How to Buy an Engagement Ring

It’s laughable how fast many of us non-conformists buckle in the face of public opinion when it comes to some purchasing decisions.

For many years, the diamond industry has told American grooms-to-be that they should spend two month’s salary on an engagement ring.  Brides-to-be are not immune; they have been conditioned to measure the depth of his devotion by the size of the rock.

So if you shouldn’t spend two month’s salary, how much should you spend?

The “easy to say but not so easy to do” answer is to spend what you can afford and do it in proportion to the ring’s importance to you and your fiancée.

Let’s look at this more closely.

Case 1: We have the money, we have no debt, and we have a 6-month emergency fund.

If one of the mutual early goals of your marriage to is buy an old farmhouse on 10 acres or to travel extensively, or become a single income family, how much money do you already have put away to pursue these dreams? If you spend $5 or $10 k or more on a ring, how much longer will it take you to reach that goal? Is that wait worth it to each of you?

Case 2: We have the money, we have no debt, but if we buy the ring we want, we will have only  a $1000 emergency fund.

Tread carefully here.  Don’t listen to those that tell you a diamond is an investment. It’s not. You do not intend to hold this ring for five years and then sell it for a profit. A thousand dollars is a tiny emergency fund especially if you own your home (think leaky roof or broken water heater), have children (think orthodontist or math tutor) or have just one income. Maybe you would have less stress and more happiness if you purchase a less expensive ring and left more in your emergency fund.

Case 3: We have the money saved but we have debt.

Seriously consider going cheap and paying down that debt. Really, who cares what your friends whose marriage lasted 9 months think? Money fights are one of the leading causes of divorce. Make the commitment starting with this decision to become a financially healthy couple.

Case 4: The jewelry store will give us 6 months to pay with no interest.

Yikes. There is a tried and true method to determine how much you can afford to spend. It works for rings, TV’s and cars. Go online and look at the balance in your checking account. If you cannot afford to pay for it, you cannot afford to buy it. Do not mark the beginning of you new life by going further in debt.

Spending less on an engagement ring does not mean you have to settle for a cigar band. There are lots of options and you certainly can find a way to stay within your means.

  • A second hand ring may allow you to have what you want at a price you can afford.  Often you can find a very unique cut or style in a pre worn ring.
  • A fake. If you’ve really got you heart set on a diamond, get  a decent quality fake and replace it with real at your 5th anniversary.
  • An engagement ring can be anything you want. It doesn’t have to be a diamond, it can be a pearl or sapphire, it can be a antique band.
  • Ask the family, is your great grandmother’s ring sitting unused in someone’s jewelry box?

Let this be the first place that you and your future partner question the often-unrealistic expectations of our society.  Whether you decide to spend $100 or $25,000, buy a ring that you can afford and one that fits you new life.