10 Tips for Buying an Engagement Ring on a Budget

Diamond Ring

Americans spend, on average, about $6,300 for an engagement ring! That’s enough to give anyone cold feet. But, have no fear, we’ve come to the rescue. Here are ten tips for buying an engagement ring on a budget.

10. Cut Costs and Expenses

Person Calculating Bills
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If the thought of dropping $6,000 or more on an engagement ring makes your bank account cringe, try freeing up some extra cash by cutting down on unnecessary spending. Surely you can do without those weekly mani-pedi sessions, or your every weekend shopping spree, or even that daily lunch trip to that quaint little Mexican restaurant down the street. Your wallet and your spouse-to-be will thank you.

If you find that cutting your expenses isn’t quite enough, consider cutting the costs of the ring.

Here are some things you can try:
-Buy the diamond and the setting separately. TIP: If you go with a local store, you may be able to save even more money. For example, if you find a setting you like on a luxury jewelers’ website, your local jewelers can make it for you at a fraction of the cost.
-Make it a set. If you purchase the engagement ring and wedding band at the same time, you may be able to get a good deal.
-Skip the diamond altogether and opt for something even more traditional, like a betrothal ring or a band with a “true lover’s knot.”

9. Alternative Metals

Gold Rings
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When it comes to engagement rings, platinum is the metal of choice. It’s also the most expensive choice. There are certainly cheaper options out there–think white gold or sterling silver. Both metals resemble platinum but are more affordable alternatives. A word of caution, though. Over time, a gold ring will become thinner because metal has been removed through wear. Also important to keep in mind is its content. The higher the gold content, the softer the alloy, so a 10k ring is going to be harder than a 14k ring, and so on and so forth. White gold is the hardest, followed by yellow gold, then rose gold.

Sterling silver is one of the softer metals, so it can easily be scratched or bent. If you do choose sterling silver, make sure you pick a ring with a thicker (at least 1.5mm thick) band.

8. Buy a Promise Ring

Pinky Promise
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People give promise rings for lots of reasons, for example, as an exchange between lovers, friends or parents and children. Promise rings are also known as purity rings and are worn by people who vow to achieve a specific goal, break a bad habit, remain abstinent, or the like. Whatever the reason, a promise ring symbolizes a pledge, a commitment to someone or something. For couples with little money, a promise ring can symbolize their commitment to each other at a fraction of the cost of an engagement ring. They typically start at about $120, but you can get one for less than $100 if you catch a clearance sale or opt for a less expensive metal like rose gold or sterling silver.

7. Alternative Stones

Amethyst Birthstone
Source: Pexels

Diamonds are the traditional stone of choice for an engagement ring. But, a 1-carat diamond costs $6,000 on average. Depending on their quality and characteristics, they might cost over $25,000. Cheap 1-carat diamonds can cost as little as $2,500. That’s still pretty steep for those who are strapped for cash. Luckily, there are more affordable options out there.

-Moissanite: Moissanite stones give you all the brilliance of diamonds and then some, but without the hefty price tag. Depending on the quality, a 1-carat stone costs between $600-$700. Moissanite is a rare mineral that naturally occurs in meteorites. Like most diamonds, moissanite stones are nearly colorless; however, they are more durable and more resistant to abrasion than diamonds, making them the perfect engagement stone for someone on a budget.

FUN FACT: Moissanite is named after its discoverer, French chemist Ferdinand Henri Moissan. Moissan discovered natural silicon carbide (a.k.a. moissanite) in a meteorite crater in Arizona in 1893.

-Man-Made Diamonds: Also known as white diamonds, man-made diamonds are produced in a laboratory. Don’t let that fool you, though. Man-made diamonds are just as real as mined diamonds. In fact, they’re physically and chemically identical. Plus, they generally cost 15%-20% less. This is definitely a win-win!

FYI: Colored man-made diamonds can cost 80%-90% less than minded colored diamonds.

-Other Precious Gemstones: Emeralds, rubies and sapphires are increasingly finding their way onto engagement rings. According to luxury consignment website The RealReal, “women are looking for alternative ways to express their unique love through pieces that incorporate colored stones rather than the traditional diamond.”

Sometimes referred to as The Big Three, emeralds, rubies and sapphires offer an affordable alternative to diamonds. “Gemstones are so much cheaper than diamonds and you can expect to save a lot of money when using them in your engagement ring. For example, a new round 1-carat diamond will cost you around $3,000 and up while an equivalent sapphire can cost you anywhere from several hundred dollars,” Nadine Kahane, founder and CEO of online jeweler Stone & Strand, said in an article on InStyle.com.

