Planning Your Future
So You Want to . . . Buy an Engagement Ring
Put a Ring On It Without Going Broke
Whether you plan on doing it on Valentine's Day or during some other perfect, romantic moment, before it's time to pop the question, there's something you'll need: the engagement ring. And unless you have piles of cash lying around, paying for it can be daunting.
It doesn't have to be. You can choose a ring within your budget while developing a payment plan that works. Here are some tips on how to pay for that symbol of your love.
When to Buy
For the best prices, consider buying a ring during specific times of the year. "Take advantage of discounts offered by retailers during times of peak demand, like Christmas and pre-Valentine's Day," says Ira Weissman, creator of the consumer education site, The Diamond Pro.
"Prices are also good during the summer," adds Ken Alpart, founder and CEO of BT Trading Group, a proprietary trading company that advises clients on asset management. "While many people marry in the summertime, not as many become engaged. Business is slow."
Ring Choice Tips
The four C's—carat, cut, color and clarity—are important. But they're not the only qualities to look for in a diamond. "Approach buying a diamond like any other product, and not as an investment," says Weissman. "What matters most is how the diamond looks, not what it's worth."
Weissman recommends buying the lowest quality diamond that still looks great. For example, he says, an SI2 (low clarity grade) that's clean to the naked eye looks identical to a flawless diamond, assuming the other three C's are equal. The difference in price between these two diamonds, however, is huge.
Others agree. Alpart says, "Don't get a 'perfect' diamond. Focus on what the naked eye can see; don't get caught up in what it looks like under a magnifying glass, unless, of course, you can afford it."
And when you're looking for the best price, size definitely matters. "The most popular stone sizes are 0.75 to 1.50 carats, so look for sizes such as 0.70 or 1.47 carats, since the 'magic' numbers of 0.25, 0.5 and 0.75 cost more. Brilliance comes from cut, not carat," says Sabrina Sheikh, a customer relations expert for Blue Nile, an online diamond jeweler.
How Much to Spend?
Ever hear the rule that two months' salary is how much you should spend on a ring? Sheikh says that notion is antiquated, and instead recommends spending whatever you're comfortable with.
Erica Sandberg, a personal finance expert with Sandberg Financial Education Services, agrees. "Resist pressure to purchase outside your means, she says. "Instead, identify what type of ring you love and how much you're willing to spend, and match the two."
Paying It Off
Selecting a ring is the fun part. Paying for it? Not as much. But you can prevail by securing the lowest interest rate and paying the ring off fast, says Alpart.
"Some jewelers give you a payoff schedule. Negotiate and put half down, and then pay off the balance," Alpart says. "Be careful because the store may offer a deal if you pay it off quickly, but interest rates may skyrocket if you're slow with payments."
Sandberg opts for credit cards. "Keep the payoff time frame to half a year or less, and you'll be fine," she says. "A large balance may affect your credit score, but as you delete it with large payments, you'll likely see a scoring spike."
If you don't have the money at the time of purchase, a loan may be your best bet. Alpart advises borrowing from a friend or family member at no interest or low interest, but only if you're comfortable with that arrangement.
Sandberg says another option is taking advantage of interest-free, in-store financing. "Be sure you can afford the payments, get out of debt before the term ends and never miss a payment," she says. "Falter, and fees you wouldn't have to pay will be added in."
You've landed your love. You have the tips to get the perfect ring. Now go ahead and seal the deal
Melissa A. Kay is a writer, editor and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in the publishing field in the areas of family, beauty, health, employment, lifestyle, finance and more.