How much to spend on an Engagement ring – Have you been influenced by this marketing?

One Dollar BillSo you set out to buy or design an engagement ring for your fiancé? Congratulations!

One of the first questions that will most likely pop up in your head is how much to spend on an engagement ring. Chances are you have heard some kind of “commonly acknowledged rule” that men should spend one or two or three months’ salary on an engagement ring. Most people for instance have heard about the two months’ rule.

For many men this rule poses a serious burden because they feel that they must stick to the two months’ rule to prove their worth as a potential husband, even if they cannot afford it. Thus, before going into debt and blindly sticking to the two months’ rule it is important to understand where these rules actually come from!

The two months’ salary myth and the truth about diamonds

Most people think that the two months’ rule has developed organically over time and been passed on from one generation to another. Some people have even told me that they want to live up to the two months’ salary “tradition”.

This De Beers ad from 1958 powerfully uses the association of love and thus also the diamond lasting forever.

This De Beers ad from 1958 powerfully uses the association of love and thus also the diamond lasting forever.

Little do they know that the two months’ salary “tradition” is simply one of the biggest marketing feats of the 20th century! In order to understand this we need to go back a little time in history.

In 1930 only 10 % of all engagement rings actually contained a diamond! Such a low number of diamond engagement rings would be unheard of nowadays. Over the years this number has shot up to about 80 % of all engagement rings containing a diamond! Apparently you belong to these 80 % who are not only interested in buying some kind of engagement ring but a diamond engagement ring.

But how could the number of diamond engagement rings have shot up so very much over the years that you feel inclined to buy a diamond engagement ring? Simple: We have to thank the company De Beers for it!

De Beers was founded in 1888 and held a monopoly over the world diamond trade till 1970 and it still is a big player. Thus it was De Beers main task to perpetuate the impression of diamonds being scarce and thereby to attribute a great value to a diamond. Furthermore De Beers had to make sure that diamond engagement rings were seen as the only acceptable betrothal gift and sign of love. For this reason De Beers set up thoroughly executed advertising campaigns aiming at changing the public’s opinion about diamonds in 1939.

What an ingenious way to make men spend more money on an engagement ring!

What an ingenious way to make men spend more money on an engagement ring!

It did so by romanticizing diamonds in movie and magazine ads. It featured celebrities in society magazines flashing off their diamond engagement rings and made sure that leading newspapers were provided with information about Hollywood stars and their diamond rings. Over the years this led to a significant increase in diamond sales till in 1947 it came up with its ingenious slogan “A diamond is forever”. This slogan was even coined “slogan of the century” by the prestigious “advertising age” magazine. The success of this slogan can already be measured by the fact that De Beers still uses the same slogan today! This is an incredible duration for a company Slogan!

Over the years and due to all the advertising the percentage of diamond engagement rings began to climb steeply! Looking for opportunities to generate even more revenue De Beers decided to launch an advertising campaign which would make men spend a larger amount of money on their engagement ring. It decided that men should spend the equivalent of a two months’ salary on an engagement ring and structured the advertisings accordingly.

It put out advertisings depicting couples in the most romantic surroundings imaginable with a line reading: “When you are planning on spending a lifetime together, 2 months doesn’t seem like much at all.” Indeed, it does not seem like much at all and the reader will often subconsciously agree. But he only agrees because the two months’ salary is being contrasted with a lifetime spent together. De Beers is actively exploiting the contrast effect which is one of the strongest human cognitive biases. Just imagine the line reading: “When you are planning on buying a new car for you to drive to the most romantic places, 2 months’ salary doesn’t seem like much at all!” Chances are that this time you would not agree!

Now just have a look at this masterpiece of truly ingenious marketing:

Wow! It is so good, it really makes me shudder! It is just what we all dream about! There is no doubt that De Beers knows how to appeal to a human’s deeply seated desire for love and how to contrast it with the seemingly small amount of only a two months’ salary! Go, have a look at the next one, I like it even better:

You have to be aware that advertising campaigns like this have been going on for decades in magazines, TV and cinema. These advertising campaigns really did succeed in changing the public’s opinion on how much to spend on an engagement ring! Yes, a diamond company succeeded in convincing people how much money they should spend on engagement rings. I know it sounds crazy!

