Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thoughts on Frugality, Valentine's Day, and Engagments

Happy February 14th everyone!  Today is Valentine's Day, and it is likely a day when quite a few couples are deciding to spend their lives together.  And for those couples who consider themselves frugal or are at least interested in the idea of frugality, I offer you one suggestion.  Skip the engagement ring!

An engagement is the beginning of a life together. Use this chance to set a tone.  If the ring is over the top (and that is relative depending on the couple's financial situation), so to will be the wedding, the honeymoon, the home, and if little feet enter the picture, the nursery.  One in two marriages will end in divorce, and financial troubles are a key factor the trip to the courthouse.  Skipping an engagement ring, or at least bucking the normal engagement ring, gives a couple the chance to 1) minimize financial stress, and 2) talk about how finances impact life.

There will be those who say "a diamond is an investment". Sure.   And so is a mutual fund.  And remember, an investment has to be sold to get the liquidity out.  Will you really sell that ring if your spouse is suddenly disabled and you are under insured, if insured at all?  There are lots of investments you can make. In reality, this argument likely falls into rationalization because I admit, those rings certainly are pretty.

I do not have an engagement ring.  I didn't want one.  My husband was shocked to learn I was not interested in an engagement ring.  Personally, I had problems with us paying out thousands of dollars for a gem stone cut from the earth, most likely by a child, using toxic chemicals.  Moreover, the feminist in me wondered "why is it that only the bride wears this marking?"  In the end we both purchased simple, inexpensive wedding bands.  My finger is absent of bling, but we had a strong enough down payment on our home so that we didn't need PMI.  Sparkle is all in the eye of the beholder.

I've heard from some women that the ring is important to the man. When hearing that I am reminded of a question asked to me several years ago by a then teen-age nephew.  "Why do people love things so much when things can't love you back?"  If someone is dead set on having a ring, get at the reason why.  It may uncover some unsettling truths, those that will causes financial stress and troubles down the road.

I know that I am an odd-ball on the no ring decision.  If one or both of you are set on a ring, I offer the following suggestions:

  1. Buy a ring after hitting 10, 15 or 25 years of marriage.  Getting married is easy, making it last is what calls for a reward;
  2. Buy an imitation ring.  Faux can save money, and most people can't tell the difference;
  3. Go with an alternative stone....fresh water pearls for example; and
  4. Buy an antique ring or use one that has been in your family.

How about you dear reader, what camp do you fall into?  Any additional suggestions on frugal approaches to engagements?

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