How To Plan a Frugal (Not Cheap) Wedding for Less Than $4,000

The average wedding and reception in 2019 (the most recent pre-COVID year for which data is available) was $28,000, according to The Knot Real Weddings Study. Given that the median American household income charts in around $69,000, (according to the Census Bureau), that means the average wedding devours nearly half a year’s worth of income.

Many people dream of a beautiful, unforgettable wedding, but not many long for the financial aftermath. The best solution is to take a serious look at all of the expenses involved with a wedding and find realistic, frugal ways to cut back on the expense without tinkering with the magic or the memories. The strategies below can collectively shave away 10s of thousands of dollars from the budget of an average wedding.

According to our calculations, a typical American wedding comes to about $28.5k, which we detail below. By paring down here and there, we got it down to $3,950, if you go with a guest list of 50. (The Knot Real Study says the typical wedding has 131 guests.) If you follow all of our ideas, you’ll reach under $4k in your final tally.

Different people look for different things in their wedding, so go through the list below and choose the ideas that work for you.

In this article

17 steps for a frugal (not cheap) wedding on a budget

Start planning early

The more time you give yourself to plan, the easier it becomes to identify bargains and help make them into a reality. Since so many wedding features are expensive, investing more time yourself can cut those costs down quickly.

Strategy: Give yourself an extra few months between the start of planning and the event
Savings: $0 directly, but it gives you time to implement the strategies below

Choose a location near your guests

Choose a location for your wedding that’s close to the largest number of your guests. While this won’t directly save you money, it will make the next tip much more likely to succeed.

Strategy: Choose a location that’s very convenient for most of the guests
Savings: $0 directly, but it enables some of the strategies below

Ask for wedding help instead of wedding gifts

Talk to some of the friends and family you’re inviting to the wedding and ask them if they would be willing to provide help at the wedding in lieu of a gift. This is particularly true if you have someone on the guest list with a particular talent.

Guests for your wedding might be able to help with photography, provide emcee services, tend the bar at the reception, or perform any of the other endless tasks that a wedding entails. While some guests may prefer not to do this, others will relish the chance.

Many of the roles at our own wedding were provided by family and friends. From our perspective, we felt that everything would be much more meaningful if people we loved were actually involved with the ceremony in some way, and many of them jumped at the chance. Some of them provided supplies as their wedding gift, while others provided discounts.

Getting even a little help can easily shave 5% off of the total cost of the wedding.

Strategy: Ask family and friends for assistance at the ceremony in lieu of gifts
Savings: $1,400

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Hold the ceremony at home or outdoors

According to The Knot, the average wedding venue costs $10,500, adding up to around a third of the total cost of the big day. While trimming the guest list can certainly help reduce this cost, another approach is to think outside the box with your venue.

You might consider hosting the wedding at someone’s home, particularly if they have a nice yard or plenty of space. If your guest list is small, that’s much more feasible.

Strategy: Have the wedding and reception at a friend or family member’s property
Savings: $10,500

Another approach is to see if you can use a public park for the wedding and utilize any structures the parks and recreation department may have for a reception. Many such departments have nice older houses near parks that can be used for events like this. Contacting local parks services in my area found that such venues were available with a range of $1,000 to $4,000, though there would be some additional costs to help set up some services. While there will still be a notable cost involved for this, it’s often significantly lower than paying for a full-service venue.

Strategy: Have the wedding and reception at a park
Savings: $6,500

Do the catering yourself or hire a family-owned restaurant

While trimming the guest list saves quite a bit on catering, you can save more by finding a low-cost catering option. According to The Knot Real Weddings Study, the average cost per catered plate is $51, so if you have 50 guests, that’s $2,550 in meal expenses even with a reduced guest list.

For our own wedding, catering was provided by family and friends, who prepared and served the meal in lieu of (and in addition to) a wedding gift. This may work for you if you have someone who is interested in stepping up to that task.

Strategy: Have friends and family cater for you in lieu of a gift
Savings: $2,550

If not, try asking a local family-owned restaurant to cater for you. They might be hesitant to cater a large event, but if your guest list is already relatively small, they may be willing to do this and work with you on a less expensive option. If a local family-owned restaurant can cater and save 25% per plate, that’s still a nice savings.

Strategy: Ask a locally owned restaurant to cater the meal instead of a wedding catering service
Savings: $638

Buy a small cake or cupcakes from a grocery store

Brides Magazine reports that the average cost of a wedding cake is $350. This is an area where the cost can easily be trimmed by having something a bit more simple. Rather than heading straight to a wedding cake specialist, see what options are available for a smaller, simpler cake from a grocery store. In my area, the local grocery store chain, Hy-Vee, offered an enormous variety of cake options, ranging from very classy tiered wedding cakes that almost matched the $350 tag to much simpler options that would serve 50 guests for around $100.