So please, don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to tell you that it is necessarily bad to spend two months’ income on an engagement ring. It is absolutely okay. But you should only do so being aware that the two months’ rule was nothing but a brilliantly executed advertising campaign. You should feel no urge to spend such a large amount of Money. And if you do, you should only spend such a significant amount of money if you can really afford it!

By the way, one of the best places to buy an engagement ring online with the most value for your money is James Allen. Is is the only online store that will let you view ALL of their diamonds in high definition 360° videos in up to 40x magnification!

Inspecting a round cut diamond from all sides

By being able to view the diamond from all sides you will even be able to choose an eye clean SI1 or SI2 diamond to really get the biggest bang for your buck.

And in case you need a ring sizer James Allen will provide you with a ring sizer for free!

Don’t get into debt for an engagement ring

Let’s go straight to the main rule which you should follow when buying an engagement ring: Do not go into debt for the engagement ring! It seriously does not make any sense! Once you are engaged there will be things like the wedding ceremony and wedding rings that you need to take care of!

You also have to take into consideration that you will have to take care of your fiancé financially and you will certainly do it better if you are not in debt. You will be able to buy the really important items that you might need like a car, washing machine, refrigerator with much more ease if you are not in debt.

Thus, it is your future wife who will directly profit from you not having any debts! And so far, I have never heard of a woman who would prefer her future husband to be in debt just so she can have a gorgeous engagement ring.

An engagement ring is primarily a symbol of your love which will hopefully be forever 🙂

If you consider going into debt for an engagement ring I would simply advise you to either choose a cheaper engagement ring or to wait some more time until you will have saved up the money.

The average person’s spending on an engagement ring

So how much should you then spend on an engagement ring? According to the Jewelers of America Cost of Doing Business Report 2013 men spent an average amount of about 4.000 $ on an engagement ring in 2012. With the average American earning slightly over 3,000 $ a month ($37,000 a year) it becomes apparent that the average American is spending one and a third months’ salary on the engagement ring.

But does that really help you? You could be earning way more money than the average American or way less money. You could also have inherited a lot of money and not earn any money at all. What I am driving at is that is does not make any sense to either stick with the two months’ rule or with the average spending amount for an engagement ring.

Alternative ways to set your budget for an engagement ring

What am I suggesting then?

I am suggesting that you should simply set a budget which feels good to you! But how should you measure it?

I think the best way to measure it is to ask yourself whether you would have to change your lifestyle once the engagement ring got lost and you would have to buy the exactly same engagement ring all over again. Obviously it could take you several months or even half a year to buy the engagement ring all over again.

The crucial question is whether you would have to change your lifestyle in order to save enough money for the same engagement ring? If the answer is yes, then you are most likely overspending on the engagement ring and you might consider spending less money on it.

The most important thing is to make your mind up on your own and not let yourself be influenced by supposedly conventional wisdom.

Good news if you can only afford a cheaper engagement ring

And if you are worried that your are spending below average on the engagement ring, be aware that there might even be an upside to it according to latest university studies.

According to this study of the Emory University men who paid between $2,000 – $4,000 on engagement rings were 1.3 times more likely to end up divorced than men who only spend between $500 – $ 2,000. On the other hand though, buying an engagement for less than $500 also contributed to higher divorce rates.

You see, it really does not matter how much you spend on an engagement ring. It will be the very last thing that will have any influence on the happiness of your relationship. For this reason you should only spend an amount that does not give you any sleepless nights and instead makes you dream of all the wonderful things you will do once you are married. I know, sometimes I simply can’t suppress the romanticist inside my heart 🙂


  1. Great article there….many people find themselves spending thousands of dollars on an engagement ring and forget they have a marriage to take care of. But at the same time we can not dictate how much to spend on an engagement ring.

    • Hi Daniel,
      I also think that the marriage itself is one of the main factors one needs to keep in mind when setting your budget for the engagement ring.
      Very often couples have additional expenses directly after the marriage like car, fridge, washing machine etc. so that it does not make any sense at all to overspend on the engagement ring!

  2. Hi Sebastian
    I enjoyed reading on your website and found the information extremely useful to anyone considering buying a diamond ring.
    In regards to how much to spend on an engagement ring I will spend a Little less than a month’s salary. I feel that this is more than enough!
    Best wishes

    • Hallo William,
      thanks for your Feedback!
      Nice to hear that you figured out the right amount to spend on an engagement ring! If you should need any further help in choosing the right diamond just drop me a mail!

