How Can You Save Money When Purchasing an Engagement Ring? – Lessons from Personal Experience

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According to a report from TheKnot.com, they put the average price of an engagement ring around $5,000. In my opinion, this number seems about right after going through the ring-buying process recently (we got engaged on Friday, March 15th, 2013!). If we assume the average household income in the US is $50,000 per year, this equates to ~1.2 months salary spent on the engagement ring.

The Engagement Ring Markup

Have you ever stopped to think about why alcoholic beverages at bars and restaurants cost $8 when you can go out and buy an entire bottle of the alcohol in the drink for $15 or eat a dinner at that same restaurant for $10?

The answer is actually quite simple – it’s because we as society over time have allowed the price to be set this high. Think about it – if we didn’t continue purchasing drinks like this, the price would go down (supply/demand curves, right?). However, the truth is that we are OK to pay this price because an alcoholic drink is more than a simple mixture of raw materials – it’s an experience, both of the taste buds and of the mind (because the alcohol makes us feel a certain way and we often enjoy these drinks in the presence of friends).

Similar to how we routinely pay for the large mark-up in alcoholic beverage prices, we have also grown accustomed to paying the markup associated with engagement rings. It’s the same sort of reasoning. The engagement ring is more than just a compilation of raw materials, it’s an experience, a symbol, and something that will be worn for a very long time. Thus, people often are willing to pay an arm and a leg for the ring of their dreams. According to one of my friends that is a diamond wholesaler, the stores that he sells to mark up the price of the rings at the retail point 3 times! That’s quite a business, right?!

Even though we as ordinary consumers do not have much control over the global price movements/markups of engagement rings, we should focus on what we can control – trying to optimize our own engagement ring purchase so that we save the most amount of money while obtaining the most value. 

In an effort to help others, I thought I would share 8 cost-saving strategies that I employed recently while negotiating a path through the world that is engagement ring purchasing.

Money-Saving Idea # 1 – Have an Idea of What You can AFFORD vs. What You Can Comfortably SPEND Prior to Going to the Ring Store? 

For me, an important distinction in the ring-buying process was drawing a clear line between what I could AFFORD based on my salary and savings and what is an INTELLIGENT amount to spend based on my financial goals.

Because of the magnitude of the engagement ring purchase, I think that a lot of guys have these lines become very blurred. In other words, since they are only going to complete this purchase once, they think about the maximum amount they can AFFORD (utilizing credit cards, savings, payment plans, etc) instead of thinking about a comfortable amount they can spend while still working towards their long term goals and not racking up more debt. This is the same sort of logic that goes in to buying an appropriate “amount” of house; the lenders will give you a house payment that is 40% of your salary, but most the time, an intelligent amount is only 28-30% max of your monthly salary.

When I first started thinking about purchasing an engagement ring, I loosely defined my comfort/intelligent spending level as $1,000. This was a good number to have in mind/establish internally before actually going out and being influenced by salespeople, my girlfriend/fiance, etc.

Money-Saving Idea # 2 – Ask For a Discount and Search for Better Offers Elsewhere

In my specific situation, my fiance had done the bulk of the “shopping-around” for an engagement ring on her own with one of her friends. They went to maybe 4-5 jewelry stores in town, and the rings that my fiance liked best were at a chain jewelry store, Zales.
Having never been to a Zales before in my life, I didn’t really know what to expect. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the kind and low-pressure sales staff, the Lifetime Diamond Guarantee, and the value that was on offer for the price points at Zales. All in all, it seemed like a good place to buy a ring! 
Having nailed down the specific store that we would look for rings in, I then went with my fiance to pick out a couple of rings that would be “acceptable” options, with the intention of coming back later to actually purchase one of the rings to at least have some element of surprise. 
Prior to physically going to the local Zales store, I did a little research online to see what sort of discounts people tended to get at Zales. To my surprise, the consensus in the Internet discussion forums was that large chain stores like Zales do not really offer discounts, even if you ask for them specifically. 
However, I figured that this wasn’t going to deter me all that much. Since I knew there was such a large markup on diamond rings, I figured that it was likely that if I asked for a discount, they would give me one. And sure enough, after trying on a few rings, I simply asked, “Can you please give me a 10% discount on this ring?” The saleswomen politely replied, “Yes, but only if you purchase it through me because we’re really not supposed to give discounts like this.” Now, I’m not sure if she was telling a white lie or not, but it was good to hear that I could at least get a 10% discount on the ring to take care of some of the taxes! 
After defining the general level of discount I could obtain from the local Zales store, I then reached out to other jewelry stores (included other Zales locations) in the area and region (within a 1 hr drive or so) and asked the following questions:
  • Do you have the XYZ ring that I want to purchase?
  • Can you beat the price and 10% discount being offered by my local Zales location for this ring?

