Two Months Salary? Not on Engagement Rings

by Guest Contributor · 23 comments

We have all seen the commercials, sappy and blurry, that declare two months of salary is the appropriate amount to spend on engagement rings. Are they nuts?! A much better investment of that money is called a down payment if you ask me. Fortunately, there are ways to get a beautiful engagement ring for much less and frankly. So if your fiancee is demanding you spend that much on a ring, you may want to think things through a bit more.

Save Money with an Heirlooms Engagement Ring

The best way to save money is to not spend it. If you have a family heirloom sitting around you may want to consider giving it to your bride instead of purchasing something new. If your fiancee is the sentimental type, getting an heirloom will be much more special to her than getting a new ring. On the other hand, with half of all marriages ending in divorce, you need to realize you may not get the ring back if things go sour.

Doing your research before you buy a ring

Before you even step out the door to look at rings you need to do a bit of research. The four C’s of diamond buying are Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat. Cut refers to the shape of the stone, color its shade; clarity describes any inclusions and carat the size. Stones of the same size are not necessarily worth the same if their color or clarity varies.

While a D color is considered the highest quality, a J is nearly as colorless and a lot less expensive. Since the stone will rest in a setting and is not an investment piece, pick a “darker” color and save yourself a bundle. The same is true for clarity; small inclusions may drop the value of a stone, but in a setting are rarely noticeable.

Editor’s Note: I disagree with the author here. Diamonds are like everything else. The more you know about them, the higher your sensitivity and awareness for its differences. If you look, the higher quality diamonds are shinier and look whiter/brighter. The key is to figure out what you are comfortable spending while being mindful of your future wife’s expectations.

Search for prices of loose stones online. Loose stones are easier to assess than mounted stones and you can customize the ring from every aspect. This also gives you a chance to price rings without pressure, but you are still better off going to the source when you buy.

How to choose the diamond and setting

If you are taking your sweetheart with you, remember that you will look decisive instead of cheap if you know your limits. If you plan to shop alone, you avoid the problem all together. Determine just how much you are willing to spend before you walk in a store or you might find yourself spending more than you want, and avoid mall stores and chains like the plague.

Ask to see unmounted stones so you can evaluate them clearly. Bring along a magnifying glass of at least 10x, that is the industry standard by the way. Ask for the cut you wish to see and evaluate each stone for clarity and color. Once you find your stone and price it, you know how much you can spend on your setting.

Editor’s Note: You should only buy diamonds that have a Gemological Institute of America (GIA) report, which grades each stone and gives a detailed report, as well as provide a international standard for pricing purposes. There is also a pricing guide based on the four Cs, but take that price like the “manufacturer’s suggested retail price”, or the list price, which no one really pays for.

Settings can run the gamut from a traditional, simple one stone ring to modern diamond encrusted bands. Consider your beloved’s taste when purchasing and stick to your budget.

Save money by paying cash

Since many small stores need to pay commission on credit card purchases, ask if you can get a discount for paying in cash or check. You may be able to save a percent or two, not an insignificant amount on such a large purchase. Never go into debt to purchase this ring, it is expensive enough without interest. In the end, this ring is a symbol of your love, not an opportunity to show off.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Jersey Mom April 10, 2010 at 5:20 am

That’s right, like nearly everything else, don’t buy it unless you can pay cash for it. I know some women who do not prefer diamonds but birthstones. Birthstones are beautiful, much less expensive, and more personalized.

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marci357 April 10, 2010 at 8:00 am

Ditto with Jersey Mom…. who says it has to be a diamond? I wanted sapphires with diamond chips on the side…. Very affordable.

And who says HE has to pay for the whole thing??? He has a budget, I had a budget, and together I bought what I wanted. If either one of you is thinking that you have to spend way too much money on a way over budget glitzy diamond, then you’d better take that as a warning sign that the financial road may be rocky ahead and that your financial priorities might not be the same.

You might want to try craigslist, ebay, or your local pawn shop for great deals also. The pawn shops in Reno especially are great places to buy jewelry :) Remember most any ring can be resized to fit.

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Penniless Parenting April 10, 2010 at 10:42 am

People didn’t understand why I wanted such a small diamond. I have a small diamond- peppercorn sized, surrounded by 25 tiny diamonds. And you know what? It cost a fraction of other diamond rings, is beautiful, and doesn’t mean my husband loves me any less. Big flashy diamonds are overrated, in my opinion.

