How to Buy a Cheap Engagement Ring That Doesn't Look Cheap

Sheryl Nance-Nash Updated on May 8, 2019

You have a big heart and a small bank account  — and now it’s time to buy your beloved an engagement ring. You want to impress, but you also have a limited budget.

The last thing you want to do is put yourself in a deep hole buying a ring you can’t afford. After all, you’re hoping to get married! You have a wedding, honeymoon and the rest of your lives together — you don’t want to start off burdened with debt.

Worry not. You can get a ring you’ll both love, that looks good and won’t cost you your first-born.

Consider the 4 Cs — but only so much

Getting a little bit technical can be a great way to save money when buying a diamond engagement ring. But you don't need to know everything there is to know.

Your diamond grading report is key. It will help you compare the stone you're thinking is the one to those sold elsewhere. The report will give you the details on the 4 Cs – carat, cut, color and clarity.

Cut counts most

When it comes to diamonds it’s all about the cut. The cut determines the beauty and that twinkle-twinkle that will make the ring a treasure to behold.

Of course, cut preferences are highly individualistic, so try to get a sense of what your lady would prefer before you start shopping. Showing up with a pear-shaped diamond when she wants a round stone could be a recipe for disappointment.

Be flexible with color

To save money, get a lower color rating (I, J, K) and use two tricks — gold settings and fluorescence — to your advantage.

Diamond insiders know that the gold or rose-gold setting will contrast with the diamond, making it look whiter.

Then consider fluorescence, which is the tendency of some diamonds to emit a soft-colored glow when put under a black light. Fluorescence can create an interesting optical illusion in that it can make certain types of diamonds appear up to one-grade whiter.

There are two pieces of good news here:

  1. Only a gemologist using a special UV light will be able to spot fluorescence, and
  2. Diamonds with fluorescence may sell at up to a 15% discount.

Your best bet is to stick to faint to medium blue fluorescence. It you’re buying a rock bigger than two carats, be stick to medium fluorescence or below.

Don’t go crazy over clarity

If you can’t see any imperfections in a stone without magnification, you’re good to buy. To save money, buy the lowest clarity grade.  Relax, it will mirror a flawless diamond.  

An SI2 clarity diamond will also save you about 30% compared to a VS2 clarity diamond.

See also: Are You Financially Compatible? 5 Questions to Ask Before Getting Engaged

Imagine Life Without a Student Loan Payment... Start Saving Now!

How to shop

Do a little bit of homework first

Look at comparable stones online and in-person before you buy.

For example, do you see a stone for $5,000 that is being sold for $8,000 elsewhere? Similarly, do you see a stone that’s nearly a carbon copy for $3,000?

As a general rule of thumb, if a deal seems too good to be true oftentimes it is. Truth is, the $3,000 stone may be cloudy or lab-grown. It pays to take a bit of time to compare before going for lowest-cost stone.

Go to consignment stores

You may luck out on estate jewelry or barely used pieces that are less expensive than you’d find at your local jeweler.

Or, you may even find a beautiful ring that has a stone other than a diamond, which could be a great selection if your loved one appreciates things that are unconventional.

Know who you’re buying from

 Make sure the business is reputable. Get your sleuthing hat out and hit the Internet — read every review you can find.

Don’t go alone

Take a friend or family member who has great taste with you when you shop. Ask them to help you stay on budget while keeping your wish list in mind.

Buy online

You know that when you buy most things online you can often get a better deal because sellers don’t have the expenses of the brick and mortar stores. That goes for jewelry too.

Do some hunting on sites like and elsewhere. Spend time browsing, even if you just use the suggestions as a starting point.

You might also want to check out That site boasts a huge number of talented jewelry makers who specialize in unique engagement rings at very reasonable prices. Many of these sellers have a lot of buyer reviews on their profiles, so you can be more confident that you’ll be getting a quality ring.

Don’t shop retail

This is one of the easiest ways to save money on a diamond ring. Work with a wholesaler and save yourself thousands by not shopping at a big box store.

Don't believe the hype

Don’t buy into the whole “three months’ salary” myth. You DO NOT have to spend three month’s salary on an engagement ring. In fact, most people shouldn’t.

Though the average cost of an engagement ring was just over $6,000 as of 2016, you can get one for much less.

Be creative

If you have ability to do so, re-use a stone that is in the family. Have it re-set it in a new setting and band. It’s way cheaper than buying new.

How to pay for the ring and beyond

Instead of taking out a loan to purchase an engagement ring, it's a good idea to find ways to pay for the ring without taking on more debt.

Refinancing your student loans could reduce your monthly payments by up to $250 or more. Check out our Refi Ready calculator to find out how much you could save.   

About the Author
Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl Nance-Nash is a freelance writer based in New York City. She specializes in personal finance, business, small business, and travel topics. Her articles have appeared in Money, Newsday, The New York Times,,,,, among others. When she's not writing about retirement, taxes, student loans, credit, debt, and everything under the personal finance umbrella, she writes about businesses—big and small—their victories and the challenges they face. Sheryl is married with a grown daughter. Her favorite pasttime is traveling. She loves chronicling her adventures and exploring new places and cultures. Read more by Sheryl Nance-Nash

Refinance and Save Today With These Lenders

#1 - Nitro Recommended View More Details

Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products

  • Fixed rates: 2.49% - 6.31% APR
  • Variable rates: 1.88% - 6.15% APR
  • Minimum credit: 650
View More Details
Visit Splash View Loan Disclosure

Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 2.49% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

  • Low interest rates – especially for graduate students
  • No application or origination fees. No prepayment penalties.
  • Co-signer release program - you can apply for a cosigner release form your loan after 12 months of on-time payments
  • Specialty product for doctors in training with low monthly payment

Click here to see more of Splash's offerings and to see how you can save money.

