Just like buying a car or your first home, buying an engagement ring can be an intimidating task for even the most confident man. How much can I afford? Where’s the best place to buy an engagement ring? What if she doesn’t love it? These are just some of the thoughts that probably have run through your mind.

First things first, congratulations! You’ve found your soulmate and now you want to ​put a ring on it​. Before you start hyperventilating, take a deep breath and relax. We’ve got you covered on what you need to know before you buy an engagement ring.

Set a Budget

No shocker here! Before you step foot in a jewelry store or begin browsing for rings online, it’s important to figure out how much you can actually spend on a ring. One to three months of your salary has been the unwritten rule as old as time. Some might agree this concept is ancient and outdated, which is why your budget should ultimately reflect you and your financial situation.

It’s a good idea to set aside a separate high yield savings account for a purchase this substantial. However, before you dive head first into your hard-earned cash, there are alternatives out there. Many jewelry stores offer options for in-store financing with 0% interest for a certain timeframe. If you want to avoid credit cards, taking out a ​personal loan with a low APR​ can be a smart option because the monthly payment is fixed and your rate won’t change over the duration of the loan.

The 4 C’s

Now that we’ve established a budget, it’s time to learn about diamonds. We’ve all heard about the 4 C’s, but what does it actually mean?
Cut​ refers to how well the diamond radiates light. Essentially, the more it sparkles, the more expensive it becomes.
Color​ is rated from D to Z. D being the clearest resembling the color of a drop of water and Z having tints of yellow. The clearer the diamond, the more cash you’re shelling out.

Clarity​ indicates if there are any blemishes or inclusions on the stone. Because heat is applied when making the shape of the diamond, it can undergo physical imperfections. The more imperfections, the less expensive the diamond becomes.
Carat ​refers to the weight of the diamond. Cut and carat usually go hand in hand, a poorly cut diamond with a larger carat grade can look small compared to one with a higher cut grade and less carat weight.

Where to Buy The Ring

At this point, you’re basically an expert when it comes to engagement rings. Now it’s time to shop. Great, another decision to make. Easy for you, there are two routes most people go: In-store or online. Both options have their pros and cons. A brick and mortar give you the advantage of being able to ask lots of questions and see the rings in person. On the flip side, it can be very overwhelming traveling to different stores and remember what rings you’ve already seen. Plus, if you live in a town with limited jewelers, you may be forced to travel far or settle for a ring price that’s more expensive.

If you go the online route, shopping from the comfort of your own home is a huge win in itself. It’s very easy to compare price points of different rings all just one click away. However, the last thing you want to happen is to spend all this money on a ring just to be disappointed in the quality when it arrives at your doorstep. Make sure you do your research, read reviews, and utilize the live chat option if available.

Ways to Save

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Time for the fun part, ways to save. There are ways to cut back on costs without sacrificing the look of the ring, it can be done. Sacrificing two of the 4 C’s like color and clarity can save you big in the long run. Lower colors and clarites can cost half as much as higher options without sacrificing the beauty of the rings. These ‘imperfections’ are usually not visible to the naked eye.

Another way to maximize your budget is to select a carat weight slightly below whole and half-carat marks. For example, a diamond weighing in at .97 carats can cost significantly less than a diamond weighing in at 1 whole carat. This can save a considerable amount of money and the size difference goes unnoticed. At the end of the day, choosing a ring should come down to you, your financial situation, and what your sweetie wants.

Finding the perfect engagement ring doesn’t have to be scary. As long as you know what your options are, and you utilize the information that’s out there, you’ll find a ring that both you and your soon-to-be fiance will love.

This guest post was written and submitted by Earnest.com

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