Planning to propose in 2017? Here’s how Singaporeans can afford an engagement ring and still have money for the wedding and a life together.
First published on 13 July 2016. Last updated on 29 November 2016.
Engagement rings are the most contentious part of romantic relationships. Whether you believe they are important reflections of affection or a grotesque marketing conspiracy, we can all agree on one thing: They cost way too much.
Without going for the cheapest possible engagement ring in Singapore (tie a bit of wire around the finger), here are some cheats you can use:
1. Get the Stone from a Private Dealer
You can try to buy the diamond from a separate dealer. These days, you can even buy diamonds off the Internet. The main reason to do this is to avoid the high mark-up at jewellery stores, which sometimes pad the cost of a diamond by as much as 60 per cent.
Getting the diamond separately also means you get the ring made at a more affordable price (see point 3).
2. Get VS1 or VS2 Clarity
The clarity of a diamond is one of four major determinants of value (the others being colour, cut, and carat). Clarity is a measure of how many impurities are inside the diamond. The more of them there are, the less the diamond is worth.
One way to save money is to go for a clarity of VS1 or VS2. This can make a price difference of S$200 to S$300 (it depends on the person you’re person buying from), and the difference from the next highest grade (VVS1 or VVS2) is not visible to the human eye.
3. Get a Neighbourhood Jeweller to Craft the Ring
Instead of going to a big chain store, check out your local jewellers. We’re referring to the small, family-run outlets that are often found below HDB flats or in older malls. These jewellers are often smiths, who have the skill to craft what you need.
If you take a picture of a ring you like, they can probably create something similar for you; and the price difference can be as much as 10 per cent. On a S$5,000 ring, that’s a difference of as much as S$500.
4. Check Out Pawn Shops
Visit the pawn shops along Little India especially, and see what they have on sale. Prices here tend to be slightly lower compared to chain jewellers, and on par with neighbourhood stores (see point 3).
You can also ask the pawn shop owners about auctions, in which you can bid for jewellery. The rings you find here would have been pawned off by the owners, and there is a chance you may get a good discount.
Some Singaporeans think it’s bad luck to buy a second-hand ring, a belief that’s very profitable for jewellers. But if you are not superstitious, this is one way to make some quick savings.
5. Buy with the Right Credit Card
The trick is to buy with a credit card but pay it back in full right after. This is because credit cards offer cashback or easy instalment plans, which help you defer the costs of the ring.
Try the American Express True Cashback Card, which offers a 3 per cent cashback on the first S$5,000 you spend. On a S$5,000 ring, you earn S$150 in cashback, which is not an insubstantial amount. Unlike most credit cards, the True Cashback Card has no limit on the cashback you earn, which means you get to keep the full S$150.
If you prefer to pay in instalments, use the OCBC Cashflo Card. When you make a purchase above S$1,000, it automatically splits it into 6-month 0% interest instalments. You even earn 1% rebate on your instalment payments.
You can see some other credit cards for big purchases here. Remember that you need to pay the full amount during the next billing cycle. If you roll over the debt, the interest rate could negate any potential savings.
6. If You Must Use a Loan, Find One with a Low Interest Rate
Personal loan rates vary widely between banks. They can be as low as 5 per cent or as high as 9 per cent. It is important to compare loan options and find the lowest interest rate possible. You save a lot of money on repayments this way.
HSBC’s Personal Loan currently has one of the lowest rates in the market for new customers, at 4.50% p.a. (EIR 8.5% p.a.). They’re waiving the S$88 processing fee if you apply online, plus you get a S$50 NTUC voucher when you apply exclusively through SingSaver.com.sg.
7. Consider Other Gems Besides Diamonds
It is a marketing ploy by DeBeers that made it “necessary” for engagement rings to have diamonds. These days, you can consider alternatives. Many couples now use engagement rings that have emerald, sapphire, turquoise, etc., in place of a diamond.
Besides, such gems make your engagement ring stand out.
8. For Coloured Diamonds, Consider Less Popular Hues
Pink diamonds are an overpriced favourite, but there are many kinds of fancy coloured diamonds. Greens and blues, for example, can be just as eye-catching and sometimes more affordable.
In Asia, the most underrated diamonds are yellow diamonds. There is a common myth that these do not look good against Asian skin tones. Before subscribing to that prejudice however, do try it out – you may find its perfect for you. And it’s often less expensive, due to the aforementioned myth.
9. Use a Placeholder Ring
As a last resort, don’t buy the engagement ring just yet. Use a placeholder ring – something symbolic, to be used until such time as you can afford a ring of your choice.
Marriage comes with priorities like housing, or funds to raise your family. These should come far ahead of a bauble on the finger.
And if someone insists your affection is demonstrated in the money you’ll spend, then maybe the ultimate money-saving tip is to rethink who you want to settle down with.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.