Given the harsh economic landscape of the 2020s, financial advice that was once sound now seems almost quaint. Case in point: the notion one should spend three months’ salary on an engagement ring. Who came up with this, and is it rooted in any kind of logic?

According to wedding advice hub The Knot, you can credit (or blame) the De Beers diamond dynasty for the tradition. In the 1930s, De Beers ramped up their marketing to instill the idea that true love meant a diamond engagement ring, and that committing a month’s salary to it was wise. As inflation rose, so did the math, eventually ending up at three months.

For people who may not have been up on their jewelry intel and didn’t want to wind up giving their loved one a cheap hunk of zirconia, stating that three months’ worth of paychecks—in other words, a sizable chunk of money—helped some people recognize that it should be an expensive proposition. But in reality, there’s probably not much correlation between your take-home pay and the type of engagement ring you purchase.

For most people, that amount is going to be a balance between what you want, what your loved one wants, and what you can afford. Spending 25 percent of your annual salary may not fit that criteria.

Knowing that everyone’s situation is different, we can still point to an average. Pre-2020, the typical cost for a ring was roughly $6000 to $8000. In 2020, that average dropped to $3756, as per a survey of 1400 newlyweds conducted by Brides.com.

Rather than consider what you should spend on a ring—largely based on an old-timey marketing campaign—it might be better to determine what you’re comfortable spending and then work with a jeweler who can match your budget to what you’re looking for. Many people find that taking an open-minded approach to clarity, cut, color, and carat (the four Cs) can provide savings; others look into antique rings. Diamonds may be forever, but you don’t want the same to hold true of debt.

Have you got a Big Question you’d like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at [email protected].

Jake Rossen

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