Strategy: Look at grocery stores for cake options
Savings: $250

Another option is to simply buy cupcakes. You can buy large numbers of cupcakes from many bakeries for as little as $1 each. Pair that with a $30 cake stand and you can provide 70 cupcakes with a beautiful display for just $100.

Strategy: Buy cupcakes and arrange them yourself
Savings: $250

Go minimal with the flowers

Wedding Wire reports that the average cost of flowers at a wedding is $1,500. That’s a lot of money!

Keep the flowers simple! Stick with a simple bouquet and simple arrangements at the wedding, then reuse them as part of the reception. The bouquet itself averages $160, but you can drastically cut your floral expense in other ways by simply having minimal arrangements, relying on seasonal flowers, and using lots of greenery. Wedding Wire’s estimates for less-expensive floral setups range from $175 to $700, so if you simply get into that range with these tips, you’ll be doing great.

Strategy: Cut back on the flowers
Savings: $900

Make your own invitations

Again, according to The Knot, the average cost for wedding invitations is $590. This cost can easily be trimmed, however, by getting a DIY wedding invitation kit and printing them yourself.

My wife and I did this for our own wedding after balking at the hundreds of dollars for more traditional invitations. We chose a nice DIY kit that cost around $70 for our guest list and printed them ourselves. If you have access to a professional-quality printer and can do basic layout, you can easily create a very classy wedding invitation on your own for $100, with another $50 for any extra inserts and $50 for postage.

Strategy: Print your own wedding invitations
Savings: $390

Consider skipping attendants and have them involved in other ways

Rather than having several attendants for the bride and groom, consider trimming that number down to a single attendant for each, or none at all. This not only reduces the complications of the event, including hard choices about who to include, but can also eliminate small incidental costs such as bridesmaid bouquets. You can include people close to you in other ways, such as asking them to do a reading during your ceremony.

Strategy: Minimize your wedding party
Savings: Small, but helps with the next tip

If you do have attendants, go minimal with attendant gifts and make them personal

According to The Knot, the average wedding expense includes $400 in gifts, including party favors. However, most of that $400 goes toward gifts for the attendants. By keeping the wedding party small, you can cut out most of the cost, and with the smaller number, you can be more thoughtful and selective when it comes to a gift.

Strategy: Minimize attendant gifts and make them personal
Savings: $200

Borrow stereo equipment or use yours from home

If you’re having a small event anyway, hiring a DJ might be overkill. Wedding Wire reports that the average DJ cost is $1,000, so you may be able to forgo that cost by setting up your own speakers attached to a computer for a small dance. For music, you are legally allowed to use a music streaming service like Spotify (but such events may violate the terms of service of such services depending on specifics). For emcee services, ask your most outgoing friend to help.

Strategy: Do the DJing yourself
Savings: $1,000

Stock the bar yourself

A wedding bartender typically costs $35 per hour, but that doesn’t include the cost of the alcohol, which adds up to $2,300, according to The Knot. You can save a lot of money here by simply hiring someone to bartend and providing the alcohol yourself, provided the venue is OK with that (check with them). You can save as much as 50% by sourcing your own alcohol.

Strategy: Source your own alcohol and hire a separate bartender (or ask a friend)
Savings: $1,150

Contact the local university

If you’re looking for live music for the ceremony or want a professional photographer, one approach to consider is to contact the local university. There may be music students or budding photographers who would love an opportunity to get started in the field and may charge a very reasonable price as they don’t yet have a large resume to lean on. Often, new people in a field are excited to prove themselves, so they’ll not only charge a reasonable price, but they’ll go the extra mile to perform well and build a reputation. Simply trimming even 20% off of the average wedding musician cost and the average wedding photographer cost adds up. There’s a risk, of course, when using a new person, but they’re also going to be very focused on the task at hand, as this is an opportunity for them.

Strategy: Contact the local university to find budding photographers or musicians who may want the opportunity
Savings: $800

Split the cost of decorations – and consider buying used

Non-floral wedding decorations can cost $600. This can be a perfect opportunity to go minimal by looking for used decorations. If you know someone who is getting married, you may be able to split the cost of decorations with them so that you both use them, cutting the cost by half. If you know of any recent weddings, you can also contact them and ask what they did with the decorations.

Strategy: Split the cost of decorations or buy them used
Savings: $300

If you’re getting married in a church, ask the auxiliary for help

If you’re getting married in a church or in the hall of a civic organization, ask if the auxiliary club associated with that venue has suggestions or ideas. While they might not be able to directly provide a lot of savings, they may be able to offer ideas and small services that can save a little, and they sometimes can point you to something unexpected that can be a huge savings.

