When the time comes to start shopping for an engagement ring, many couples may be familiar with the clever marketing campaigns created by leading jewelry dealers that suggests a groom should spend at least two to three months of his salary on the ring. Interestingly enough, financial advisers also recommend having at least three months salary saved up in an emergency fund in case of job loss or some other financial catastrophe, but study after study has shown that most people are living paycheck to paycheck, with little savings. Meanwhile, gold, platinum and diamonds keep getting more expensive, but average wages have stayed flat. So, statistically speaking, if you are an average American there is a good chance when you step to the counter to purchase an engagement ring you'll be pulling out a credit card or signing a loan agreement for store financing.
If going into debt is the only solution for buying a nice ring for the love of your life, the best thing that can happen to you is to get a decent deal on financing. If the jewelry dealer or lender will give you zero interest on the loan for a certain amount of time and you feel you have the ability to pay it off before the date interest would start racking up, then it's the same as buying the engagement ring with cash.
If you decide to finance an engagement ring and for whatever reasons fail to finish paying for it before the interest-free period ends, many lenders who finance engagement rings have a policy of charging interest based on the original amount of the loan, rather than the unpaid balance. That little caveat can make a huge difference in the amount of interest charged on a monthly basis. The lesson here is to read the fine print before signing and know what, if any, penalties you'll face if you decide to make payments after any interest-free period has ended.
Take a good look at your financial reality before going into debt for an engagement ring. Getting married is going to cost you plenty of money, maybe more than you can even anticipate. How much are you going to spend on the wedding? Do you plan to have kids? Will you still be able to make ends meet if you are going to have a baby and one of you plans to take time off to care for the newborn? Consider everything you currently have on your plate in terms of debt and obligations, imagine what needs you will have in the future, and decide if there is room for debt payments on an engagement ring.
One of the key factors that goes into an engagement ring purchase is the man's economic status. The engagement ring is seen as a symbol to the rest of world not only that the man loves the woman but also that the man is economically successful. If you are not as economically successful as you would like to be you may want to consider a more modestly priced engagement ring. You fiance may respect you more for the display of maturity, and at some point in the future when financial conditions improve you can surprise her with an upgrade.
Tim Grant has been a journalist since 1989 and has worked for several daily newspapers, including the Charleston "Post & Courier," the "Savannah News-Press," the "Spartanburg Herald-Journal," the "St. Petersburg Times" and the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette." He has covered a variety of subjects and beats, including crime, government, education, religion and business. He graduated from The Citadel with a Bachelor of Science in business administration.