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Cost-Saving Tips: How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?

engagement ring cost saving tips

Of all the major milestones you’ll encounter in life, popping the question is one of the most nerve-wracking. To get it right, you’ll have to make several choices work in concert: a time, a place, a question and, of course, a perfect ring. But no matter your age, finding one that speaks to your heartfelt commitment and won’t break the bank seems harder and harder these days! For some, buying the flashiest diamond on the market is both desirable and actually possible — but for most of us, the question, “How much should I spend on an engagement ring?” can be torturous. However, if you consider a few key aspects of your lifestyle and some engagement ring cost-saving tips, you can be confident in making the right spending decision on your engagement ring.

The Caveat to Conventional Wisdom

For much of the past century, buying an engagement ring was somewhat formulaic. You were expected to buy the nicest ring you could on two months’ salary. Nowadays, with skyrocketing costs of living and rising levels of debt, some people even suggest spending three months’ salary. But the reality is that letting someone else give you generic guidelines on how much to spend on an engagement ring just isn’t a good idea. Your relationship isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, and the cost of commemorating your commitment shouldn’t be either.

A lot has changed since the two-months’-salary rule first arose, and so should your expectations of how much an engagement ring should cost. In 2012, Americans collectively spent almost $11 billion dollars on engagement rings and wedding jewelry! But what exactly does that break down to? The average couple in 2012 paid $4,000 for their engagement ring. If that seems like a lot — or maybe not enough — consider this fact from a recent study: The more you spend on an engagement ring — as well as other aspects of your wedding ceremony — the shorter your marriage is likely to be.

americans spent $11 billion on engagement rings

That certainly doesn’t mean you should go out and find the cheapest ring humanly possible — it just goes to show that spending more money isn’t going to net you greater marital success. So if it’s not the cash that counts, what does?

Creativity vs. Cash

The best way to determine how much to pay for an engagement ring is by weighing your creative options. There’s nothing quite like a big sparkly diamond, but that often necessitates opening a new credit line or filling an existing one up. If you’re not into that, options like these are especially meaningful:

  • Heirlooms: Many of us have access to jewelry handed down across generations. If you’re lucky enough to gain possession of a family engagement ring, it can be an incredibly deep gesture and symbol of welcoming your future spouse into your family.
  • Custom-Made: If you’re looking for something totally unique, there’s always the option to do it yourself! Working with a hand-picked jeweler to create the perfect ring is a dazzling demonstration, and it’s possible on nearly any budget. Even if your custom-made ring doesn’t have a diamond, your sweetheart will likely cherish it for its thoughtfulness.
  • Serious Saving: Finding the perfect ring is tough, and if you’ve got your eyes set on one in particular, it can be hard to let it go. If you aren’t currently able to afford it, making changes and sacrifices in your life to save for the right ring can endow it with a lot more meaning.

Saving vs. Financing

While painstakingly saving money for months or years is a sure sign of dedication, it may not even be necessary. Depending on your situation, borrowing money for a ring could be perfectly reasonable. You’ll want to ask yourself these questions:

  • How is my credit?
  • Am I already in debt?
  • Do I want to create debt in my new marriage?

Given that 70% of college students in 2014 graduated with an average of $33,000 in student loans, chances are you or your soon-to-be spouse aren’t completely free and clear of debt. While that means you should exercise extra caution in borrowing money, it still wouldn’t completely bar you from getting a good financing deal.

buying engagement rings with debt

Subject to approved credit, you can likely snag one of the many credit cards that offer a period of promotional financing rates. In many cases, you can take advantage of that rate for 12 months. This can be a fairly safe option to pay over time. Ideally, you’d pay enough each month to finish payments within the promotional financing period. And hey, who says responsibility isn’t romantic?

If you don’t want to open up a whole new credit account with your bank or another one, you can also get financing directly from most jewelers. For example, Thom Duma Fine Jewelers offers extended payment plans and special financing for 12 months, with approved credit, for the purchase of your ring.

The Basics of Budgeting for Your Ring

Financing an engagement ring can be a smart move if you want to pay over time. If you're buying an engagement ring on a budget, your wisest move would be to plan ahead. Even though staying on budget may be easier said than done, these simple steps can do you a world of good when it comes to saving up for that special ring.

