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Is $3000 too cheap for an engagement ring for a high maintenance girlfriend given my income and background?

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Question - (13 November 2017) 19 Answers - (Newest, 14 November 2017)
A male United States age 41-50, anonymous writes:

Hi, I would appreciate if you can help me with my question. If a guy is a university professor, in his mid 40s with some debt from divorce, planning to propose to his high maintenance girlfriend who is beautiful and highly educated do you think spending 3k on an engagement ring is too cheap ?

View related questions: cheap, debt, divorce, university

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A reader, anonymous, writes (14 November 2017):

My God! What on earth is wrong with you? In your most recent comment to us you've just described your girlfriend as being a wonderful woman and yet you say you cannot win. Sounds to me as if you have won and yet you are unhappy.

Your problem is that you are over-thinking this ring business. She has told you that it's not that important to her. Take her at her word. Compromise between $300 and $3000 and buy something small but tasteful.

You're lucky to have the woman you've described, but if you keep on as you are you may make her question whether she's made the right choice. You don't sound very confident in yourself. You seem to think your ability to make her happy rests on the amount you spend on her ring. If she has agreed to marry you have already made her happy. Relax and enjoy her and your life together.

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A female reader, Youcannotbeserious United Kingdom + , writes (14 November 2017):

Youcannotbeserious agony auntI think the cost of the ring is completely irrelevant. I still have the first ring a boyfriend gave me. It was a "friendship ring" - popular many years ago - and cost a few quid. (We were still at school so had very little money.) Just cheap metal with gold coloured plating but it was so special because he bought it without being prompted and gave it me in a very romantic way. The boyfriend is long gone but I still have the ring and the memory still makes me smile.

I am going to assume, from what little you say, that this lovely lady is as much in love with you as you are with her. She sounds like the sort of person who would rather have a $3 dollar ring, bought and given with love, than a $3K ring which is bought to show how much money you are willing to splash out on her.

In your shoes I would look for something "special" and which will be significant to HER. Does she like antique jewellery? Does she have a favourite colour? Does she have a favourite style of ring? Could you have a ring specially made for her which would reflect something she loves? Find something "special" rather than worrying about the price tag.

Good luck.

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A female reader, YouWish United States + , writes (14 November 2017):

YouWish agony auntI read your post as well as your follow-up, and I'm really glad I read the follow-up, because it revealed the REAL question behind what you wanted to know from us, and I think the ring is a secondary issue here.

So let's get the ring out of the way, first.

A $1,000 ring given with love and your heart is worth more than a $3,000 ring given to affirm your financial prowess or hide your insecurities. For women worth marrying, and in your follow-up, you paint a picture of a woman worth marrying, she will wear your ring with honor not because of the size of the stone, or the cut, or the elaborate metalwork, but because it came from you.

And here's the HEART of the matter. What you're REALLY asking here is whether or not you're worthy to marry a woman of her caliber, and I believe you when you meant to say "High-caliber" rather than "high-maintenance". You're measuring up and afraid she'll see the ring and say "I can do so much better". You believe that you aren't worthy to have someone like her given your debt, your divorce, and her education and standing in life.

You *ARE* worthy. You need to know that deep inside, and no large, flashy ring will make that alright in your heart. She is with you because you LOVE her.

Instead of looking at the financial comparison and her educational and intellectual measure compared to you or others who you feel are rivals for her affection that you haven't met, think about being kindhearted and loving towards her. She has what she needs financially. She wants a man confident in himself and absolutely devoted to loving and cherishing her for no other reason except that he loves her and wishes to spend the rest of his life with her.

Good luck on the ring and proposal! Let us know what she says to you!

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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (14 November 2017):

I wonder why you'd refer to the woman you planned to propose to as high-maintenance; and insinuate that she's possibly materialistic or superficial?

The fact that you're in debt may raise some concern. It wouldn't be starting off on the right foot. A one carat diamond averages about $5000.

