It's summer, and if you're young - or young at heart - chances are you've already attended a wedding or two.

If you're in a serious relationship and noticed how deeply in love the bride and groom were at the weddings you experienced, maybe you're ready to take the leap and head to the altar yourself, with your significant other waiting at the end of the aisle.

If that's your reality - and congrats to you if that's the case - you're going to need some shimmering backup to close the deal in getting engaged. That comes in the form of an engagement ring, the ultimate deal closer in any engagement plan.

Make no mistake, engagement rings require a great deal of preparation and effort.

Job one, though (that is, after you decide to pop the question) is to figure out how much your engagement ring will cost and start building a budget plan to seal the deal and get your engagement ring on your beloved's hand, and as soon as possible.

That's where this bling blueprint will come in handy.

Read on and see exactly how much cash you need to lay down for the engagement ring of any couple's dreams. Better yet, see how you can get that ring for less money than you figured.

How Much Are We Spending on Engagement Rings?

To answer the big question first, know that your engagement ring budget is unique to you and to your personal financial experience.

Past that, the price of the ring depends on the size of the ring, its quality and, believe it or not, where you live.

That's right. The average price of an engagement ring also depends on which U.S. state you call home.

According to jewelry industry figures from Ritani, an online diamond retailer, Missouri residents spend the less on engagement rings, at an average of $2,793 per rock (which is strange, considering that St. Louis is home to it famous arch, which is shaped very much like an engagement ring, when you think about it.)

It must be a Midwest thing, because South Dakota and Iowa are home to the next "frugal minded" ring buyers, at $3,178 and $3,400 on average, respectively.

California, one of the largest and most style-conscious state in the union, clocks in with the most expensive engagement rings purchased, at an average of $9,809. Minnesota and Florida follow, at $9,063 and $8,473, respectively.

Our national average in the U.S. falls squarely in the middle of the haves and have-nots when it comes engagement rings - at $6,324 per ring, on average.

What Qualities Go Into an Engagement Ring's Cost?

Geography aside, look at the ring itself to get a grip on what it might cost you. These features will matter the most

The Ring's Quality

Focus on the craftsmanship when evaluating an engagement ring. Ask about the metal used in the ring, and any accents that would enhance its features (and its price.) Who made the ring? Is there paperwork available on what elements went into the ring? Focusing on diamond quality is a critical component to gauging the value of a ring, and getting a good deal on that ring.

The Ring's Carat Quality

Anyone on the hunt for an engagement ring knows the importance of carats.

In a word, carat means the weighting system of the stone used in the ring. It's used by jewelers to value a ring before putting a price tag on it. By and large, the bigger and weightier the diamond or stone, the more that ring will cost. For example, a 1.0 carat ring will cost less than a 1.50 carat ring, and a 1.5 carat ring will cost less than a 2.0 carat ring, and so on.

The Ring's Cut

An engagement ring's value will also depend largely on the shape and cut of the ring. That's largely because there is a degree of difficulty involved in the creation of a ring (that's why knowing who designed the ring is helpful in ascertaining value.)

Different cuts have different names - and they have different values. Hearts of Fire and Asscher cuts are highly desirable by jewelers, as they invariably cost more. Princess cuts and emerald cuts, on the other hand, aren't as desirable and thus cost less.

The Jeweler Who Sells the Ring 

Who you buy the engagement ring from will impact the price, as well.

If you buy the ring online or from a mass merchandiser at the mall, you'll get a lower price for the rock, although the quality of said rock may be in question (which is why you should always get paperwork on the ring, to demonstrate its authenticity.)

On the other hand, if you buy the ring from a local specialty jeweler or from the designer, you'll pay a premium price, knowing that you're getting a high-quality ring.

If You Customize the Engagement Ring 

If you want something special tailored to your own marriage experience, like a special design for your bride, be prepared to pay up for the experience. Even a small engraving job can hundreds or dollars or more to the price of an engagement ring.

The Ring's Clarity

You want your diamond or stone to shine, and be as visually clear as possible, with no clouds or shading. That's where clarity counts. Any flaws or shares can significantly curb the value of a ring, and if you buy a low-grade ring by clarity, sooner or later someone will bring it up to your future spouse.

The Ring's Color

In addition to clarity, color also impacts the value of an engagement ring.

Ideally, you want your engagement ring to be as colorless as possible, as they offer the most value and look the best to the naked eye. For the best value, aim for white gold or platinum engagement rings, as they can "shine up" a stone's color, even it has a coloring flaw.

Best Tips on Getting a Good Wedding Ring - at Good Value

If you're going to go low or high on an engagement ring - or aim to land somewhere in the middle - know the terrain and pay close attention to the qualities of an engagement ring listed above.

Past that, take these tips with you on your engagement ring procurement mission.

Avoid Debt

The last thing you want to do is treat an engagement ring like a new house or car and wind up owing thousands of dollars on the ring because you bought it on credit.

Don't be that ring-buyer. Aside from accumulating all that debt that needs to be paid off, you'll likely tick off your future spouse, who may not appreciate gazing down at her ring and seeing $5,000 in debt.

Instead, take some extra time and save for the ring. There's no big rush to get to the altar (or, at least, there shouldn't be) so you have plenty of time to sock away several hundred dollars at a time and pay cash for your ring. You'll still get a good rock and you'll avoid going into debt - two primary goals of any engagement ring campaign.

Don't Follow the "Two Month Salary" Rule  

Ignore the "two month's salary" guideline toward your engagement payment cost myth. While you're at it, take the "three month salary" rule out to the trash, too.

The truth is De Beers, the diamond giant, was behind the original marketing to convince buyers that steering two (or three) month's salary to a ring was doable.

It's not.

Even under the two month's salary guideline, it's hard to justify spending $6,000 on an engagement ring if you make only $36,000 annually. Your best bet is to spend enough to get a good ring, but not so much that you lose sleep from overspending on the ring.

Use This Engagement Ring Calculator 

Jewelrywise.com offers a handy-dandy engagement ring pricing calculator. Just punch in your estimated budget and the range of rings you're considering and the calculator will walk you through ring options in your price category.

Go ahead and shop online. Yes, there is a higher risk of getting a raw deal when buying an engagement ring online and you need to be careful. That said, in many cases the savings are real (between 30%-and-50% off) and the risks of buying the wrong ring are reduced if you shop at a reputable jewelry site like James Allen, Jared or Zales, to name a few.

Play the Carat Game Smartly 

One wise move is inch up - but not meet - a specific engagement ring carat size, and save a ton of money in the process. For example, you can knock 25% of the price of a ring by buying a model with a carat size of 0.95% instead of 1.0% - and you and your spouse will never notice the difference.

It's never too late - or too early - to plan and invest for the retirement you deserve. Get more information and a free trial subscription to TheStreet's Retirement Daily to learn more about saving for and living in retirement. Got questions about money, retirement and/or investments? We've got answers.