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Jordan April 10, 2010 at 5:02 pm

My friend went with her fiance to pick a ring and the sales person actually told the couple that a smaller diamond looked better on her.

I think my friend must’ve paid him money to say that, or that he was the only honest salesman out there.

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basicmoneytips.com April 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm

If you just walk in a jewelry store you are going to pay top dollar. There are cheaper stones online and most jewelers will set them for you. Also, if you happen to be traveling overseas, sometimes you can find cheaper diamonds outside of the US.

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Bonnie April 10, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Whoever thinks a J color diamond is “nearly” as colorless a D color diamond is delusional. Has the author actually looked at the two side by side? There’s a very noticable difference, even to the untrained eye. When shopping for a diamond, you should get the best quality that fits within your budget. And take into account the style that the bride likes. As mentioned above, some brides prefer colored stones or pave diamonds, rather than solitaire diamonds. Regarding color and cut, the more colorless the diamond, the smaller/fewer the inclusions, and the better the cut (i.e. Proportions), the sparklier the diamond. Which means that you can often get a smaller diamond/ lower carat weight because the sparkle makes the diamond appear larger. I highly recommend Union Diamond, an online store that also has a showroom in Atlanta. Their diamond prices are near wholesale and they were a pleasure to work with when DH and I were designing my custom e-ring. Based on remarks from friends and jewelers, we paid probably half what we would’ve paid for the same ring elsewhere. And, they do give a cash discount for paying via wire rather than credit card, which helps a bit.

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Mike April 10, 2010 at 9:27 pm

If your future wife is “demanding” a ring and trying to dictate what you should pay, it is time to rethink more than just the ring.

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Jeffrey April 11, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I don’t know anyone who’ve followed the two month’s salary rule, even though it’s such a wide spread “gimmick”.

Then again, most people could do much better buying the diamond by itself and then going somewhere else to get the ring on too, but like everything else, the cheaper way always takes more work.

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Cd Phi April 12, 2010 at 9:23 am

Great topic. I thought it was 3 months salary. Regardless, I do think that’s a bit much and I love the heirloom idea. I am a sentimental gal so that would mean the world to me even if it didn’t cost a lot.

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James April 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

I’m glad that I stumbled across this article because I would have spent a lot of money on the engagement ring.

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Austin @ TheOrangePaper.com April 18, 2010 at 3:28 am

Great post. I particularly agree with the point that if your fiancee is demanding you spend a whooping figure on a ring, you may want to think things through a bit more.

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MoneySolve May 10, 2010 at 5:41 am

Commercials like that infuriate me.

It’s that sort of thing that makes people overspend unnecessarily. Why should weddings and engagement come down to finances anyway? The pressure to spend, spend, spend when the global economy is only just beginning its recovery and when unemployment is so, so high is just irresponsible and inappropriate.

Excellent to see you recommending cash payments. People getting into credit card debt for an engagement ring is very worrying indeed.

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Bethany February 6, 2012 at 5:57 am

If she wants that nice big engagement ring.. get it. its really that simple. this is something she has to look at (hopefully) the rest of her life.

she should get what she loves.. and if she happens to love tiny diamonds.. then you might be considered “”lucky”" but if she doesn’t: GET OVER IT.

i honestly feel like the 2 month salary is NOT THAT MUCH.

lets think about it this way:
2 months/12 months = ~ .16 of your entire years salary.
lets say you work for 35 years: 2months/(35*12)=0.0048

this is .5% of your total salary! assuming you still make the same amount you did when you first bought her the ring!

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Mike b November 7, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I’m with Dave on this one… Either Bethany is a jeweler or more likely the “demanding fiancée”. Two months of my salary is 4,500.00. for an engagement ring? What happens if the wedding gets called off? I just lost a nice down payment on a car loan or if you want to get into percentages, I lost 25% of a down payment on a home loan. That’s not chump change, not in this economy. I spent 400.00 on my now wife’s engagement ring and she was thrilled. We’ve been married for 6 years… I am only now considering investing into a more expensive ring that I will probably give her on our 10th anniversary. Women these days… 4,500.00 buys a whole lot of gas and groceries… Rather than some chunk of metal that sits on your finger.

