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Sunday, April 21, 2024

How much money should you spend on a wedding ring?

How much money should you spend on a wedding ring?

06.20.2023

Key points

  • Traditional engagement rings could cost you about 2 months' worth of your salary.
  • But there are ways to shave off thousands on your engagement ring.
  • Consider instead opting for a more extravagant wedding, travel, or investments.

 

If you’re thinking about asking your sweetheart to tie the knot, it’s time to talk about money.

Engagements often feature a ring, and deciding how much to spend on one is the first of many wedding-related money decisions a couple will have to make together. And like so many other large-ticket purchases, the process can be confusing and stressful – even more so because of the emotional significance attached.

Average wedding ring cost

Just how much should a wedding ring cost?

TL;DR: That’s up to each couple.

If you’re looking for some benchmarking, we’ll turn to the industry pros. The jewelry company DeBeers, which created the “A diamond is forever” slogan in the 1930s, began an ad campaign in the 1980s that suggested spending two months’ worth of salary on a wedding ring. That message seems to have stuck, as two months (sometimes three) is a common guideline, especially as dolled out by jewelry marketers.

If you look at what real couples are spending, you’ll find the average cost of a ring is about $5,800, according to The Knot’s 2022 Real Weddings Study.1 And a full third of couples spend between $1,000 and $4,000 on the ring.

What you could afford if you spend less on a ring

If you’ve fallen victim to the marketing of jewelry companies insisting you must spend a certain amount of your salary on a ring, you’re not alone. The good news is that while the two months of income rule has been around for a long time, it’s not a hard and fast rule that everyone must follow.

In fact, if you look at the data, it seems that most people aren’t following that rule.

As of May 2022, the mean annual wage across all occupations in the U.S. is $61,900, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,2 which comes to more than $5,100 per month and more than $10,300 for two months. But since the average couple spends less than $6,000 on a ring — and more than one-third spend less than $4,000 — you can rest assured you won’t be alone in spending a smaller portion of your salary.

Regardless of how much you earn, there are plenty of other things you and your spouse-to-be could spend two months of your income on rather than a ring:

1. Pay for your wedding

As of 2022, the average couple spends around $30,0001 on a wedding, with regional averages ranging from $25,000 in Minneapolis-St. Paul to $60,000 in New York City.

Considering the mean salary for two months of work — or the amount you “should” spend on a ring — is more than $10,300, you could pay for more than one-third of your wedding.

2. Ditch student loans

As of January 2023, roughly 45.3 million Americans have student loan debt, with an average debt balance of $37,574.3 If your annual income and student loan debt are both on par with the national averages, then you could pay off more than one-quarter of your student loans with the amount you might otherwise spend on a ring.

And because of life stages, those who are struggling with their student loans may likely be the same people trying to get married and start their lives.

Sure, paying off your student loans isn’t as glamorous as spending thousands of dollars on an engagement ring, nor is it something you can show off to your friends and family. However, you may find that you’d rather start your marriage with a lower debt burden than you would with a large diamond on your finger.

3. Travel in style

Have you and your spouse-to-be started planning your honeymoon yet? If you’ve started researching travel prices, you’ve probably found that the money you were planning to spend on a ring could go a long way toward your honeymoon.

According to the travel site Worldpackers,4 the average cost of a two-week trip to Europe costs about $1,120 for a budget traveler, $5,320 for a luxury traveler, and $1,960 for someone in between. And that doesn’t even include airfare.

In other words, you and your significant other could book yourselves a relatively comfortable two-week vacation in Europe for less than the average person “should” spend on a wedding ring.

4. Buy a home

Many young couples hope to buy a home after they get married, only to find out they’ve spent all of their savings on a wedding and a ring. The good news is that if you cut out the money you would have spent on the ring — or at least a portion of it — you could have a chunk of change to go toward your down payment.

According to Zillow, the average home price in the United States is $339,048,5 as of May 2023. Considering a conventional mortgage requires a down payment of at least 3%, you could fund an entire down payment on an average home with the $10,300 the average person brings home in two months.

And if you already own a home, you could use that additional money to pay off your mortgage early.

5. Invest in your future

What if you took the $10,300 you would have spent on a wedding ring and instead put it in an investment account?

Assuming a 10% return — the historical annual average, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission6 — you would have $26,716 after 10 years, $69,293 after 20 years, and an incredible $179,729 in 30 years. It is important to remember though that investing involves risks, including losing what you originally invested.

How to save money on a wedding ring

So, let’s assume you’re sold on paying less for a ring and putting that money elsewhere. What’s the best way to cut back on the budget but still end up with a ring you’ll treasure for a lifetime?

Try these tricks:

1. Choose a gem over a diamond

Less precious stones such as rubies or sapphires can be lovely, and they’re more unique than the diamonds everyone else is sporting. If it’s good enough for Kate Middleton, who wears a sapphire, it’s probably good enough for us.

2. Go vintage

A wedding ring doesn’t have to be new to be beautiful and meaningful. Does your family have an heirloom ring that could be passed down to you? Similarly, are there secondhand jewelry shops you could visit and potentially find a ring that’s just as beautiful but at a fraction of the price?

3. Buy just under that next carat size

Some people want the biggest diamond they can afford, but that’s not right for everyone. You might be surprised how much you can save by choosing just a slightly smaller stone. A 0.9 carat instead of a full carat or a 0.6 carat instead of a three-quarter carat will cost you less, with little noticeable difference for the average person.

4. Sacrifice just a bit on color or clarity

Another way to save money on your diamond is by sacrificing color or clarity. Yes, downgrading slightly on your diamond’s color or clarity might technically mean you have a lower-quality rock. But you can select a lower color or clarity that’s enough to save you money but not so much that anyone would be able to notice.

5. Choose a smaller center stone surrounded by much smaller diamonds

Sometimes called a halo, this will give you more bling for less money. And consider something other than a round shape as well. Round diamonds are the most popular cut, and they’re usually the most expensive.

6. Shop around

Don’t go with the first mall jewelry store you walk into. And look into buying online, which is the easiest way to compare prices to make sure you get the best deal. Just do your due diligence to make sure you’re buying from a reputable dealer.

Our take

When you’re planning to get married, you probably want everything to be perfect for you and your future spouse, including the ring.

The good news is you can find the perfect ring — one that’s beautiful and shows off your personality — without sticking to the standard rule of spending two months’ salary on it. Just make sure that when you’re shopping for the perfect ring, you consider all the factors, including what it means for your other long-term financial plans.

Erin Gobler

Contributor

Erin Gobler is a money coach who helps people pay off debt and reach their big financial goals without giving up spending on the things they love. She is a freelance writer for Empower.

Author is not a client of Empower Advisory Group, LLC, and is compensated as a freelance writer.

The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. No part of this blog, nor the links contained therein is a solicitation or offer to sell securities. Compensation for freelance contributions not to exceed $1,250. Third-party data is obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, Empower cannot guarantee the accuracy, timeliness, completeness or fitness of this data for any particular purpose. Third-party links are provided solely as a convenience and do not imply an affiliation, endorsement or approval by Empower of the contents on such third-party websites. 

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