Responsible and Generous Living in Early Adulthood

But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. – Mark 12:42

Buying an Engagement Ring

A worthwhile purchase

Weddings are something you can count on in young adulthood. Even though fewer Americans are getting married and many are waiting longer to get married, in your 20’s and 30’s it feels like everybody’s doing it. If you aren’t soon going to be celebrating your nuptials I would wager you have friends who are. While marriage is one of the most incredible, life altering, and beautiful decisions you can make it is also an expensive one. This post isn’t about how to budget and save costs on your wedding, we’ll cover that in a later post. This one is about the first step in the process, the purchase of an engagement ring.

An engagement ring is often one of the first significant purchases a young person will make, it was for me. I purchased Krista’s ring in November 2010. I had been working as a full time youth pastor for 4 months, had just gotten a handle on having a real job, and I was already imagining how to spend all the money I had made. I wanted Krista to have a ring she would be proud to wear for the rest of her life and honestly I wanted other people to be impressed, and that meant I was going to spend whatever it took to make that happen, to my detriment.

My desire to give Krista a big, shiny ring led me to spend way more than I should have even if I could afford it. If Krista could go back in time and give me advice about buying the ring I’m sure she would say “save the money, pay off some of your student loans!”

Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not opposed to spending a significant amount of money on an engagement ring. I would be speaking hypocritically if I told you not to. What I hope is that you can experience joy and freedom as you prepare to make this important purchase.

Rejecting the two months salary benchmark

The common adage is  that you should spend two months of your salary on a ring. Personally I think this has caused way too many people emotional and fiscal stress. I’ve even spoken to friends of mine who felt bad about not being able to spend that much money on their soon to be fiancee’s ring. They felt inadequate, as if their sense of worth was intrinsically linked to the size and expense of the ring they could afford. A purchase intended to be a celebration of their soon to be life together became something that kept them awake at night — something is wrong with that.

As we said in our budgeting post you shouldn’t buy anything when you don’t have the cash on hand to pay for, this includes an engagement ring. If you are already burdened by student loan debt, why take on more debt to buy a ring? Especially if it’s high interest (credit cards) consumer debt. The amount of debt you bring into your marriage does matter, and its unwise to add to that debt even for the sake of a significant diamond. I don’t know who came up with the two months benchmark, but feel free to say no.

Just as an engagement ring is going to represent the unique tastes of your fiancee, what you spend on a ring is going to be unique to your situation. Don’t fall into the temptation of thinking that your fiancee is going to be ashamed of the ring you buy, or that your value is tied into that ring. The setting and diamond you buy has to be something you can afford, something you have the cash on hand to pay for.

Affordable alternatives

I was fortunate enough to purchase Krista’s ring from a local jeweler who gave me a smoking deal, I’m still very thankful for her honesty and integrity. For those of you who live close to us here’s a link to her website. I would fully endorse her. Had I gone somewhere else to buy the ring I certainly would have overpaid. As much as Krista loves her diamond ring, there are some great more affordable alternatives. They include:

  • Using a family heirloom ring, one rich with history and family tradition. 
  • Working with a local jeweler to come up with a wonderful setting with a more affordable stone, like a emerald, ruby or sapphire.
  • Consider a ring tattoo? Here are a few examples. A little more painful but certainly more affordable. [This option would really depend on your fiancee.]

If you are still married to the idea of a diamond ring, there are some resources that can help you make a good, well informed, affordable decision. Here is a link to one of our favorite bloggers who has set up his “diamond buying school” to help ring buyers know as much as possible when they set out to buy. You can read it here.

The stewardship question

Buying an engagement ring is more than just a fiscal decision, it is also a stewardship decision. Unfortunately we live in a time where precious stones from around the world bought by unsuspecting consumers are used to fund wars, conflicts we would never knowingly support. We feel that we no longer have the excuse of ignorance when it comes to our big purchases, including diamonds. We know that one of the best ways we can influence the consumer market is to spend our dollars at businesses that model integrity and sustainable practices. Where we choose to buy our products, how they are made, and what the people who made them are paid matters. We don’t want our hard earned dollars going to support situations we morally oppose, and in a capitalist society we have plenty of ethical options.

It is now as simple as asking a jeweler “are these conflict free diamonds?; where did they come from?” By asking these two questions you can make an ethical purchase. If you are not sure what I’m talking about check out this website that explains the process of buying conflict free diamonds. If a jeweler can’t answer those questions honestly and clearly, it raises some serious red flags about their business practices and we suggest shopping somewhere else.

How about you? Tell us about your ring buying experience, what did you learn along the way that can be helpful for others? 


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This entry was posted on May 13, 2013 by in Managing Finances, Planning for the Future and tagged , .
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