Choosing an engagement ring should be simple in theory. Pick out a ring, buy it, and propose to the love of your life (who will, ideally, say yes). However, because it’s an engagement ring, there is so much emotional and cultural expectation wrapped up in that beautiful black velvet box.
Men who want to propose might wonder, “Is she going to like this ring for the next 50 years?” or “Should I go into debt to get a more expensive ring as long as I can pay it off?”
Women might wonder, “Should I tell him exactly the type of ring I want?” or “Do beautiful, affordable engagement rings even exist?”
These are good questions to consider, and it’s important to note that there are many beautiful and high-quality engagement rings that you can love for years to come that won’t cost you a fortune or drive you into too much debt.
After all, financial strains can be difficult on any marriage, particularly a new one — so why set yourself up for stress when you can buy an affordable engagement ring that your other half is sure to love?
Tips for Selecting Engagement Rings
Ask Your Other Half What They Want
The first rule of being successful when it comes to buying an engagement ring is to know what you should be looking for. It might seem completely obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of women who walk around wearing a style of ring that they don’t actually like.
So, does your other half love vintage rings or modern rings? Should you buy a solitaire or should it have as much bling as possible? Should colored stones be included or not? In order to find out, simply ask her, ask her friends or family, or go shopping with her to see the type of rings she likes.
Ignore the ‘Three Months’ Salary’ Advice
Somewhere in a smoke-filled office, an advertising copywriter long ago invented the idea that an engagement ring should cost a man two or even three months of his income. It’s a benchmark I’ve seen printed time and time again in bridal magazines and in wedding blogs, but just because you see it printed somewhere doesn’t mean you have to follow it! (The origins can be traced back to a marketing campaign by gemstone giant De Beers.)
Two or three months of income is a serious financial outlay, and for many couples who live paycheck to paycheck, it’s preposterous to blindly use that guideline to determine how much to spend on an engagement ring.
Know What You Can Afford
Instead of multiplying your monthly income, know what you can realistically afford. Are you in debt? If so, you might want to buy a ring you can afford to pay off in cash instead of going into more debt for a diamond. Do you have a monthly budget? If so, look and see if there is anything you can give up for a few months to help save for a ring instead.
If you love someone and want to buy a ring, choosing one you can actually afford really is the greatest gift you can give them. Being ready and able to buy an engagement ring with money you already have is far better than making monthly payments throughout your first few years of marriage.
Think Outside the Box
There are many beautiful engagement rings that aren’t sparkly clear diamond solitaires. My mom’s engagement ring is a light blue sapphire. I have friends who wear opals, black diamonds, alternative diamonds, and other precious stones. My husband gave me an affordable aquamarine ring when I gave birth to my twins last year, and it would make an absolutely stunning engagement ring.
The point is, you don’t always have to go with what society has deemed the norm — or rather, what the world’s largest diamond producer deemed the norm when it began marketing the diamond engagement ring in the 1930s. Prior to World War II — and the cunning De Beers campaign — only 10% of engagement rings were diamonds, according to the BBC.
Talk to your fiancée and discuss it together. After all, if the person you’re proposing to has extremely high expectations for their ring and would rather go into debt than wear something both of you can afford, maybe you need to have a deeper discussion about money and marriage.
The average American couple spent a whopping $4,000 on engagement rings in 2012. If you need some help finding a beautiful but affordable engagement ring for the love of your life, here are some options and alternatives for less than half that price.
Affordable Engagement Rings
Option No. 1: Family Ring
The ring I wear on my left hand belonged to my great grandmother. She actually received it as an anniversary gift from her husband after they had been married for many years. It has a very unique, vintage feel being that it’s from the 1920s, and it has two smaller diamonds on it instead of a main center stone, which I love since it’s unique and memorable.
The best part is that it was passed down to my grandmother, then to my mother, then to me. Ask your family members if they have a ring they could pass down to you. It doesn’t have to be a four-carat diamond. A unique, vintage sapphire or other stone would be equally as amazing and romantic — and the best part is that it’s totally, 100% free.
Option No. 2: Brilliant Earth Classic Solitaire Diamond Ring
Sometimes, it’s just gotta be a diamond. But that doesn’t mean you have to buy the biggest hunk of clear carbon out there. A classic solitaire cut on a simple band of 18k white gold looks elegant no matter what size the stone is.
Brilliant Earth, where I found this small but timeless 1/3-carat diamond engagement ring, sells only “beyond conflict-free” jewels — the company says it goes above and beyond industry standards to ensure its jewelry comes from ethically and environmentally responsible sources adhering to fair labor and trade practices. They even use recycled precious metals.
Brilliant Earth’s website allows you to design your own custom ring, choosing from dozens of settings and hundreds of individual diamonds with information about their cut, clarity, country of origin, size, and more. This means you have total control over the ultimate look — and price — of the ring you choose.
Option No. 3: Princess Cut 1/2-Carat Diamond
Another classic, elegant cut, this preset engagement ring from Blue Nile (pictured above) with a ribbon of petite-cut diamonds along the 14k white gold band will make any fiancée feel like she’s landed in a fairy tale. A similar solitaire cut version is $1,400.