Strategy: Ask the auxiliary club associated with the church or other organization where your wedding is being held for help
Savings: Small, but potentially big

Buy the wedding dress off the rack and on sale, or borrow and modify

The Knot reports that the average wedding dress costs $1,600, which is a tremendous cost for an item you’ll likely wear once. A much better idea? See if anyone in your family or among your close friends has their old dress and, if possible, see if you can borrow it. It may need some modifications to make it work well, but spending $200 on adjustments is better than $1,600 on a dress. If this isn’t an option, look for a used dress and modify it similarly — this will still be cheaper than buying a new one.

Strategy: Borrow or buy a wedding dress
Savings: $600-$1,400

Choose affordable, simple wedding rings

According to the Brides American Wedding survey, the average wedding ring pair cost $1,610. This is on top of the engagement ring, of course. A simple wedding band might be a great option, however. A simple band is low cost, understated, and won’t snag on clothing. If you go simple and simply cut 25% off of the cost of the rings, that’s a nice savings.

Strategy: Go with simple wedding bands
Savings: $400

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Do You Need Renters Insurance for Your Apartment? Pros & Cons

It’s increasingly common for landlords to require tenants to carry renters insurance coverage. That’s understandable, as renters insurance limits landlords’ liability for potentially costly mishaps, like a building visitor landing in the hospital after sustaining an injury on the premises. It may absolve them of any financial responsibility for tenant possessions damaged or lost to fire, water leaks, vandalism, and certain other events covered by the policy.

Even when it’s not mandatory, renters insurance has direct benefits for tenants. But it isn’t free. A starter policy with high deductibles and relatively low coverage limits costs in the neighborhood of $150 to $200 per year. Higher-end coverage costs $300 to $500 or more per year, according to For frugal, careful renters whose landlords don’t demand coverage, that cost might be too much to bear.

Before rushing to purchase a policy you might not need or writing off renters insurance as unnecessary, take a few minutes to consider the benefits and drawbacks.

Pros of Renters Insurance

Renters insurance has some clear advantages, including possible protection from liability, discounts for bundling it with other types of insurance policies, and limited protection from negligent landlords.

1. It’s Not Limited to the Possessions in Your Apartment

When you hear the term “renters insurance,” you probably envision a policy that reimburses you for personal belongings that are lost, damaged, destroyed, or stolen within the confines of your apartment.

This is a key function of renters insurance, but it’s not all it entails. Renters insurance has three distinct components:

  1. Content Coverage. Virtually all renters who carry insurance hold a content insurance policy (also known as personal property coverage) that covers TVs, stereos, computers, furniture, and other valuable items that stay in the rental unit. Content insurance also covers items you keep in your car, provided the vehicle is registered in your name and at your address. If your car is burglarized overnight or while you’re out of town, your policy may reimburse you for the theft of any covered items within it.
  2. Liability Coverage. Renters insurance also protects you from liability issues that may arise in the course of your tenancy. If a guest sustains an injury during a fall or as a result of an accident at your home, your renters insurance policy’s liability coverage may cover the cost of a potential lawsuit, associated legal fees, and/or the guest’s medical bills. Likewise, your policy may cover the cost of fire or water damage sustained by other tenants in your building due to faulty plumbing, outdated wiring, leaky floorboards, and other hazards that originate in your unit.
  3. Loss of Use Coverage. Finally, your policy should cover (or at least provide you with the option to cover) temporary relocation and living expenses you may incur if your apartment becomes unlivable due to fire, flood, or structural damage. This is known as “loss of use” coverage.

Comprehensive renters insurance policies typically include all of these components, while lower-cost policies may exclude relocation coverage.

2. You Can Save by Bundling It With Other Insurance Policies

Your apartment likely isn’t the only thing you’d like to protect. For example, if you own a car, you’re legally obligated to carry auto insurance on it. These days, you’re also required to hold a health insurance policy. Depending on your age and family situation, you may have life insurance as well. And if you own particularly valuable items, like precious jewelry or original artwork, you may need customized policies to cover them.

The good news is that a renters insurance policy can be (and often is) bundled with other insurance types at a significant discount. Virtually every major insurer offers a multipolicy discount, or a premium discount for carrying more than one insurance policy with the same company. Since many renters also own cars, bundling rental and car insurance policies is common.

The discounts can be impressive. For instance, Liberty Mutual claims applicants can save upward of $800 when they bundle home and auto insurance policies. Other insurers offer similar discounts on a case-by-case basis.

