What Percentage of a Groom's Salary Should Be Spent on a Bride's Ring?

A man does not have to follow the old standard of two months' salary when he pays for an engagement ring.

A man does not have to follow the old standard of two months' salary when he pays for an engagement ring.

A woman's engagement ring is an important symbol of the love her fiancee bears for her, often expressed in gold and diamonds. But the old saw about spending two months' salary on an engagement ring may not apply in the 21st century. In fact, statistics suggest the average man spends considerably less than the "suggested" amount.

The "Ideal"

Many future grooms are encouraged to pay anywhere from one to three months' salary for the engagement ring with which they propose, and some consider two months of salary to be a starting point rather than an endpoint. The tradition's roots have been traced to a 1947 advertising campaign by DeBeers that also included the famed "diamonds are forever" slogan.

Actual Costs

A 2007 study analyzed in Psychology Today found that those men who participated in a survey spent on average $3,532 for an engagement ring. The average annual income of participants was $41,858. That does not mean, however, that those with annual incomes of $41,858 spent on average $3,532, which would represent a full month -- 8.4 percent -- of their yearly pay. The highest annual income reported by a survey participant was $500,000, and the highest price paid for an engagement ring was $20,000. If the person earning $500,000 purchased a $20,000 ring, he spent only 4 percent of his annual income to do so.

Changes in Spending

The average price paid for an engagement ring fluctuated considerably -- as did the economy -- between 2007 and 2012. By 2009, the average was estimated to have declined to $2,900, according to the Wall Street Journal. Over the next three years, though, spending reversed course, and as of 2012, the average was $4,630, according to the Wedding Stats website.

Considerations

As Bankrate.com points out, a man's overall financial circumstances -- rather than just a recommended percentage of his income -- and the woman's personal tastes in jewelry should factor into the amount spent on an engagement ring. Ring budgets obviously must include consideration of the woman's finances and income if they plan to share the cost. And the ring with which the man proposes does not have to be the only diamond ring he gives his bride to be: A bigger and better ring can be purchased later. Don't forget that diamonds may vary in price from year to year, meaning a $4,000 investment at any given time might buy more or less in terms of the "four C's" -- carat, clarity, color and cut -- than a $4,000 investment at another time.

About the Author

Eric Strauss spent 12 years as a newspaper copy editor, eventually serving as a deputy business editor at "The Star-Ledger" in New Jersey before transitioning into academic communications. His byline has appeared in several newspapers and websites. Strauss holds a B.A. in creative writing/professional writing and recently earned an M.A. in English literature.

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