Cheap Alternatives to Men’s Gold or Platinum Wedding Bands

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Weddings are expensive.

Weddings are so expensive, in fact, that even as the typical wedding involves fewer guests, the average cost for what's typically a five-hour event has shot up to $31,213, as of 2014 according to a survey conducted by The Knot, a multi-platform wedding resource. And the price continues to increase.

And when you've already resigned yourself to the fact that you're supposed to spend tens of thousands to have your perfect day, what's another couple of thousand on a groom’s ring, right?

A wedding band is another piece in the up-sell of everything that goes into a wedding

It's almost too easy to want to spend money on your wedding; we see them as special, once-in-a-lifetime events wherein every item is a symbol, wrought with sentiment and meaning.

However, many of the aspects of a wedding that we think of as long-held, important traditions are actually relatively new inventions thought up by the wedding business to make money. The diamond engagement ring – almost entirely a 20th century creation at the hands of De Beers and its hired marketers – is perhaps the most famous example.

The groom’s wedding band is no different.

While there is evidence of women wearing wedding rings back to ancient Egypt, research indicates that it wasn't the norm for men to wear wedding bands before World War II.

There are a couple of theories behind the birth of the two-ring trend: when men went off to fight in the second World War, many of them were said to have worn wedding bands to reminisce upon their wives back home. Other sources point to the growing gender equality between men and women -- if the woman is wearing a ring, so should the man.

Whatever the reason, jewelers were all too happy to take the opportunity to sell yet another expensive item to American lovebirds -- and it worked.

Yet, while men and women have taken great strides toward equality, the same cannot be said of our wedding bands. It is not uncommon for a woman's wedding band to have a high level of artistry -- diamonds and semi-precious stones, halos, eternity settings -- while most men prefer a simple sliver of metal, which could be achieved easily by even the most novice jeweler.

But because they both fit into that same "wedding" box, men will pay far more than what they have to for what amounts to an inornate band, simply because soon-to-be newlyweds approach the purchase with their eyes closed and their wallets open.

Smarter options

The bulk of the upcharge comes by convincing men to stick to rings made of platinum or gold if they want something that will last a lifetime.

But the simplicity that many men want in their wedding bands offers the opportunity to go with a less traditional material that will be as durable -- if not more durable -- for a lot less money.

One option that is particularly well-suited to the simple designs of men’s wedding bands is titanium. While it is very difficult to solder and thus not as great a choice for more ornate jewelry that might have to be re-sized, titanium is inexpensive to machine into simple circles of a given size. Moreover, titanium is biocompatible – meaning you won’t have an allergic reaction to wearing it – and less susceptible to tarnish and scratches than more expensive metals including gold.

Another material that takes advantage of the relatively simple design of men’s wedding rings is tungsten carbide. This chemical compound is extremely hard so you wouldn’t be able to re-size anything made of it, but can be pressed into pre-determined shapes for a relatively low price. The resultant hardness means that tungsten carbide rings are extremely durable and very difficult to scratch. However, it is important to note that different manufacturers use different compositions of tungsten and carbon, with nickel and cobalt often involved as well, and that the different combinations can mean that these rings can differ greatly in physical properties. As always, read reviews to have the best idea of what you’re getting.

Besides these two, jewelers also offer men’s wedding rings in any number of novel, inexpensive materials that include, but are certainly not limited to, ceramics, steel, meteorite, and dinosaur bone. Needless to say, with a little creativity and legwork you can find something meaningful that won’t break the bank – a welcome relief given the high cost of other aspects of getting married.

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Posted on November 17, 2015.

Marriage Tension and Money

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This month's Money Magazine had an interesting article asking What's Your Money State of Mind? The article is the result of a survey of 1018 Americans who are 18 or older. The information in the magazine is presented better than the article on the web. It gave more statistics and fewer anecdotal quotes. Regular readers know that I'm more of a statistic guy... anecdotal quotes can be used to show almost anything, even alien abductions.

One particular graphic caught my attention. You'll want to want to click on it for a bigger version that will open up in a new window.

As the graphic reads at the top money is the top source of marital tension. It is both the most frequently argued topic and the source of the most serious arguments.

I would have loved if they could have dug a little deeper on the questions considering it is Money Magazine. It's great to know that Quality Time Together is 30%, but give me more details on the money aspect. What percentage of the arguments are about the lack of money. I'm guessing some 90%, right? What percentage is about good money problems, such as fights about using extra money to buy stock in IBM vs. Lululemon. That's got to be a minority of the arguments, right?

I'm just curious to know those numbers so I don't make too much of a false assumption here that the tension is from a lack of money. Nonetheless, given the recent news about the Americans being unprepared financially, I'm going to go out on a limb and make that assumption. I do that recognizing that lottery winners have their share of money headaches too, it's just of a different variety.

There's an old saying that money can't buy happiness. However, it seems like it can prevent 41% of marital arguments. If that isn't reason enough to take charge of your personal finances, I don't know what is.

Actually, I take that back. I'll give you a few more reasons... the rest of the graphic. If you look at the items almost all of them tie into money.

Household chores are the second most frequent and most serious arguments. We got a cleaning service to take care of much of that every couple of weeks. We still have plenty of chores, but they are much more manageable and very few arguments about them. It is one of our best uses of money.

Quality time together was also cited. The old saying that time is money is apt here. The converse is also true, money is time. Using the example above of hiring a cleaning service, money has bought us time. Hiring a landscaping company can buy time. Hiring a babysitter also buys time. What you do with that time is up to you.

