by Catherine Breese
There are lots of good reason to get married these days—for the tax benefit, for financial stability, for company and friendship, for children, for the insurance, etc. Over a lifetime, marriage increases a person’s net worth dramatically, whereas being single or divorced makes it much more difficult to succeed economically. Yes, of course we Americans like to be in love with the person we marry, but love alone is probably not a good reason to get married. Don’t get me wrong, marriage is a loving relationship, and I wouldn’t want to be married without it. However, despite our romantic ideals about marriage, it is ultimately a financial partnership that ensures the economic safety of the members in the family.
But enough of that. I’m here to talk about engagement rings. Cheap ones, specifically.
Thanks to a long and spectacular cultural myth, most girls still grow up dreaming of a designer gown, a sparkling diamond ring, and a wedding reception with a live band and a custom five-layer cake—or some version thereof. Ask your daughters. They’ll tell you. Even when the bride’s dress stretches over both her pregnant belly and her various tattoos, the ring is from Wal-Mart, and the reception is in the Moose Lodge with a cash bar, believe me, all the little girls at that wedding are thinking something like “My wedding will be so much better than this.” Followed by, “My ring will be as big as the one Justin Timberlake gave Jessica Biel.” This is all very tragic, of course, leading to a lifetime of disappointment for fifty one percent of the population.
But despite my best advice to the contrary, engagements happen. So, let’s say that you have decided the time is ripe. Let’s say you are the person in the relationship who is doing the proposing. Let’s say you really would like to get a yes. Here’s what not to do—buy a cheap engagement ring. When the recipient first sees the ring, the only worthwhile response is unadulterated joy. A cheap ring will not bring this response. Likewise, the recipient’s first thought should not be “Did you steal this?”
So, how much should you spend? Well, $8.88 is not the amount. My friend Brittany sent me this picture (photo). I think it speaks for itself. Most people with sense know that nine dollars is the amount to spend on a lunch, a bottle of okay wine, or a book. It is not an amount of money to spend on an engagement ring. Wal-Mart is reportedly the number one jewelry retailer in the world. It pains me to know this.
On the other end of the scale, a while back there was a television commercial which suggested that the man should invest three months’ salary in the engagement ring. Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? On this topic the media offers a plethora of advice—three weeks salary, a month’s salary, the price of your current car minus 10%, 1/10 of your annual salary, etc. Make your own formula of you like…half your bride’s age minus her dress size x $1000.
I found a website devoted entirely to this question, the Engagement Ring Calculator (link below). It asks a series of pertinent and impertinent questions such as “Do you owe more than 1/4 of your income to high interest credit card debt?” “Is she a wildcat in bed?” “How attractive are you (scale 1-10)?” and “How many times a month do you fight?” At the end, it calculates an exact amount for you to spend on the ring. I made up some answers to calculate a ring value for myself of $7,775. I’m okay with that.
Look, all kinds of familial relationships are working just fine these days, both inside of marriage and outside. I would never sit in judgment of anyone’s relationship choices. Certainly, my family will fervently report that I have no room to judge. But, if you are going the marriage route, buy a really nice engagement ring, one that is meant to be enjoyed for many, many years. If not longer.