Who Determines How Much a Guy Should Spend on an Engagement Ring?

In western cultures, a person wearing an engagement ring indicates that he or she will be married soon. It is a symbol of a formal agreement to the marriage. They mostly feature diamonds and are worn by women.

A neologism “management ring” also exists for the engagement rings men wear. Sometimes, men and women use matching rings while others use their engagement rings as wedding rings too. Engagement rings are generally worn on the left-hand ring finger following the tradition of Anglo-Saxon countries.

The Engagement Ring Industry

Like every jewelry, the price for an engagement ring depends on the design: the materials used, the value of the gemstone, and the brand. The biggest determiner of the ring’s worth is the quality of the gem. If it is diamond, the cost varies according to the carat weight, color, clarity, and cut. Other gems, like emeralds, rubies, and sapphire, have different value systems.

The popularity of expensive engagement rings is related to gender roles. During the Great Depression in the United States, a man who called a marriage engagement off should be sued for breaching the promise. The man should pay monetary damages, including pre-wedding expenses, emotional distress, and a woman’s loss of marriage prospect.

However, in 1935, these laws were removed, even if the social and financial cost of a broken engagement was serious. This is especially true for women back then who treats marriage as the only financially sound option to rise from poverty. The diamond or gemstones in a wedding ring is thereby a woman’s source of financial security.

Rings on a woman’s hand

But who determines the price for an engagement ring?

You probably have heard about the “Two-Month Salary” for an engagement ring. Now you ask: who made this unwritten rule of spending my two-month income for a ring?! 

Well, the trend of how much an engagement ring should worth is first determined by a jewelry ad. In the 1930s, a luxury jewelry company De Beers started a marketing campaign to generate leads during the Great Depression. With much financial loss, people cling to whatever that promises them of stability. De Beers used the famous slogan, “A Diamond is Forever,” depicting that their product can withstand a Great Depression just like true love.

Flash forward to the 1980s, De Beers launched a new marketing strategy called “two month’s salary.” This campaign encourages their potential customers that the price a man should pay on an engagement ring should depend on the money they make. They said a man could prove to a woman how much invested he is in creating a future together.

The ad poster reads:

“Two month’s salary showed the future Mrs. Smith what the future will be like…. You can’t look at Jane and tell me she’s not worth two month’s salary.”

It went on, “Now the only thing that other men ask her is, ‘When’s the wedding day.”

Here, women see the engagement ring as a symbol of ownership and a sign of prosperous marriage in the future.

Are you the type of man who thinks this is costly? Well, you can forget the two-month salary rule!

How much should you REALLY spend?

Buying an engagement ring requires deciding both rationally and emotionally. There are two major things to consider: 1.) your woman’s expectations and 2.) your financial capacity.

Marketers encourage us to spend at least two months’ salary on a ring. This means, if you make $30,000 per year, you should spend $5,000 of it for fancy jewelry. Sometimes, this is not feasible in people’s financial situation.

Here is a general guideline on how much you should really spend: spend one month’s income if you have existing debt, two months if you have little to no debt, and three months if you have a luxury lifestyle.

If you are still not comfortable with the rules above, fret not! You are always entitled to your own rules. Some even get to buy trilogy diamond rings online, which is a great source for more affordable options. Whether there is an engagement ring or none, the end goal is to be both happy and committed to each other. Try to have an honest conversation about your lady’s expectations, and your finances is a must. Maybe she does not want an expensive diamond ring, after all.

Here is an engagement ring calculator to help you decide on buying one.