tends to be, “let’s go on a better honeymoon, or buy a new car, or get something that means a lot to both of us, instead of going into debt for a piece of jewelry.” This isn’t, by the way, to suggest that we’re going to make more responsible purchases…just that we’re more likely to be differently-frivolous. =)

    I have to say, until I read the comments here, it literally never occurred to me that anyone would be so rude as to question the quality of a marriage or a commitment because the wife’s engagement ring wasn’t “good enough”. And my reaction to that was to be repulsed that anyone thinks that’s OK.

  172. I’ll add one more thing, and then I swear I’m done.

    It makes a big difference that he WANTED to buy me a fabulous engagement ring, and that I was the one who said, “Actually, if you want to show me how you value me, that’s not a great way to do it.” It would be very different if I felt like he didn’t want to, or he saw it as a burden. I probably still wouldn’t want one, but I wouldn’t be nearly as happy about my choice – because it wouldn’t be a choice we made together.

  173. Henri Heikinheimo Link to this comment

    Short answer: None, or maybe max 10-20 % of the month’s salary.

    Long answer:
    Maybe I’m too young or live in the “wrong” country, but I would NEVER pay 2.5 month’s salary or more for a ring. If you can get a good looking ring for under 50 bucks or so from ebay, why the heck would you pay 10k or even 20k for that? Diamonds aren’t any prettier than crystal, nor can I tell the difference between electroplated piece of jewelry and a real one. And even if you decide to go for a real thing, small is usually more beautiful anyway.

    Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not really into that marriage stuff either. I just don’t see the point of it. Boyfriend & girlfriend, husband & wife, what’s the big difference? The ring? Is a ring going to magically make the relationship much better, happier and long-lasting? I don’t think so. I actually respect a lot more a long-lasting non-marriage relationship, at least it’s true love that holds the couple together and not the difficulty of divorcing. That’s why my final answer to “How much should a man spend on an engagement ring?” is none, just never get engaged.

  174. A friend had this theory on how to figure how much to spend on an engagement ring:

    Ask your girlfriend a hypothetical question, “If you came into a bit of unexpected money (through inheritance, lottery, etc), lets say $25k after taxes, how much would you spend on a new entertainment setup for us (you know, flat screen TV, surround sound speakers, receivers, etc)?”

    Whatever she says, is what you should spend on her ring. I know it’s silly, but it kind of shows how much she would unselfishly spend on something you get more value from than her… similar to an engagement ring.

    Pose this question to your female friends .. I think the answer relieves a lot about the girl’s personality.

    • Haha. Next guys are going to ask their girlfriends McKinsey case interview questions to see if they can teach their future kids math.

  175. I live in the deep south and interviewed 10 of my friends today who have gotten engaged in the last 5 years and here is where the numbers fell:
    Three got theirs for free as heirlooms
    Two spent 1000-3000
    Four spent 3001-6000
    None spent 6001-10,000
    One spent 10,001+

    I’m also looking for a ring right now and have budgeted between three and four thousand

  176. I went through this about a year and a half ago, and I think my experience was a little different from most that I’ve read in these comments.

    We went shopping for rings together (can you imagine spending this much money on something and just *hoping* that the other person is going to like it?). We actually found that to be the most fun of the whole experience — finding what we liked and mocking some of the ridiculous things on display.

    After looking for a while, we narrowed it down to two settings that she loved. One was very simple, the other quite unique, but about 5x the price of the first. When it came down to it, she would have been perfectly happy with either one.

    The strange part was that I realized that *I* was the one who wasn’t OK with buying her the cheaper ring. So, I disagree entirely with the people that say you should spend as little as will make her happy. Have a little pride in yourself — that ring is as much a reflection on you as it is on her.

    • This is an excellent point. The first time I went to look at rings my girlfriend came with me and we had a blast looking at them together. She doesn’t have to be involved with every step of the process, but she’ll love it and it makes the experience of walking in the jewelry store the first time a little less intimidating.

    • Intriguing point that hasn’t been made before. Thanks Seth.

  177. As a newlywed who didn’t want an engagement ring and whose wedding band cost ~$60, I know I’m not the norm and this conversation is fascinating. Seems like a lot of men and women are still pretty traditional in this area even as gender roles have become a lot more fluid (how many women stop working after getting married these days, for example? probably not many.) I wonder if this question needs to be asked with a corollary, which is: “How much should you spend on a wedding? And who should pay for that wedding?”

    I have a feeling that men who report spending more for a ring may do so knowing that they’re probably not expected to pay for the wedding themselves — parental help (generally more so from the bride’s family) would come into play. But what if you had no help and knew you’d be paying for your entire wedding yourself? Would you spend less on a ring, or have a cheaper wedding, or go into debt, or what?

  178. I work for a jeweler.

    It is surprising how many engagement rings are bought with the help of the soon to be fiancee.

    I think it makes a lot of sense.

    However, I think a good surprise will add a really awesome element to your whole engagement story, so you have to weight your options.

    We cater to a younger (25-35), affluent, educated crowd. Most of our customers pay cash for their rings.

    The ones that use plastic are usually doing it for the points or airline miles.

  179. As much as the buyer is comfortable with :)

    If this is different enough from the receiver’s expectations that it causes a problem, they probably don’t have much of a future as a couple (in my experience people with different attitudes to money don’t do so well together).

    I think I spent about $900 on the engagement ring, and another $300 on the wedding ring (my wife wears them together).

  180. I found this fascinating because I’m obviously from a different culture entirely, either due to my country (Australia) or my social network. (Many of my friends have a higher eaerning capacity than their partners, which may have something to do with it as well.) I’d never heard of the 2.5 months’ salary guideline and being the clumsy git I am, I would be terrified to be wearing something worth that much on my hand (plus, I don’t like diamonds). Several of my friends would be in a similar situation if for no other reason than that they’d be taking it of / puttingit on all the time (you don’t tend to wear jewellry when you’re a surgeon, for example).

    My husband earns probably double what I do, but was in debt and had the care of a small child as his responsibility as well. I’d’ve been upset if he’d spent anything close to the 2.5 rule on an engagement ring. As it was, I proposed to him, so he wears the engagement ring, which cost about $1000. (It would have been much cheaper, but it was made from African blackwood and I had to wait until there was a broken set of bagpipes because you can’t buy it “new”.)

    Completely unsurprisingly, men’s rings are a LOT cheaper than women’s ones, though I’m sure that it’s a combination of emotive marketing (the same reason a tux tends to be way cheaper than a wedding gown) and that men don’t tend to wear a big sparkly diamond (though I’ve seen gangsta bling on tv, I think that’s probably a subculture exception). So I guess I got off fairly light on that one.

    Psychologically, the most interesting thing was people’s reaction when we told them we were engaged. People asked to see the ring, and I showed them the ring on HIS hand. He was delighted that I’d asked and that I had a ring, but other people just seem confused and even ask me if I wasn’t disappointed that he hadn’t asked me. (Absolutely not: I was relieved.)

    Considering everything women fought (and continue to fight) for in terms of equality, the engagement ring concept seems to sweep everyone back to the fifties or something. I’d’ve thought that proportionally far more women would be doing the asking nowadays, and given that women’s earning power is increasing, I’m surprised that someone hasn’t come up with the niche business of men’s engagement rings. Perhaps if my other E1k ideas don’t pan out, I’ll get into that!

  181. There is no amount of money a man “should” spend on an engagement ring. The whole idea of engagement rings IS anachronistic and vulgar in spite of the fact that everyone does it. It’s like a way for women to show they they are “wanted” and thus have “value” and their value is linked to how much cash their man has. Have you ever witnessed how a woman with a big honking ring gets all awkward when they get comments on it, even though they’re clearly flashing it around? But engagement rings are just the tip of the institutional marriage iceberg. Don’t get me started on weddings, the ceremony, the idea of marriage itself, etc.!

  182. Personally, I would never have spent multi-thousands of dollars on an engagement ring… I suppose we went into the $2500 range when you consider all engagement & wedding jewelry (roughly $1600 on her ring, she spent roughly $250 on a watch for me, then around $600 for both our wedding bands… if I recall correctly). I just didn’t consider the ring to be so important that it required a larger financial outlay. We picked out the setting she wanted, which was more expensive than she had originally thought she’d want, I picked out a diamond slightly smaller than I would have to put it in my range, and there ya go. Quite frankly, we’d decided to get married long before the ring was given, and while I would have given her the ring anyway it kind of signaled to our families that the engagement was officially on.

