Money Experiences

Monday, March 13, 2006

An engaging post

Well, I realized that the name of this blog is Money Experiences, but I haven't really posted all that much about my own experiences! Let's start to change that.

Things are moving fairly quickly for me at this point in my life. In the past month and a half, I've committed to making the two largest purchases someone can make in life: a house and an engagement ring. I'll talk about the house a little later, but I'll go into the ring right now, since that's been on my mind more recently.

I've been dating my girlfriend for over 4 1/2 years now, and we'd obviously spoken of marriage before, so I figured that now was as good a time as any. I had a general idea for the type of ring that I wanted to get, but I really had no idea what they might cost. So I peeked into a store one day, and had to dramatically revise my budget!

I've only been out of school for about 10 months now. Luckily, I don't have any debt outside of month-to-month credit card payments (until the mortgage starts, but again, let's not get ahead of ourselves), so I've been able to put a decent amount of my money towards savings. Still, the "recommended" 2 months salary budget would have pretty much obliterated everything that I've saved up. I guarantee you that new graduates to not fit into that framework! I eventually decided that I would go ahead and spend one month, since it is a one-time purchase, and she will be wearing it every day! Even with that, I wasn't going to be able to buy as nice a ring as I wanted at a store like Jared's. So, taking a tip from a recently engaged co-worker, I took a look at an online dealer, Bluenile.com. Using this site, I was able to pick out a band and diamond that were MUCH nicer than what I could have gotten at a brick and mortar store. I was even able to use my dad's work benefits website to get 10% off the band! I placed the order, they said it would arrive in 4 business days, and what do you know, it did! It came with a certificate verifying that the diamond was rated as highly as the website claimed (I decided to go with quality [of cut, color, etc] over quantity [carats]). There was even a written appraisal that valued the ring at 50% higher than what I paid for it! I highly doubt that the ring is that much better than what I paid for, but it's still nice to have!

This last Sunday morning, the proposal came at sunrise looking over the Atlantic Ocean (best I could do), and the answer was yes. My fiancé (yep, kinda feels weird to write it) currently is in her hometown of Reading PA, and while she's there she'll take the ring to a jeweler her family uses to get it resized (the ring that I used to get her size was apparently a little big) and she'll also see if the appraisal is accurate.

How's this post related to personal finance? Well, I guess you'd really have to search to find a connection. But, I think that some of the tactics that I used in purchasing the ring can be applied to many other types of purchases:

1. Ask around.
When looking for a big-ticket item, ask your friends/family/coworkers where they've made similar purchases, and how happy they were with the outcome. I really had no idea where I would buy the ring, and probably would not have considered buying online, but my coworker's recommendation of BlueNile was so enthusiastic that I decided to give it a chance.

2. Look through all your options to lower the price.
A little after I'd told my parents that I was going to pop the question, my dad mentioned that I should take a look at a link he had sent me over a year ago. I opened it up, and right on the main page was a link offering 10% off of the setting when you build your own jewelry at BlueNile. I was already seriously considering BlueNile at this point, so that offer was just icing on the cake! I normally have a spreadsheet listing different companies that offer money off if I use certain programs, but I'd never included jewelry in the list. Make sure you check out any available offers before making your final decision.

3. Choose quality.
OK, so this may be stretching a little bit. I wanted to get the best diamond that I could afford, and was willing to sacrifice quantity (the size) to get it. When it comes to large purchases, I'm a big believer in getting the best product for your money. That's why I asked for a subscription to Consumer Reports as a Christmas present!

Enough rambling. That's enough for one post.

(Oh yeah, FYI. I wasn't paid at all by BlueNile. They were just that good.)

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