By the way, if you prefer a more traditional look, you could always choose a white sapphire. White sapphires are the least expensive of all sapphires.

BEWARE: Gemstones are softer than diamonds. That means they can chip or break more easily. Out of the three, emeralds are the least durable.

6. Buy It Used

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Okay, we don’t want to be responsible for getting anyone into trouble, so we’ll be upfront with you: your significant other may object to a used engagement ring, ESPECIALLY if it was a ring that belonged to your former lover. Even if it belonged to a total stranger, being proposed to with a ring that was on someone else’s finger can seem a bit impersonal to some. To others, buying a second-hand engagement ring is a bad omen. But, if you and your mate can get past all of that, you just may find that a used engagement ring is a good option to consider.

You can buy used engagement rings just about any place you’d find used goods. Pawns shops and garage sales are good places to start. You can also purchase them online on websites like eBay, Craigslist, Have You Seen the Ring, and I Do Now I Don’t. You may be able to snag one for less than $100!

TIP: Consider giving your mate an heirloom engagement ring. It can be seen as a meaningful and lovely gesture, plus it won’t cost you a thing!

5. Borrow It

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Loaner rings are placeholders for couples who want to get engaged right away but also need the extra time to design a custom ring. You go to the jeweler, pick out a loaner engagement ring (usually a sterling silver ring with a cubic zirconia) and keep it until your final engagement ring is ready–usually only a few weeks away. If you’re on a budget, 6-8 weeks later may not be enough time to save up to pay for the customized ring. An interesting take on the loaner ring that’s closely related to the heirloom idea is to borrow an engagement ring from someone in your family. Then, once you have the funds, you and your significant other can pick out an engagement ring later. Hopefully it’ll be a long engagement so you have time to save up!

4. Buy it Online

Shopping Online
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You can save as much as 50% when you buy an engagement ring online. That’s because online retailers don’t have the high overhead that traditional brick and mortar stores have, which means they can pass those savings on to their customers. As with any online purchase, you want to make sure you avoid scam artists. So, here’s a basic checklist of things to look for:-Reputable company
-Lifetime warranty
-Favorable return policy
-24/7 customer service
-Insured shipping
-Full refund on returns

Once you buy the ring, you can always have it appraised by an independent jeweler to make sure you actually got what was advertised. Just make sure you get it appraised while the return window is still open.

3. Put it on Layaway

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Many jewelers offer a layaway or payment plan. Here are some of your options:

-Zales: Ten For Ten Layaway Plan — put 10% down and pay the balance in ten equal monthly payments
-Helzberg Diamonds: Price Lock® Layaway — lock in the price of a piece of jewelry at today’s price; 10% down; you choose the monthly payment amount; 10 months to pay it off
-Hurst Diamonds: FREE Layaway Program — you set the monthly payment amount; pay over a 6-month period of time; down payment based on a small percentage of the total is required.

NOTE: Layaway plans may not be available for online purchases.

2. Shop at the Right Time

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November to February is “engagement season” for many couples, with Christmas and Valentine’s Day being very popular days to get engaged. So, a holiday sale can be a good time to snag a deal on an engagement ring. But, did you also know that some jewelers suggest purchasing an engagement ring during “wedding season” (June – August)?”Summers are a good time to buy — summers are slow for most jewelers and wholesalers so they’ll be more price flexible to try and push inventory. Pricing is volatile around Christmas and can either go drastically up or down. Avoid the volatility and buy during the summer days. Plus it’s wedding season, so people aren’t generally buying as many engagement rings at that time,” Anubh Shah, founder of Four Mine, told financial advice website Wise Bread.

1. Watch Your Weight

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No, not your weight–but the weight of your diamond. According to many professionals in the jewelry industry, the cost of a diamond disproportionately increases with size. “Doubling the weight of a stone doesn’t double the cost… it can quadruple the price tag!” REEDS Jewelers said in an article on the company’s website. While 1-carat diamonds are very popular choices for engagement rings, buying a stone just shy of that weight (e.g. .90-carat) can result in some serious savings–as much as 20 percent! Plus, the difference between the two diamonds will hardly be noticeable. So, everybody wins!


Now, don’t you feel much better after reading this article? We knew you would. Now, get out there and get busy ring shopping! Best wishes!