How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?
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"The 21st-century rule of thumb is to do what's best for your financial situation."

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When it comes to popping the question, there are plenty of guidelines around how much cash to drop on the engagement ring. Old-fashioned etiquette would have you spend the equivalent of one to three months' worth of take-home pay while a 2016 survey from The Knot indicates that spending $6,000 is about average.

But before you spend thousands in the name of love, ask yourself these questions.

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What's my financial situation like?

Given that money is the biggest relationship stressor, the 21st-century rule of thumb is to do what's best for your financial situation. If you're battling high-interest credit card balances or haven't established a solid emergency fund, going into more debt to impress your future spouse is a good way to kick off married life with unnecessary financial stress.

A much better idea is to start tackling your goals now so that you’re on sturdier ground when it’s time to make the big purchase.

Should I finance it?

Ideally, you’ll pay for the ring in cash, but we get it: Life happens, and waiting until all your financial ducks are in a row to get married may seem unreasonable. Financing the engagement ring could be a viable alternative, but there are a few big caveats.

Opening a store credit card is one option, as many jewelers offer promotional rates. But think hard before pulling the trigger. At Zales, for example, you can buy an engagement ring with no money down and special, limited-time financing, but after that, you'll pay a whopping 30-percent interest. Finding a bank credit card with a 0-percent promotional rate—that you’ll still pay off before the deal expires—is a much better way to go.

Am I willing to think outside the box?

Another key finding from The Knot study is that the average wedding costs more than $35,000. So it’s no wonder more couples are steering away from tradition and embracing planned elopements.

Have an open and honest conversation with your partner about your long-term goals beyond your engagement and wedding. Remember: It's your experience, which means you can tailor it in whatever way that feels right for you both. This may mean opting for a budget-friendly ring—maybe with a different gemstone like morganite, which has become a popular alternative, instead of a diamond—or waiting until you're financially ready to purchase the engagement ring of your partner’s dreams. Or forgoing the blingy engagement ring altogether and putting the money you saved toward your future goals instead.

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