Should I Buy My S/O an Expensive Ring?
Why do men still buy their wife/partner an expensive ring now that women have worked for many decades?
“Many of us don't. Those who do generally come from cultures where it's expected of them, and most people tend to (more or less) conform to cultural expectations without really considering them all that thoroughly.
Where I live most couples pool their finances long before marrying thus the question of who buys it is largely academic. (Regardless of whether my or my wife's card is used to pay for a purchase, the money comes from the same account anyway so it's of no practical importance.)
Buying expensive engagement-rings is not common here; most couples do purchase wedding-rings, but they do so together, using shared money, and it usually costs a similar amount for both rings so there's no imbalance overall. (Sometimes the woman's ring will have a diamond and thus be more expensive, but on the flipside, often it won't and rings made out of gold or other precious metals will tend to be more expensive for the man because of the bigger size needed, thus overall it's more or less a tossup.)”
“It is a very strong tradition. Men and women believe it to be a token of love and commitment. It is important to note that as many men believe this as do women. It is deeply ingrained in my culture.
This does not mean that the expensive ring is a requirement for a marriage proposal. Many people, myself included, had no wish for this token. This was a wish I shared with my husbands. It was never an issue.
If you think the tradition is silly and only popularized by diamond importers, which is my opinion as well, you are not alone. I do, however, urge you to find out before you propose marriage which opinion is held by your intended. If you don't want to buy the ring but they think the ring is essential, you are in for some tough emotional times. It's probably for the best to find out before you marry just how the two of you view large expenditures like this.”
“De Beers has spent hundreds of millions of advertising dollars over the last century to convince people that it is important.”
“Because they like their wives to have nice things.”
How much should you spend on an engagement ring?
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?
How Much Should You Spend On An Engagement Ring?
Two months’ salary? Three? Uh, no. How much should you spend on an engagement ring? Learn why these so-called rules are silly — even dangerous.
Thinking of popping the question? You’ve probably asked yourself: “How much should you spend on an engagement ring?”
You may have heard something about spending two months’ salary on a diamond engagement ring.
(Screeech!) Stop right there.
Do NOT let anybody else tell you what to spend!
First of all, do you want to know where the idea of two months’ salary came from? An advertising campaign put out in the early 1980’s by DeBeers…the diamond company.
How much you should spend on an engagement ring is entirely up to you and your fiancée. And while you may not want to tip off your beloved that you’re about to make the big purchase, it would be wise to feel out how much she expects you to spend ahead of time. If that amount is either much higher or much lower than your expectations, now’s the time to discuss it — not later.
Choose meaning over price-tag, every time
In my opinion, your engagement ring should be more meaningful than expensive.
Consider this: Which of the following scenarios is least meaningful?
You use an heirloom ring, rich with family history, that doesn’t cost you a dime.
You sacrifice to set aside cash every week for a year to buy a ring.
You forgo a diamond altogether and get a less expensive stone but work with a local jeweler to create a custom design.
You use three credit cards to immediately buy the biggest diamond you can charge.
You get the idea.
Yes, an engagement ring is a symbol of love and commitment. Sacrificing things you might like to buy in order to buy a ring is part of the tradition. But sinking yourself into years of debt just to buy the flashiest ring on the block is not.
Why two months’ salary is outdated
Two months’ salary has always been a lot of money to set aside for an engagement ring. I would argue, however, that this old benchmark is hardly realistic today for couples who want to marry in their twenties. (If you’re 35, 40, or 45, it’s another story, but hey, this is Money Under 30).
We’re not in the 1950s anymore.
Our generation is graduating with more and more student loan debt and facing minuscule entry-level salaries. We’re facing costs of living that are so high that we either have to move back in with mom and dad or bunk up with a half dozen random roommates. Almost all women are working (at least before having kids) and often earn more than men. And even with two incomes, most of us can’t afford to go from college to married homeowners with kids in less than five years.
The median age of first marriage in the United States is rising. That means many of us won’t even marry in our twenties. But those of us that choose to should not be forced to wait just because we can’t afford the “traditional” notion of what getting married—from the diamond to the altar—should cost.
Should you borrow money for an engagement ring?
Remember that when you get married, what’s yours becomes your spouse’s. That includes debt. You want to give your betrothed a big old ring, but do you want to hand her (or him) a big old credit card bill?
As I’ve written before, these days it’s unreasonable to think that you’ll be debt-free before getting married. Most of us have student loans that we’ll be paying for years. Still, the less debt you bring into a marriage, the better. If you don’t have to tack on several thousand dollars worth of consumer debt before tying the knot, don’t.
So you can see where I’m going here: If your plan is to finance the engagement ring either through a jewelry store’s line of credit or on a credit card, be careful.
If your situation is such that you want to propose soon but don’t quite have the cash available, borrowing just enough that you can pay back in 12 months or less isn’t the worst thing. Learn more about the dos and don’ts of financing an engagement ring here.
Just avoid carrying that debt into the marriage.
How much should an engagement ring cost?
Here’s the cop-out answer: Whatever you think it should cost, and that you can afford. That last part’s important. It makes little sense to start your married life deeply in debt. Period.
