How much should you really spend on an engagement ring?

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You may have heard the old adage that an engagement ring should cost as much as three months’ salary—but how true is this rule of thumb? Putting aside three months’ salary is no easy feat for most of us, so we were curious—when it comes to getting engaged, does that rule still hold up?

We called in the experts for some modern advice—how much should you spend on an engagement ring and what’s the best way to save?

For Jay Remer, Canada’s Etiquette Expert, the three months’ salary rule is simply not applicable today. “There’s no such expectation,” he says, explaining that people should only spend what they can afford. “There should be no reason to buy a bigger ring to impress people if it’s not in your budget. That’s not what an engagement is about.”

Jay emphasizes that the focus of an engagement should be on the solidity of the relationship itself rather than making a flashy impression. “If you’re able to find room in your budget, of course go ahead and get the ring you have your eye on—just don’t break the bank,” he warns. “There are a million things more important to save for than an engagement ring.”

Ginny Collette, Financial Service Representative at OMISTA Credit Union, agrees with Jay’s sentiment. While people are more likely to ask her about loans than preparing to purchase their ring, Ginny recommends saving in advance to be better prepared. “The last thing you want is financial pressure, especially when you’re starting your life with your partner. Be realistic and look at what you can afford.”

Her advice for saving is to start by looking at where you can find wiggle room and scale back on your expenses. From there, decide on what you can afford to put aside from your paycheck each month or biweekly period. “Slide that money aside as soon as you get paid so you don’t notice it as much,” she suggests. “It’s a strategy that works well no matter what you’re saving for.”

As for determining how much to spend on the ring, Ginny returns to the budget. “Look at how you’re spending your money each month. If you don’t have a ton of expenses, you may be able to save a little more. And if there isn’t a ton of flexibility in your budget, make sure you start the savings process sooner.”

Jay also suggests being creative to achieve that special touch—showing you care isn’t about spending a fortune.

“The ring doesn’t have to have diamonds,” he says. “Other semi-precious stones can be beautiful and more affordable. Looking inside the family jewel-box is another great option—family heirlooms can be gorgeous and that added history makes them extra meaningful.”

At the end of the day, an engagement ring is symbolic of the commitment you’re making to another person. And that’s the most important thing to keep in mind.

“I still love the tradition of giving someone an engagement ring,” says Jay. “It’s not about spending money, it’s about marking the occasion—it’s a punctuation point in you and your partner’s lives.”

Ginny agrees—and reminds us that when you’re starting your life with your partner, the engagement ring likely won’t be the last thing you need to save for. “If you’ve set-up a strategy to save for a ring, why not keep saving after the engagement? Good financial habits pay off over a lifetime—and there’s always the wedding to save for!”