    She might have preferred a slightly larger diamond, but ultimately the ring was secondary and I could have gotten her the cheapest one available (had we discussed up front that it was important to me to not spend that money) and it would have made no difference. It’s worth noting that we got engaged the week before I started my first job out of college, and I borrowed the liquidity to buy the ring from a friend who’d had an engagement fall through and had a ring that he could only return for credit, which I used and paid him back interest free. My now-wife was surprised that I was able to get a ring without actually haven gotten my first paycheck. Percentage-wise, the amount spent on the engagement ring was about equal to 80% of my monthly take-home at the time.

    Putting a prescriptive number or percentage on it is putting the cart before the horse. Wanting expensive shit just because it’s expensive is foolish no matter whether you’re talking about an engagement ring, a car, a house, a TV, a bedroom suite, or whatever. Find a budget that you and your partner are comfortable with, whether that’s $200 or $200,000, and find the most attractive option within that budget without making any special effort to hit the ceiling. I understand that we’ve built up this social expectation around engagement rings that divorce it from the common financial sense that we try to apply to any other purchase, but it’s not constructive. When you start to seek out status symbols without fitting their purchase into your larger financial framework, your on the wrong path.

  183. I never thought I wanted a pretty sparkly diamond until I had one on my finger. It’s amazing how much your attitude can change when you have it there. So yes I thing culture and society do play a part. As a female it’s really nice to have people look at your hands and oooo and ahhh over it.

    My husband spent $2500 on my engagement ring but through negotiating had managed to get $1000 off the price … So I feel like I’m walking aroun with $3500 worth of sparkly on my fingers but know that it cost less.

    I am happy with that. I would hate to wear a ring that cost too much as I’d be paranoid to loose it.

    My husband saved for 3 months to buy the ring and I earn more than him.

    My cousin however; she earns less than him. They went out and bought a $5000 diamond and then had a jeweller friend make the ring and they just recently had it valued at $11,000 for insurance purposes. Now she’s scared about wearing the ring in case she looses it so leaves it locked in the safe at home and wears a cheap $100 ring on her finger. What’s the point in having nice jewellery if you can’t enjoy it!

  184. So, here’s something I’d like to see a discussion about.

    Most of the discussion has been about what would make the woman happy.

    What say does the man have in it? What if the woman wants something simple and the man wants something more complicated for some reason?

    For us, what I thought I wanted before I went ring shopping was different than what I actually liked on my hand. (I wanted to go shopping with him because it was going to be on my hand forever and I wanted to like it. I don’t normally wear jewelry so this was an intensely personal purchase for me — for us? I made it clear I’d be very upset it if he went without me and he knew this and didn’t want to go without me either. )

    I debated about alternate rings or stones, but I ended up wanting something white so it matched everything. When I tried on the rings, the only thing I liked was $5000!!! I debated no ring as well but I did want a symbol of our decision to get married. The line between close partnership and married is so blurred that a symbol like this was important to me.

    He’s a grad student and I knew we couldn’t afford the $5000 so we went with a custom ring with a white sapphire. Ended up being $1300. He had about $5000 in savings so it was expensive for us, but I didn’t want to buy something that I didn’t like and would be a waste of money because I wanted to replace it.

    One of the bloggers I read, Rachel Wilkerson (http://www.rachelwilkerson.com/2012/04/12/the-lessons-seven-things-ive-learned-about-engagement-rings/) ended up doing rings for both her and her fiance. Nice idea, I don’t think my fiance would have gone for it because he wouldn’t have wanted the scrutiny/societal implications?

    Overall I’m happy, we’re happy. We’re getting married in July and the wedding is a whole other ordeal. Yes, we are over budget. :)

  185. As a female I have watched many of my friends flash big shiny rings around. I helped my brother buy and engagement ring for his girlfriend. The original price was $900.00 but I waited until the Christmas sale and purchased it for $250.00.

    Though I would love a $2000.00 ring I would hope I chose a man who wouldn’t pay outright for such a ridiculous thing. It would be my only piece of jewelry and I think it would be ok to wait until we had been married for 3-5 years before he gets me a nice ring.

    Unfortunately with the divorce rate the way it is today I believe it is important for us to make sure things would last first. I have lots of friends who have been married and divorced during the 8 years that we have been out of college. Initially a wedding band would be just fine for me.

  186. So many of these answers that repeat share the same assumptions:
    That you will marry when you are young, and (generally associated) poor (Sasha points out that when you’re older you can afford more, but then makes the totally silly point that it would be “embarassing” to have a ring that cost 5k or less);
    that it matters to you what your friends and/or family think of the ring;
    that it’s up to the man to pay for the ring.
    We married in our late thirties, when our salaries together were well over $250k/yr. We decided together on a budget. We went shopping together. One ring I loved, I said we’d have to think over because it was over budget. My husband went ahead and ordered it resized. :-) It was a vintage ring, far better quality in design and workmanship than a new one, and it was just over $5700.
    Most of my friends, who do not make as much, looked a bit askance at it, or made surprised comments (I do not think most of them realize how much we both make.) Most of them, however, ended up just congratulating us on the engagement, which after all was the pertinent societal fact.
    For wedding rings, we each picked out what we wanted, and the other bought it. My wedding ring, which is also vintage and which matches my engagement ring, cost 3x what his wedding ring cost, but I would happily have bought him something just as expensive as my wedding ring or my engagement ring. I would to this day. He is a person who paid cash for his car and spends very little except on basic expenses; he had the cash, it was not that major an expenditure.
    I think that it’s an expenditure that has societal expectations associated with it to the extent that your social group cares about such things. And the meaning of the cost varies with the extent to which your social group affords such things. The extent to which some people EXPECT a ring of a certain size, complain if they don’t get it, and divorce it entirely from what a person can afford, seems to be growing in this country – also, probably like in your article, varying with class and levels of education as well as geography.

  187. Haha, I love this conversation. I have to say that finding out how much people pay for engagement rings and wedding bands in this side of the world was one of the biggest culture shock for me. I come from a culture where people rarely wear “wedding proof”. Seriously, I had a hard time at first understanding why people fork out so much money just to prove others they have a husband or a wife. What? Maybe I am being to simplistic, who knows.

    I just know that I’ve never seen my mother wear an engagement or wedding ring (married 22 beautiful years to my father), my grand-parents, uncles, aunts either… I happen to have an engagement ring. My american husband bought it for $400, if he’d bought a more expensive one, I’d have sold it and paid off our debt. I did have a wedding band but unfortunately lost it during training last year and never bought another one. It’s not because I don’t like jewelry, I freaking love jewelry, but 1) I have to be able to afford it and 2) in my mind, for something to be truly symbolic, it must not be expensive. I want to be able to love the symbol for what it represents, not it’s price tag. But again, that’s just me :) I just prefer spending that money elsewhere (like traveling, going out, learning cool unusual stuff, and fire my job, that kind of things).

    A note though: $2,500 is relative. If you make $30,000, that’s a lot of money to spend on a ring. However, if you’re so rich that you could lend God money, who are we to say how much you should spend on a ring?

    • I should mention that we were students when we were engaged and got married, so maybe the $400 would be more if we were getting engaged with the means we have today :) But again, I come from a place where people don’t even buy engagement rings, not really in our customs. :)

  188. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, but I’m staggered by the number of commenters here with variations on the same few points:
    1. X months salary / X$
    2. Whatever she can compare favorably with her friends’ rings so she (and you) won’t be negatively judged
    3. Whatever she expects

    Why would you ever try to place a dollar value on something that’s purely a symbol of something that you can’t place a dollar value on in the first place?

    If a woman expects or demands (literally, psychologically, whatever) a certain value of ring (or a certain value of wedding) then it tells me that she’s placing a price on our love/commitment. I would certainly doubt the authenticity of her love.

    Similarly, if “friends” are going to judge you based on the ring, then I’d certainly be questioning the authenticity of their friendship.

    Whether it’s a diamond, sapphire or quartz, whether a simple metal or wooden band or even a “thought ring” surely the only important value is the symbolic value, something which can never be measured in dollars.

    And this is not simply an excuse to be frugal, but hitting the core of what marriage is fundamentally about.

