This Is A Big Decision - Don't Blow It!

Deciding to propose is one of the most important decisions a man can make in his life.

But the actual purchase of the engagement ring is one of the most stressful. There are so many things to consider, the size of the diamond, the setting, the quality, the jewler (things that are important to the future bride) - and one other big one, price (important to only the man buying the ring).

Men - here's how to make your woman happy without wrecking your finances.

  • Learn to negotiate. This is a skill that you'll need to practice if you're not a salesman or a natural. Learning to negotiate can save you thousands of dollars, as jewlery stores typically have huge margins that you can take nice chunks out of.
  • Learn about diamonds. You can find information all over the internet. The qualities that are usually considered are cut, clarity, carat, and color.
  • Find out what your future bride likes. Especially if it's a surprise! Gossip magazines usually include photos of recently engaged celebrities, and you can get a feel for her likes and dislikes based on this. Be careful to note the style of setting she likes and the cut of the diamond she likes.
  • Don't fear buying online. Use comparison tools that allows you to narrow down diamonds based on your preferences. You can then order a diamond and take it to a jewlery store to have it put in a setting. Or, you can buy the entire ring online.
  • Compare. Compile a comparison of 5 diamonds that you like and are within your price range. Similar diamonds will run almost twice as much in an average jewlery store. Use this research as leverage to improve your position when negotiating.
  • Know the differences between jewlery stores. Everyone is going to sell you on their strengths. Jewlery chains will tell you that they can get you better prices than local stores with imperceptible-to-the-naked-eye differences in quality. Smaller, local stores will try to sell you on designer bands and more expensive diamonds. They will compare spectacular diamonds to average ones so the differences stand out to you.  They will also criticize the arguments that big box jewlers make, saying that they don't stick to the clarity scale as strictly and thus their quality is way lower. In essence, they'll argue you'll pay more, but you'll get what you pay for rather than getting scammed. In reality, if you're prepared and have learned about diamonds, all the stores are the same.
  • Go big (with the ring size). If you don't know her size, try to find a ring that she wears on her right ring finger, and press it into a bar of soap. Take the soap with the indentation to the jewler after you've negotiated everything and agreed to buy. It won't be an exact size, as her dominant hand usually has bigger fingers (yours are too), but a jewler knows this and a good one will be able to help you out.
  • Carat is a weight. Carat is not a diameter. So, if you're looking to get the largest diamond possible, remember to look for a diamond at the carat of your choosing with the largest diameter! This will make it look bigger. Also, the type of setting you pick can make it look bigger. A good jewler will help you with that.
  • Most importantly, don't take her to the store with you. A jewler admitted this to me. He told me it was the smartest thing I could have done. If you go together, you won't be able to negotiate and the jewler knows this. She will likely fall in love with a gigantic, beautiful ring that you can't afford and will have to take on debt to buy. And you'll have to buy it at full price. Smaller, reasonably priced (but still beautiful) diamonds and rings are usually brought out as "compromises" and aren't always even on display. If you take her to the store with her, it's a lose-lose situation. There is no surprise, and either you'll be disappointed at how much you spent, or she will be disappointed at having to settle for something that wasn't exactly what she wanted. (I want to emphasize this. Think about it from your future bride's perspective. You really need to get something she likes, because she'll most likely be wearing it for years, possibly the rest of her life! If you show her all the spectacular rings in a typical store, she'll likely resent having to settle for one that wasn't one of the best. That's not the best way to begin an engagement.)

So, to recap, if you do your research, and stealthily find out what your future bride wants, you'll be in a position to get her what she wants a price you can afford! It's the ultimate win-win!