Unfortunately, for the specific ring I was looking at buying, the other stores I called either didn’t have the specific model or offered similar pricing as the local Zales store. However, it never hurts to ask and shop around, right?!


Money-Saving Idea # 3 – Don’t Forget to Consider Outlet Store Versions of Jewelry Vendors 

The next idea I came up with to try to save some money on my engagement ring purchase was to try to purchase the model ring that I was wanting from a Zales Outlet Store instead of a normal retail-priced store, since outlet stores generally have lower prices. 
However, in my specific case, the closest Zales Outlet Store was 3 hours away, and since I didn’t feel like driving that far, I decided not to pursue that option any further.  But hey, it never hurts to think about it if you have outlet stores in your area!!! 🙂

Money-Saving Idea # 4 – Wait to Buy Until There is a Sale

As we mentioned previously, the markup on diamonds and jewelry is crazy! Because of this, I found that there ALWAYS seemed to be sales going on in order to move product. 
Because of this, a good mode-of-operation to go by is to never buy an engagement ring unless you are getting some sort of sale. 

In the 1 month period that I was closely monitoring discount and sales promotional offers at Zales, I think there were like 5-6 different sales that came up:
  • 15% for Valentine’s Day.
  • $50 off for signing up for free email updates from Zales.com
  • 15% off store-wide online only sale, for no particular reason other than having a sale! (haha!)
  • 75% off clearance items.
  • 25% off clearance items.
So, even if there is not a sale going on at the moment you’re reading this/looking for a ring, just wait two weeks and you’ll likely have one pop up! Just be patient!

Money-Saving Idea # 5 – Consider Shopping Online After Trying on Rings at the Jewelry Store

In the end, I actually purchased my engagement ring from the Zales.com online website. You can see a picture of it at the top of this blog post. 
Since a lot of rings I saw (including the one I ended up buying) looked a lot different in real life than in the online pictures, I wouldn’t advise anyone to buy a ring until they have seen it in person with more natural lighting. There’s something also to be said for physically going to the store in order to try rings on as well! 
However, after trying on rings at the store and having the saleswoman write down the exact model numbers of the rings that I was interested in, there are some significant benefits that can be realized by buying a ring online. 
Several of these benefits for my specific situation (and hey, maybe yours when it comes time!) are listed below:
  • No pressure sales. 
    • Even though the saleswomen at Zales was very nice, in my mind, it is always a good idea to spend some time by myself prior to making a large purchase just to double-check that everything is good to go.
    • By purchasing online, you can buy an engagement ring at any time of the day or night, at your speed, in the comfort of your home.
  • No pressure to buy extended warranties (which more than likely, are not needed – see more about this below).
  • More sales/promos being offered to online shoppers only.
    • This was really the biggest factor for me. When I purchased the engagement ring, I bought during a 15% off sale that was only available to Internet shoppers. Pretty good in my book! 
    • In addition to store sales, you can also take advantage of cash back websites (see more on this below).

Money-Saving Idea # 6 – Utilize Cash Back Website

So, having found a way to save 15% through a sale/promo offer for my engagement ring, I was feeling pretty satisfied. However, I figured that in today’s modern Internet age, there had to be a way to save even MORE money! After all, I was about to spend around $2,000, and with the high mark-up on rings, I figured that Zales would likely be begging for my business! 
In order to research available options to save additional money, I simply Googled, “saving money + the store I was looking to purchase the ring from.” 

  • When I did this, the search revealed that people saved money on their Zales purchases in three primary ways:
    • Sales/promo offers
      • Check – already done in my case!
    • Online coupons
      • Unfortunately, the coupons I could find for Zales were for very small amounts of savings such as free shipping, $30-$50 off, etc, and could not be combined with other sales.
      • So, coupons were out of the question for my case!  
    • Clicking through to the site you’re buying from through a cash back website
      • Now, this was a new thing for me to hear about! 
      • What happens with these cash back websites is that brands pay these sites a portion of affiliate income anytime someone comes directly from their site and makes a purchase at the brand. And, these referring sites pass on some of their affiliate income to you, the purchaser! Pretty cool, right?!
      • These cash back opportunities can be significant – anywhere in the range of 2-15% cash back, so they are definitely worth looking in to!
      • To find out what type of cash back websites and offers are available for any major purchase you’re thinking about, simply Google, “cash back website + the store you’re purchasing from.”
      • In my case, the best offer (which I took advantage of) was 7% cash back using the site, BeFrugal.com.