    To co-opt a crass display of conspicuous spending into the meaning of an engagement ring – just because it has become the norm makes it no less vulgar.

  189. The first time I got married, we were young and eloped, there wasn’t any engagement ring. The second time I consulted with her about what she would like in a ring, but I knew very little about rings, yet still ended up with something pretty.

    It’s an emotional process that we do our best to rationalize. As a symbol, it says, I’m willing to spend a large chunk of my income on you, so you do in fact mean something to me. This works even more for those who are using rings passed down from one generation to another since the emotional associations, attachments, and expectations for success can be even greater than for a ring that starts out at a store. (and with the “family” ring, the bride may not get the kind of ring she wants, etc….)

    It’s a minefield of emotion we are usually so happy to make it through relatively unscathed that we rarely stop to question why it’s important…. for us as individuals, let alone culturally. I’m looking forward to seeing what Ramit comes up with.

  190. You should discuss it together, because 1. it can be a huge financial decision and hopefully after the proposal the 2 of you are going to be a single financial unit, and 2. because it’s a very loaded, irrational, emotional event. And that’s not a bad thing: most traditions associated with weddings (and love and family in general) are hugely based in emotion and not in reason.

    That’s perfectly okay. It doesn’t mean that you need to embrace all of the Wedding Industrial Complex, but that you as a couple need to examine this institution and figure out which parts of the tradition are meaningful and important to you, for whatever reason, which parts you can disregard, and how you can afford the parts that are important to you.

    For the little story, my boyfriend and I decided together to get married and started filing the paperwork (doing it fast would have helped our immigration situation at the time). But I called it off. I realized an actual proposal was important to me, and I was the first one surprised by this realization. Now I’m waiting… I can’t explain it except to say that I want to feel chosen. I understand it’s illogical, and I accept that. The price of the ring doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as the way it will be presented (I would be perfectly fine with a simple band under $100 and a sweet love declaration).

  191. De Beers manufactured demand in America, but they also rode a wave of middle class prosperity and class movement. For a woman of the late 20th century, the ring was a symbol both of the man’s means and his commitment, two vital things for a jobless housewife.

    With more women working, personal finances more likely to be shared within the couple, and later ages for couples making their futures more legible, the diamond loses its value as an estimate of the breadwinner’s value.

    I remember this great explanation I heard for the extravagance of an Indian wedding: “if we make it long and painful enough, they won’t want to do it again.” In 20th century U.S., the diamond successfully stood in for the back channels families in other countries might use to support or reject a suitor.

    The nuclear family model, combined with upward mobility, created the demand for diamonds, and America’s (and USSR’s) influence projected this demand on other cultures.

    (P.S. I’m utterly fascinated that article was written so long ago, it felt timeless.)

  192. A lot of people are focusing on a dollar value, which makes this is an impossible question to answer, because everyone is different. I am interpreting the question in a slightly different way. What people should focus on instead is finding a way to pay as little as possible, once the “requirements” have been defined (i.e. you’ve talked it over with the future fiancee, figured out the size and cut of the stone, the ring metal and setting, etc). You can do this by using your network.

    Here’s a 3-step process to getting a good deal:
    1. Find a design (note: does not actually require a network);
    2. Find a stone;
    3. Find someone to make you the ring.

    Step 1:
    First, in *no case* should you buy from Jared, because they make commercials that make me want to stab myself in the ear with a carving fork. Instead, you should walk through Tiffany, Bulgari, Cartier, or wherever, to get an idea of what styles are popular, and what the ring recipient likes. Ideally, this walkthrough is with the ring recipient, but if that person is unavailable, salespeople at these places will do their best to be helpful. If you can, leave with something that shows the design, i.e. a catalog or picture. You will need it in Steps 2 and 3.

    Step 2:
    Once you know what you’re looking for, you should talk to people who might be able to help you out, to see whether there’s an alternative to buying from Tiffany (technically, you don’t have to wait to do this, but for clarity’s sake, I’m writing this as a step-by-step process). Somebody might know somebody who is willing to give you a good deal. Ideally, you will get connected with a diamond dealer, and because you’re connected through a friend, relative, etc., this dealer will sell you something at wholesale. No markup, f’ yeah! You will, of course, need to research the wholesale price of diamonds so you know you’re not being taken for a ride. Trust but verify, amirite?

    Finding this angel in disguise will be easier some places than others *cough New York City*, but if you can’t find a dealer, maybe you can find a local jeweler who plays cards with your uncle. The point is, wherever you are, somebody maybe, possibly, knows someone that can help you out.

    Step 3:
    Once you have the stone, you go through the same process (i.e. working your network) to find a jeweler who can make you a ring. Realistically, you’re probably just going to go with whoever the person you found in Step 2 recommends, but you might be able to find someone different. Either way, look for someone who will make the ring with a minimal mark-up for labor (i.e. something close to melt value for the metal). Give them the design you picked out in Step 1. Have them make you the ring. Make sure it’s someone you trust, because there’s always the possibility that they will switch out the stone. Yeah, I know, that’s terrible, but people can be jerks.

    Congratulations, you have saved roughly 50% off retail. Take 1% of that and buy a really nice Cartier box on ebay. And don’t propose at a sporting event, nobody likes that.

  193. On wedding rings and conscious spending:

    My wife is Chinese. Modern Chinese women are known for being notoriously materialistic in their search for a husband. Anyway, her cousin recently got engaged. The guy spent $25000USD on a ring. I spent $1500 on wedding bands and the engagement ring combined, and even then I had to negotiate her down (there was no proposal “moment” for us. We just lived together for 2 years, and then gradually realised we might as well get married. We didn’t even plan to have a wedding originally, but in the end had a small one due to pressure from my mother (my parents paid for the reception, so no complaints there). Of course then after conceding to a wedding, we couldn’t have a wedding without exchanging rings. The engagement ring was an afterthought as we were passing by a jeweller’s and my wife saw a ring she liked).

    My response to the $25000 ring purchase was “we could travel for almost a year with $25000″. My wife agrees. That’s why we’re happily married.

    After reading that article about the diamond cartels, I’m even more determined not to cave in to advertising pressures about what we “ought” to do.

    Being average is expensive. Average people have expensive weddings.

    Step off the work-spend treadmill. Adjust your thinking so that your worth comes from within, not from what others think of you.

    Be free.

    Benson

  194. If I was going to get married, yeah, it would be to someone I love. Do I feel
    it’s smart to spend 2 or 3 times my monthly salary to PROVE that I love her
    (or him)? No. I expect my intended to appreciate spending the money on
    a future house payment, tuition payment for one or more kids, or a few more
    months of a comfy retirement….

  195. According to me “Love” doesn’t intensify the amount of materialistic expenditure. True love doesn’t come up with the amount of investment that you do in buying gifts for your partner. There are millions of people over the world who can even hardly afford a silver ring for their partner, forget any costly metal. Still their love grow with time. So it hardly matters at the end of the day how much you spend in buying engagement ring, wedding attires and so on. We should spend it keeping our gross income in mind and go on up to the limit we can afford keeping other necessary expenses intact. Because no matter what we give to our partner. At the end of the day its not the cost of the gift that matters, the thing that matters is inner feelings that’s been attached to the gift.

  196. The Atlantic article on selling diamonds was fascinating. Does anyone know how the landscape has changed since the 80s?

  197. Interesting you bring this up. I read that article a few months back (from a link on Reddit) and I asked a group of my female friends would you prefer a diamond ring or me paying off your car or student loans? The response was interesting. Even after I explained the article and gimmick, all of them (age 24-32) agreed that they wanted a diamond ring REGARDLESS of anything else. And the bigger, the better (long as it is tasteful).

    I realized at that point, I need new female friends and to marry someone who can think long-term financially.

  198. As much as you are comfortable spending. It’s all material. Spend the money on an unforgettable honeymoon – experiences last forever.

  199. I spent the same amount (2k) on my husband’s wedding band as he did on my ring. Apparently I’m allergic to platinum, so I don’t even wear it anymore. Everyone I know said very little when they saw the ring, because I wanted a tiny stone flush with the metal. I think nobody cared essentially because they didn’t have to wear it.

