If you’re thinking of getting married soon, you’re probably thinking about your engagement ring.
Hey, even if you aren’t getting married soon, you’ve probably thought about the ring. Who could blame you? Diamond rings are the norm nowadays.
Plus, they can get pretty expensive. As of 2013, the average engagement ring costs about $4,000.
Add to that the fact that the average wedding ring costs $1,000 for women and $500 for men, and on average, women are wearing about $5,000 on their ring fingers for the rest of their lives.
Do you need to spend thousands of dollars on an engagement ring, especially when you’ll likely also be wearing a wedding ring for the duration of your marriage? Or is there another, equally valid, way to spend this money instead?
Engagement rings are a beautiful tradition, but when you’re making this big of a financial decision, it’s important to weigh your options.
1. Start an “adventure fund” savings account and use the money throughout your relationship.
Sit down with your significant other and think about shared experiences you want to have. Then, set up a new savings account so the money’s purpose is clearly marked. Your adventures can be anything that feels exciting to you, whether that’s taking cooking classes together, climbing Machu Picchu, or going to as many concerts as possible. You don’t need to figure out the exact adventure right away, but knowing that you’ve got a separate stash of cash to fund your exploit will allow you to share a really fun experience on a whim.
2. Buy several bottles of the most expensive wine you can find. Together, choose specific milestones on which you’ll open each bottle in celebration.
Do you want to travel to all seven continents? Do you want to have children? Are you in a successful business together? Label each bottle of wine with your chosen milestones, then put them away, only bringing them out on these special occasions. Whatever kind of life you see yourselves having, make time to celebrate happy moments of success by indulging in some engagement vino together.
3. Buy two Round the World tickets and travel to your heart’s content.
Booked through an airline alliance, Round the World tickets can cost anywhere from $2,700 to $10,000 depending on how many stops you book, the route you take, and the mileage you already have with airlines. A ticket is valid for one year from the start date of your trip, and you must start and finish the trip in the same country. Like most travel, it takes quite a bit of planning, but traveling to new places with your partner creates an incredible bond unlike any other. Get an idea for your trip at AirTreks.com.
4. Put the money toward a down payment on a house and lessen the financial burden of being a homeowner.
The average down payment on a house is about 20% of the cost. As of November 2014, the average cost of a house was $321,800, meaning that the average down payment is $64,360, according to the U.S. Census. No matter how much money you’d be spending on a ring, that’s a hefty percentage of money you can use to buy a house instead.
5. Or, if you’ve already got a place, furnish it into your dream home.
Home is where you’ll spend the majority of your time together, so make your shared space as warm and welcoming as possible. Get that ridiculously comfortable couch, or a bed you’d want to stay in for days, or every kitchen appliance you could ever need to cook amazing food. If you’ve got a bigger budget, buy them all!
6. Adopt a pet together and start nurturing another life.
Adopted dogs can cost anywhere from $1,300–$1,900 for the first year of their lives. Surprisingly, cats aren’t that much cheaper, as they cost around $1,050 in their first year, according to the ASPCA. Co-parenting a pet can be a huge teamwork builder, which is an incredibly valuable experience for couples who are starting the rest of their lives together.
7. Pay your partner’s student loans and free yourselves of debt before beginning life together.
Money can be a huge cause for tension in a relationship, which means getting rid of financial debt before marriage can alleviate a lot of stress. The average student graduates college with about $30,000 in loan debt, and interest only builds on top of that debt. The standard repayment plan is about 10 years from the time someone graduates school to get out of debt. Pair this with the average marriage age in the U.S. being 27 for women and 29 for men, and you’ve got a whole lot of people getting married with a whole lot of debt.
8. Get season tickets to your favorite kind of event and have built-in date time.
If there’s a recurring activity you enjoy doing together and there’s a season ticket option, it’s worth investing in. One NFL season ticket can range from $480–$1,700, ski lift season passes can go from $350–$600 each, and annual passes for Disney start at $634 per person. Explore season options for your favorite kinds of dates and you’ll likely be able to buy a few seasons’ worth of passes for the amount of money you’d have spent on an engagement ring.
9. Invest in [insert activity you’re both passionate about here] equipment and be prepared for all kinds of bonding time.
You know what can get expensive? Camping equipment for backpacking, which can run you up to $2,200 per person. You know what else is pretty costly? Instruments, like a digital piano that can cost around $1,100. Some interests are more expensive than others, but whatever you’re interested in, being able to afford the equipment you need to really pursue your passion together can make you and your partner all kinds of happy.
10. Buy a timeshare in a vacation spot you love and have a getaway every year.
The average one-week timeshare costs about $19,000 up front with annual fees of $660. Here’s the beauty: You can either have a weeklong vacation booked every year, or rent it out during the years you’re not using it so you don’t lose out on your money. You’ll create a tradition the two of you can enjoy together, and if you can get the week of your anniversary or the day you met, it’ll be even more sentimental.
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