Option No. 4: White Sapphire
This engagement ring from Zales received several five-star reviews. It’s a beautiful white sapphire that is lab created so it’s much more affordable than a diamond or other stone. The best part is that it still looks like a diamond (if that’s the look you’re going for!) at a much more affordable price.
Insider tip: Zales runs a ton of sales, so just keep your eye on the website and you likely won’t have to pay full price.
Option No. 5: Wedding Ring Tattoo
Cost: $50-$150 per hour
Some couples opt to get tattoos of their engagement rings and wedding bands instead of paying for physical rings or in addition to modest rings. This would be an especially good option for people who work with their hands or aren’t allowed to wear engagement rings at their particular job (some scrub techs, for example, might not be able to wear their engagement rings while in the operating room.)
The cost of a tattoo is typically the hourly rate for the tattoo artist, which can vary depending on their experience and your location. So, do your research and price out different tattoo artists to find the one that fits best in your budget.
Option No. 6: Three-Carat Rose Gold Plated Stunner
The Etsy store Tiger Gemstones has nearly 3,500 five-star reviews. For less than $130 you can purchase an absolutely stunning three-carat diamond simulant with a band that is gorgeously rose gold plated.
Option No. 7: Sterling Silver and Cubic Zirconia With Wedding Band
A cubic zirconia looks like a diamond without the cost. What I love best about this ring is definitely the price! For only $79 you can purchase an engagement ring and a wedding band that snugly fits inside the ring. It also includes a velvet box and free shipping.
With over 230 positive reviews to back it up, this one appears to be a good buy for the couple looking for a beautiful ring on a budget.
Option No. 8: 14k Yellow or White Gold Cubic Zirconia Ring
If you liked that last ring but prefer gold, $149 is a great price for this beautiful, long-lasting cubic zirconia ring in either 14k white or yellow gold.
Option No. 9: White Gold, Aquamarine, and Diamond Ring
If you’re reading this post and you know that your future fiancée will only want real gold and real diamonds and gemstones, this could be a great ring for you. At $305 (at the time of this writing) it’s pricier than some of the other options on this list; however, it is made of white gold, has real diamonds, and a beautiful light colored aquamarine for the center stone.
I absolutely love aquamarines, so maybe I’m biased — but this ring is a great way to get the look of an engagement with with all the “real” materials — without spending a fortune.
Option No. 10: Round Center Cluster Diamond Engagement Ring
Another affordable, honest-to-goodness diamond ring, this engagement ring features a round cluster of smaller diamonds in the center instead of a focal stone, maintaining the glimmer and beauty of a more expensive ring, but not the price.
Option No. 11: Ultra-Affordable Heart-Shaped Ring
Why go with a round or an oval-shaped center stone when you can get a heart shaped stone? This ring is so unbelievably affordable and so gorgeous, and because it’s made with Swarovski crystals versus CZs or other diamond simulants, it really sparkles. The store that sells it on Etsy has over 50 positive reviews, so be sure to check it out.
Other Ways to Save on Engagement Rings
Go without: This might seem counter-intuitive to the post, but consider just wearing a wedding band. This is a great option especially if you can get a higher quality diamond wedding band because you passed on the option for an engagement ring. The choice is up to you and will depend on what you do every day. For example, if you run a landscaping business, a simple and beautiful wedding band might be preferable over a diamond engagement ring that might snag or get dirty every day.
Buy online: Although shopping at a jewelry store is a fun experience, it can also be costly. One of the best things you can do to save money on your purchase is to shop online — but be sure that the store you buy your ring from is reputable, has a return policy, and can certify the diamond if you are a purchasing a real one. You can always take it to a jeweler to get them to confirm you purchased a real stone or real gold as well.
Avoid designer brands: Designer rings are beautiful, but they also come with a designer price. Instead, don’t be afraid to shop around. There are many sites like Amazon or Overstock that carry engagement rings, and although they might not come in a little blue box, they can still be very beautiful and high quality.
Use coupons: Before purchasing an engagement ring, check to see if the store you want to buy it from has any coupons or deals. You can also strategically wait for sales, like buying a ring in January — prices will drop after the Christmas rush when business is slow.
Pay cash: If you do go to a local jewelry store, you can offer to pay cash. Cash is king when it comes to discounts so don’t be afraid to bring a stack of $20s and negotiate heavily. You can also bring in competitors’ ads or print some examples of different prices online to show the salesperson and try to get them to match the price.
A Final Note
Remember, a marriage isn’t about the engagement ring or even the wedding. It’s about a relationship between two people. The type of ring you buy matters very little in the grand scheme of life.
Although most women would love a sparkly, large diamond to wear every day, the truth is that it’s not worth it if you have to go into debt over it. Instead, work with what you can afford and select a ring like the ones above that are high quality, highly rated, and beautiful without the immense price tag.
Like I said, I wear my great grandmother’s ring, and I couldn’t be happier with it. One day, I hope to pass it down to my daughter and at that point, maybe I’ll upgrade. However, I’m glad I didn’t push my husband to buy something he couldn’t afford so we didn’t have that financial strain on our marriage in the very beginning.
Which affordable engagement ring featured above was your favorite?