    I think people *will* continue to spend a lot of money on rings because humans are hopelessly materialistic, possessive and competitive. I don’t think people *should* spend any money on rings, because they are a physical hindrance, and their only real physical purpose (besides bragging and making women feel less insecure) is to indicate that someone is married. Diamonds are technically worthless, and often come from conflict/blood.

    I hesitate to offer my opinion, however, because people really don’t care about other people’s opinions, except for Ramit, who likes to engage in social experiments.

  200. A little research upfront can get you the best deal. find the local diamond dealers who sell to the jewelers , make an appointment with them and buy direct. you will pay about a 1/3 of the price.

  201. “Ugh! What a heteronormative paternalistic anachronism.”

    Yes.

    I honestly feel sorry for the women who want them. It’s so much brainwashing. Just get yourself rings you like, when you want to. If you’ve really been fixating on a diamond ring from a man since you were a little girl, then there might not be much you can do now. It’s sick how much of a woman’s identity is supposed to revolve around her romantic/marital status. The engagement ring is an extension of this.

    Most of my peers (and at the risk of sounding really elitist, I’ll say we’re all around 30 with one or more advanced degrees) are not too excited about them. One of my friends who received one from her fiance insisted he wear one too, and he did.

    • I should add that I do know people (like family members and my closest friend) who received “nice” rings costing >$10,000. They’re generally more traditional/conventional.

      I also know a woman who agreed with her fiance that the money he’d spend on a ring go to a charity instead. Isn’t that 1000x more beautiful? What’s keeping us all from doing that?

  202. From other poster’s comments I’d say how much you should spend depends on:
    1)Your hidden script.
    2)Your fiance’s hidden script
    3)Your social circle’s scripts. (Including parents, co-workers, friends and even neighbors)
    For some it may be OK to get something in the low numbers. But for others it’s an investment, not in terms of selling it later at a higher price, but a “social investment” Think of it as when you buy a tie – what purpose does it serve? Think about it, why do you wear a tie?. But a cheap one looks, well… cheap. In certain social circles you’re criticized for wearing a cheap tie. And an expensive tie shows status, gives confidence and alters the perception others have of you. So I’d say depending on your social circle, the engagement ring may serve as a status “flag” that you’re successful. It all comes down to scripts. But not just yours or your fiancee’s.

  203. When we got engaged I was in college working part time making about $700 per month. I spent $1250 on her ring. I don’t however think there is a number that everyone should spend. I took my girlfriend to a few ring stores and she picked out a ring setting she liked (well a style but I knew which one she loved) and I later went back and got a diamond that fit that setting that I could afford.

    My thought is that it is important she knows you care about her and the decision of getting married. That means if you have no money and you never spend more than $10 on anything and you buy a $100 ring from a pawn shop she will recognize that that is huge for you. If you normally taker her out to dinners and spend $200+ in one night you dang well better spend more that $1000 on her ring that is supposed to show you love and care for her above anything else.

  204. Phew. I read them all.

    I love these discussions and I’ve read quite a few of them over the years. A really excellent discussion is on Corporette, which focuses on the professional/legal world for women. Diamonds can be a tricky thing!

    http://corporette.com/2011/03/17/diamond-rings-and-the-working-girl/

    As for my thoughts on how much should be spent, I completely agree that you need to talk about it but also know that in some cases, that won’t work (well or easily!). Personally I don’t care what he spends because it is important to him. He is important to me and him being happy with his choice is important.

    My boyfriend and I have two very different ideas of what an engagement ring should be:

    1) I like gemstones; he hates them
    2) I like man made diamonds; he hates them
    3) I think diamond bands are great; he says not for an engagement ring, only wedding ring
    4) We agree that they should be good quality even if smaller. I’ve seen large dirty diamonds and would rather have nothing than wear that.

    He has amazing taste. I know he’ll pick out something gorgeous. He knows me and he knows what I like. I imagine that in the end though, it’ll come down to what he wants as an expression of himself and his desires. I’m good with that.

  205. I think it’s pretty subjective. It should be tempered by the man’s income, the woman’s expectations, etc.

    I never considered myself a “jewelry person” and during my courtship with my now-husband was constantly telling him NOT to take me out to dinner, or buy me expensive gifts, or whatnot. But when he popped the question and spent money on an engagement ring – it meant THE WORLD to me. The symbolism, the sacrifice (because he knew I didn’t want him to take on more debt, he actually sold one of his prized possessions: a Fender guitar, in order to afford most of the cost debt-free, and he financed a small portion of the ring.)

    He hasn’t bought me anything that expensive since and I do not expect him to, I’m still not a “jewelry person” and I still don’t like him to spend lots of money on me, but the ring was meaningful as a high-priced item because it represented time, sacrifice, and commitment in its purchase price (which I’m guessing was around $2,000?) – something he has also demonstrated faithfully as a husband which I value more than diamonds: his time, sacrifice, and commitment.

  206. I am coming from this at a completely different angle than most but it might still apply to some…
    I grew up very middle class and married someone significantly older (15+ yrs) who comes from a very affluent family. His late grandmother’s ring was reset for me totaling a little over $50k if purchased today. When I get around most of my social circle I see them looking at it and feeling uncomfortable which makes me uncomfortable. I don’t work professionally and am not trying to impress anyone because I know how much money we have. Bigger isn’t always better :)

  207. Man, I am not going to be one of those chicks who doesn’t want her guy to spend money on her, and I would never go out with a guy who tried to be as cheap as possible. And while I realize that price doesn’t necessarily correlate to quality, it would mean something to me to know that he spent a fair amount to get something nice — not even for bragging rights but just, you know, for the same reason I paint my toenails: it makes me sleep better at night.

  208. My husband spent an amount he deemed “painful enough” (eg. required a bit of planning and saving for cash-flow) and also bought me a ring that both he and I are proud to show off and wear everyday and do not plan on “upgrading”. That ended up being a gorgeous 1 ct solitaire in a platinum setting in the $9k range which we researched extensively and bought for a fair price. In terms of my social group, my ring is probably right in the middle in terms of size/cost. As for percentage of salary, its just over 1 month of what his gross was at the time. If we were to be engaged now with our current, much higher salaries, I think I still would have ended up spending about the same amount of money and still gotten a 1 ct solitaire.

  209. I think one of the interesting things with this kind of topic is the difference between what someone might say and how they would actually feel if you acted in that way. It’s a similar situation with something like a birthday or anniversary or something, when you say you don’t want to do something, or don’t want to give cards, etc. but ultimately most people would probably be exponentially happier if you went ahead and did that “off-limits” action/purchase anyhow. I imagine it’s the same with a wedding ring. The girl might say she doesn’t want 2 months salary spent or whatever the amount is, but the reaction could be totally different from what the expectation was set as.

  210. Angie unduplicated Link to this comment

    I’m with 2. I was married (to a man) without engagement or wedding ring. I later chose a non-slave-labor non-blood-money North Carolina pink ruby and had it set in a family ring from which the diamond had been sold, during the Depression, to put food on the family table.
    I also think that huge expensive weddings are barbaric and that any man who marries a Disney Princess is setting himself up for serious sorrow.

  211. Hey Ramit, how about summarizing some of this? You’ve probably already identified some trends.

  212. Complementing: How much should a man spend on a car? (or many other items) The cheapest Nissan/Ford/Toyota/Chevy will bring you to the same places as a Mercedes Benz. But an expensive car isn’t just about transportation. It involves emotions, and we’re irrational with those. You really don’t feel the same driving/riding a cheap car than an expensive one. It goes to your ego – your emotional part. We all want to be different – for the best. And that emotional / aspirational part is what sells expensive cars. Not that they deliver more miles per gallon, cheaper overall costs. You have a completely different experience buying a car for yourself than buying one for your company.

    Right now, single, with no girlfriend, in front of my computer, with plenty of time to think about it and no emotions involved I’d tell you that I wouldn’t buy an expensive ring, But I KNOW my reactions aren’t the same when I’m in love, when I know she wants a big ring by what she says about her friends’. You just can’t fight emotion sometimes. (and social pressure) BUT… I’m aware I wouldn’t be just buying a ring… I’m also buying a set of emotions. Happiness. Social acceptance. Memories. A sign on your hand and your fiancee’s that spells out “I’m successful” It may sound like a credit card slogan, but there are things money can’t buy. (Works both ways: a big ring won’t bring you happiness. A small one delivered with love and attitude will)

    My point: you’re not buying a ring for financial investment. You should also consider your “emotional profit” (or loss, he he) – there will be one, you want it or not.

