This article is part of our 52 week journey through Bill’s latest book, The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Each week, a full excerpt from his book will be presented from beginning to end. To get your copy of his book, visit www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.
The engagement ring is normally purchased well in advance of a wedding. The average ring (sorry guys) costs around $3,000. Some in the diamond industry would have you believe you should spend two months salary on a ring. Well, that just depends on how much you make. It is reasonable to expect to be able to purchase a nice diamond (sorry ladies) for under $2,000. If you are on a tight budget (such as still in college) you could even go less than $1,000.
Keep in mind this ring is something she will probably wear for the rest of her life, so don’t skimp. On the other hand, since life seems backwards, we tend to buy the ring during the poorest period of our lives (just after we get out of college, working an entry level position, and still paying off college loans). Of course the trend is that men are waiting a little longer to get married, so you may be able to afford more. Just remember, don’t destroy your finances to buy a ring. It will be much better to try and start marriage without such a large debt looming over your head.
When shopping for a diamond, remember the four c’s: cut, color, clarity, and carats.
The cut is perhaps one of the most important features of the diamond. If a diamond is cut too deep or too shallow, it doesn’t reflect the light (it won’t sparkle). You want to hold your diamond in a shadow and see if it still sparkles. Trust me, it’s the radiance of the diamond that keeps the romance in the ring.
The color is also very important. If the diamond is practically yellow, you can get a real big one for a smaller price, but who wants a banana on their finger? You want to get as clear a diamond as possible. The clarity will also affect the sparkle, but most importantly, it will just look more elegant.
The clarity refers to imperfections or inclusions. The scale runs from VS1 to I3. VS1 stands for very small inclusions. The one just means it is the best VS rating. The I3 has the most inclusions visible to the naked eye. If you look at the diamond you’ll see the cracks and other imperfections in the diamond.
The carat is of course the weight (don’t ask why they use carats). A one-carat diamond is sort of the benchmark for money. For a man, buying a one-carat diamond is showing the world you can take care of your lady. For women, having a one-carat is just more diamond to show off. Plus it’s a large reminder that she has a man in her life. You can go bigger, but realistically most people stay at or below one carat. Most women don’t need a full carat. In fact, sometimes a ¾ carat or ½ carat will look much bigger on her hand than you may realize, depending on the size of her fingers.
There are a few other things to consider. The shape of the diamond is very important. Some women prefer round diamonds, others like marquee and so on. The type of ring is also very important. Does she prefer yellow gold? Perhaps white gold? Maybe platinum? There are also rings with diamonds (or diamond baguettes) on the sides. They look like a solitaires (or single ring) with a smaller diamond on each side. No matter what type of ring you choose, be sure to get a 6-prong setting. The more prongs holding the diamond, the safer it will be. Your best bet may be to take her ring shopping at some point. I would not, however, take her ring shopping until you are prepared to buy a ring (within 6-12 months). No girl wants to go ring shopping, and then have to wait three more years.
Since you are spending so much money on the ring, you may want to get it insured. Normally, expensive jewelry is not covered by your regular insurance (such as homeowners or renters). You can buy a separate policy for the ring, or sometimes get a rider on your homeowners or renters policy (a rider allows for items that are not normally covered). Either way, it is not very expensive. You should be able to purchase this insurance from the same agent you use for car insurance.
When it comes to the proposal, only you know your girlfriend. However, most women like to be romanced. Remember, this is a story they will be telling their friends for a long time. Also, most women like to see the guy get down on one knee. It’s just a tradition. I am not going to give you “romantic” ideas, but I will tell you a few things not to do.
1. Do Not forget to bring the ring
2. Do Not drop or lose the ring
3. Do Not forget your girlfriend’s name
That’s about it for the ring. All I can say now is good luck!
Bill Pratt is a former credit card executive turned student-advocate. He is the author of Extra Credit: The 7 Things Every College Student Needs to Know About & Ca$h and The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Bill speaks at colleges to educate and entertain students about real-life issues in money, leadership, and success. His goal is to help students succeed personally and financially so they can improve the lives of those around them. You can learn more at www.ExtraCreditBook.com or www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.