How to Talk about Finances with Your Almost-Fiancé


Real talk: Saving money is hard. So hard, that the expectation (set by a brilliant ad campaign) to spend three months of your salary on an engagement ring is ridiculous. Let me repeat that: It’s ridiculous.

First, let’s start by challenging the idea that it’s the man’s responsibility to buy the ring. (You know, starting with something easy, like taking on the patriarchy!) I reject the idea that buying a ring is not a couple’s decision. Think about it. If you plan to spend your life with someone and have a house, maybe a dog, plan a wedding, travel, have kids—any or all of it—it seems bizarre not to talk about how much you should spend on the symbol of love that starts it all. 

There are two options available to you, if you want to prioritize budget without sacrificing style. If you want to live large and have it all—but always had expensive taste with your eye on a 2 carat, round cut solitaire with claw prongs—you can do that. You’ll probably be looking at the diamond alternative space, and shopping for something that looks, acts and wears like a diamond but has a significantly lower price tag. 

Flaunt that alternative because it’s awesome, or keep it to yourself; it’s your choice, because it will look virtually identical to a D color, IF clarity diamond. A 2 carat mined diamond with those grades will cost you upwards of $20,000. An alternative? More like $2,000. If you have $20,000 and it doesn’t jeopardize your financial security or future, then go for pure carbon! Just do it together, and understand your options.


The route you take should be a discussion you have together. Because whether you’re spending $2,000 or $20,000 on a ring, that has a real and lasting impact on your finances together after you’re, you know, actually married. 

Now, the harder part. How do you start that conversation? Start by daydreaming about what your life together will be like. Talk about the wedding you want, the honeymoon, condo or house, how many French Bulldogs you want and how big of a yard you’d need for all ten of them…oh, is that just me? 

You should probably talk about retirement, too—when you want to retire, and how much you’ll need to save to do that comfortably. What you do at the beginning of your life together can affect the rest of it. I highly recommend talking with a good financial planner to make sure you’re on the right track for the house, kids, education, retirement, whatever you need to think about for your future. 


Pro tip

You don’t actually have to talk directly about the cost of the ring to figure out what the budget should be. Start with the future and work backwards. For me and Sam, it came down to wanting experiences and financial security. We wanted to put away money for retirement, but still have enough left over to live in the moment. We decided we wanted a small wedding but an adventurous honeymoon. I also dream of a house with a big, fenced-in yard so we can get another French Bulldog (or two or five). 

We talked about how much we need for these things, and what was left was the ring budget. We arrived there naturally, and it felt right, because we put our life (and actual marriage) first, and the material symbol of it second.  

Sam KohnkeComment