Deciding to propose is a huge step -- and so is buying an engagement ring! No one needs a ring to propose. But if that is part of your plan, you need to consider the practical aspects of your decision.
Yes, that means understanding the finances and deciding how much you should spend on an engagement ring. Use these 5 guidelines to help you (and your budget!) feel comfortable with whatever you choose.
1. Discuss Engagement Rings with Your Partner
Engagement rings are not limited to diamond solitaires, and they come at every possible price point. You don't have to follow the old "three months salary" rule to find a ring that suits you and your partner.
It's a symbol of your relationship, so it can be any stone, cut, size and design that you would like. Have a discussion with your fiancée-to-be about what they like, and use that to help guide your shopping decisions.
2. Do Your Homework
Whether your partner wants a diamond, emerald, or pearl ring -- or even a simple gold band -- get a feel for the price variety so you know what to expect. There can be a massive difference in same size stones depending on the cut and clarity, so be aware that if you're looking at one-carat diamonds, you might face price tags with differences in the thousands.
If you opt for a diamond alternative, be aware that many precious stones are much more delicate. You may have to replace them from time to time, so consider that when you're setting a budget.
3. Set an Engagement Ring Budget
Let's say your partner wants a white-gold ring with a diamond solitaire. There are some different factors to consider here when you're setting your budget.
You will save money by opting for a plain band, and you can put that toward a better quality diamond. But if you're set on a more intricate band, you might have to cut down on carat size.
The cost of your overall ring will vary immensely depending on where you go, when you're buying the ring and whether or not you're buying a designer band, so keep all of that in mind when you're figuring out a budget.
If you have your eye on a designer ring that's outside your price range, ask if a local jeweler can find a similar style or create a custom ring at a better deal.
4. Create Your Savings Plan
Once you've picked out the ring, you may be required to put down a deposit. Ask about that ahead of time.
Again, the ring should be something you can reasonably afford, so create a savings plan you can live with. “Reasonably afford” should probably mean avoiding going into any kind of debt to make the purchase.
While you're saving for the ring, you might want to consider the costs of the proposal if you're planning something more expensive than your typical date night. That way you won't feel a serious wallet crunch when the time comes.
5. Remember the Big Picture
This is not the time to worry about impressing other people, and neither is your wedding day. You don't want to kick off a marriage with remaining debt from the celebration or the ring.
Be honest with yourself and your partner about what you can afford. And there is nothing wrong with buying your partner a beautiful ring or spending thousands of dollars on a wedding day -- as long as it's something you can truly afford, and it's what both you and your soon-to-be spouse want.
For that matter, there is also nothing wrong with a simple wedding band and a courthouse wedding.
You get a marriage out of this whole process, so whenever you feel overwhelmed by the price tag of it all, try to remember what's really going to matter in the end. Relax and get excited -- you've found the love of your life, so the hard part is over!
Stick to a savings plan you can afford while ring shopping, and you'll avoid being in the hole when your first wedding deposits roll around.
About the Author: Heather Swick is an author, freelance writer, and editor who has worked for news outlets, national magazines and blogs. She is driven to help others achieve their career and financial goals and share her own experiences along the way.