Money-Saving Idea # 7 – Extended Warranties Make the Store More Money Than They Save You, the Purchaser

Heaven forbid we make it through purchasing ANYTHING major these days without someone attempting to sell us an extended warranty plan! 
On my post from 2012 about CarMax’s extended warranty plan on car purchases, we have had some really great comments! Someone mentioned that the salespeople make almost the same commission on selling an entire car as they do on getting someone to purchase their extended warranty. That gives you an indication of how lucrative these things are! 
Let’s take a look and see how Zales’ extended warranty stacks up to determine how it is likely un-necessary. 
On diamond ring purchases of $200 or more, Zales offers a free Lifetime Diamond Commitment limited warranty. Under this warranty, you have to bring your ring in every 6 months for cleaning and tracking (for free!), but in return, they will replace or fix any diamond that is damaged or lost from it’s original setting under normal wear and tear. It does not include loss due to theft or if you simply leave your ring somewhere due to user negligence.
So, that’s the free option. Let’s now take a peek at the paid extended warranty that Zales offers.
There are two extended warranty options from Zales, the Lifetime Jewelry Protection Plan and the Lifetime Jewelry Protection Plan with Limited Theft Replacement. The only thing that the Lifetime Jewelry Protection Plan gives you on top of the free warranty above is regular repairs. In my opinion, it’s unlikely that this will be used very often, so I don’t see this as being a good deal. Similarly, the Limited Theft Replacement is ridiculous because it only covers you for theft if it occurs less than 2 years from the date of purchase. 

As you can see folks, do yourself a favor and just say NO to extended warranties. OK?

Money-Saving Idea # 8 – Use a Cash Back Credit Card for the Purchase

The final method I used to save some money on my engagement ring purchase was the use my Chase Freedom Cash Back Credit Card. 
Since I was purchasing the ring online, I knew I would need to use a credit card since it provides me with purchase protection / fraud security if I needed to dispute anything in the unlikely event that I got screwed by Zales. Alas, this didn’t happen, and the ring came in record time and in great shape!
However, an added perk was that I was able to get an additional 1% cash back by using my card.

If you have multiple credit cards, check before deciding which one to use to see if any offer “rotating categories” that happen to be offering a larger amount of cash back for jewelry store purchases at the moment. Unfortunately, none of my cards offered that enhanced cash back category at the time I bought my ring. 

Putting it All Together – Total Money I Saved

The item pricing for the ring I purchased was $2299.99. The following price adjustments were then made:

  • +   $97.75 for sales tax
  • –    $345 for 15% off for buying during online-only sale
  • –    $161 for 7% cash back clicking through to Zales.com from BeFrugal.com’s cash back website.
  • –    $23 for 1% cash back using Chase Freedom Visa Card.

So, the net cash outlay to me ended up being $1868.74. Not too bad at all since we are very satisfied with our ring purchase! 

However, it’s pretty amazing that simply by doing a little planned shopping, I saved myself $529 (or 23% off in the end)! Nice! 

How about you all? What techniques would you utilize to save money on your engagement ring? Have you used any of the ones discussed above?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of http://nominalnuptials.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/ring.jpg

    Comments

    1. My ring has a sapphire as the center stone instead of a diamond. Greg was a broke student when we got engaged and that was all he could afford without going into debt. We have the money to upgrade now if we wanted to, but I love my ring =)

      • Thanks for sharing Holly! That's good to hear Greg didn't stretch too far/go in to debt feeling pressure to buy something more expensive than could be afforded.

        My recent post How Can You Save Money When Purchasing an Engagement Ring? – Lessons from Personal Experience

    2. I saved a good bit of money by paying in cash. I think I ended up saving like 10-20%. It was a pretty sweet deal considering the already good price the jeweler was offering (it was a local shop).
      My recent post Welcome Consumerism Commentary Readers!