  213. Anonymous cuz they'll hate me Link to this comment

    And there’s the old “I want you to use my grandmother’s wedding ring” trick… and go buy an “antique”.

  214. I got a a simple “proposal ring” ring from my husband then picked out my own sparkly engagement ring..i think we spent more on our custom made wedding bands which have no stones. It’s important she helps with the more permanent jewelry selection!!

  215. ITT: people who are being filched by those who SAY love them the most.

  216. I would not want a stone. Just a 22/24k gold band with some design but nothing super ornate. Why? Simple – gold has real value no matter what and I am not talking about today’s crazy values. In an emergency, you can get money out of gold. A stone? You may not even be able to sell it in an emergency. Do I sound practical or what eh?

  217. My husband and I had long discussions about rings when we first started discussing marriage. I wanted a thick wedding band and no engagement ring because I knew I would not wear it. It was also far more important to me to have the wedding that I wanted with the people important to me attending. So rather than spending the money on rings, we paid for everything for the wedding, including hotel costs and plane tickets to our wedding. We also declined gifts and requested donations instead. We had the wedding of our dreams. This was last summer and I do not regret or miss not having an engagement ring.

    My husband wanted to get me an engagement ring to give with the proposal so he contacted a tourist shop we had visited on vacation in the UK and ordered a little sovenir ring that I loved! It was the most romantic thing he had ever done.

    What I did that I don’t think most women do, is I was completely honest with him and very clear about what I wanted and what was important. If he had gotten a ring (worth more than the $20 ring he did) I would have been seriously pissed because I would have had to sacrifice part of my dream. When all was said and done, we spent less than 2 months combined salary.

    We also had a conversation about his ring. It was his decision if he wanted to wear a ring or not. I did not want to spend money on a ring that was not going to get worn.

  218. Great answers! I think the most important thing is that the person buying the ring should really try to take into account what their loved one wants. For example, if my boyfriend had a lot of money, yet spent very little on the ring, I think that says something. If he didn’t have much money, and spent a little on the ring, it says something different. Also, I think a key question, that I don’t believe anyone asked, although I have to admit, I skipped the last half of answers because there were so many, is, “Why are you asking this question Ramit?” ; )

  219. My husband spent the equivalent of a week’s wages (about $200 at the time) on my engagement ring, but he bought it at a pawnbrokers. It’s a rose gold vintage men’s signet ring, which he knew I would love. That had more romantic value to me then a big rock.

    We also bought our wedding bands at a pawnbrokers that was having a sale about a week before the wedding. I think they cost us about $60 each. We were both students and I didn’t want to start our life together with a massive debt. We did replace them about five years later with a nicer, matched set at about $300 each.

  220. I’m on a quick lunch break and haven’t had time to read all the comments so forgive me if this is repetitive, but I think it is worth stating: if most couples spent half the time/effort/money they put into thinking about/planning/researching the issue of rings and weddings into more longer-term life/financial planning discussions prior to getting engaged, we’d probably have a lot more weathy, happy, long-term couples out there rather than the kind of debt and divorce rates we see in society. What should he spend? Depends on so many things. How much debt do they have? If so what is the plan for paying it off? (God, I hope they have a plan…) Do they both work? Are they happy in their jobs/career track or do they want to make a change? Do they want to have kids — if so, do they think it is important for one parent to stay home or work reduced hours, and if so for how long? Do they want to own a home? Do they want to put any kids through college? How do they want to spend their vacations over the next 10-20 years — are they globetrotters or are they happy to stick closer to home, and do they share perspectives on this? What do they think a reasonable percentage of their spending is for “fun money” generally, and what do they think a good savings target is in general? Do they want to retire early? Are there other looming financial commitments that they need to plan for (parents without adequate retirement savings, a sibling down on their luck, young relatives who may need a guardian sometime soon due to family illness/disability/other major problem)? I don’t think you necessarily have to have a checklist where you go over all of these things before you pop the question, but by the time you are ready to commit your life to somebody else I would hope you have addressed most of these bigger picture issues and confirmed that you are planning to marry someone who shares your general worldview/life/financial outlook. And then you can plan to spend on the ring and your wedding as fits your overall goals and financial capabilities.

    In my case, I knew my partner was as big a cheapskate as I was, so I didn’t want/expect an engagement ring — we got the cheapest bands they had at the local jeweler days before our New Year’s Eve wedding (scheduled on that date so we’d save $4000 in taxes) It was a courthouse wedding and the whole thing cost under $500. We’re going on our 16th year of marriage, and thanks largely to our shared financial values we have a substantial net worth in spite of working just over a decade in the non-profit sector. If he had spent a ton of money on an engagement ring I would have bopped him over the head with it — not a priority for either of us.

    • PS: Left the final sentence off — meant to say that if he HAD spent a ton of money on a ring I probably wouldn’t have married him, as it would have been a sign that he didn’t really “get” me at all.

      That being said, I’m still trying to adjust to the fact that he doesn’t quite understand that a small acknowledgement of my birthday, Mother’s Day, etc. would be appreciated. Nothing extravagent gift wise is needed, but offering to cook dinner or wash up would be nice. Cross-cultural relationships are challenging sometimes, even when you are very compatible in your core values otherwise.

  221. my wife said “why do you want to waste money on a ring? you can’t do anything with a ring. use the money for a house instead.”

    match made in heaven.

  222. Spend as much as you feel comfortable spending, I guess. A man should have a pretty good idea of his wife’s priorities, so if deciding between spending 1000 or 2500, he should know if that extra 1500 bucks would be more valued if spent in some other way.

  223. How much should one spend? No rules. Whatever works for you, personally, financially and socially.

    I was 49 when I asked my first and only wife to marry me. I knew that she would love it if the engagement ring came from family, so I called my 90-year-old mom and asked her if she had a ring she could send me. She sent two and told me to take my pick. Then I took them both to my men’s group and had them vote. After that they trained me on how to properly pop the question. I had some weird ideas (“I’ll have the waiter bring it on the dessert plate!”) and, in my “practice proposals,” I kept apologizing or wasn’t direct enough. They lovingly kicked my ass into shape. Then I had the ring sized and cleaned — tiny rubies around a small diamond in a gold setting — and took her out to the nicest place in town to propose.

    Calling mom and getting feedback from guy friends paid off. She LOVED the ring, and decided to keep it as her wedding ring, and bracket it with a gold sleeve. So we asked friends and family on both sides to send us any extra gold jewelry that they might have lying around, then brought it all to another local jeweler with our own designs for her sleeve and my wedding band. We got custom his n her rings for well under $1K total. Plus they’re imbued with gold from over a dozen loved ones. We’re very happy with how this all worked out.

    If she had wanted a different ring for her wedding ring, we might have flown to NY for this custom ring-making workshop:
    http://www.newyorkweddingring.com/
    Just some different ideas for any non-traditional couples out there….

  224. I don’t know for sure what my husband spent on my ring. He bought the engagement and the wedding ring together as a set. I love it; It’s beautiful but far larger than I ever would have allowed him to pick out if I had helped. One of the above comments talked about taking her internal script into account as well as his. I honestly think he went in with a vague idea that he had to spend 2.5 or 3 months of his salary on a ring as his only script, and the salesperson saw him coming from a mile away. He got 0% financing, paid the ring off before we actually walked down the isle 9 months later, and was thrilled to be able to completely surprise me with the ring and the proposal.

    However.

    In my social circle, the unstated script is for more modest rings. And my personal script would have been for something in the 1/2 caret to (at most) 1 caret range of diamond (total weight.) Most of our friends are in similar situations financially as I was before we were married. and they all have rings that are in the less than 1 caret range. My husband spent 6 years as a single man making quite a bit of money. He rarely spent it on himself and had a sizable savings account before we were married. He used a great deal of that money to buy a house with his sister, but the remainder he spent on a ring for me. A two caret total weight ring, in the realm of $7,000. (I’ve never asked and in fact, went out of my way to avoid knowing accurately what he paid.)

