questionshow much should you spend on an engagement ring?

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I believe the standard was supposed to be 3 months salary.

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This is something you will have (hopefully) for the rest of your life. Save up until you have enough money to buy the one you really want; if you go with the less expensive one, you'll be sorry and every time you look at your ring, you'll be thinking about the one you really wanted.

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I wouldn't tell someone not to buy the engagement ring they really want, but I will advise you not to get in the habit of buying things under the assumption that you'll have that money in the future.

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I went with the 3 month salary (maybe 4 months, heh), when I bought the ring for my fiancee.

I was kind of at the same place you were at, and ended up just going with the 4th option you listed. I knew it was exactly her style, and didn't want to sacrifice the color and clarity (making sure the clarity and color are perfect, at least to the naked eye makes a huge difference). Getting away with 1 carat of that is not cheap at all, but it's forever, so I knew I needed to just suck it up.

Before she arrived in NYC, where I proposed, I sold my car, computer, 16TBs of hard drives, an assortment of over 50 of my other possessions and it ended up paying for the ring :)

A lot of people say that it's "the thought that counts" and you don't need to spend a lot to make it special. Personally, I don't completely agree. This is going to be your wife. It's supposed to cost you something. To show I'm really committed, it should hurt a little :)

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From the perspective of a senior citizen here, but I am constantly impressed by the tremendously wealthy women with whom I come in contact who wear the tiny diamond engagement rings that were given to them or they chose when they got engaged. Otherwise, the amount of bling is blinding. It should be the thought and meaning behind the choice of ring in my opinion. It does seem that you both have very bright, prosperous futures with great money-making opportunity, so that fact clouds the issue. I cannot personally see, even when you have a great deal, financing for a huge amount of money and/or having a tremendous wedding which will require others to "help" with, but that is just me and not a value judgment.

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I did not expect it nor did I ask for it (or even hint), but I know my DH spent at least 3 months salary on my ring and I think it was more for him and his satisfaction for knowing he did. I really would have been happy with anything, because it really is the thought (at least for me), but what he gave me was more than I could have ever imagined. 10 years later it still looks like I just received it yesterday, and he's still happy/proud of the purchase.

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Figure out what you can afford, spend a little more than that, and ignore marketing guidelines of 3-4 months salary. It's a MARKETING GIMMICK to upsell you.

Some basic information regarding engagement rings and diamonds.

Don't buy jewelry in a mall.
White gold will eventually turn yellow.
Diamond prices are artificially inflated.
Bigger is not always better - check out the stones she wears, and the size of her fingers/hands.
While we all want our wedding to be forever, chances are you'll get a divorce or she will at some point lose the ring on accident.

The best advice I can give you is this: Consider an alternative stone to a diamond. You can give her something unique.

I gave my wife a pink sapphire in a platinum mount. All told, I spent less than $2000, but she absolutely cherishes it. For our 3 year anniversary I gave her matching pink sapphire earrings.

The interesting part? The stone I bought her was cut the same week we met several years before we were married.

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@dmaz: You already have to suffer through the wedding day. Isn't that enough of an up-front penance?

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@susan11125: Why would the guy ever feel sorry for spending less? Why isn't the woman required to give the man a gift of equal value?

Sorry, unrealistic unequal gestures don't actually make for a stronger relationship. If you're so shallow that how little you spent on your wife's ring bothers you, maybe you should take the extra money you saved and get some therapy with it. You'll be a lot happier for it.

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@samstag: Yeah, my mom's advice kind of scared me... I'm generally the one who budgets and I've never gone into debt based on potential future income. On the other hand, this is an emotionally charged piece of jewelry that I'll wear for life... That's why I don't know which is the best option now!

@klozitshoper: Thanks for the perspective! We actually don't want a big, fancy wedding, but even small, intimate affairs will cost some money, especially in the NYC area. I mentioned that we'll get help financing it because many people need to save money for some big expenses in the future (wedding, house, kids), but we don't think the wedding will necessarily be a big hit to our wallets.