      • Nice work Lance! So it was one of those situations where there were separate pricing for paying cash vs using one of the financing options?
        My recent post How Can You Save Money When Purchasing an Engagement Ring? – Lessons from Personal Experience

        • I probably could have gotten a smaller discount by paying with a CC but this guy really seemed to like the idea of cash so I made him pay for it 🙂
          My recent post Welcome Consumerism Commentary Readers!

          • That's awesome! Nice work! The thought had crossed my mind to go down to the store with a wad of cash and see if I could get any discounts…But ultimately, I decided to just purchase online.
            My recent post How Can You Save Money When Purchasing an Engagement Ring? – Lessons from Personal Experience

    3. FrugalRules says:

      Great tips Jacob and congrats! I was able to manage to get the best kind of engagement ring…free. 🙂 It was my grandmother's wedding ring and was given to me as I am the oldest in the family. I was concerned that my wife would not like it, but she loves it. It's very unique and she regularly gets comments on it. So, I was able to use that money I would've spent to pay for the honeymoon.
      My recent post Festival of Frugality #381: It’s Spring Edition!

      • Nice work! I would have loved to get my Dad's family ring, but alas, it is still on my Mom who will live for another 40 years! haha
        My recent post How Can You Save Money When Purchasing an Engagement Ring? – Lessons from Personal Experience

    4. myfijourney says:

      Great tips. I'll have to keep them in mind for when/if I ever get to that point in my life. I can't help but think that $5000 is exorbitant.
      My recent post ConocoPhillips (COP) Dividend Stock Analysis

      • Thanks for reading myfijourney! I was pretty amazed when I got an inside look at the engagement ring world! I started thinking that $1k would buy me “plenty” of ring to last for a lifetime. However, I soon realized that when you walk in to a regular jewelry store (even ones at the mall), it is HARD to find a ring that is less than $1k. You definitely have to be careful and have a definition of how much you can intelligently spend.
        My recent post How Can You Save Money When Purchasing an Engagement Ring? – Lessons from Personal Experience

    5. FinancialBlackSheep says:

      Mr. FBS went to a local shop that is just amazing with their prices. They had a nice selection and will clean our rings for free. I can't remember the exact amount, but got the engagement / wedding set for $2500. 🙂
      My recent post Do you Want your Change Back?

      • That's a great price in today's era of high prices! Zales also will clean the diamond for free if my fiance takes it in every 6 months!
        My recent post How Can You Save Money When Purchasing an Engagement Ring? – Lessons from Personal Experience

    6. Nice work, Jacob 😉 I approve of the ring selection 😉
      My recent post Coming Up With a Budget for Our Budget Wedding

    7. PbFinancialGrp says:

      One of the best way of saving money when purchasing engagement ring is, reducing the fraction of carat. A little difference in weight of ring makes a major difference in the price.

    8. Good tips. I know my deepest discount came from paying cash and finding an online coupon code. Incidentally, the money I used came from money left over in my college fund right before the market took another dip, so I managed to save that way as well.
      My recent post Basic Electrical Work – A Great Place to Enter the DIY World

      • Nice work Greg! How much discount did you get by paying cash? Maybe I should have thought about doing that vs. using a credit card and then paying it off with my cash immediately.
        My recent post LendingClub vs. Prosper – Which is the Better Option for P2P Lending and Investing?

        • …been a little while since the purchase. I know it was 10% for cash. The online coupon only ended up being about 3%, but I'll take what I can get 🙂 !
          My recent post Basic Electrical Work – A Great Place to Enter the DIY World

    9. Congrats on scoring such a great deal! And props if the photo associated with this post represents the ring you selected – gorgeous! We saved money on my engagement ring by shopping together. My husband had a budget in mind and also assumed “bigger is better” when it came to the rock. However, I wanted a close-to-flawless diamond and wasn't opposed to sizing down in order to get it. The diamond I ultimately selected was $400 less than the one he would have chosen had I not been there. Despite all this pre-planning, he still managed to surprise me with his proposal. Win-win!
      My recent post Budgeting for Birthdays

      • Thanks for sharing HassleFree! Yep! The ring in the picture in the post is the one we selected! We love it! It looks even more beautiful in real life than in pictures because of the way the light hits it.

        I think we also saved money in the long run by shopping together. It prevents the back and forth / returns that might have occurred if I had been left on my own to pick one out! 🙂
        My recent post LendingClub vs. Prosper – Which is the Better Option for P2P Lending and Investing?

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