Read THIS Before Buying THAT

In Frugal Living, Personal Finance by Kelby2 Comments

I can’t say for sure but based on an overarching theme that I’ve noticed on all of my social media accounts, we’re in full-blown wedding season. Maybe I’m just more aware of it this year, but I’m convinced that I have been to/seen/heard of more weddings and engagements over the past few months than I can remember from any time in the past. Personally, I enjoy weddings – and no, not just for the free food. (It’s definitely a perk though, so I can’t fault you for thinking that)

Now, I’m not a hyper-sensitive guy – in fact, I’m quite the opposite – so it may come as a surprise that the ceremony is actually my favorite part of a wedding. Having recently gone through that process myself and knowing everything that goes into those two people standing there, just causes something about that joyous moment to really resonate with me.

Unfortunately, based on recent statistics, that joyous moment doesn’t last a lifetime. According to the United States Divorce Statistics, 41% of first marriages end in divorce. While it’s not the 50% rate that is often reported, it is still high enough of a number to warrant alarm.

Listen, I am in no way qualified to answer the question of why the divorce rate is so high – and frankly I’m not sure that anyone can clearly pinpoint the cause. What I do offer, if you so choose to stick around, is my perspective of what I believe to be a strong indication of marital success – and it start’s right before that shiny symbol of undying love is even purchased.

3 rings

There was an interesting article in the Huffington Post about a year ago that sought to find a correlation between the amount spent on engagement rings/weddings and the likelihood of those relationships ending in divorce.

A few key takeaways from the survey showed that:

  • Men who spent $2,000 to $4,000 on engagement rings were 1.3 times more likely to end up divorced than men who spent $500 to $2,000.
  • Women whose weddings cost $20,000 or more were 3.5 times more likely to end up divorced than women who spent $5,000 to $10,000.
  • Women whose rings cost over $2,000 were three times more likely to complain about stress related to wedding debt.

There is no coincidence that the odds of divorce increase in stride with the amount spent on the engagement ring. Now, before you hit send on that angry e-mail telling me how wrong I am – hear me out. I KNOW that this is not the case for everyone. However, the numbers don’t lie.

There is a large percent of the population that buys into the ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ philosophy and will stop at nothing (bankruptcy included) to keep pace with the spending patterns of their peers.

I wholeheartedly agree that a wedding should be one of the most special days in a person’s life, however, the jubilation associated with the event itself, should not take priority over the financial stability of the couple for the days, months and years that follow.

So what should you do?

Be Honest With Your Partner about Your Finances

My wife and I recently had our second daughter back in April so for the last three months; she has been at home on maternity leave. While this has been a great bonding experience for the two of them, let’s face it…the baby does a fair amount of sleeping (and drinking and crying and pooping – some of the time, in that order). So what does that leave my wife to do between frequent nursing and the endless diaper changes?


For the life of me, I can’t understand why – but her show of choice was Real Housewives of Orange County. FROM. THE. VERY. FIRST. SEASON. Being that I wanted to spend time with her (and sitting in front of the TV with her was apparently the only way that was possible), I found myself watching the show and actually following along with what was happening.

man cardAfter a few seasons, (yes, she we watched all of them) I started to notice that about half of the women on the show were either recently divorced or headed down that path. Of course, I realize that ‘Reality Shows’ are often the farthest thing from reality but this is clearly no coincidence.

Keep in mind that the time period of this particular version of the ‘Real Housewives’ brand spanned from 2006 – 2015, so the taping of some seasons coincided with the ‘Great Recession’ of 2007/2008.

While, I’m sure that the people on the show took a huge financial hit as a result of the faltering economy, what was really interesting about the marriages that fell apart was that a lack of communication about finances seemed to destroy the marital bond more than all the other economic factors combined.

These people became accustom to a certain lifestyle and when circumstances changed and that lifestyle was no longer attainable, things went sour because there was no true communication about the state of their personal finances.

Despite the fact that reality TV can magnify almost anything, there is a real lesson here. Before going as far as proposing, communicate with each other about your true financial condition. It may not be the most comfortable conversation, but it will definitely help you to start your future on the right foot.

Ignore (most of) the Advice You Read

Ok, let me say upfront that I am slightly aware of the irony that comes with telling you not to listen to the advice that you read – in a blog post titled ‘Read THIS before doing THAT’. Sure, it may not make sense on the surface, but just stick with me a little while longer and allow me to explain.

A quick Google search of “how much should an engagement ring cost” will leave your head spinning with suggestions of spending anywhere from a few thousand dollars to three months’ salary on a ring for your bride-to-be.

According to a survey from popular wedding website, The Knot – the average amount spent on engagement rings rose to $5,855 in 2014 and the average cost of a wedding was $31,213. I didn’t spend a fraction of those amounts. But, from what my online research has shown, I’m not normal. I guess I didn’t really need the internet to tell me that though.

Consider Your Future Financial Goals

Planning to have kids? Eventually want to purchase a home? These are some of the questions that you should ask yourself before deciding on an amount that you want to spend on a ring. If you’re anything like me, student loan debt has made even the most modest of goals seem unattainable. In reality, any type of debt can have this same paralyzing effect and keep you from achieving your goals.

Imagine that feeling magnified because your ring purchase left you with a depleted savings or worse, you financed your ring and now your total debt is higher. If you’re at the point of considering marriage, you should have already had MANY conversations about what your ideal future would look like and should be on the same page about most of your goals.

It’s no secret that a lot of our generation is crippled by student loan debt. Many more further compound this dilemma by adding credit cards and auto debt to the equation.  According to a study done by the online financial education site, iQuantifi – the average debt load for millennials ages 21 – 25 is $13,116.

That number nearly triples for those in their late 20s to $46,622. The picture is even more depressing for older millennials in their 30s where the average total debt load sits at nearly $70,000.


There’s no question about it, marriage is a beautiful thing. But unnecessarily spending a small fortune on your impending nuptials (especially when you’re in debt) is the best way to ensure future headaches. Do your future self a favor by getting on the same page with your partner and together deciding on a budget that won’t leave you with mountains of debt.

What are your thoughts on spending for an engagement ring or wedding? Share your story. Join the conversation!


  1. We definitely had a budget in mind when planning our wedding. Especially since moving me and my household 1000 miles across country was scheduled for right after we got married.
    Communicating up front and through the process about how much we wanted to spend was vital to sticking with the budget. I approached it like a challenge, to find ways to get the items and look that I wanted for a price that worked with the budget. Planning, DIY, and research, research, research! Did I mention research? We were able to get the venue we wanted for half (yes, half!) the cost by booking during off season and on a Sunday. Having the wedding on a Sunday was a compromise but well worth it to get the beautiful location we wanted!
    There were times that I would have loved to have carte blanche during my wedding planning, but with smart planning we were able to have a really great wedding that didn’t bust the budget!

    1. Author

      Hey Konichiwa16!

      It looks like all of that research really paid off by saving half of the cost on the wedding venue! That’s incredible. I don’t think a lot of people are aware of how much the day and time of year really affects the price of a wedding. Thanks for sharing.

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