3. It Protects You From Landlord Negligence

Imagine this: You head home from work, looking forward to a relaxing evening of eating takeout and binge-watching Netflix. But as you approach your apartment building, you realize something isn’t right. Fire trucks and cop cars surround the entrance, and a thin cloud of smoke rises from the roof.

Eventually, investigators determine that a decades-old circuit shorted out, triggering a chain reaction along some old faulty wiring that caused a fire on your floor. The building isn’t destroyed, but your apartment has been ruined by smoke and heat. Your electronics are useless, and your furniture is irreparably damaged.

Time to put your life on hold? Not if you have renters insurance. Even though this incident is clearly the fault of your landlord, you’d be on the hook for the cost of replacing your damaged possessions without sufficient renters insurance coverage. Your landlord’s insurance covers the unit’s structural components and appliances — and furniture if the place came furnished — but it doesn’t extend to anything you own.

Cons of Renters Insurance

Renters insurance has some notable drawbacks, including higher costs to cover valuable items and significant restrictions on coverage without purchasing add-ons (riders) at an additional expense.

1. Collections or Specific Valuables May Require Additional Coverage

Renters insurance covers the cost of replacing everyday personal property and equipment, but it always comes with a coverage limit. This limit may be as low as $5,000 or as high as $500,000, and it generally doesn’t cover novel or valuable possessions.

For example, if you store multiple pieces of jewelry in your apartment, your renters policy might not cover them (even a regular old engagement ring might not fit the bill). If you have extensive collections of records, stereo equipment, shoes, artwork, or even rare books, you might also be out of luck.

You can still cover these items, but it will cost you. You’ll need to purchase a rider — a supplementary policy covering specific items — or a separate, specialized property insurance policy for high-value items like jewelry. For instance, Allstate offers a scheduled personal property insurance rider that allows you to exceed its standard per-item coverage limit of $1,500 for specific named items with higher intrinsic or replacement value.

2. There Are Coverage Limits and Exclusions

If you’ve ever been in a car accident that wasn’t covered by your auto insurance policy, you know that simply carrying insurance doesn’t necessarily free you from financial or personal liability. Depending on your deductible size, you must make some out-of-pocket payments before your coverage kicks in.

Before you take out your renters insurance policy — and for as long as you keep it — you need to expend some effort to maximize the chance it will deliver when the time comes.

First, take a careful look at your coverage limits and exclusions. According to State Farm Insurance, the average renter owns personal property (property not covered by their landlord’s insurance policy) worth about $35,000. If you’re “average” in this regard, you’ll need at least this much coverage to insulate you against a total loss. It might also be a good idea to take on additional coverage if you anticipate making big purchases in the near future.

It’s crucial to mind coverage limits on specific product categories as well. You shouldn’t expect standard rental insurance policies to cover high-value items, such as $5,000 rings and $10,000 stereo systems. The cost of riders or scheduled property protection can add up quickly. To minimize the cost of a rider or supplemental policy, purchase it at the same time — and through the same insurer — as your main renters insurance policy to qualify for bundling discounts.

It’s also critical to understand what renters insurance doesn’t cover. Like homeowners insurance, rental insurance is stingy about paying for flood damage and sewer problems. If you live in an area that’s prone to flooding, ask your insurer whether you’d be covered in the event of a flood. If you won’t, look into supplemental flood insurance policies, which may be subsidized by state or federal programs.

For example, if you occupy a ground-floor or basement apartment that’s prone to flooding or damage from sewer backups, your renters policy may not cover associated cleanup costs. Your insurer should offer supplemental “sewer and drain” coverage. Ultimately, however, you’re reimbursed for a specific insurance claim may turn on events that aren’t wholly within your control.

3. “Replacement Value” Coverage Can Be Costly

When you take out your renters insurance policy, you must choose between a “replacement value” policy and an “actual cash value” policy. In the event of an accepted claim, a replacement value policy reimburses you for each lost or destroyed item’s value at the time of purchase (so be sure to save your receipts). An actual cash value policy, meanwhile, reimburses you for each item’s depreciated value.

Depreciation calculations are complex and difficult to generalize. But as a rule of thumb, electronics such as computers and TVs tend to lose most of their value within three to five years. More durable items like couches, tables, and jewelry may retain their value for longer.

4. Credit Issues Could Increase Your Insurance Costs

One of the lesser-known consequences of a bad credit score is the potential for higher rates for auto and property insurance. Renters who have solid credit scores (about 660 to 680 and up) generally pay less for comparable policies than those with suboptimal scores.

This can be a problem for renters required to carry property insurance or who seek the peace of mind that comes with coverage. Of course, you’re free to reapply for coverage as your credit score improves, but in the meantime, you’re stuck paying more.