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Ted March 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm

So for a guy making $12k a year (just barely above poverty level in the US) you think a $2,000 engagement ring is appropriate??? How is he supposed to live for those two months???

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Dave September 22, 2012 at 6:12 pm

^Bethany must be a jeweller. 2 months is way too much! No way! Love isn’t meant to be about money! The end

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cynthia December 9, 2012 at 10:23 am

A 400$ ring!!!!!! LAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Mike B December 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Cynthia, are you rich, ignorant or both? Unlike a woman like you I am fortunate enough to have a wife that understands and appreciates the value of other things in life than something is silly as $1,000+ sitting on a finger. Ask my wife any day whether she would like a 1,000.00 sitting on her finger or a nice 60″ flat screen tv and she will say tv any day. Neither of which we have. Why? Because $1,000.00 happens to be food on the table for many nights to come. Gas in the cars to get food for the table for many grocery trips to come. Oh, and fancy cable Internet connections to enable us to explore selfish idiotic comments like yours. With a divorce rate of over 50% in this day and age I can’t see why anyone would want to drop x,000.00′s of dollars on a stupid ring. However, with your short/direct insult capabilities, I can see how/where the divorce ratio has increased. So disregard my last informative reply along with this feedback message and let me put it in your terms. Simply as “stfu and mind your own business, wench.

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Christina December 13, 2012 at 10:03 am

In response to Mike B’s question, “What happens if the wedding gets called off?”
That’s a really good question, and I’m glad you brought it up. Courts handle this differently depending on which state you live in, but in most cases an engagement ring a considered a conditional gift, which means the recipient must return the ring if either party cancels the wedding for any reason. Some states, such as Montana, treat engagement rings like any other gift, with no conditional attachments, so a woman could legally keep the ring even if she runs off with another man.

(The good news…any woman who will lie to get a ring, cheat on you, and keep the ring she stole would eventually ruin her husband’s credit, fight for alimony, sell your truck, and keep the house after a messy divorce, so you would still have saved a bundle by not marrying her!)

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Christina December 13, 2012 at 10:56 am

My ring is small but perfect, expensive by my standards but within budget, and we got a great deal. My ring is not big or ostentatious, but neither am I. Others may not notice my gorgeous little ring, but I admire it every day.

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Gerald June 9, 2013 at 11:51 am

I never got an engagement ring for my wife cause she didn’t want one. Our wedding rings cost 8 dollars each. They’re sterling silver, they look wonderful, and they mean a lot to us. The 2 month salary rule is a bunch of corporate consumerism b.s. made up by the debeers diamond company. Don’t fall into the trap of wasting several thousand dollars on a ring, when you could put that money in your savings, or towards your house downpayment, or towards your kids education.

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Said October 22, 2013 at 10:01 am

@Bethany – Are you kidding?

“This is something she has to look at her whole life.. ?” then why not marry the ring instead of the man who loved you enough to propose?”

“She should get what she loves”? I’m sorry isn’t that her husband?

I came to this article because I was just reading that Kanye West bough Kim K. a $5million ring. By your logic Kanye West loves Kim Kardashian more than my parents loved each other or probably your husband (if you’re married) ever will.

BIG RING=BIG MONEY=/= MORE LOVE

I’ve saved $50,000 dollars in the last 3 years.. I can a) spend 14K on a ring or b) I can buy us a starter home and take vacations to Bali with my beautiful (sensible) wife-to-be… and have enough money left over to start a fund for our kids when they come.
Which do you think is the right thing to do? Lemme guess.. the ring right?

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Ann November 18, 2013 at 11:56 am

I like jewelry as much as the next woman but I really don’t get the obsession with diamonds or big rings. It’s just an unnecessary status symbol.

Of course I lost in the sensibility department….I think my boyfriend has been guilted by the marketing campaigns of jewelers an the diamond industry, because I told him I am completely fine with a moissanite that is like 1/5th the cost, and showed my friends all the pretty options on the moissanite websites, but he told me no, that he’d feel like he “failed” if he didn’t get a “real” diamond. I appreciate that he wants to do his best and do things what he feels is the “right” way, but I think it’s a shame that women and men are made to feel inadequate if they don’t give in to the engagement ring “traditions” to spend out the wazoo.

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