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The ring is nothing more than a symbol, and the amount you spend or the quality of the ring has absoluely no bearing on the strength of your relationship. A ring from a gumball machine could serve the same purpose and have the same meaning to you. Think about just what it is that you're apparently willing to spend and what you could do with that money instead. Also, are you going to charge it and pay interest, increasing the actual cost, or is it money you could otherwise use to pay down your debts, saving you lots in interest in the near future. You're a young couple in uncertain financial times: Be smart with your money.

Why not get a small, meaningful ring now, and get the good, pricey ring later, when you do have the money? Perhaps in ten years you'll be debt-free and well-established in your careers, and you can afford to plunk down five or even six figures on a ring, but I guarantee the first ring, regardless of size or clarity or dollar value, will always be the most special.

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Without going into details with how much my husband spent on my ring, I thought about what I wanted before I thought about how much I wanted him to spend and tried to find something that wasn’t insanely expensive but still made me happy. The most important thing to consider is why do you want an expensive ring? Is it because you want to show off to others or are you really in love with that ring and can’t settle for anything else? Can you down-size the diamond and still be happy with it? If it were me, I would postpone the engagement and save up to buy the ring that I really want, since this is something you’re going to wear every day. Or just go cheap now and upgrade later when you guys have the extra income (for 5-year anniversary? Upgrading isn't "against the rules"). Buying something you can’t afford (or isn't in your budget) is not the way to go IMO, especially in this economy where your future career isn’t guaranteed.

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15 years ago, I was kinda broke so I took a short cut. I bought some conflict diamonds out of the van of this jewish guy I met 5 minutes earlier at this seedy jewelery store - which was all covert and stuff. I got just ridiculously high quality diamonds for about 75% off retail. I wasn't sure about them so I took them to another store and they confirmed they were the real McCoy. I had them set in a custom setting - she loved it, but never knew the truth

Looking back, that was really stupid. 1) For not realizing the danger I put myself in. 2) Buying conflict diamonds, now knowing what goes on in Africa at the time

After several years of harboring some guilt about it and never telling my wife, I busted out some cash for a legal sets of diamonds and spend like $5000.00. It was a 1 karat princess cut with 2 .5 karat supporting diamonds. It's certified and all that jazz.... In the end, she said she didn't really care where the diamonds came from... oh well

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Don't give in to the pressures of society. Spend only what you can afford now. You can always spend more later, when you can afford more.

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I think a lot of it depends on the people.

Some people are fine with something that's not their ideal ring (or house, car, cat, etc). Others it will bug them every time they see the "less than ideal" thing. And I think this especially goes for engagement rings. I've never been engaged nor married (never even close) but I wouldn't really want a big diamond ring, I don't really wear jewelry, especially not expensive stuff. And I tend to bang up my hands just in the course of daily living (no idea why I'm missing a chunk of skin on my right middle finger knuckle...just looked down yesterday to see the skin scraped to one side). So I would be afraid of banging up or losing something big and expensive (how durable are engagement rings anyway?). But I know that there are some people who are never seen without their engagement rings.

That said, I think the idea of going into debt for the sake of jewely isn't really smart. But I know not everyone will agree with me.

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@xavoc: If it makes you feel better, I'm taking him on vacation (since he's not a fancy watch or cufflinks kind of guy). Yay equality!

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@dazlindz: At the end of your wedding day, the only thing that actually matters is that you're married. The wedding band is the important symbol. The engagement ring is... Really just a nicety.

In regards to the engagement ring... If you're going to concentrate on anything, concentrate on the stone. You're going to eventually want to replace the setting if it's not a classic style that will age well.

Try to steer away from Princess cut stones. I know square stones are popular right now, and it's because they're heavily marketed as the "In" thing and a "Good Value". What the jewelers won't tell you is that the corners on the stone will crack due to stress, and you'll be lucky if you don't lose it. Go with a Radiant cut instead, the corners won't crack because they're already cut and once it's in the setting it looks square.

Personally I've had amazing luck at thenaturalsapphirecompany.com...