    This disparity in ring size made me feel awkward at first when my friends would ask to see my ring. And in fact, when unmarried friends get engaged, I still sometimes feel awkward asking to see their ring because mine is usually larger. My internal script was to anticipate something much more modest. I would have preferred to have something similar to or smaller than the women in my social group. I love my husband, and I love my ring. (And, not gonna lie, I do love the size of the ring. It makes me feel very spoiled – not something I’m really proud of.) I wouldn’t trade it for a million dollars or a different ring. But I don’t like feeling as though I’m outside the bounds of my social group’s unstated ring script. (Of course, if we’re getting into the realm of my Mom’s ring script, this is just the right size for a starter ring. Thank god my husband doesn’t follow THAT script. One of the things we joke about is that there’s no need to ever upgrade this ring!)

    For what it’s worth, we picked out his ring together – Tungsten steel with a carbon fiber braid down the center – and it cost less than $300. He loves it because both of those materials are used in aerospace, which is what he works in. It’s also unique and exactly what he wanted.

  225. I know I’m late to comment on this, but just wanted to add that in my observation women tend to be more concerned about engagement rings when their engagements are longer. My hubby and I got married 9 months after getting engaged and during that time we were both in grad school, he was also working full time, we were living in different states, etc. so our social lives were somewhat on hold during that time. I didn’t really have time to think about what other people thought about my ring. But I knew several girls in grad school who put off weddings until after graduation and thus ended up being engaged for two + years. Their engagement rings were much pricier than mine. Perhaps it helped that the costs of the wedding were further away from the cost of buying the ring. But I also think they felt a need to justify the legitimacy of their relationships since they delayed their wedding dates for so long and put other things ahead of the wedding like graduation, sitting for the bar exam, securing a job, etc.

  226. First of all I’d suggest discussing marriage and views on rings/fancy weddings BEFORE proposing. I honestly don’t understand straight couples who don’t even talk about it before one of them (usually the man) proposes. When you get married it’s a huge change in your life, especially if you don’t live together before marrying, and that is a decision that should be made at the end of a lot of mutual discussion not a decision sprung on someone unawares (I can’t be the only one who finds big surprise proposals incredibly creepy?). I don’t think this is something that happens as often with same-sex couples because they aren’t as caught up with how things are “supposed” to be done since marriage rights aren’t universal in the US and the places where it’s an option haven’t had same sex marriage for very long.

    After that, make a decision about A) what kind of ring she wants (or that the both of you want, I like the idea of both people wearing engagement rings) B) what you can afford and what would fit into your views on money and C) what kind of lifestyle she leads. Personally I would be furious at my boyfriend if he bought me a $2500 ring instead of putting that money towards something more useful. I’d say $500 at the very upper limit for what I’d be comfortable with, I like jewelry that is a bit different but I don’t like most gemstones and definitely not large ones or a lot of them, I also work with my hands for a living so I wouldn’t be able to wear an engagement or wedding ring every day anyway.

  227. By the way, I should point out the difference in what the diamond industry wants people to spend (2.5x salary) vs what I said I would be comfortable with. If my boyfriend wanted to go the 2.5x route that would be over $10k and I would be afraid to even wear a ring that cost that much. Keep in mind that this would mean someone at the poverty level (about $12k for a single person in the US) would be expected to pay $2500 for a ring. That should tell you just how ridiculous that convention is.

  228. When my husband asked me to marry him we were heavy into rock climbing, mountaineering, mountain bike racing… Frankly the idea of any kind of ring with diamonds was out of the question in my mind. I would have probably damaged it or lost it, ie. I wouldn’t have been wearing it much. If we had an extra $2500 laying around , I would have wanted “gear”. :)
    I had no “traditional” expectations when it came to our relationship. He proposed to me by presenting me with a beautiful wooden box (that he made) and in it was a black velvet background, and there was a plaque mounted on it that has a poem called “The Ascent” engraved on it. (We found it on a sculpture in Jackson Hole). there were two O rings at the bottom, and two carabiners at the top, and there was a piece of climbing rope hanging through each biner. When we had our wedding ceremony we literally tied those two pieces of climbing rope together, closed the box , and locked it and the key got thrown away. It hangs on our wall in our house. He made this all by himself and totally blew me away when he proposed and presented it to me. It was so much more symbolic to me because of who we were and what it meant. When we tied ourselves together when we were climbing, we were entrusting each other with our lives.

    I did get a small ring with a diamond about 7 years later because I decided I wanted one and hinted around and he went ahead and picked one out and I wear it everyday now. I just don’t think people need to get so caught up in “what your supposed to do”. Just do what your heart tells you to do at the time. If your with the right person it isn’t going to come down to “things”. I have been married almost 18 years now , and no matter what size “rock” I would have gotten, that wouldn’t have helped keep my marriage together anyway. I think the communication that people are talking about and the whole perception that a guy cares enough about it to want to make her happy is really what matters to a woman, not the price or the size of the ring.

  229. I’m not sure there is or should be a set amount that should be spent on an engagement ring. When my wife and I got engaged, I told her I’d get her any ring she wanted. She picked up a ring at Wal-mart that cost $129.

    Not long after that, she was listening to a morning DJ. A girl called in to say her fiance gave her a ring, but she found a receipt and even though she loved the ring, the receipt said it cost $179 at Wal-mart. My wife hoped the guy dropped her.

    • I’m with your wife on this one! To me, it’s not what the cost was but the reason I’m wearing it. When my then-boyfriend and I were becoming serious (about 6 months in), I knew it was unlikely we’d be getting married for at least two years, due to the cost of everything. Neither of us were in a great financial place, so I didn’t expect anything. My family loves him, and my sister knew I loved an heirloom ring from our family, that my aunt had inherited. My husband proposed to me about six months in, with the heirloom ring from my family. Talk about a surprise! Several of my friends have gotten married since then, and I, personally, never compare my ring to theirs in size. They all fit the wearer, and I love that mine has so much meaning, and looks antique like I wanted. It’s not necessarily the cost that matters!

  230. I got a lot of insight working with an excellent small jewelery store. I have always been into “quality”. I bought a diamond first and foremost, not a ring, and then had it set in a simple white gold setting that I knew my wife would like. I spent a lot of time looking through the microscope and found a beautifully colored and clear, albeit smaller, diamond. In part because of my values and scripts, but also because I knew my wife and she had commented about how some of my female relatives’ diamonds sparkle and shine more than others. I know also she didn’t want something overly big and flashy because of her workplace. She was really impressed that I had thought that much about it and her ring is always sparkling from every angle and it “shows” bigger than it is. I think part of it is the feeling that she was worth a “perfect” stone.

    BUT

    In my research I also came across the concept of a “wrap” [this is a ring that wraps around a diamond solitaire with additional stones on the side]. I gave her a sapphire and diamond wrap as we approached the wedding day and it made her feel amazing because it allowed her to have a bit more show for special occasions and, I think, because it wasn’t necessary at all. It was “extra”.

    Here’s where the insight from the shop owners came in. I learned that part of it was age dependent, but a lot of it had to do with the woman’s social circle. I remember distinctly being asked about my wife’s friends. The owner said something along the lines of, “A lot of women won’t care what color it is or how shiny, as long as it is big – or at least bigger than her friends’”.

    The price? Honestly, I don’t know. Really. I remember it being a big chunk of change and budget stretching when we got engaged because we were both just out of grad school and facing an international move, but seven years later I couldn’t tell you if it was $3K or $5K or more. It was a lot then, but it wouldn’t seem as much of a hit now because our finances have improved. Still, I would almost certainly do the same thing again. It’s not about price. In hindsight I’d spend more to get the same level of satisfaction, but I honestly do worry that as we improve our financial lot there will be “diamond creep”. Perhaps an unexpected anniversary ring should be in the works, but I think I’d be upset if she were to want to “upgrade” the current stone. Of course, if it were lost or stolen, I’d have no issue replacing it with something just as nice and bigger too!

    Some things are just not worth falling short of expectations. Who wants to look down and their “sensible” ring every day?

  231. Just to share what I told my husband when he asked me at the time: I had a story about a couple who was just engaged and the stone was small because they were starting out. Unfortunately, the stone fell out during a get-together and there was a group of a dozen women and a very, very, embarrassed guy looking for a tiny diamond in the carpet (we found it eventually). My husband at the same time wanted a nice TV for the new home we were also in the process of purchasing. So – after I shopped for the setting with him, the only guidelines I gave him for the stone was somewhere between not being embarrassed in a hypothetically similar situation and more than the price of the TV he eventually wanted – not to mention paying for quality make. The darn thing is the large TVs keep on getting cheaper and he’s using it as an excuse to help convince me into an upgrade (of the TV)!

