4 Better Purchases Than an Engagement Ring

September 6th 2015

Laura Donovan

Summer wedding season is over, but that won't stop your Facebook feed from flooding with engagement announcements. Getting engaged is exciting, but the accompanying ring can be absurdly expensive. A 2013 report by Jewelers of America found that the average couple spends $4,000 on an engagement ring, and that's nothing compared to the average wedding cost of $31,213.

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Pricey ceremonies are associated with high divorce rates, but so are expensive engagement rings. In 2014, Emory University researchers found that people who put forth $2,000 to $4,000 on engagement rings are more likely to get divorced than those who stay under a $2,000 budget.

As noted in the College Humor video above, engagement rings are very much a scam. While many have been falsely led to believe that they're a timeless tradition, the De Beers Mining Company launched the practice less than 100 years ago through aggressive advertising, which entailed paying "educational visits" to schools to make young men believe they needed to buy expensive engagement rings for their fiancèes to really show their love and commitment.

With so many people sharing Instagram and Facebook photos of their engagement rings, there is now more pressure than ever for men to purchase exceptional ones for the women they ask to marry. Elaborate engagement stories also go viral, so the spectacle lives on in that way as well.

From proposal day to wedding day, the process is exhausting, expensive, and showy, and it starts with the overpriced engagement ring. Rather than spend the average of $4,000 on an engagement ring, here are some other things you could do with that amount of money.

1. Used car

2001 Ford Escape XLT

Believe it or not, there are many used cars under $4,000 on the market. One example is the 2001 Ford Escape XLT above. The average cost of a new car is more than $30,000, so a vehicle below $4,000 is a good deal, and you'll definitely get more mileage out of it than a shiny ring that lives on your finger. It's also much harder to misplace a car than a ring that's essentially weightless and can slip off when your hands get wet.

2. Plan for retirement

Piggy bank

It's never too early to start thinking about planning for the future. A recent survey from T. Rowe Price, a global investment management firm, found that young people save less than 10 percent of their paycheck for retirement. Young people think about retirement less because they are often burdened with student debt and typically don't earn enough money to save a lot of it, according to the findings. In order to retire by age 65, Millennials must have $1.6 million in savings, according to investment advising company Personal Capital, so start planning for retirement now.

If your job doesn't offer retirement benefits, you may open up an individual retirement account (IRA), which enables you to "direct pretax income, up to specific annual limits, toward investments that can grow tax-deferred (no capital gains or dividend income is taxed)." Money management site Mint can help you find an IRA that works best for your needs.

3. Feed up to 296 people Chipotle at your wedding


Chipotle catering costs vary by location, but in Los Angeles, where the cost of living is high, you can cater a wedding with Chipotle food for up to $13.50 per person. If you have a large sized wedding of 296 people or less, you can feed everyone Chipotle for dinner with $4,000.

Buffet-style wedding meals are helpful for weddings because they keep things more casual and can also be helpful for those with specific dietary needs.

4. Start a college fund for your future children (or organize a couples vacation if kids aren't your thing)

Piggy bank

If you and your partner know you want to have babies together, put that extra $4,000 into a college fund. It's no secret that higher education is outrageously expensive now, and it may only get worse for the next generation of students. Preparing now will only help you in the future.

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Set aside some money for the educational enrichment of your future offspring so they are less likely to deal with crippling student debt someday. If you don't wish to procreate, use that money to plan a nice vacation with your partner. The average honeymoon lasts seven days long and costs $5,000 per couple, so you can definitely plan something nice for $4,000.

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