In the same paragraph you mention how beautiful she is; which would further imply that you're more taken by her beauty than genuinely in-love with this woman.

Are you? Is she in-love with you?

I'd like you to further explain how she is high-maintenance?

Being a college professor, you should be proficient at expressing your thoughts; and citing examples to support your theories. You leave far too much to speculation.

Maybe if you offered a bit more about her personality, it would give us more insight into her character.

We've never met her, so it might be difficult to determine how she might react to your proposal with less than a carat for a ring. Somehow I don't think the cost of the ring is really the greatest issue here.

If you've dated long enough to fall in-love; I only hope she reciprocates those feelings. Rings can always be upgraded and/or exchanged.

Explain what it is about her that has made you decide she is the woman you wish to make your wife? What other qualities does she possess that makes you feel you're a good match as a couple?

I'm hoping that you swept her off her feet; and the fact she loves you so much, the value of the ring is of no real consequence.

Dear sir, did you just rush to this decision without giving it any real thought or consideration? It almost seems impulsive, and based on an idealized perception of this woman. You've got me a little worried!

A ring and a proposal is usually a wonderful surprise. I don't think she's going to rush out and get the ring appraised.

Would she?

If she is insulted by less than a carat; then maybe she's not the right woman for you.

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (14 November 2017):

I’m the OP- Thank you all for your advices. I think high maintenance wasn’t a proper word to describe my girlfriend. She is the most humble, kind and selfless person I have ever known. She is 40 years old and works for a great firm, she is a CFO. She doesn’t need my money and has never expected me to do anything for her. Even though I have tried so hard to please her she always finds ways to do something for me without hurting my feelings. She has traveled all over the world and has a great taste in food, style and everything and not only it doesn’t bother me in fact I love it. She is an independent and very successful woman that always has maintained her lifestyle without depending on any man. I wish I had the money to take care of her the way she deserves. I just adore her personality and her beauty inside and out. She is the love of my life. I asked her about the ring and she said I really don’t expect you to get me anything expensive because I don’t wear jewelry but if you want to get something symbolic we can go with a simple ring without diamond! Which I think it wouldn’t cost me even $300. I know she is very considerate and doesn’t want me to spend any money on her but still I cannot go with something that cheap, that’s why I needed your input. With this background what do you think I should do? I think I cannot win this regardless! :-(

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (13 November 2017):

On the other hand, if you are the ::high-maintenence:: woman, give the guy a break!!

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (13 November 2017):

To the mid 40 man, with a job that does not pay well and debts, probably not much disposable income, if you want to propose to a ::high-maintenence:: woman and don't know the answer to the question--- it's too soon to propose! You don't know her well enough!!

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A reader, anonymous, writes (13 November 2017):

You have debt from a previous marriage and now you're asking if spending 3K on your high maintenance fiance-to-be is enough. This is sending up all kinds of red flags. I hope you pay off your debt soon and plan to have deep pockets in the future because you will need them.

You're an educated mature man. Give this move some serious thought and maybe do a little introspection while you're at it.

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (13 November 2017):

Honeypie agony auntAnyone (IMHO) who looks at the price of the engagement ring as a good indicator of how well a man will be as a husband needs her head examined.

Can you AFFORD a $3,000 ring?

Do you WANT to spend $3,000 on a ring?

If yes, then proceed.

Before you BUY a ring I would suggest you talk about what SHE likes as far as style, metals, gems so you do not WASTE that $3,000 on something she hates.

Personally? I wouldn't need or want that extravagant a ring but... I also don't wear much jewelry - it's kind of wasted on me. I have a $900 watch that I have had for over 25 years. If it ever breaks I will NOT replace it with an expensive watch. At the time I bought it I could afford it. Now I have other priorities than shinies.

If she doesn't find your "tribute" worthy... is SHE than a good future partner for you?

