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How Much Money Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?

It’s your basic worst-case scenario. A guy has a $3000 engagement ring thrown back in his face because he didn't spend enough. His viral Reddit post of the proposal gone wrong hit a nerve, with thousands of comments on the bride-to-not-be’s complaint that he broke the “rule” that a potential groom should spend 10% of his annual income on the ring.

For that guy, 10% of his income would have meant a $15,000 ring, not the $3000 sapphire one he chose. She said he was treating her like “cheap trash” and isn't speaking to him. Wait, what? Bridezilla behavior aside, how much money should you spend on an engagement ring? 10%? One month’s salary? Two month’s salary? Three month’s salary?

The answer is totally up to you. But here’s the breakdown of what most people spend and why and how you can save as much money as possible without disappointing the one you love with the ring.

What Other People Spend

Wedding community The Knot surveys thousands of couples each year about what they spent on every aspect of the wedding. Might be surprised to find that people spend an average of $2000 just on flowers alone! Hey, your ring will be with you long after every one has forgotten about those orchids.

According to the Knot survey, the average cost of an engagement ring in 2020 is $5500, down slightly from the $5900 in 2019. The average center diamond weighed 1.30 carats and the diamond total weight was 1.50 carats.

Infographic on Average Cost of Engagement Rings

The good news? Today thanks to the new lab-grown diamond option, a 1.3-carat engagement ring doesn't have to cost $5500. In fact, at Brilliant Carbon the gorgeous Altair Engagement Ring with a 1.25-carat center and a gorgeous pave band is just $3100.

Where That "Two Months Salary" Rule Comes From

So is there a rule about how much you should spend based on your income? In the original diamond ads in the 1950s and 60s, De Beers, who at that time controlled most of the diamond market, recommended that prospective grooms spend one month’s salary on a diamond engagement ring.

It gave the groom a realistic benchmark, and it gave everyone else, the bride and her mother included, a way to judge his wealth and generosity.

Then in the “Greed is Good” 1980s, they doubled it in ads that simply asked “How can you make two month’s salary last forever?”

Two Months Salary on Engagement Ring De Beers Ad

Overnight, the benchmark was doubled and the average engagement ring sale increased. Today, De Beers no longer controls the diamond market and no longer runs ads for diamonds so most couples contemplating marriage have never seen these ads.

Today De Beers is just one of a coalition of diamond miners supporting advertising for natural diamonds to convince couples to spend more for a diamond that was mined instead of grown in a lab. Nevertheless, more and more couples each year are making up their own mind and choosing lab grown instead of mined diamonds.

How to Save Money on a Diamond

How to Save Money on an Engagement Ring (Without Looking Cheap)

You can save money on a diamond engagement ring by buying online instead of in a store. Brick and mortar stores are much more expensive to operate so they have to mark up their diamonds more to turn a profit.

You can also save by buying diamonds that weigh a little bit less than round numbers like 1 carat or 2 carats. Prices jump at these weight categories. A 0.95 carat diamond will cost less per carat than a 1 carat diamond and you can’t even see the difference: in fact the two could be the exact same diameter!

You can also reduce the cost of your diamond by choosing a diamond that’s warmer in color like an H or I or even J. Once your diamond is set, especially if you are setting it in yellow or rose gold, you won't really see the difference. You can also choose an SI1 diamond, which won’t have eye-visible flaws.

But buying a lab-grown diamond engagement ring instead of a ring with a mined diamond is the best way to save money without sacrificing quality and carat weight. You can save from 30-50% on your diamond by choosing lab grown. And you’ll also be saving the environment from the impact of mining. Saving money and saving the planet? That’s a diamond deal that we can’t refuse.