#2 View More Details

For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

  • Fixed rates: 2.83% - 6.74% APR
  • Variable rates: 1.99% - 6.84% APR
  • Minimum credit: 660
View More Details
Visit CommonBond View Loan Disclosure

CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.

Of all the companies we reviewed, CommonBond has some of the best customer service. The company prides itself on being easy to reach by email, phone, or live chat. It offers networking events, expert panels, insider newsletters, and even has a program help borrowers who lose their jobs to find new ones. CommonBond also makes you feel good about choosing to refinance with them by donating money to an education nonprofit for each loan they write.

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance review

  • Unemployment protections - If you lose your job or decide to go back to school, you can delay your payments for up to 24 months.
  • Social promise - For every loan they fund, they also contribute to the education of a child in need.
  • Hybrid loan option - Offerings include a 10-year hybrid loan with fixed interest for the first five years, and variable interest for the final five.
  • Referral bonus - For every friend you refer who refinances their loans with CommonBond, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus.
  • Qualification - Borrowers must have graduated at least 2 years prior if they want to apply without a co-signer. And borrowers in 6 states – Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, and Vermont – cannot currently refinance through CommonBond.

Get a personalized review of your refinancing options with CommonBond today.

#3 View More Details

SoFi is the leading student loan refinancing provider. 

  • Fixed rates: 2.74% - 6.94% APR
  • Variable rates: 2.25% - 6.59% APR
  • Minimum credit: 650
View More Details
Visit SoFi View Loan Disclosure

$30 billion+ in refinanced student loans. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, there's no maximum on the amount you can finance. Some state restrictions may apply.

  • Serious savings: Save thousands of dollars thanks to flexible terms and low fixed or variable rates.
  • No hidden fees, no catch: No application or origination fees. No pre-payment penalties.
  • Fast, easy, and all online: Simple online application and access to live customer support 7 days a week.
  • Access to member benefits: SoFi members get career coaching, financial advice, and more—all at no cost.
  • 98% of surveyed members would recommend SoFi to a friend

Save thousands on your student loans and pay off your loans sooner. Find your rate.

#4 View More Details

Ability to apply for cosigner release after 24 consecutive payments. 

View More Details
Visit NelNetBank View Loan Disclosure

Give Your Life’s Journey a Jump-Start.

If you’re ready to put student loans in your rearview mirror, Nelnet Bank student loan refinancing offers low rates and flexible terms to help you start getting ahead.

  • VARIABLE RATES: 1.95% - 5.63% APR See Disclaimer
  • FIXED RATES: 2.55% - 5.59% APR See Disclaimer
  • AUTO DEBIT SAVINGS: We’ll knock .25% off of your interest rate when you enroll in auto debit. See Disclaimer
  • NO ORIGINATION FEES: No application, origination, or prepayment fees on Nelnet Bank loans.
  • HARDSHIP PROTECTION: Hardship forbearance helps protect against unexpected loss of income. See Disclaimer

See How Much You Can Save: Estimate your savings with a student loan refinance from Nelnet Bank.

#5 View More Details

Works with 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances

  • Fixed rates: 2.95% - 7.63% APR
  • Variable rates: 1.90% - 5.25% APR
  • Minimum credit: 660
View More Details
Visit LendKey View Loan Disclosure

Connecting student borrowers to a network of over 300 community lenders with low interest rates. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance review

  • Lightning fast rate check - 2-minute rate check with no impact on your credit score
  • More lenders, more options - see the best offers from over 300+ community lenders for higher approval chances
  • Life of loan relationship - With LendKey, your personal information will never be sent or passed on to third parties. Their customer service team is with you from the moment you land on their website until you've completely repaid your loan.
  • Unmatched benefits- Community lenders put people over profits and offer unique benefits like cosigner release after 12 on-time payments, interest only repayment options to keep monthly payments low, the largest unemployment protection period in the market, and more.

Get a personalized quote from LendKey now.

#6 View More Details

Best for borrowers who want to customize their repayment schedule to pay off debt fast.

View More Details
Visit Earnest View Loan Disclosure

Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.

  • Commitment-free 2 minute rate check
  • Client Happiness can be reached via in app messaging, email, and phone 
  • No fees for origination, prepayment, or loan disbursement
  • Flexible terms let you pick your exact monthly payment or switch between fixed and variable rates
  • Skip a payment and make it up later
  • Online dashboard is designed to make it easy to apply for and manage your loan

Click here to apply with Earnest and to see how much you can save.

#7 View More Details

16 different loan term options – more flexibility to pay down your loan faster

  • Fixed rates: 3.24% - 5.54% APR
  • Variable rates: 3.34% - 5.69% APR
  • Minimum credit: 680
View More Details
Visit CollegeAve View Loan Disclosure

College Ave Student Loans offers major help and minor stress. We’ll help guide you through the process to find the right loan term and interest rate for you and the family budget.

  • Fast rate check: Get your new rate in 60 seconds 
  • Instant credit decision
  • Super flexible terms: 16 loan terms available from 5 to 20 years
  • No fees to apply

Click here to see more College Ave offerings and to start saving today! 


I reduced my student loan payment by $152 per month, by refinancing thru Nitro:

Save Money Now