  232. This is all really fascinating. I definitely agree that expectations have a lot to do with your peer group/family/profession, etc.

    I’m from a somewhat conservative religious background and got married during college at a university where getting married young (and still a poor student) is very common. The typical norms associated with engagement rings in American culture (as in, a big ring=your spouse has a great job, worked hard to save up for it, must really love you, etc.) didn’t apply quite the same way in that situation.

    At school, it seemed like having a ring that was HUGE almost had a bad stigma associated with it, because it usually signified one of 3 things: 1) the guy’s parents were loaded (not a bad thing) and paid for it (which kind of cheapens the whole thing, and makes the guy seem like a mooch on his rich parents), 2) the guy went into a stupid amount of debt for the ring, 3) he is one of the douchey guys on campus who spends his summers working summer sales jobs like selling pest control and security systems door-to-door (there’s a stigma against these guys because they buy big idiotic cars with the money they earn, are all about flashing high-status stuff to look rich, and spend all their time trying to “recruit” other people into doing sales).

    I think the ideal situation was a bigger and nicer-than-average ring that your fiance actually worked and paid for himself–which, if we’re speaking on college student terms, likely wouldn’t be anything in the 10k+ range.

    My ring definitely fit into the ideal situation at school. Now that I’m out of college and among friends/coworkers who already have established careers before getting engaged, my ring does admittedly seem kind of…modest.

  233. My incredible wife had me donate $5k to charity instead. Finding a woman like that is your first step.

    • Yes! I am surprised and a bit sad that this trend has been so slow to catch on! (I’m female, btw.)

  234. I spent $4K on my wife’s engagement ring when we married, then upgraded it to a $8K ring 8 years later because my wife really appreciated it. A year after that, she left me, but did not return the ring. She currently lives off support that I pay her and has not made any effort to get a job. I have no objection in spending a lot on a ring for a wife who is faithful to me, but I resent what I spent on an ungrateful parasite.

  235. Wow after reading through the article and the feedback I am feeling a bit guilty and shocked. My boyfriend and I have discussed a ring and we decided that a ring between $5000 and $6,500 would be reasonable. I don’t ever want to upgrade so I want a beautiful ring with a diamond as my engagement ring that I will wear forever. I don’t feel like the one item I will wear for the rest of my life should be something I cheap out on. We are in our mid 20′s and make a combined salary of over $125,000. I am shocked by how little people are willing to spend on such a sentimental item that they will have forever.

    • Don’t feel guilty. The comments here are totally unrepresentative of tons of other opinions about spending on an engagement ring.

    • “…how little people are willing to spend on such a sentimental item…”

      The answer is right here! It’s sentimental, not functional (except to signal status, assuming you keep the sort of company where you need to do so through jewelry). Many women will look at a dinky ring on their finger and think back to how happy they were to get engaged. Other people will look at a dinky ring and think “Dinky ring! He must not love me that much/He must not be a good provider or very successful/What will my friends say.” This is straight out of the Five Love Languages stuff.

      I hope to look down at no ring and think, “I’m glad we gave that money to help people who need basic health care.” That is the most loving, sentimental, and beautiful gesture for me.

  236. I was 21 when we got engaged.
    I was finishing up school and he was a successful
    Investor in his mid 30′s. To me the thought of spending more than $500 on an engagement ring was a sin! And he didn’t really care how much it cost in the sense of what our friends would think or society or being defined by the ring. I guess to us a ring was just a ring.
    When we got engaged he took me to an engagement rings store and we spent about 5 hours just looking at rings and having a good time.
    It was a great experience to have gone together.
    I personally wanted a small, unique, graceful ring.
    He loved it when I said it, but once I tried a few of the rings on, he really didn’t want it to be small. I eventually got tired of trying rings on ( I was a few weeks pregnant) and went to the waiting room and took a nap!!!! (it was a nice comfy waiting room with lots of food and romantic music and super comfortable, cozy couches)
    He spent at least 2 hours looking at diamonds.
    He woke me up and said, ” chose a design and I’ll pick the stone”. I picked a design an he picked the diamond cut and size, we went home.
    The next day it was ready and I almost died when I saw how gorgeous and how big it was.
    I really didn’t want something so big but he really
    Loved it and he felt so proud of it!
    He spent about $7K
    3 months later I had gained so much weight that it didn’t fit, lol!
    I don’t think either one of us had planned on spending that much, but at the end he bought what he liked and what he wanted to “symbolize” our union.
    All I saw was the effort and excitement that he put into choosing and buying it. I know I am more than special because of the amount of work he put into getting the “right one” rather than size and price.
    Anyway, that’s how it worked out for us.

  237. I am a real bling kind of gal so diamonds are a much loved part of my life. My husband and I took a progressive approach – we spent what we could afford when we got engaged and have since ‘upgraded’ my diamond on anniversaries as our finances has allowed. In most cases you can keep the same setting and enlarge the diamond in it. We have been able to trade in the previous stones towards the cost of the new one. Just one approach.

  238. My then-fiance and I agreed that we wouldn’t spend more than we could reasonably afford on an engagement ring — I say “we” because we were about to combine all our money into a joint account, so any savings he spent was my future money too! I think he spent about $1000 (he was working but about to go back to grad school full-time; I was still in grad school.)

    Over ten years later, we have two beautiful children and a great marriage — but a few months ago the diamond fell out of the ring and disappeared, we realized we’d forgotten to renew the insurance, and so I have just my plain gold band instead. And you know what? No one cares. At some point maybe we’ll spend the money for a nice new ring — at this point we have other priorities — or maybe we won’t. It’s a piece of jewelry, people.

    And as a side note — one of the best marriages I know started with a $20 sidewalk vendor engagement ring — they were students and had no money — I think they eventually replaced it with a family ring. But really I don’t know — they have great kids and a wonderful life. What’s way more important is how both of you approach this first big purchase together, and what that says about how you’ll both handle much more important joint decisions later in life.

  239. Spend to feel good about yourself. Spend to make your wife feel loved. Spend so that your wife can make other wifes feel their husband doesn’t love them as much, because they didn`t spend as much. Glad I don’t share this American feeling, even though I admire the country for so many other things, like the capacity to influence people to “spend, spend and spend” to be happy, and profit big while doing it.

    I am 26. My income streams generate low 6 figures income and I didn`t buy any ring (we both don`t care) and last time I was told opinions by woman around “mine”: they envy her, in a good way, for being the happiest girl around and have asked me for “the secret”. Well, it’s not by how much you spend on material items.

    A woman that is both emotionally and spiritually rich will always be happier than one seeking financial abundance and If your girl needs you to “spend, spend and spend” to be emotionally satisfied and/or to impress other like her, I honestly suggest you to think twice about the whole thing.

    Cheers from Brazil!

  240. I’ve heard some men (older than me) say, “a man should spend three months pay on a ring.” I make about 50K a year and three months pay is certainly a significant amount.

    Another reader wrote, “A woman that is both emotionally and spiritually rich will always be happier than one seeking financial abundance…” I think that says it all.

    Ideally, my future wife will share the same morals. Spend more on things that really matter to you and yours; conscious spending should play a role.

  241. My biggest advice would be to stay away from large national-chain jewelry stores and stick to small diamond brokers around town with less overhead expenses. The engagement ring I got for my wife several years ago was less than $3500 but that same carat diamond was more than double that at helzbergs jewelry in the mall in overland park, ks. To me, it’s not how much do you want to spend, but rather how much bang for your buck do you really want to get and how much time are you willing to shop around for the best deal?

  242. I negotiated with R.H. Macy’s on the engagement ring for my wife. All in all I spent around $3,000 out the door and then had the ring appraised for $9,800. I took an overall view of my portfolio and decided what percentage I would be comfortable with losing. I was concious about how much I was spending and knew that by negotiating, even with a big box store, it would prove to be an advantageous position for me. My Brother’s advice to me after I bought it? “You get married at least once”.

  243. I don’t know if anyone’s still reading at this point but I’ll share my opinion/story.

    My fiancee and I talked about rings in general about 6 months before we got engaged, and I shocked the hell out of him by saying I thought the “3 month’s salary” rule was ridiculous and dreamed up by diamond marketers. He literally thought I was just saying that to mess with him.

