Engagement Rings

“My Girlfriend Wants a $40,000 Ring. What Should I Do?”

reader writes us with a looooong question, but it’s worth reading. This guy’s in a bad spot. So we tackle it in two ways: 1) We give our advice; and 2) We get the advice from the “other side” — from our friends at OneWed.

“It all started when she asked me “What if I don’t like the ring you proposed with? Would you be offended if I don’t like it?'”

“The answer was tricky but I said “Yes. I would be offended on the grounds of you missing the point that it is not about the ring, it is about me offering my life to you.” Call me old-fashioned, but that is how I feel. However, I tend to be a daredevil and I took her window shopping for the ring. The problem is that she fell in love with a $12,000 dollar setting, capable of holding a 2.5 carat rock. The ring (diamond included) carried a price tag of $40,000; far more than 3 months of salary by a long margin. The next day she went to work and tracked down the designer of the monster setting online. She then e-mailed me the results of “the hunt” because she “thought it might be useful to have these pictures in my archives.” That was it. I was furiousMy question is: Am I in the wrong to think that $12,000 for a setting is crazy and that 40 grand for a ring is just insane? Furthermore, since she knows the price of the setting and obviously has check estimates for the diamond, why does she think that such an inconsiderate number is OK?”

“Lastly, if it is all about love, what is so wrong with a ring pop”

You ask us two questions. One is very easy and one is very hard. We’ll start with the easy one, because we’re cowards. Your easy question: “What’s so wrong with a ring pop?”

It’s a reasonable position. Isn’t a ring just a token, a symbol? Doesn’t love transcend trinkets? Hell, in Braveheart, William Walllace merely gives that chick a few strands of twine, and that was that.  (Let’s just forget the whole “prima-nocte” thing.) Yes and no.

This might shock the hell out of you, but we’ll defend the diamond ring tradition. We’re not kidding. As preposterous as this sounds, there’s actually a point to buying an expensive wedding ring. By making the guy sacrifice a little bit, it symbolizes that he doesn’t take the decision lightly. If you love this woman more than anything and want to spend the rest of your life with her, the theory goes, then it’s reasonable for you to sacrifice just a bit–cutting back on PS3 games, passing up a Vegas vacation, squirreling away some extra cash–that kinda thing. That’s the answer to your easy question: yes, there is something wrong with a “ring pop.”

You should sacrifice a little bit. That said… the operative words here are “sacrifice a little bit.” There should be a pinch of financial pain. There should not, however, be a solid right hook to your bank account’s jaw. This brings us to your second question: “Is it crazy to spend $40,000 on a ring?” The short answer is yes. The long answer is much more complicated. It’s our job to make some tough calls. It’s our job to spot the red flags. And we hate to tell you this, but you’ve waved a flag that’s a bright, bloody shade of crimson. We have to tell you what your friend’s won’t: she might not be The One. She sounds materialistic. She sounds competitive. She sounds short-sighted. And she sounds completely out of touch with reality. Yes, unless you work on Wall Street and make gobs and gobs of money, $40k is an absurd price for a ring.

See also: Inside The Mind of the Bride- Does Size Matter? 

Remember, once the two of you are married, your incomes become one, your expenses become one, and your debt becomes one. Financially speaking, it’s a zero-sum game.  In other words: if she expects you to go into debt for this hunk of jewelry, then she’s sinking both your fortunes. Buying a ring that you cannot afford is not doing anyone any favors. A hard truth: disagreements over money can submarine a marriage. And this is a tendency that will most likely get worse over time, not better. If she expects you to risk financial doom for jewelry, than what will she have to say about where your kids go to school, what kind of house you live in, how you will plan for retirement, how much you should spend on vacations, and on and on and on?  (Definitely take our quiz: Is She The One?)

Now, in her defense, there’s one scenario that paints her in a more favorable light. Maybe she honestly has no clue how much of a burden $40k represents. Maybe she runs with a wealthier crowd, and during your courtship, you’ve been spending a little more than normal–taking her to four-star restaurants, buying her splurgey gifts–which has given her the (understandable) impression that you’re in a higher income bracket. Maybe this is the case. Find out.

See also: 10 Rules for Saving Money on Your Engagement Ring

It’s truth time. We’re not saying you shouldn’t marry her. We are saying, however, that your next step isn’t on figuring out what kind of ring to buy, it’s figuring out if you should buy it in the first place. Now is the time. Now is the moment for you to have a frank, adult conversation about money, about how $40,000 would obliterate your savings, about whether the two of you see eye-to-eye on the long-term stuff like saving for home ownership, kids, and all that scary junk. It’s possible that she’ll surprise you.  She might be terribly embarrassed, shocked to realize how much that ring would cost and how much it would set you back, and she might tell you that all she really wants is a beautiful ring in your price range. If so, great, and it’s good you cleared the air. If she says that “I’m worth a $40k ring and no less,” well, then we think you know the answer.

Good luck.

BONUS:  The “Other” Perspective

That was our advice. What would other bridal sites say? We found out. Our friends over at OneWed have their own take on the matter.

An excerpt:

Dear Ring Shopper,

Unless you’re the heroine of a 19th century romance novel marriage is not about “offering your life” to someone. It’s about two people building a life together. In your rush to start talking about engagement rings, you and your girlfriend (fiancée?) seem to have skipped a few more important conversations. The first being, what kind of life is it that you’re trying to build? Does she even want to buy an unlimited amount of dog food or a car? Will you buy a house in the suburbs and have kids? Will one of you want to stay home with the kids? Do you want to skip the kids and spend your life traveling instead? Do you want to join the Peace Corp together? Is one of you going back to school while the other works? In short, what are your goals and are they compatible? 

Read the whole post at OneWed.com.

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