Engagement Ring Prices – How to Buy the Right Ring at the Right Price

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

Buying an engagement ring is one of the first steps you take to begin your married life. The price of the ring shouldn’t cause you to start that joint life out in the poor house.

When you get engaged, it’s pretty emotional. Even a jaded Pilgrim can admit that. But it’s important to be clear: while there is nothing more emotional than choosing the right mate, once that decision is made the emotions should stop. Your decision about how much money to spend on the wedding has to be made from an intellectual vantage point. Capiche?

Now, the people who sell weddings, wedding dresses and engagement rings know your emotions are at an all-time high and will try to use this knowledge to get right into your purse and wallet. Don’t let this happen to you.

I’ll never forget an old friend who asked me for financial advice. He was about to get married and wanted to spend $5,000 on a diamond ring for his bride-to-be. He wanted to know how best to pay for it: borrow money from his family or go into credit card debt.

I told him the best choice was “C” – none of the above. He didn’t like that. Maybe that’s why I haven’t seen him in 15 years.

Rule Number One – Never ever go into debt to finance a ring or wedding.

The stores want you to believe you should spend two months’ salary on the ring. It’s a wonderful benchmark…for them. How much you spend on your ring is not an expression of your love for your would-be-spouse. Sometimes an expensive ring is just your effort to manipulate what your bride thinks about you. Think Kobe Bryant. In that way, it’s not so altruistic…is it?

Would you rather buy a huge rock to impress your future wife and spend the next five years in credit card hell? Or would you rather start married life with no debt? Which is a greater gift to your marriage? You don’t need me to answer that one.

The Store Spiel

The salesperson will try to get you to agree that the ring is an expression of how much you love your spouse. I’ve already exposed that to be a big fat lie. When the salesman sees that this isn’t working, he’ll switch tracks and try to convince you that a diamond is a great investment. That is also untrue. A ring is hand furniture. And even if you do buy a ring that appreciates, don’t tell me you’re going to tell your wife that it’s time to sell the ring and buy oil futures when diamond prices are high and oil is low. Not going to happen. Compare the best diamond ring you can buy to your average mutual fund performance and tell me which is a good investment and which one isn’t.

Along those same lines, some salespeople try to get you to buy a ring you can’t pay for by pushing it as a way to build your credit. This is complete hogwash. Never spend too much money on anything for any reason. Period.

Before heading out to the stores, decide on a budget and stick to it. Don’t let the slick salespeople play games and try to get you out of your comfort zone. My favorite response to any salesperson who does that is to start speaking in a foreign language that doesn’t exist and then leave the store immediately. (Just kidding.)

Another tip: don’t surprise your fiancée. It’s her ring after all. Right? She’s your better half and any debt you incur (heaven forbid) is going to impact her. Make sure you both go to the stores to get a better picture of the right ring for your finances. How is she going to feel sitting home alone while you’re at your weekend job paying off the credit card debt you racked up on that ring?

A few years ago I was in the market for a new ring for Mrs. Pilgrim to celebrate 20 years of married bliss. When I walked into a shop, a young woman not only tried to get me to go large for a rock, she also wanted me to buy a ring for myself. (I don’t wear any jewelry other than a watch.)

She asked me where my ring was and when I told her I didn’t have one, she asked how the world was supposed to know that I was married.

I told her it didn’t matter what the world knows. I know I’m married and that’s all that matters.

If you know your soon-to-be-spouse loves you, do you really need a huge rock to prove it? If so, why? If you own a huge ring or bought a big expensive rock for your spouse, explain why it was a good decision…please…



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