Listen, I’m not the guy to ask about style, diamond quality or color. I’m just the guy to coach you on buying the engagement ring. The only thing you’ve likely purchased that will be more expensive than the ring is a car — and only if you’ve bought a nice car!
Two to Three Month's Salary
There is an old convention that a ring should cost two to three month's salary. It isn’t fair. It may not be wise. It is absurd. But, you may be feeling like you need to live up to that standard. If you are early in your career, you are likely earning around $3,500 per month, depending upon your career, that would give you a budget of $7,000 to $10,500. For your sake, I hope you didn’t just finish your cardiac residency — three months of a cardiac surgeon’s salary would get attention at Tiffany’s, for sure.
To heck with convention
While you should want your future spouse to recognize the symbol of your love for her as a sacrifice, you may want to consider whether or not some of the money you might spend on a ring could be better spent on the down payment for a new home.
Nothing says, "I don’t really love you that much" like borrowing the money for the ring. If you marry a girl who discovers about the time of the wedding, that along with her beautiful ring she has acquired a 50 percent interest in a $10,000 loan to a jeweler (or a $10,000 balance on a credit card) you’ll lose all the points you think you’ve won with the beautiful ring.
Whatever you do, do not buy the center diamond for a ring with your fiancé-to-be with you. You may look at styles and talk about tastes, but don’t put yourself in a situation where you are negotiating price in front of your future wife. Nothing says “you don’t matter to me” like walking out of the jewelry store in the middle of negotiations. Most jewelers have some flexibility. Leave your girl at home, so that if you don’t find what you like at the price you think is fair at one store, you can get up and walk away. You can always come back and pay the asking price.
Diamond and Ring May be Bought Separately
If your future wife has a specific idea in mind for what the ring should look like, you may be locked in to buying the ring from that store. That said, if it has a large center diamond as many rings do, you are free to buy the diamond elsewhere if you can find a better deal. The ring jeweler will discourage you, certainly, but you may be able to save enough to overcome any penalty he may wish to apply.
Rings for guys are not traditionally so expensive or elaborate. A simple gold band will satisfy most. As a result, the issues about shopping for diamonds, financing and most of the other concerns are eliminated. A simple gold band costs just a few hundred dollars. Just be sure to pay off the credit card before the wedding!
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.