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Whatever Happened to the “Two-Month Rule” for Buying An Engagement Ring?

The “two-month” salary rule of engagement ring shopping is one of those numbers that every potential bride seems to know, and every potential groom seems to resent. It turns out that not that many people are following the rule anyway, unless—and here’s another cause for resentment—they’re poor.

Lower Earners Spend More Of Their Paycheck

The New York Times recently commissioned a poll that indicated the only people actually spending close to two month’s salary on their engagement rings were people making $23,000 or less annually. As soon the annual salary rises above $23,000, the percentage of gross pay spent on a ring drops sharply, from close to 17% to a far more reasonable 4%. Remarkably, that percentage stays about the same even as wages rise: according to the poll’s findings, someone making over $90,000 a year will spend roughly the same percentage of gross salary (1.6%) as someone making $40,000 (2%).

Higher Earners Don’t Have To Splurge

Part of this is simple mathematics. If you have a higher salary, the average cost of a ring will represent a smaller percentage of your gross pay. What is that average cost? While it obviously varies depending on who is doing the reporting, it’s lower than most people think. The Times poll produced a median price tag of about $1,900 (though recent studies by industry players like WeddingWire and The Knot put the average cost closer to $3-5000. )

The Diamond Industry Is Still Doing Fine

You might think that the engagement ring industry would be upset that that 17% spend ratio doesn’t extend into the higher earning brackets. If everything went by the two-month rule, anyone making $90,000 a year would be obligated to spend $15,000 on a ring. But almost no one in the industry pushes the two-month rule anymore. They are just as happy to have engaged couples buy smaller, less expensive rings now, and trade up for a more expensive one when their income increases later.

The “Two-Month” Rule Was Never Based in Reality

The fact is that the two-month rule never reflected the true economics of diamond buying to begin with. Like a lot of how we think about diamond engagement rings, the two-month rule was the product of advertising. Back in the 1980s, when it made its first appearance, the two-month rule was aimed at men who generally shopped for the ring without input from the women in question. Now couples are often shopping together as a team, and sometimes from the comfort of their sofa. The rise of online shopping has given couples more tools for saving and removed the fear of appearing cheap.   

There really is no one factor in deciding how much you should spend on a ring.  In the end, it comes down to whether or not can afford the money for the big bling that she wants.  But it’s not always about the dollars.

 

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