Wedding season will soon be upon us. And, if you’re not married, but in a relationship that’s starting to get serious, the first big-money conversation you may have with your potential future spouse is how much to spend on an engagement ring.
Don’t be afraid to start talking about money before taking that first step down the aisle. Money can be a major contributor to stress in any long-term romantic relationship.
Those early conversations will cover a range of topics – usually coming up organically over the course of a courtship: the importance of saving for a down payment on a house, paying off student loans, credit card debt, having children, taking on new debt, etc.
After a few of them, you’ll both have a reasonable idea of where you agree and disagree about money. And you’ll know how important a splashy wedding and expensive rings are to each of you.
Engagement rings aren’t cheap: $6,351 on average according to The Knot. But they can easily cost much more or considerably less.
So for the purposes of this article, let’s assume that an engagement ring is important to the overall process and that saving methodically for a ring is the best strategy.
Warning – it can be hard to plan ahead like this. There’s an old adage about marriage proposals, “You’ll just know when you know.” That can make planning hard. But you do need to think about the financial feasibility of it all.
Putting aside funds
If you’re planning on putting money aside each month, there are three important pieces of information to determine when saving for an engagement ring.
- A target engagement date
• A target ring price
• A target amount to save each month
A target date is important because you need to do simple math to know how much you need to save. Our target proposal date is 18 months out. Here’s the key equation: Amount willing to pay for ring ÷ Number of months until proposal = Amount needed to save each month.
Let’s use some real numbers: $4,000 ÷ 18 = $222.
Now, you need to look at your monthly budget and expenditures. Look at three areas:
Sources of income: Calculate the after-tax income from all of your reliable sources of income. If you have irregular sources of income, the best way to arrive at a number is to determine a monthly, after-tax average from the last six or 12 months. Don’t include bonuses or overtime. These aren’t regular, reliable sources of income.
Debts: You need to know the total amount of your monthly debt. Include car loans, rent, credit cards and any student loans. Credit cards can be a little trickier since the amounts vary from month to month (and you may be planning your purchase with a credit card).
As with irregular sources of income, calculate your average credit card debt for the past 12 months.
Ongoing expenses: Monthly expenses can cover a wide range of items. They include insurance payments, utilities, gasoline, groceries, entertainment – and any money that you pay yourself, such as deposits into an emergency fund, a Christmas club account or investment accounts.
At this point, the question is whether you have $222 a month to spare so you can save for an engagement ring. If the numbers suggest “no,” then you might want to look at a less expensive ring – or items that you can reduce in your ongoing-expenses budget. Generally, these amounts are more flexible than income or debt payments, unless you are willing to get a second job.
Once you determine that you have enough extra money, the last step is saving the money and isolating it. One important feature of this process is to look at this ring money as a saving process and not an investment process.
Setting up a Ring Fund
One easy way to save is to set up an automatic transfer in your checking account to a ring fund.
On the last day of each month – or on any day you select – set up an automatic transfer of $222 from your checking account to your ring account. You don’t have to do anything except ensure that you have enough money in your checking account to cover the transfer each month.
And after 18 months, you’ll have $4,000 in your ring account. You’ll be able to purchase the ring both of you want – and you won’t have any engagement ring debt.
Also consider that there are a lot of less expensive but amazing rings out there – consider looking at a handmade ring (check out etsy.com) or at antique sales for something truly unique that will allow you to save up for a home together instead of going into debt.