My engagement ring-and wedding ring-suck. Sorry darling, but you know it’s true. But I’m sticking with them anyway-and here’s why.
Engaged as A Teenager
I was married at 21-before anyone else I knew. Being married so young is highly unusual where I work, and in the personal finance community. Most people I work with were married in their late 20’s or early 30’s.That was when we were married. I was actually engaged at 17, twenty years ago in 1998. My then boyfriend was 23. We both worked in a grocery store, where we met. I was a cashier, he worked in the meat department. We started talking on our breaks and eventually went out to McDonalds on our first date. Romantic, huh?
My husband was terrible with money at the time. As in, living paycheck to paycheck and even occasionally bouncing checks. He was no where near the frugal(ish) person he is today. So affording a fancy engagement ring was hardly on the table. Instead, he had to open a store credit card, and put the $500 ring on credit at an exorbitant interest rate. The ring was paid off over time, as was the wedding ring. Total both rings cost around $700, which was a huge amount to both of us at the time. This was cheap, even twenty years ago. Nowadays it looks like the average engagement and engagement ring combo costs about six grand.
Only family and friends from high school know we were engaged so young. It’s not something I ever talk about. Why not? Being engaged to be married before becoming a legal adult is not something most people would consider a “smart decision”. And yet here we are twenty years later, still married and with three kids. So it didn’t work out that badly for us. Although the chance of divorce is much higher for people married in their early 20’s- 36%– that does mean that 64% stay married. We’re part of that cohort.
Looking at the engagement ring and wedding ring now, they’re full of flaws. The wedding ring diamonds look like tiny little fragments, with holes in them. The engagement ring is probably the lowest quality one you’ve ever seen. And yet I wouldn’t trade them in for new, expensive, shiny ones. When I could go to Costco or Blue Nile and easily afford pretty much anything they have to offer, why not? Three key reasons.
Reason One- Jewelry Doesn’t Matter To Me
I am not a “girly” type of woman. I didn’t dream of my wedding day for my entire childhood, which is why my $2,000 wedding was fine in my book. I hate shopping with a passion. I don’t care about fashion, and love shopping at consignment shops because I can get quality clothes at a low cost. If it were up to me, I would wear ratty jeans and hoodies all the time.And I don’t wear jewelry, except when I need to dress up for work or for an event. When I do wear jewelry, it tends to be something I’ve made myself, unless I need to look really fancy. I don’t like gold, and prefer silver. And I like colorful stones like rubies, sapphire and emeralds-not diamonds
.So why on earth would I spend thousands of dollars on sparkly diamonds set in gold, when it’s not something I would even like? Fancy jewelry simply doesn’t matter to me. And I really don’t care what other people think of me. Just because it’s something that other people do, doesn’t mean I have to do it.
If it is a priority to you, that’s great-I don’t judge other people’s priorities. But it’s not a priority to me, so I’m not going to buy something just because marketing says I “should”.
Reason Two- They’re A Powerful Financial Reminder
When I look at these rings, I remember just how far we’ve come-and how much has changed. Twenty years ago, we were just a couple of dumb kids in love. We didn’t really think very much about the future, and what it would entail.
My husband worked hard for many months to pay off those rings. It took quite a while for him to do it, because he didn’t make a lot of money at that grocery store job. Putting the ring on a store credit card was a pretty dumb financial decision, frankly. We’ve come a long way financially speaking since those days.
I’m not a teenager in high school living with my parents anymore, and we don’t work at a grocery store. We have enough to pay cash for those rings many times over. Remembering my financial past is important to me. Why? Because those struggles were an important part of making me the woman I am today. Those early struggles were difficult, yes. We were married very young. My oldest son was born two months after I finished college – I spend my last semester of college working full time in IT, going to school full time and pregnant. We spent many years on the financial edge.
Living that way gave me a deep appreciation for being more financially stable. Even though my financial life has changed substantially since then, I don’t want to forget those struggles. They help me feel more appreciative for the way things are now, and not forget the values of hard work and sacrifice that got me here.
Reason Three-They’re a Symbol of Marriage
These rings are imperfect and full of flaws-just like marriage. I’m not a starry eyed teenager who thinks that life will be full of nothing but roses, sparkles, unicorns, and rainbows.
Life is hard and messy. Good things and bad things happen all the time. Just when you think you have it all figured out, another curveball comes your way. We’ve had good times, terrible times, and boring times. There have been times we were deeply and sickeningly affectionate, and other times we wouldn’t even want to speak to each other.
My imperfect rings are a symbol of an imperfect marriage. If we’re honest with ourselves, no one has a perfect marriage – because we’re all imperfect people. All marriages are filled with flaws, just like my rings. Sometimes they’re obvious, other times hidden, but none of us are perfect.
So I’m Not Looking For New Rings
I’ve worn these rings for 20 years now, through good and bad times, my husbands time in a coma in the hospital, the purchase of our house, and the birth of our three children. They’re a reminder of how far we’ve come, the imperfections of marriage, and on intentional spending. So I’m not looking to replace them anytime soon.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
What are your thoughts on engagement and wedding rings? Were fancy rings important to you-or did you get something cool that’s outside of the norm? Let me know in the comments!
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