  1. Know What You Have: This may seem obvious, but you can’t balance a budget without having all your information in front of you! Factor in all monthly income and bills — and don’t forget to pay attention to the little things like daily coffee that can really pile up. Once you know what money you have left over, you know how much to pay for an engagement ring. It’s smart to split it between savings, “fun money” and payments for your ring. General savings are always important, and if you have extra, you can divert some to your ring fund. As for the fun money, keeping a little bit to treat yourself now and then can keep you from giving in and going overboard with recreational spending later!
  1. Find What You Need: In order to stick to your budget and not get overwhelmed by the sea of engagement ring options out there, you should have an idea of what you’re looking for before you start looking specifically and in earnest. The best way to narrow down your choices is to consider the material of the ring as well as the quality of the diamond you want — and we’ll talk about that a little bit later.
  1. Cut Excess: Although buying an engagement ring shouldn’t mean giving up all of life’s little pleasures, almost all of us have some habits that can be eliminated or cut down on to make room for this new financial responsibility. If you find yourself eating out at lunch every day, cut down to two or even three days a week. If you spend a fair amount on gas, you might even be able to find a carpool. Instead of going to the movies every week, you could switch to a cheap movie rental or something similar. There are many ways to free up cash when you examine your everyday habits and make even slight modifications.
  1. Collaborate If You Can: If it’s something you’ve mentioned or discussed before, bringing your sweetheart in on the budgeting can make the whole process a lot smoother — especially if you have any merged finances or living expenses. Two heads are definitely better than one when it comes to planning and making any life changes to facilitate saving and paying for an engagement ring.
  1. Stick to Your Guns: As hard as it is to steer clear of rings outside your established budget, resist the temptation to spend even just that little bit extra! It’s a slippery slope from being okay with spending $100 extra to dropping $1,000 more than you planned!

A Crash Course in Diamond Quality

The more you look through engagement ring listings, the more you’ll notice size isn’t the only variation among diamonds. There are four primary ways diamonds are graded, known as the four C’s:

  • Carat: This is the measure we’re all most familiar with, since it dictates size. A carat is a metric weight unit that equals a fifth of a gram. Larger carats equal larger diamonds and therefore a more valuable — and costly — ring.
  • Cut: Many people consider this aspect of a diamond to be the most important, since it affects what we all love about these precious gems: their sparkle. The best-cut diamonds reflect light to their maximum potential, whereas diamonds of lesser quality sacrifice sparkle for size. Diamonds usually come in one of four cut grades: ideal, very good, good and fair.
  • Color: This grade is actually somewhat of a misnomer since diamonds are graded on their lack of color. On a scale of D to Z, a colorless diamond would be a D and the highest acceptable level of pigment a Z. The scale breaks down like this:
engagement ring color scale

Colorless diamonds are fairly hard to come by and at a definite financial premium. Near colorless diamonds are almost impossible for a layperson to distinguish, so they often provide the best color for the money.

  • Clarity: Since diamonds are a naturally occurring substance, they’re almost bound to contain some imperfections, which are measured on a clarity scale containing these grades:
  • F: These diamonds are flawless and as such, extremely rare.
  • IF: Internally flawless diamonds may have some blemishes on the outside, but their inside is perfect.
  • VVS1 & VVS2: Very, very slightly included diamonds have very slight imperfections that can only be seen under magnification by an expert.
  • VS1 & VS2: These diamonds contain inclusions that can be picked up more quickly by magnification, but still aren’t visible to the eye.
  • SI1& SI2: These have inclusions that are plainly obvious under a magnifier, but your eyes still wouldn’t pick them up.
  • I1, I2 & I3: It’s best to stay away from these grades of diamond, as they have inclusions in them that you — and your sweetheart — can see with the naked eye.

The material you end up choosing can also be the key on how to save money on an engagement ring, since platinum is significantly more expensive than gold. Platinum is the ultimate in ring material, being the most durable and dense and less likely to break when it comes to the prongs that mount the ring. Surprisingly, platinum is actually softer than gold! However, even though it will get scratched more easily, the metal isn’t lost — just moved around to other spots on the ring. It creates a soft patina that many people find desirable and can still be re-polished to its original luster.

Gold, on the other hand — in both its white and yellow varieties — is still a classic standard you can get for a much lower price without sacrificing much in the way of appearance. Gold jewelry is actually only part gold, at 58.5% for 14K and 75% for 18K.

gold jewelry

What About Ring Warranties?

Once you find the right balance of carat, cut, color and clarity to fit your budget, it’s time to turn your attention to getting the absolute most for your money. Most jewelers are perfectly happy to sell you a ring and hope they never have to maintain or deal with it again — and if you do come back to have your ring serviced or repaired, you’ll likely get charged an arm and a leg. For that reason, it’s important to check out engagement ring warranties before you even think about buying! This ring will be with you for life, through drops, scrapes, scratches and anything else life throws at you, so you should make sure you’re able to get fast, friendly and high-quality service and repairs to your ring for free!

At Thom Duma Fine Jewelers, we are so sure of the quality of our jewelry that we offer a free lifetime warranty on every single diamond engagement ring and wedding band we sell. What does that entail?

  • Free replacement of any cracked, chipped or separated side diamond.
  • Free routine diamond tightening.
  • Free mounting repair.
  • Free polishing and refinishing.

These are just a few of the services included in TDFJ’s one-of-a-kind engagement ring warranty, and each one can save you hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of your purchase. You’ll not only have the security of buying from a tried and true high-quality jeweler, but you’ll get everything you need to make sure your investment stays as gorgeous and sturdy as the day you bought it. Your symbol of devotion is the purchase of a lifetime — and your jeweler should reflect that. If you’re looking for unmatched quality and lifetime service in your engagement ring, check out the extensive collection of engagement rings at Thom Duma Fine Jewelers.