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If you're in med school, keep in mind: over the next few years, you won't be able to wear your ring for many of your rotations; depending on what specialty you imagine practicing long-term (and remember, your current vision may change once you get into the field - or go through the Match), you may end up not being able to wear your ring at work. And if you are in a specialty where you picture being able to wear your ring at work, think about the message that your engagement ring sends to your clients. During my students' first semester working with (outpatient psych) clients, one of the things we discuss is the message communicated by appearance and how that influences others' response to you. If you're a primary care doc, a big engagement ring might tell your patients that you can't identify with their concerns about affording medication. I never wore my (non-diamond) ring when doing clinical work because I wanted to project as neutral of an appearance as possible.

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@neuropsychosocial: Wow, never thought about it that way! I've had several friends get engaged/married recently (I'm MD/PhD, so they've all graduated and I haven't), and they all wear their rings either on their fingers or on necklaces during clinic/OR, and I've heard that it's the standard with attendings at the hospital we're affiliated with. I was planning on wearing the ring all the time, but maybe that's not feasible?

Do you wear your wedding band then? My friends have gotten hit on when they're not wearing any rings...

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Don't buy it unless you can afford it. If you have your heart set on it, put some money down (cash, not credit) to hold the ring, and work off to pay it. You'll both appreciate it more, so will your financial future. Financing is one of the dumbest things ever. Our grandparents would never have extended themselves into as much debt as our generation has.

Actually, before you even get engaged, you should both do Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University so that you are on the same page financially when it comes to getting married. Money will cause other troubles, so get it under control now before it bites you in the ass later. It sounds like you are well on your way to financial success if you're without loans, but your boyfriend/fiance needs to get on the same page with you, financially.

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@ryanwb: What the f does the guy's religion have to do with anything? Yes, many people in the wholesale and retail diamond trade are Jewish, and there are people of every religion and industry who are unethical, but you seem to equate Judaism alone with shadiness.

And 15 years ago, even the most expensive, well regarded retailers were selling conflict diamonds.

Not cool.

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@curli76: I didn't get that from his message at all. I just got him describing the scene. Pretty sure there was no disrespect meant.

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I agree with @elforman on this one. Get something affordable now and upgrade a few years down the road. The ring is a symbol and nothing more.

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Get the setting you want, put a CZ or engineered diamond in there, get through residency, pay off you debt and when you do a 10 year vow renewal, go get the biggest carrot, best cut/clarity diamond you want. At the end of the day it is about you two. Residency is going to be stressful enough without adding extra debt. Debt has been the breaking point of many a marriage and you are both going to be carrying $250,000 from school alone, why add another $15,000 or so to it on top of the wedding. Who but you two could tell that it is an engineered diamond? If your friends start breaking out loops at the engagement party, get new friends.

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@dazlindz:
"How much should you spend on an engagement ring?"
I think it should be at least ten million dollars. Of course, that's because I would be on the receiving end. :-)

On a serious note and not to sound too corny/sappy, but if it came from the right man and was something pretty, I'd wear anything he could afford to give me, even if it was CZ and plated that he bought at KMart. Yes, you want it to last forever as its meaning is irreplaceable....but this is one time I really do believe in "the thought" behind it being what counts. Invest in your future together. 5, 10, 20 years down the road, he can get you a milestone anniversary ring. And when you're still together then, the more modest ring will mean even more to you, as it will represent how far you've come and built a nice life together.

Congrats on your engagement!

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@dmaz: I do like and appreciate your perspective on it, though. You sound like a good, caring man.

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@dazlindz: I know you asked neuropsychosocial and not me, but I'm a surgeon. I'm neither engaged nor married, but because of what I do, I wouldn't be able to wear my rings while working. I don't think that would influence my decision about what I'd want, though. I'd want something tasteful, not gaudy (too big) or tacky for when I wasn't working. But I have many colleagues who have gone into shear panic mode over constantly taking off/putting on their rings and not finding them right away when they go to put them on again. Losing any engagement or wedding ring would hurt emotionally, but really losing really pricey rings might be more financially painful.

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It's a rock that children sometimes mine and die over.

So...
Don't buy a diamond!

Spend that money on charity, or savings, or paying off debts.

If you're not convinced... wwjd?

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@ern3sto09: Well, Jesus was Jewish. So, he wouldn't give an engagement ring. He would however give a wedding band that is 100% one material of value. So, no white gold either.