    My point with him was, three months of his salary is basically a car, and I didn’t want to wear a car on my hand every day, I thought colored gemstones would be great and make me happy (had a specific color I told him about).

    Fast forward 6 months, and my custom designed ring (he’s friends with a jeweler) has a big fat diamond in the middle of blue diamonds. And it’s awesome and I love it and now I think that what he spends on the engagement ring is none of my business (that might be my Southern grandma talking).

    I’m hoping I’m not wearing a car on my hand, but I don’t care. He wanted a ring that made people look, so that’s what he got me. I would have been happy with something else, or a much smaller diamond, but the bottom line is he wouldn’t have.

  244. (Apologies in advance for the British currency; Multiply everything by 1.6 for $$)

    The comments have made for some interesting reading. I must say I am surprised by the number of people who spend a significant chunk of money on a ring. I had just got my first job after university when I got engaged, I was only earning £16k.
    A lot of people say that you should be spending 3 months salary on an engagement ring, but there was no chance I was going to spend £4k on a ring. That would be ridiculous. Maybe those people mean you should spend 3 months worth of your disposable income on a ring? I don’t mind not buying anything fun for a couple of months but I still have bills to pay!
    I took her shopping with me and let her pick whatever ring she wanted that was £1000 or under. She picked one that was only £450, so I was nicely surprised by the cost. It was still a surprise when I proposed, because I had bought myself an pool table with the rest of the money and she thought I wouldn’t have enough to buy the ring too. It made her very happy when she realized that I bought the engagement ring before the pool table and she had the exact ring she wanted.

    There should definitely be more to it than some arbitrary number people speak about. Even though it is only a ring, it does signify something, so I can see why there is a value associated with it, just not one as high as everyone says. I think if you do not earn very much, then you cannot afford to spend that much on a ring. If you earn a lot of money then 3 times your monthly salary is too high – thinking £100k yearly then £25k on a ring is still beyond a reasonable amount.

    Having said all that, as a Brit I come from a (slightly) less capitalistic culture and even though a lot of people say 3 times the monthly salary, I do not personally know anyone who has spent more than 1 months salary. I know a lot of people that have got married in the past few years too.

  245. I secretly hope this means dear Ramit is getting closer to making this decision himself.

    The sensible answer is that the ring needs to be the one that is perfectly suited in style/values for your lady love WHILE falling within a price range that won’t give either her or you anxiety. And in order to figure that out, you and she are likely going to need to discuss rings. Because even if giant 6 carat canary diamond rings are pinned to her wedding pinboard on pinterest… that could still be wrong choice. Some ladies would have crippling anxiety over wearing something huge and expensive.

    However! That discussion definitely murders the old-fashioned romance of the surprise proposal – that true gasp! That thrill of seeing the unexpected ring and discovering he truly not only loves you most in the world, but knows you!

    So for a woman who wouldn’t care about the romance of a surprise proposal, figuring out a price range for a ring should be really easy. Just ask what she likes in style and what she values in an engagement ring. Proceed.

    If you and she want that magical surprise moment – the budget could be substantially harder to identify because you may know less about her values. Good luck subtly fishing for information without tipping her off! :-D

    A tangent: having the “unique” ring seems to be something that men value more than women. “Unique” can be amazing and “unique” can also be scary for a piece of jewelry that will be worn everyday for the rest of her life. If a woman had to pick a pair of shoes to wear for the rest of her life, it probably wouldn’t be a “unique” orange, patent leather spiked heel Louboutin, but a simple, timelessly stylish black shoe of excellent quality. DEFINITELY consult your lady if the ring is going to be “unique” (worth ruining the magic).

    If you’re truly guessing, you probably ought to guess a 1 carat solitaire set in white gold.

  246. My fiance and I discussed the diamond thing and I made a proposal: let’s forget the De Beers mind-f*** and take 6 months traveling France and Africa building some memories that really last forever (as forever as we’ve got anyway). We also trimmed down the wedding to about $1500. Great trip, great decision. 20 years later, we are still married, and we still love travel (we just finished 18 months of travel around the world with our kids) over shiny rocks. Her work colleagues gave her funny looks when there was nothing to show and I had to deal with being viewed as a cheapskate.
    I guess I’m a bit puzzled about the responses in light of the Atlantic article. Isn’t anyone embarrassed by being manipulated so obviously and completely by a diamond cartel?

  247. I am from India and I realize every unit (culture, nation, group) would have its norms tied to some tangible (and visual) rite/event/object. Even so, I realize that Americans don’t posess diamonds as much as diamonds posess them. Especially in this conversation. Same with Americans and automobiles. Not sure who is driving who.

    Don’t worry, there are plenty of Indian equivalents for this.

    It is so strange people (across humanity) tie their identity to something external and also **devalue** others on the same basis.

    And, as I see it, this pattern will grow in times to come. Simply because we are conditioning ourselves to walk this path without ever questioning ourselves. So, we make sure there is no cognitive dissonance between what we **say** we believe love is (that feeling) and what we want it to **mean** (a diamond).

    Neurons that fire together will become the neurons that wire together.

    As I see it, this will end up being a generational curse that humanity will inflict upon itself … We may change diamonds for another object … but we may never teach ourselves to be content …
    (That would ruin De Beers’ market and everyone knows we go to work and make money so that we can stuff the De Beers coffers…though we don’t like diamonds mined by slaves, we don’t mind being owned by De Beers and Cohorts.) (Hey, my salary is the result of my blood and sweat!)

    More importantly, in this case, we may never learn to value the other person for who they are …. steadfast, commited, loving, etc.

    Women will “value” men only on the market value of the posession they can buy, and men will teach themselves to measure their own worth only on their ability to afford the going market price for posessions.

    Great! This is truly a made-for-each-other scenario.

  248. I think the most important thing about engagement rings is that they give a couple a chance to see how each other thinks about money.

    I used to think that engagement rings were an impractical waste of money (but I still sort of wanted one). My fiance and I sort of lucked out (I thought) because his mother had a lovely diamond that she had saved for him to use for an engagement ring. I designed the setting for it, we took it to a jeweler, and I left it up to my fiance to deal with the rest of it (i.e., pay for the setting).

    He was such a disaster with money that he couldn’t even pay the couple hundred dollars for the setting. His parents paid for it, and his MOTHER ended up giving me the ring at our rehearsal dinner.

    I lost some respect for him when he let his parents pay for and give me the ring, and I wish I’d realized at the time how different our attitudes toward money were. He could have afforded the setting if he’d saved up a bit for it but he just relied on someone else to pay for it and that’s been a trend for much of our life together. We’re still married but our different attitudes toward money have been a huge source of conflict (admittedly things have gotten somewhat better over the years).

    The ring is beautiful and I get a lot of compliments on it but I see it as a pretty piece of jewelry not as a symbol of lasting love and commitment. If I were to do it again, the cost of the ring wouldn’t matter but the attitude behind buying it would.

  249. I was just looking at Ramit’s survey from 2009 about what people wish they’d saved for in their 20s, 30s, and 40s…and a wedding ring is listed as approximately $10,000. So that must be the right answer. ;)

  250. Dear god my finger is sore from scrolling down this far… Amazing.

    Now I’d be curious for you to do a follow up post asking the women who have been proposed to when they got the ring if it made them happy, upset them, etc….

    I have a friend who is actually putting tremendous pressure on her boyfriend for a ring as we speak. I don’t truly understand what makes women stupid in the head for that ring and if they don’t have it they don’t feel “safe” I suppose.

  251. Speaking as a woman, what I value more is the sentiment behind the buying of the ring. I certainly would not want a ring that my partner felt reluctant to buy because of the price. A ring does not need to be expensive to be special. With a little imagination and taste, you can choose a ring perfect for your partner and not spend too much.

  252. I think a guy should spend what he is comfortable with. For some guys its not much for others its a lot.
    Whatever, he spends he should think about the desires of his intended as well. Some girls don’t want a ring. Some girls want something subtle and some girls want something flashy. It depends on the person and I think that impacts how much he should spend.
    Anyway, to each their own. I don’t think there is a set amount. Don’t go into debt over a ring (that wouldn’t be a great way to start out a marriage).