Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hypothetical Questions: What's the right amount to spend on an engagement ring?


Welcome to the first of hopefully many installments of a new feature: where Frugal Bagel and Practical Cranberry Nut Roll discuss personal finance & relationship questions from advice columns, reddit, forums, social media, and anywhere else on the Internet where people ask things. For anonymization and simplicity, we summarize them, simplifying them into broader Hypothetical Questions.

Our first Hypothetical Question comes up a lot in various forms.


What's the right amount to spend on an engagement ring?

Context: forum poster's fiancee requested a $30,000 diamond ring.

Nut
i can't even
it's like asking how much you should spend on a car
i wouldn't know nor care
not applicable? not applicable

Bagel
but at least a car does a thing
I buy that you have to spend $10,000 on a car (?????)
if you want the benefits of a car
but an engagement ring provides no benefit, so it's hard to justify advising more than approx. $0
like I buy things that have no utilitarian value, even jewelry
but only for amounts of money I consider small, like in the tens of dollars
I might spend like $50 for a nice necklace
I dunno, maybe we don't bother with this one, it's going to end with blah blah blah de beers corp scam

Nut
i do spend money on things that have no utilitarian value; i can see spending up to a couple of thousand dollars on a piece of art, i think
but some people spend 30k on a piece of art, i guess that's fine too
museums, for example
i think it's weird to demand that other people buy you a 30k piece of art?
i think if you're interested in that, you have to buy it for yourself?

Bagel
yeah, it's such a huge investment
on something that can easily get lost!

Nut
well, you lose things more than normal people

Bagel
a ring is a lot more losable than a statue or painting
I've never lost a statue

Nut
have you TRIED though? i bet you could!
lose a statue

Bagel
I never TRY to lose anything
it just happens!
trying to understand the mindset of demanding an engagement ring... I guess it's like a deposit? like a show of financial commitment
it just seems like a real mercenary way to look at a relationship, and counterproductive since it diminishes what is available for other things that would benefit you both more, like a house

Nut
only if you want a house!

Bagel
or whatever
kids' college fund, retirement fund, etc

Nut
sure, but if a ring is important to you, i guess i can see spending it on a ring instead. but it still comes back to spending your money - the joint money should be spent on joint priorities
which is why i don't believe in joining all money
i want to make financial mistakes
(i have made so many financial mistakes)

Bagel
I mean, the whole ring thing kind of assumes traditional gender roles where the man has a lot of money and the woman does not
so maybe she can't afford a ring
but I feel like most people who want engagement rings, even if they financially could, would not buy such a ring for themselves
it's important that it IS an engagement ring
I think they feel like the amount of money represents the seriousness of the relationship
(even though it's an inverse relationship I think)

Nut
it's a polynomial relationship?
i think that spending too little is also weird unless it's meaningful
like $50 on a special ring made of tree bark from the place of your birth or something

Bagel
if you're going to have a ring, yeah. I wouldn't bother with like frugal twist tie rings, but nobody says you need a ring.

Nut
is different from a $50 ring that's a super fake diamond solitaire thing

Bagel
yeah I think it has to be special emotionally to bother, which is why the anonymous diamond ring that looks like everyone else's has always struck me as odd
I mean, the idea that all rings have to be diamonds and more money = better relationship is successful marketing. blah blah blah de beers. but I'm not sure how to talk someone out of it without looking to them like you aren't serious about the relationship.
I would chalk it up to difference of values and not marry them, but assume that's off the table.

Nut
i guess you have to decide to what number you can go in a compromise
like how much are you willing to throw away for the sake of it being important to them
i guess people spend 30k on a wedding even if one partner isn't into it
that does happen
i don't super see a difference between spending it on a wedding or a ring

Bagel
yeah, but I bet this person wants both
if you want the ring you probably want the wedding

Nut
maybe he should say how much he's willing to spend on all wedding-related things, and she can split it up however she wants?

Bagel
hahaha turn it into a budgeting exercise

Nut
so if he says 40k for everything, and she spends 30k on a ring, that's cool?

Bagel
that's great because it's hard to argue with, yet it would completely ruin the fun of getting an expensive gift
it's like she's getting it for herself
in a practical sense it's great because it's getting them both used to budgeting with joint funds and balancing each other's priorities, which they are going to need to be able to do
but it's so unromantic and dull
I love it

Nut
Problem solved!

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