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (13 November 2017):

Your age and profession are irrelevant to the question. The fact is that you have some debt and therefore I would recommend to pay off that debt before buying an engagement ring and spending vast amounts of money on a wedding. Getting married is nice but not essential. Your future wife should understand your position and accept a relatively cheap ring or wait until you can afford something nicer.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (13 November 2017):

I wouldn't care how much the ring cost. As long as it came from you.

I guess we women are not all the same.

I am beautiful and intelligent too.

But I value much more than monetary things. Maybe it's because my struggles in life have given me character and the capacity to see beyond material things to what really matters in this life.

I'd definitely think long and hard about your future with this one.

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A female reader, mystiquek United States + , writes (13 November 2017):

mystiquek agony auntSorry...but the moment I read "high maintenance girlfriend" the warning signs started flashing. If your girlfriend is as you state...think LONG and CAREFULLY before marrying. Woman like that are very hard to please and usually make everyone around them miserable because enough is not enough. I don't want to burst your bubble, but the truth is that type of gal usually isn't happy with anything and would prefer to pick out the ring herself. It won't be cheap, trust me.

Love shouldn't be about money and if it is..there's a big problem. How well do you really know her? Perhaps you should be talking to her before buying a ring. Just my 2 cents worth but make sure you know what you are getting into!

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A female reader, Andie's Thoughts United Kingdom + , writes (13 November 2017):

Andie's Thoughts agony auntHow old is your girlfriend?

If she expects you to spend more than $1000 on a ring, she's really not worth marrying because she's TOO materialistic. She'd be after your money, not you, and wouldn't stick by you if you lost most of your money.

A marriage is about much more than a wedding or a ring.

Surely you know that, after your first didn't work out?

Before you buy a ring, I think you should figure out if she'll stay with you if you can't pay for her expensive tastes. If not, what's the point of marrying her.

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A male reader, BrownWolf Canada +, writes (13 November 2017):

BrownWolf agony auntFirst of all...Rings are actually useless when it comes to marriage.

A ring is a like a police badge. It lets other people know you are married.

Your vows is what makes you married. Rings are just for show and tell. Love is not how much you spend on a ring either.

If the girl you plan to marry is basing your love for her, on how much you spend on a piece of metal...You have some serious thinking to do.

Are you marrying for love, or the love of money?

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A female reader, 02DuszJ United Kingdom +, writes (13 November 2017):

02DuszJ agony auntShe's marrying you- not your money (right?)

£3000 is extortionate IMO (esp. for someone in debt!)

£1000 is perfectly adequate- why does she need the spare 2 grand, she has YOU.

You may be highly educated but I think you have your love-dumb rose tints on if you think her not accepting that extortion is a good thing!

I think through trying this hard to impress a gal you've lost sight of what's true and REAL.

I do agree that if she doesn't appreciate that much money spent on her it really shows what poor character she has, especially being well educated.. I guess she must therefore be aware of the cheap labour that went into producing her luxuries right.. ?

Anyway if she throws anything over $1000 back in your face maybe you'll be able to face up to what kind of character she is

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A female reader, CindyCares Italy + , writes (13 November 2017):

CindyCares agony aunt No, it's not too cheap. I think it's adequate.

Now, in theory you can't put a price tag on feelings and your girlfriend should be overjoyed to receive the symbol of your committment even if this symbol were the tin ring from a Coke can.

In practice, it's normal, and reasonable, to have certain expectations commensurate to age, status, job, income , lifestyle etc.

A college professor in hid mid 40s is expected to gladly offer something more than a symbolic Coke can ring :).

Then again, whether she is high maintenance or not, she knows your salary, your spending habits, and most of all the fact that you are in debt. Particularly in consideration of this last factor, ANY big purchase beyond your normal upkeep is a non-mandatory effort, and $3000 sounds an appreciable effort enough to impress a high-maimtenance , yet hopefully sensible and intelligent, person.

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A female reader, femmenoir Australia +, writes (13 November 2017):

femmenoir agony auntI don't think true love ought be purely based upon the price tag of an engagement ring.