5. Potential Caps on Reimbursements for Temporary Living Expenses

Many insurance companies place a dollar cap or time limit on reimbursements for temporary living expenses. Suppose it takes four months after a fire to restore your apartment to a livable condition, and your renters insurance policy only covers relocation expenses for two months. In that case, you’ll need to pay out of pocket for the other two months of living expenses.

In other words, it’s probably best to assume your renters insurance policy won’t cover every single expense that arises out of an unfortunate circumstance. Having a healthy emergency fund saved up is one way to keep unexpected costs like this from derailing your finances.

Final Word

Choosing to purchase or forgo renters insurance is not a decision to make lightly. Nor is it a decision to agonize over and blow out of all proportion. If your renters insurance cost-benefit analysis has you at an impasse, consider this: You stand to save far more each year by moving to a more affordable city for renters than by doing without renters insurance.

In the grand scheme of things, peace of mind is relatively inexpensive.


Engagement Ring Cost – How Much of Your Salary Should You Spend?

So, you’ve decided to take the big step and propose to your sweetheart. Congratulations! It’s an exciting moment, but it’s also a nerve-wracking one.

Right now, your mind is probably teeming with questions: What’s the most romantic way to propose? Should you present a ring when you pop the question or hide it for your honey to find? And crucially, how much should you spend on it?

It isn’t just a problem for guys. In 2018, Brides magazine reported that record numbers of women are searching for ways to propose to their significant others — both male and female — and some of those proposals include a ring. But even for women expecting to receive a ring rather than give one, cost is an issue.

Getting married doesn’t just mean joining your lives. For most couples, it also usually means combining your finances. That means whatever sum your partner spends on your engagement ring is coming out of the money you’ll both have to live on in the future. It’s a decision that affects both of you.

The 2 Months’ Salary “Rule”

If you consult bridal magazines and other wedding-related resources, you’ll probably see many references to the “rule” that an engagement ring should cost one, two, or even three months’ worth of the bridegroom’s salary.

But did you ever wonder where this “tradition” came from? It was actually made up by De Beers, a cartel that controls most of the world’s diamond market.

According to the BBC, at the beginning of the 20th century, most engagement rings didn’t even contain diamonds. Beginning in the 1930s, De Beers ran an incredibly successful ad campaign to promote diamond engagement rings, which popularized the idea a ring should cost one month’s salary.

The campaign did so well De Beers pushed the concept even further in the 1980s, raising the suggested ring price for American consumers to two months’ salary. In Japan, it upped the ante still more, proposing three months’ salary as the benchmark price.

Clearly, this “tradition” doesn’t have a lot of history behind it. And yet, in less than 100 years, it’s become overwhelmingly pervasive. Not only do most engagement rings today contain diamonds, but according to The Knot, the amount the average American spent on one was $5,900 in 2019.

The average income for a single American that year was around $49,000, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, so the average ring price was between one and two months’ salary.

There’s one big problem with this formula: Most Americans don’t have this much cash to spare. According to a 2018 Bankrate survey, fewer than 30% of Americans even have the six months’ worth of living expenses experts recommend keeping in an emergency fund, let alone an extra one to two months’ salary to spend on a ring. And for single Americans, savings figures are even lower.

That means that to spend two or even one month’s salary on an engagement ring, most Americans must either drain their emergency savings or, worse still, start their married lives with debt. For many couples, that gets piled onto additional wedding debt and other debts they accumulated before their marriage, such as student loans.

This shared debt burden weighs on your finances throughout your married life. It hampers your credit scores, making it harder to buy your first home together. It could even affect your decisions about parenthood by putting the cost of having a baby out of their financial reach. Finally, based on a 2020 Fidelity study, it dramatically increases the chances you will fight about money.

In short, the De Beers ad’s message — that buying an expensive ring is the best way to get your marriage off to a happy start — has no basis in fact. In fact, according to a 2014 study at Emory University, the opposite is true. It found that men who spent $2,000 to $4,000 on their partners’ engagement rings were 1.3 times more likely to end up divorced than those who chose more modest rings priced between $500 and $2,000 — that’s an increased risk of 30%.

Setting Your Own Guidelines

As you can see, the two months’ salary rule is neither truly traditional nor particularly helpful. There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for how much to spend on an engagement ring. You have to figure it out based on your situation, factoring in both your finances and your partner’s expectations.

Learn What Your Partner Expects

Before you can even think about shopping for a ring, you need to know what kind of ring your partner wants. If you know them well — and you certainly should if you’re preparing to spend your lives together — you most likely have some idea what kind of jewelry they like.

But an engagement ring isn’t just any piece of jewelry. It’s a symbol of your love and commitment to each other. It’s something your partner is going to wear every day. You want it to be something they feel thrilled about and comfortable with.

