Yesterday I overheard a girl say she wanted her engagement ring from Tiffany’s and that it had to be a triple diamond ring. Maybe I only overheard part of the conversation, but I never heard her talk about the guy she was marrying, just what he’d buy for her. She said the ring she expected cost well over $7,000, despite the fact they both made minimum wage. I know some people picture their proposal for years and dream over details of their wedding. Admittedly, I’ve seen many seasons of “Say Yes to the Dress,” and the amount spent on engagements rings and wedding dresses make me think one thing: that could’ve been a down payment on a house!
Love Is Precious
The old rule for spending on an engagement ring was at least two or three months’ salary. What?! The average cost of an engagement ring is $5,431, up $300 from 2011. Ring costs, along with wedding costs, can be a burden to the start of a marriage. I’ve decided my boyfriend and I are going to save potentially thousands of dollars by forgoing the cost of a real diamond ring in place for one of those cubic zirconia beauties.
To understand engagement rings, let’s take a 30-second look at the diamond industry.
In the late 1800s, diamonds were rare and only found in India… until they discovered caves full of diamonds in Africa. One company enterprised the entire industry: De Beers. They controlled the supply and demand by raising prices every year and successfully connected wealth and status to diamonds by limiting the public’s supply. Decades later, this commercial advertising of diamonds has solidified their fate and is now tied to love.
De Beers heavily marketed into romantic relationships everywhere that diamonds were “forever” despite the fact that they can chip or degrade. Because of their influence, women have become superstitious in taking someone else’s previous engagement ring (like from a pawn shop) unless it’s from an older relative. This superstition comes from decades of marketing that diamonds were to be family heirlooms and should never be sold. This, in turn, makes De Beers the only producer and seller controlling the market while proclaiming both your love and diamond are forever; the heavier the diamond, the more you’re loved. Just look at any celebrity’s ring and you can tell that rings are for bragging rights.
Diamonds as an Investment
We’ve heard it all before: diamonds are an investment in your future. If the prices keep rising on diamonds, then you can sell it years later at a higher price than purchased, right? Not exactly. This idea goes back to the dowry of a woman and the diamond’s “insurance” in case the man called off the wedding. Her options are really only to sell it at a pawn shop because most women don’t want someone else’s ring. Therefore, the ring’s “investment” gathers only a fraction of its original cost.
With more men buying engagement rings on credit cards, financing means charging outrageous prices as well as paying interest. Never finance on something that won’t appreciate in value, especially since you’ll likely merge bank accounts soon. You wouldn’t want her to pay for the ring too, right? A ring is considered an investment with you and your marriage, but isn’t a house as well?
Where to Spend Instead
With the average cost of a wedding now totaling almost $30,000, most people are spending so much on this one day rather than being financially fit for the rest of their lives. Any mortgage lender would recommend you to have a house down payment of 20% of the home’s cost to avoid paying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). PMI ensures you won’t default on your house and can get expensive. If you’re buying a starter house for $100,000, the down payment would be $20,000. I’d rather take $20,000 from my wedding budget and put it towards the down payment to save thousands by not paying PMI. Being financially smart means more to me than a bigger rock on my hand. Houses are a better investment and more reliable than a ring which can easily get lost or stolen.
Couples can easily build their lives together by racing to pay off their home, instead of paying off one day in the past.
How to Ring Shop
Not proposing with an engagement ring is still pretty avant garde, so it’s understandable that you might still want to make a purchase. Rings should only cost what you can afford. Some of the appeal of a real ring is that there is sacrifice a husband-to-be made in saving. Instead of the weekly bar night, he stayed in and put the saved money towards your ring. Sweet, right? It shows a real level of maturity. So, if you both insist on ring shopping, here is how to do it:
- Buy a real ring online to save as much as 70% of costs from an authorized dealer
- Work at a jewelry store part-time to save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars
- Cubic zirconia diamond simulants are the cheaper, synthetic alternative
- Save by using a family ring for your engagement
- Buy a ring from an antique shop
- Look for rings in pawn shops or classified ads
- Consider an alternative stone to a diamond like sapphire or ruby
- Purchase a setting using several smaller stones instead of one large stone
Love and Marriage
For me, the ring has nothing to do with my happiness and how much love I have. Diamonds don’t make you more in love and you surely won’t have a higher rate of marital success with a bigger rock. If you do decide to skimp on the cost of the ring now, you can always upgrade later on.
So, how much are you willing to spend on a ring? Are you going to save for a down payment on a house instead? Let us know your thoughts!