Woman's hands holding engagement ring

How Much Should I Spend on an Engagement Ring?

There’s an old rumor floating around out there about how much to spend on an engagement ring, and it goes like this: When you’re ready to propose, you should spend the equivalent of two months’ gross salary on the engagement ring.

Two months? That’s a lot of money.

Well, we have good news: it’s simply not true. The two-month “standard” holds no weight or authority from any expert. In fact, it’s nothing more than an old marketing campaign that fed its way into the lexicon via catchy slogans and peer pressure. What’s more, the digital age has allowed us to grow into savvy shoppers who understand that making a large purchase based on hearsay isn’t the way to go.

Especially for young couples strapped with student loan debt, saving for a down payment, or struggling with poor credit, a more egalitarian approach to selecting–and financing–an engagement ring is a positive trend.

But before you run off to the jewelry store to join the over 2 million Americans who get married each year, take the time to do your research and make educated choices. Make yourself something of an expert on jewelry, engagement ring loans, and the latest trends. Deciding to get married is a huge, emotional decision, so it’s important to strike a good balance between heart and smart.

How Much Should You Really Spend?

Americans averaged around $6,000 on engagement rings last year, but a survey found that 36% thought the limit should be around $1,000. On the flip side, 45% thought money “should be no object.”

For you, the answer to this question is simple: spend what you can afford. Break down your budget, work the numbers, and then come up with an amount that you can spend without causing yourself financial stress. You can bend your back, just don’t break it. If money isn’t a concern for you, browse a high-end jeweler for two-carat, $18,000 diamonds. If you and your fiancé-to-be would rather spend on a wedding than on an engagement ring, you can dial your budget back. While shopping around, keep in mind that you’ll probably be spending a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on wedding rings.

If you’re one of those couples who talk about getting engaged long before actually doing it, you can complete this exercise together before you make concrete plans. It may help you avoid unpleasant surprises, and even give you valuable insight into each other’s financial philosophies. For example, learning that one of you wants to save money until you can pay cash and the other wants to take out an engagement ring loan can be eye-opening.

But whether you’re buying together or living separately until the wedding, try to calculate your maximum price and stick to it. Much like shopping for a house, it’s a lot less painful when you only look at what you know you can afford. And if your budget is a lot tighter than you’d like, try thinking long-term as well. These days, it’s perfectly acceptable to begin your married life with a “starter” ring, then upgrade with additional stones or bands later. Just be sure you’re both on the same page about this approach.

How to Get the Most Bling for Your Buck

Equally as important as knowing your budget is knowing your soon-to-be fiancée. What’s her jewelry style? Does she dream of a two-carat, marquise-cut solitaire, or is she more into vintage pieces? If you’re working together to plan your future, the easiest way to find out is to ask. (This makes it a lot easier to determine her ring size, too.) Have her send you some images of what she’d like, or head to the jewelry store together and take note of what makes her eyes light up.

If you’re determined to keep the proposal a surprise, pay close attention to the jewelry she currently wears to get a sense of her style. Does she wear mostly gold or silver? Does she gravitate toward statement pieces or more subtle designs? Gather as much information as you can (including her ring size, if you can swing it without her noticing), and then let a jeweler help guide you through the process.

Finally, be sure to educate yourself on the type of ring you’ll be buying so you understand the terminology. For diamonds, learn about the “four Cs”: cut, color, carat, and clarity. For other precious stones, find out what is considered high-quality. Armed with this information, you can then search for the best-quality ring you can afford that’s within your budget. Consider extras, too, like future cleaning, stone replacement, resizing, and warranty.

Old Traditions, New Ideas

For many, a white diamond given to the lucky girl as a complete surprise is still considered tradition. But millennials and Gen Zers are proving time and again that when it comes to tying the knot, they’re more about charting their own path. They’re choosing engagement rings set with gray diamonds, unusual cuts, and black rhodium bands. They’re drawn to vintage family heirlooms, cluster sets, and rose gold.

And, even more notably, they’re eschewing the notion that only one person is financially responsible for the ring. One hot new trend is for couples to split the cost of the engagement ring, born of the idea that if both people are working, they should bear any financial costs equally and not rely on outside help (e.g., the bride’s parents having to foot the bill for the wedding).

Engagement Ring Loans

Still others take out low-rate personal loans in order to offset the upfront cost of a dream engagement ring. Many who take out a personal loan for an engagement ring do so because it can help them put down money quickly, but gives borrowers the opportunity to pay the ring off at a pace that works better for them. It can also help you cover the cost of the engagement ring and wedding bands, which you’ll be spending on down the road anyway.

Depending on many factors, including your credit score, you may receive the cash within a week, and have the option to pay the personal loan off in one to seven years. Using a personal loan to fund the ring means you won’t have to worry about charging it to a credit card.

Thinking about taking out a personal loan to buy an engagement ring? SoFi personal loans can help you finance the purchase responsibly. Learn more.

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