Based on the DeBeers ads, it might seem like you can’t go wrong simply choosing the biggest diamond you can afford. However, that’s a vast oversimplification.

There are many differences among diamond rings, including the size and shape of the stone, the design, and the band metal. If your partner wants a gold ring with an emerald-cut solitaire diamond, presenting a platinum ring with a round diamond flanked by sapphires won’t be a pleasant surprise.

In fact, your partner might not want a diamond ring at all. Before the 1930s, most engagement rings didn’t contain diamonds. Maybe they’d prefer an old-fashioned ring with a different type of stone. Also, if they’re the socially conscious type, they may prefer to avoid diamonds because of all the environmental and human rights abuses associated with diamond mining.

It’s also not safe to assume your partner would prefer to have the largest ring possible. For one thing, it’s not the size or price of the ring that makes it meaningful. You could make a much better impression with a ring you had custom-designed to fit your partner’s taste than with a much bigger ring you simply picked out of a display case.

In a 2015 Brilliant Earth survey, nearly half of women and 30% of men said what mattered to them most about an engagement ring was its design, while only 6% of women and 8% of men said the size of the diamond mattered most.

Additionally, a frugal partner might actively hate the idea of spending thousands on a ring when you could put that money to more practical use. In a 2014 ERA Real Estate survey, 50% of women said they would rather skip the large engagement ring and put that money toward the down payment on a house — and 17% said they had already done so.

There are even some people who would prefer not to wear an engagement ring at all. When I got engaged to my husband, I told him I didn’t want a ring because I disliked the idea of wearing a ring when he wasn’t — as if I were spoken for, but he was still a free man until the wedding day.

Instead, we opted for the Elizabethan custom of wearing our wedding bands on our right hands until the ceremony, then switching them over — which also happened to be cheaper.

The easiest way to find out what your partner wants in an engagement ring is simply to ask. If you don’t want to spoil the surprise of the proposal, try strolling past a jewelry store while out on a walk and casually asking which rings in the window they like best. You can also try asking their friends or family if they’ve ever talked about what they want in an engagement ring.

Finally, pay attention to anything they mention on the subject in conversation. Even if you’re trying to keep your proposal plans a secret, there’s a good chance they have an inkling about your intentions. If so, they may be dropping a few hints to help guide your shopping.

Evaluate Your Finances

What kind of ring your partner wants is only half the equation. You also have to figure out how much you can afford to pay for it. That depends on both your financial situation and that of your partner. You’re going to be sharing a home and expenses once you’re married, so the money you spend on this ring is really coming from both of you.

That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to ask outright how much they think you should spend — unless you know your partner would appreciate that kind of upfront approach. But it’s essential the two of you discuss your finances before getting married, and that discussion can give you a better idea of how much you can reasonably afford to spend.

Talking about money may seem unromantic, but it’s something you need to be able to do as a married couple. If you’re ready to make a lifelong commitment to each other, you should be prepared to talk openly about your financial situation. Topics to discuss include:

  • Your Income. The more you make as a couple, both now and in the future, the more you can reasonably afford to spend on a ring. If you have to draw down your savings to buy it, you’ll be able to replenish it quickly. Talk with your partner about how much you each make now and about expectations for future earnings.
  • Your Expenses. You can’t use your earnings to pay for the ring if they’re already committed to other expenses. Talk about how much each of you currently spends on living expenses and how much you’ll spend as a married couple. Then consider how much of your income that will leave to contribute to savings.
  • Your Current Savings. It’s obviously important to know how much you both have right now. If you don’t have enough saved to pay for the ring with cash, you have to go into debt for it, which isn’t the best way to kick your marriage off on sound financial footing.
  • Your Debts. Going into debt for a ring is an even bigger problem if you or your partner already have other debts, such as student loans or credit card debt. Be candid with each other about your current debts and how much they cost each month. This information matters when you’re deciding what type of ring you can afford.
  • Your Financial Goals. Finally, consider what other financial goals you and your partner want to save for. Possibilities include your wedding, paying off debts, buying a home, starting a family, and putting your kids through college. When you list all your goals and consider how much they matter to you, suddenly, a big ring might not seem like such a high priority.

Final Word

If your partner’s preferences are pretty much in line with what you can afford, you have no problem. However, if the ring of your partner’s dreams is simply beyond your means right now, you’ll need to find some way to compromise.

That could mean settling for a smaller ring, waiting longer while you save up for a big one, or looking for ways to make that fancy ring more affordable.

However, don’t lose sight of the fact that the ring isn’t the most crucial part of the proposal. What matters most is the person doing the proposing.