If your gf is a truly sincere, mature and above all else, "appreciative" woman, then she will appreciate the ring that you've chosen for her and do you know why?

Because YOU chose it and it came from YOUR HEART.

That's a beautiful thing right there.

You sound like a true gentleman and she's very lucky to have met you.

$3,000 can be quite a price tag for many men when buying a ring and although you're of mature age and are well educated, it matters not, because in the end, you've got some debts and you cannot afford to spend extravagant amounts of money, simply to make your gf any happier.

It's the same as saying, you cannot be all things to all people.

You just can't.

What i find interesting, is that you refer to your gf as "high maintenance".

May i ask why?

If she really is that high maintenance, then are you definitely prepared to spend the rest of your life with her?

I'm sorry and i don't mean to sound offensive and intrusive, but i'm just saying.

I used to know a guy who had an ex gf, that was so spoilt and high maintenance, that nothing he ever did for her was good enough and you know what happened to the two of them in the end?

Yes, they broke up and he did go on to find somebody much more accommodating and appreciative.

Having a beautiful gf is one thing, but always having to bend over backwards for her, even if it means you end up in further debt is another.

All i can say is, if your gf truly loves you, then when you present her the ring that you've so lovingly chosen, you'll see her reaction and find out as to how she truly feels about her ring and about you.

To be brutally blunt, you'll get to see her "true colours".

If a $3,000 ring of choice isn't good enough for her, then maybe you need to consider if she's worth the effort, because i know for sure that there are many a beautiful woman who'd really appreciate your kind gesture.

I wouldn't advise you to spend any more than you can afford.

Does your gf know that you're divorced?

If so, she should be even more understanding about you, your past and your current limited financial status.

Anyway, you do not need to tell her how much her ring cost, nor should she even have the indecency to ask!

If she wants to go engagement ring shopping, i'd advise you not to go with her, because her taste will be way over the top "price wise" for you to afford.

Just let her know in a gentle and polite manner, that you wish to surprise her and you wish to choose her ring independently.

She can give you an "idea" of what styles she prefers and i think that's acceptable and ok, but if you've got to stick to this specific budget, then checking out something similar, in an affordable price range is more logical.

Do what simply suits you best and worry not about what her reaction should be, because a true meaning, decent woman will show her love and appreciation upon receiving such a gift.

If she isn't, well you know where you stand don't you?

I do wish you the best of luck and do let me know how you go.

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A male reader, VitaminZ United States +, writes (13 November 2017):

My opinion is probably different from everyone else's, but I'd say to give her a ring that costs less $300.

When you marry someone, you marry for richer, for poorer. Is this high maintenance girlfriend/future wife going to stick by your side if you can't spoil her?

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (13 November 2017):

Have you talked about marriage etc with this person? Usually there’s some discussion to make sure you’re on the same page....and with the discussion you can discuss wedding and marriage related hypotheticals, including rings and expectations surrounding it. Many women I know actually picked out what they liked, or the men just asked for some input re size and style. I don’t know if it’s strange, but it makes sense to me especially as we get older, understand ourselves better, and get more practical....

On the other hand if your answer is no, you have not discussed marriage, and you are insisting on keeping it a complete surprise, then it’s harder to answer your question. Was there ever a time she said she liked certain jewelry or brands? Or have you seen her current jewelry collection? You say “high maintenance” which sounds like you’re categorizing her like she wants an expensive ring, but I don’t think that’s enough information to go on for this question. Maybe she’ll love the ring because she loves you and wants to get married and therefore it doesn’t matter. Or maybe she may hate the ring but at that point if the ring matters more then marriage, that’s something to consider too. (Though culture may play a role, depending on her cultural background).

At the end of the day, if you’ve already decided on a ring which HAPPENS to cost $3,000, then don’t think in terms of money but rather sentiment, is there a reason you are choosing this ring that is specific to her? In return, if she’s more excited about being with YOU and thinking of marriage, and you had good intentions, then I would hope that would suffice. Good luck!

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