If you think you should spend as much as possible on an engagement ring and can afford a six-figure rock, go for it. If you think you should spend two months’ pay on a ring but you’re already ensnared in credit card debt, you can’t afford it. Readjust your expectations or wait until you’ve improved your financial situation.
How can I save on an engagement ring?
Whatever you decide to spend, you can cut the final cost of your diamond by 40 to 50 percent by doing your homework and buying online.
How much should you Spend on an Engagement Ring? How about Nothing?
We were standing at the top of a hill on an island in the middle of Lake Michigan. It was a clear September day, my soon-to-be wife’s birthday, as a matter of fact.
A rare bald eagle soared over head. Was it a sign?
The hill, frequented by tourist hikers, was busy on this particular day.
As we finished up our picnic lunch, I anxiously awaited for the foot traffic to clear out. A tiny $3,000 stone on top of a white gold band lay tucked away in the pocket of my shorts.
As the last hiker turned the corner, I got down on one knee and pulled out the engagement ring. “Will you marry me?”.
How Much should you Spend on an Engagement Ring?
4 months earlier…
I knew that I was ready to propose. The only question left in my mind was, “how much should I spend on an engagement ring?”.
I did my research, like any smart young naive man would do. Three months salary? That sounds about right. It was my first job out of college and I was pulling in a whopping $35K. Three months salary would put me right around that $3,000 mark – most of what I had saved at the time. Thank you for the kind recommendation, De Beers.
I spent months researching color, clarity, cut, and certification. I wanted the perfect engagement ring. I visited dozens of jewelry stores before settling on just the right diamond online (from a certified, reputable source, of course) and adding it to a gold band from a local jeweler. Was I ready?
Let’s refer to the engagement proposal checklist…
- 3 months income saved? check
- diamond engagement ring purchased? check
- date or location of significance? double check
- unsuspecting element of surprise so she can’t say no? check!
Indeed. I was ready to seal the deal.
The Ridiculousness of Tradition: Why Settle for a Cheap Engagement Ring when you should not Spend Anything?
My wife and I are still happily married to this day.
However, I look back upon the engagement and proposal process with a bit of embarrassment, even shame.
I didn’t think to question the engagement ring tradition at all. This is ironic, in that just 10 months later, we would wrap up a cheap wedding that only cost us $2,500. One of our primary goals was to ignore all of the average wedding cost recommendations and avoid tradition as much as possible.
That’s right. I spent more on the engagement ring than we did on the wedding.
I spent my savings on a tiny material item that had no family history, no sentimental value, and had a negative impact on the environment to unearth.
And I did it because it was ‘the thing you do’. In fact, more than 80% of American brides-to-be receive a diamond engagement ring. Average cost? Now, it’s up to $5,855. By the way, this ‘tradition’ didn’t evolve until the 19th century and really didn’t take off De Beers discovered mines in South Africa that drove the price of diamonds down and the ensuing 1930’s and 1940’s advertising campaigns to convince the American public.
Since then, my wife and I have changed quite a bit. We’ve evolved. Material possessions mean absolutely nothing to us these days. We’ve spent a good part of the last year selling off about half of our possessions – many of which we were emotionally attached to at one time.
Just the other week I decided to cancel the $30/year jewelry coverage we had added on to our homeowners insurance policy to cover the ring, in the event it were lost or stolen. If we lost it, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. We wouldn’t try to replace it. So why pay insurance on it?
I even went so far as to propose to my wife that if she ever decided she wanted to get rid of the ring (perhaps to unleash the $3,000 weight off her hand), she had my support. It has nothing to do with the cost – we are doing well financially these days – rather, the glitzy piece of jewelry does not represent us anymore. Looking back, it never really did.
Reconsider the Engagement Ring & Proposal Process
What might be even more shameful than buying a $3,000 engagement ring, in retrospect, is that I bought in to the whole engagement tradition.
When you would like someone to make a LIFELONG commitment to you, is it fair to approach that moment with an element of surprise and an expensive piece of jewelry?
How ridiculous is that?!
The marriage decision should be a careful evaluation and discussion of life goals and values over a period of years.
There should be no element of surprise. There should be no $3,000, $10,000, or $20,000 engagement ring carrot.
If you need any band at all, why not just make it a wedding band? Something that you can pick out together. Something with significance.
Besides, what percent of engagements have ended in complete failure? And for those that don’t, there is now research that suggested spending more on an engagement ring can lead to higher rates of marriage failure!
Most expensive traditions that have been adopted in this country have been born of or at least amplified by corporate interests – Valentine’s Day, spending hundreds on Christmas gifts, having at least 2 cars per family, the diamond engagement ring, spending 3 months of salary on an engagement ring, every aspect of the traditional wedding, building a home, getting a 3-4 bedroom with a 3-car garage, the Disney World family vacation, taking out a mortgage on a home, getting multiple degrees and taking out student loans, even funerals! Sounds like the picture perfect American life.
Perhaps the number one variable of one’s financial success over life is their willingness to turn their back on tradition?
Engagement Ring Cost Discussion:
- How much did you spend on your engagement ring? Why?
- What is your engagement ring story? (good or bad)
- If you are still married, does the engagement ring mean anything to you or your spouse