If your partner really wants to be with you, it will be the proposal that makes them happiest — not the ring that accompanies it. Presenting a smaller or simpler ring isn’t going to be a deal breaker. And by choosing a ring that fits your budget, you can leave yourself and your partner more money to live happily ever after on.

While you’re at it, you can protect your future finances by looking for ways to save on your other wedding expenses. Check out our marriage archives for tons of ideas.


When Should You Make Big Purchases?

Hunting for deals is a natural precursor to making a large purchase. For most big-ticket items there can be certain seasons or even weekends where you can reliably find great deals. We’re rounding up some of the biggest purchases and a good time to buy each item, so when the time is right, you know exactly what to look for.


TVs commonly go on sale . One way to score a deal on a new TV is to follow the release cycle.

Most television manufacturers release new models sometime between February and April every year, and while you could pick up the latest model, you could also find dramatic price cuts on last year’s models since retailers are looking to make room for newer inventory.

You can also find discounts on televisions in advance of events like the big football game in February, during Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.


Buying a laptop can be a very personal choice. The demands you place on your computer may require more processing power than others, so it’s important to determine what you need out of a laptop before you begin browsing different brands and models. Deals may vary depending on the model that you need.

Macbooks and other Apple products usually get an upgrade once a year , though they don’t always follow a consistent release schedule, or release all new products at the same time.

Major PC manufacturers generally release new laptops three times a year —back-to-school season from June to September, holiday season from September to December, and spring from February to April. However, the best deals on laptops tend to appear at the heart of school shopping season from July to August and from November to December, the peak of the holiday shopping season.

Outdoor Furniture

A great time to shop for outdoor furniture is generally when you won’t actually be able to use it. Typically, patio furniture goes on sale from 4th of July to October , as retailers are trying to clear their inventory to make room for fall inventory. Usually the further you are from summer, the bigger the savings.


Finding the perfect mattress means comfort, relaxation, and most importantly a restful sleep. So finding a supremely comfortable mattress and at a low price would be a huge win.

When buying a mattress there are a few times of year you can target to find reliably low prices . May is one of the best months to buy a new mattress. That’s because most sellers launch new models in June, and are eager to make space for the newer inventory.

It’s also worth looking for deals over popular shopping holidays, including but not limited to Memorial Day, Labor Day, and President’s Day. And don’t overlook Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where you can often find reasonable prices and good deals on mattresses.


If you’re ready to spruce up your interior design with some new furniture there are two times you can look to find some major sales. The best time to buy furniture is typically either in January or July. Usually, new styles are released twice a year, in February and August.

In January and July, retailers are eager to clear space for those new arrivals, so prices will generally be discounted. Floor models may be included as well, so you could ask about discounts on sample pieces.

And for an even better deal? Don’t be afraid to haggle! Furniture stores may be willing to negotiate, so consider asking them to sweeten the deal with a discount or freebie.

You may also find furniture deals around shopping holidays like President’s Day and Memorial Day.

Engagement Rings

The thrill of falling in love and finally finding your match is invigorating. The cost of buying an engagement ring to make it official? Not as exciting. In 2020, Americans spent an average of $5,500 to buy an engagement ring. If the thought of dropping a few thousand dollars on a ring is less than thrilling, it could be worth planning your purchase so you can wait for the optimal time to buy.

There are a couple of times when you may be able to find a discount on an engagement ring. Jewelry sales can be slow in the summer, so there may be sales to entice customers. There may also be seasonal sales after Christmas or after Valentine’s day. Some jewelers may even be willing to negotiate on price to make the sale.

Household Appliances

discounts on appliances can be found from September to October when manufacturers are releasing their latest product.

Retailers will be trying to make room for newer models so you can often find considerable discounts during these months on new, but last year’s models. When it comes to refrigerators, the best time to purchase is usually in that spring, as that is when manufacturers release new models.

Holidays and Holiday weekends are another great time to look for sales on household appliances. And if you plan on buying a new appliance from a brick and mortar store, it could be worth going toward the end of the month when salesmen are trying to meet their monthly quotas.

Fitness Equipment

Have your eye on a new treadmill or elliptical? January could be the right time to buy new exercise equipment as stores are eager to take advantage of New Year’s resolutions to get fit or lose weight.


Dealerships generally offer great deals during year-end sales events. Some dealers anticipate cars as gifts for the holidays. Car dealerships are also looking toward the new year, which means they’ll need to make space for newer models on the lot. For some dealers, December is one of their biggest sale months.

You may also secure a good deal on a new car during holiday weekends when dealerships run promotions. Dealerships are also more likely to offer a deal on older models, anticipating a new release. Typically, new models are released in September and October, so try to look for deals in late August.