  3. Hi Sebastian

    everybody has to answer for himself how much to spend on an engagement ring. I don’t think that there is any rule of thumb to be followed.

  4. Hi Sebastian
    I am not exactly considering how much to spend on an engagement ring but on a 25 anniversary ring for my wife. The price is not so much of an issue anymore though. I don’t have to impress anyone. I will go for a fancy shaped diamond.

  5. Marketing and major corporations …don’t you love them. They got a finger in everything telling us how we should be living our lives. Have you seen the stuff that they come up with the ads and marketing in the media? And now they want to tell us how much to spend on an engagement ring. Those advertising people are all on drugs. Seriously, I don’t like the way they manipulate people. Great article.

    • Hallo Andrew,
      as long as you are aware of the influence that advertising and marketing have on you, you won’t be the one who will be influenced by it.
      I know that this is easier said than done but I am sure that you will not be misguided anymore on how much to spend on an engagement ring.

  6. Some interesting stuff you got here. The studies you referred to are really interesting. I was wondering for quite some time how much to spend on an engagement ring.

    If the Emory University is right about it’s findings, it makes me feel a lot more confident about buying an engagement ring to my girlfriend, because, like you said, there are other more important things that require quite a lot of money in the future.

    • Hi Timm,
      thanks for your comment!
      And your are absolutely right. When cosidering how much to spend on an engagement ring you should definitely not pay too much outside your comfort zone. Your girlfriend will most likely not be all too fond of you being in financial troubles just because of her engagement ring 🙂

  7. This is very helpful, thank you so much for sharing this info. Your right, happiness isn’t affected by how much the ring is worth.

    • Hi Bassam,
      thanks for your feedback!
      You are absolutley right: The answer to the question of how much to spend on an engagement ring will surely not affect your short-term or long-term happiness in your relationship.

  8. Thank you! I really enjoyed reading this, I am thinking of getting a ring and this has helped my decision making with some knowledge where this came from makes sense.

  9. Hello, Sebastian

    I. myself have never been enaged before but I do know of many male friends who have spent a lot of money on engagemnet rings for their partners, especially at Christmas time when it now seems the time of year where a lot of people tend to get engaged.

    This is a great insightful post and with plenty of awesome information.I have bookmarked this for future reference and will be a big help if ever I do find the right lady.

    Cheers. Neil

  10. I think there is a lot of pressure put on guys from the media that basically says if they don’t spend that 2 month wages on an engagement ring, they aren’t worthy as a husband. Its incredible pressure. Personally Im not that big a fan of diamonds. Diamonds are valued by how clear and free of impurities they are. Give me an emerald or sapphire any day. Beautiful colors and they sparkle and shine like any diamond. Or go the cubic zirconia route – you can only tell its not a diamond from an experienced jeweler, and its a fraction of the cost.

    • Hi Liam,

      yes I like sapphires a lot, too.

      If you use a sapphire for an engagement ring you will definitely stand out from the diamond engagement crowd. Furthermore you will be in good company. Prince William for instance bought a wonderful blue sapphire engagement ring for his wife Catherine 🙂

      And cubic zirconia stones are indeed difficult to tell apart from diamonds. But most people would rather prefer to buy a real diamond because after all it is a real diamond and not some artificial simulant. But in the end it is your decision and if you and your girlfriend agree that a diamond is a waste of money I don’t see any reason why you should not buy a cubic zirconia ring even for the engagment ring.

  11. I have been in relationships where my fiance was expecting me to buy an engagement ring and hinted as to how much I should spend. Needless to say I never ended up marrying any of these women.

    I believe that love should be the deciding factor in buying an engagement ring and price has little to do with it.

    If you follow your heart and think with your head choosing the right ring will be easy.

    • Hey Wayne,

      I am sorry to hear that it did not work out with your girlfriend!

      But you are absolutely right, setting the right budget for the engagement ring is nothing of a big science. Following your gut feeling is always a good choice.

      By writing this article I just wanted to make people aware how heavily they might have been influenced by De Beer’s marketing, even indirectly by other people telling them there is a two months’ salary rule or something.

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