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Better Engagement Ring Or Less Debt? Half Of Married Americans Would Make The Frugal Choice

Better Engagement Ring Or Less Debt? Half Of Married Americans Would Make The Frugal Choice

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About half of married Americans with debt said they would have been happy giving or getting a less expensive engagement ring in order to help pay down their current debts, according to a new survey from CompareCards.com.

The holiday season is one of busiest times of the year for marriage proposals. With that in mind, CompareCards.com surveyed more than 1,000 married people to get their thoughts on engagements and debt. We asked about everything from engagement rings and honeymoons to how much they and their partner knew about each other’s financial situations before they got engaged. What we found was couples are more likely to talk about many other controversial topics before they talk about credit scores and that millions of Americans would happily prioritize paying down debt over a fancy engagement ring.

Key findings

  • We’re OK with less bling if it means less debt: We asked married Americans with debt whether they’d given a ring or received a ring during their most recent engagement. Among those who had received a ring, 53% would’ve been happy getting a less expensive ring in order to better pay off debts. Among those who had given a ring, 47% agreed they would’ve been happy giving a less fancy ring to help pay down debt.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 got engaged without knowing their beloved’s debt situation: 31% of married people didn’t know how much non-mortgage debt their significant other had before they got engaged
  • We talk about religion, politics and kids before getting engaged, but few talk credit: Credit scores are way down the list of things that people talk about with their partner before getting engaged. Just 1 in 5 (22%) married folks talked about credit scores before their engagement. That’s far below those who spoke about the desire for kids (62%), their religious views (56%) and politics (34%).
  • Debt forces many to delay popping the question: One in 10 married folks said they delayed proposing or getting married because of their debts or their significant other’s debts. Millennials were five times more likely than other age groups to have said so.
  • Most are paying off the ring immediately: Two-thirds of married folks (66%) said they didn’t go into debt at all for their engagement ring and just 8% of respondents said they went into debt for a year or longer. Knowing that, it’s not surprising that the most common way to pay for an engagement ring was cash from a checking account. Nearly half of married people (45%) said that, while credit cards came in second at 27% and cash from a savings account was third at 17%.

The bottom line: The ring’s no longer the thing.

It’s clear that for millions of Americans, when it comes to engagements, the ring is no longer a priority. Many would be just as happy paying off their debts as they would be showing off their new bling, and that’s a really good thing.

It also shouldn’t come as a big surprise that an engagement ring is being downplayed today. Americans have been accumulating debt for years, and more and more are choosing to spend what little excess money they have on experiences rather than things. (By the way, we also asked if they would be happy with giving or getting a lesser engagement ring to finance a more extravagant honeymoon, and the numbers were smaller – but not too different — from the percentages who would sacrifice the ring to pay down their debts.) Some people have gone as far as to forgo a ring altogether, choosing to put that money toward either toward repaying debt or toward an aspect of their wedding that means more to them than a ring. I don’t believe that’s a common occurrence, but for many Americans, it’s a wise one.

The truth is that as much as many people fantasize about a fairy tale engagement and wedding, debt hangs over countless Americans like a massive dark cloud. It colors everything they do, even whether to take their beloved’s hand in marriage.

It’s unfortunate that even in these good economic times, this is still a huge issue, and this survey shows that many Americans are taking it seriously. That’s important because it’s much easier to pay down debt in good economic times than in bad — and, as in marriage, some bad times will eventually come. Preparing for them, to the degree that you can, can make all the difference.

Check out our best jewelry chain financing options post.


CompareCards by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,224 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the general population. The survey was fielded Dec. 5-10, 2018, and the margin for error for all respondents is +/- 2.8%.

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