The Takeaway

The best time to make a large purchase will depend on the item. There are a few shopping holidays, like Memorial Day or Labor Day, when retailers are known to offer deep discounts on some items. When shopping for a big-ticket item it can be helpful to do your research, shop around, and in some cases, negotiate to secure the best deal.

Even timing your purchase to secure a deal at peak savings can mean a hefty bill. Instead of charging the expense to your credit card, consider applying for an unsecured personal loan with SoFi. With a personal loan, you’ll have access to the money instantly and generally at a lower rate than most high-interest credit cards. At SoFi, there are no origination fees or prepayment penalties and you can apply easily online.

A SoFi personal loan can simplify the payment process for most major purchases. Get a quote in two minutes or less.

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Best credit cards for buying an engagement ring – The Points Guy

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How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?

How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring? – SmartAsset

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There’s nothing like falling in love and finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. But when it’s time to shop for rings, it’s easy to get discouraged by the price tags. Just how much should you spend on an engagement ring? We’ll dive into the topic and discuss ways to save on the big purchase.

Find out not: How much do I need to save for retirement?

What the Average Engagement Ring Costs

Maybe you can’t buy love. But if you’re in the market for an engagement ring, you’ll quickly realize that it won’t be cheap. According to the Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study, Americans spent an average of $6,163 on engagement rings, up from $5,871 in 2015. Wedding bands for the bride and engagement rings combined cost between $5,968 and $6,258.

If you want your wedding to happen sooner rather than later, keep in mind that on average, couples spend more than $30,000 to tie the knot. That’s roughly how much you can expect to pay for everything from your wedding reception and DJ to your cake and your photographer. Location matters when it comes to weddings, however, so you might be able to save some money by choosing a more affordable place to host your ceremony.

How Much Should I Spend?

Conventional wisdom says that anyone planning to propose to their partner should prepare to spend at least two or three months of their salary on an engagement ring. But spending too much isn’t a good idea for various reasons.

A recent study conducted by Emory University connected pricey rings to divorce rates. Men who spent more money on rings for their fiancees were more likely to end their marriages. That’s a possible long-term consequence of overspending on an engagement ring. In the short term, using a large percentage of your money to buy a ring might prevent you from using those funds to pay bills or stay on top of your debt, which can hurt your credit score.

If the marriage doesn’t work out and your ex-spouse decides to sell their diamond engagement ring, its value won’t be nearly as high as it was when it was first purchased. That’s why diamond rings can be such bad investments.

So exactly how much should you spend on an engagement ring? It’s a good idea to make sure that the price you pay doesn’t prevent you or your partner from accomplishing whatever you’re planning to achieve in the future, whether that’s buying a house or having a child. Rather than following an old-school societal notion that says you should spend x amount of money on a ring, it’s best to spend an amount that won’t compromise your financial goals or jeopardize the status of your relationship.

How to Save on the Ring

If you don’t want the engagement ring you’re buying to break the bank, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about the rings and what makes some more expensive than others. Diamonds are the gems most commonly used in engagement rings, and if you’re buying one for your significant other, it’s important to familiarize yourself with what jewelers refer to as the four C’s: clarity, cut, color and carat weight.

In terms of clarity, the best diamonds are flawless, meaning that they don’t have any blemishes when viewed under a microscope with 10 power magnification. Since no one’s eyesight is that powerful, you can get away with choosing a diamond with a lower clarity grade that costs less. Getting a diamond that has fewer carats (meaning that it weighs less) or getting one that isn’t completely colorless can also lower its overall price.

Or don’t get a diamond at all. Your partner might be just as happy with a simple band, a white sapphire or an emerald ring and it probably won’t cost as much as a diamond engagement ring. Shopping for your ring at a vintage store, looking for one online rather than in-person and getting a ring with a series of smaller stones surrounding the center stone (also known as a halo ring) are a few additional ways to save when buying a ring.

Final Word

There’s no need to spend a fortune on an engagement ring. And you don’t have to feel guilty about cutting corners in order to find one that you can afford to buy.

Like any other major purchase, it’s a good idea to take time to save up for a ring. If you have to take on more credit card debt or a personal loan in order to buy an engagement ring, it’s a good idea to find out how long it’ll take to pay off your debt. It isn’t wise to begin a marriage by digging yourself (and your partner) into a deep financial hole.

Tips for Getting Financially Ready for Marriage

  • If you haven’t already, start talking about money. It’s important to establish an open dialogue and make sure you understand and respect each other’s money values.
  • You might also consider sit down with a financial advisor before the big day. A financial advisor can help you identify your financial goals and come up with a financial plan for your life as a married couple. A matching tool (like ours) can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

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Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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