When you want to buy an engagement ring, the general consensus is you should have a budget – well, and someone to give the ring to (but hopefully that’s a moot point). But where advice seems to clash is on how much to spend on an engagement ring.

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Want to make it rain? Great, go for it, Mister Moneybags! Spend til your – and your mate’s– heart is content. But if you need to rein in the the number of digits following the pricetag dollar sign, a budget will be your BFF.

How much to spend on an engagement ring

The problem with budgets is they are about as subjective as the style of the engagement ring itself. The limit should be based on what you can and can’t afford, but ultimately you get to call the shots on how much you shell out for some ring finger bling. Since this might be the first time you’ve ever made such a big purchase attached to an equally big commitment, there’s no shame in seeking a path to follow. When it comes to how much to spend on an engagement ring, you essentially have three choices.

The Path of the Two Monthers: Two-months salary has long been the go-to budget rule, and one that works well with many people’s finances. However, that doesn’t mean it works for all. But guess what? That guideline was concocted by a jewelry company. And while a jewelry company hopefully wants your engagement to be as special as it can be, as a business it shouldn’t be overlooked that their goal is also to get consumers to spend money. So if you’re not feeling on board with two months’ salary, skip ahead to what’s down Path #2.

The Path of Deeper Meaning: Another jewelry ad affecting engagement ring budgets for decades is: “A diamond is forever.” In the literal sense, understanding that the ring you give will likely last forever (barring it getting swiped or misplaced) makes it worth an investment.

However, in the more figurative sense, a forever-piece of jewelry also does a stand-up job of symbolizing your love and future marriage. With that in mind, the ring you purchase should be meaningful and one that matches her values as well as that of your relationship. If your soon-to-be better half values gigantic diamonds, well, buckle up because you’re going to need a bigger budget. If she values history and romance, maybe an heirloom ring of your grandmother means you don’t need any budget at all.

The Path of Keeping Up with the Joneses: If she’s a material girl in a material world (or, perhaps, you are), then the right engagement ring might be one that doesn’t fall flat when worn in the company of blinged out engaged and married gal pals. As much as an object shouldn’t define a person or her worth, having something less than the rest of your squad can feel akin to wearing a red party dress at a funeral–that is, standing out in a bad way.

Beware of this path for two reasons. First, it may mean spending beyond your means, which could lead to the need to borrow money from family or friends, take out a loan, or max out your credit cards. Marriage is hard enough; don’t saddle yourself with extra debt to make it more difficult. Two, keeping up with the Joneses is never quite as it seems. It’s like FOMO on social media–life always looks perfect through an Instagram filter, but nobody’s life is actually perfect. If you set your ring budget based on achieving perfection, you’re gonna fall flat, my friend.

Rich in Love, Poor in Money: Saving for an engagement ring

If all three paths led to a dead end, then your savings account might be filled with more goose eggs and less funds. This may delay your engagement ring shopping plans, but it doesn’t have to derail them. Instead, give these budget boosting tricks a try to collect more cash.

Blind savings: If willpower is a problem when it comes to spending, have money automatically withdrawn from your paycheck and put into savings before you ever see it.

Parking lot your purchases: Before you buy items beyond necessities, give yourself some time to sit and simmer before you click “buy” or hand over the cash. In the moment, what you’re about to buy may seem important and needed, but after a day or two to think about it, you may realize you can do without the purchase for now.

Cash out: If you typically make purchases using a credit or debit card, in can be difficult to keep track of how much spending you’ve racked up. Instead, consider giving yourself a cash allowance. Spend what you have, and stop shopping when your wallet runs on empty.

Make change: When you’re shopping with cash, throw any coin change you receive in a jar.

Remember: A penny saved is an engagement ring earned (or however that saying goes).
Get to work: If the one job you have barely covers your bills, consider a side gig. Drive an Uber, walk the dogs in your building, clean houses, or tutor students. It doesn’t have to be a forever position, just one that can help you pull in some extra cash.

Sell, sell, sell: Got stuff? Particularly stuff you don’t use that other people would? Sell it. Post it on Craigslist or eBay, or set up a weekend garage sale.

Brown bag it: Instead of buying lunch–or coffee–each day, make your own and stash the extra cash.

Repair, not replace: When something you own stops working, keep it out of the trash and repair it instead. Shoes can be fixed; clothing can be mended; and appliances can be repaired.

Be like Buffett: Investor and Philanthropist Warren Buffett is worth more than $78 billion (that’s billion with a “b”), so he knows a thing or two about saving money. When it comes to keeping more cash, heed Buffett’s advice: “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.”

Finally, be sure to read our tips on how to save money on an engagement ring.