I'm going to skip over raising kids, because I feel that isn't mostly money issue, but more of a parenting strategy one.

Finally there's the question of what's for dinner. Money obviously can solve that by going to a restaurant or hiring a chef to prepare frozen dinners for a week or two.

There's a lot more to marriage than money, but money plays a big role. It's too bad it got put in a small graphic at the bottom of the page. Oh and you are on your own with snoring. Good luck.

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Posted on April 9, 2014.

Solving the “What do to I get my Husband/Wife for Christmas?” Problem

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It's that time of year again. Time to engage in hanging stockings and mistletoe. Time for dreams of Kris Kringle and Super Bowls. Wait, something is off there. I've given up on my typical holiday-neutral stance and added a little football to the mix. It's the time of year where things get all mixed up anyway, so I figure, let's go with it. I get a lot of questions this time of year, but there's one question that I get more than the others... "I need to buy a gift for the husband/wife... and I can't come up empty handed?" What do you suggest?

I got one of these questions on Friday, my second of the season. I am always quick to suggest that you can never go wrong with hair clips and watch chains, especially because I often get asked by both spouses. When I get serious, I can occasionally be helpful, but it is always hit or miss.

It occurred to me that my wife and I typically don't have this problem. We accidentally developed a pretty good system. Throughout the year when we want something we put it on our Amazon Wishlist. (Yes, I know you'd think this is Jeff Bezos' blog lately, but it seems appropriate during the holidays.) Since Amazon allows you to put little notes on your list, we leave little hints like, "I don't need this exact hair brush" or "You can get this cheaper at Target" (I'm sure Amazon loves that note). The items for me range from things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 8 comic books graphic novels (note that I can be all adulty about it) to the aforementioned hair brush (Jacoby chews through mine a couple times a year). When Christmas rolls around we both look to the list. On Friday, when thinking about how to answer the hubby/wifey question, I realized that this is a double win for us. It not only solves the Christmas problem, but it limits our spending throughout the rest of the year.

One thing you don't want to give your spouse... a $60,000 debt. You know how I feel about those. Oh and add bungee cords to the list of things not to get. Even if your wife loves to camp and the bungee cords are very close to free, so it could be considered an "extra" thing to open, don't do it... seriously.

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Posted on December 13, 2010.

Discussions About a Sudden Expense

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Yesterday, I wrote how my wife's friend getting married is a sudden expense for us. If you haven't read that article I highly suggest you do, or this article might seem out of place. I got an amazing amount of comments on that post, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who took the time to share their thoughts.

I mentioned yesterday that this expense is likely to be a minimum of $1800. It could easily run as much as $2500. Though my wife makes a very good income, my income has dropped in the last few months as I try to start up a variety of small businesses.

During the discussions of this with my wife, I went to what I do, logical arguments. I started to calculate how many friends she has and what the costs would be if half of them decided to get married. While that's an unrealistic expectation, it would hurt our financial goals. As I thought about it more, this is one situation where thinking logically isn't helpful for me. Behind the scenes I realize that it's more about these psychological factors:

  • The value of a dollar is different for me than my wife. In the past, my wife and I earned similar incomes. This lead us to keep our finances separate. Keeping our finances the same seemed the easiest and most practical thing to do. We automate some money into a joint account each month and pay common expenses from that. With my lowered income, this expense would be more than I make in a month. Thinking about paying more than a month's income this suddenly is causing me some stress. When I look at it from my wife's point of view, I imagine that she'd find it still expensive, but not to the point of causing her stress.
  • I'm no longer like everyone else. Well no one is really like everything (or anyone) else. However, I'm different than many other people in that I write about money everyday. As part of that, I'm trying to make the conscious effort to be as frugal as possible.

Yesterday I mentioned that this has the potential to completely change how we feel about money. While keeping our finances separate worked in the past, it might be time to think about combining our finances. I think this would alleviate some of the stress spending money gives me.

As for the decision to go to Spain, I think we are leaning towards going later this year. We'll be better able to manage costs at that point. This would give us the opportunity to spend more time with the couple. It would also allow us to plan a vacation of things that we want to do. My wife wouldn't be able to ask for the time off for another week, so we've got some more time to think about it. It may turn out to be a moot point by then with airfare and hotels likely to rise.

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Posted on January 17, 2008.

A Sudden Expense Changes Everything

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Recently my wife and I dined out a few times. While no particular meal was expensive, the aggregate of the three meals equaled 2 weeks worth of groceries. I didn't think about it too much at the time. Everything changed with an e-mail my wife received on Sunday. In her words, "The color drained from [her] face."

The e-mail was from her friend from Spain. She is getting married and would like for us to join them in celebrating their union. The wedding is less than 45 days away.

I immediately went into shock. This couple came from Spain to our wedding. It seems only fair that we should go to their's. Beyond what seems "fair", my wife's culture considers not going a huge slap in the face. Our situation is very different to the other couple's for the following reasons:

  • My wife's friend is a flight attendant - This means that she flew to our wedding for free.
  • We gave guests 10 months of notice - With the short notice, finding cheap hotels is difficult. There is a cheap flight, but that might be filled by the time we find cheap hotel.
  • Our wedding was on the east coast - This may seem like small detail, but flying from California to Spain is different than flying from Spain to Boston
  • The Dollar Hates Us - With the US dollar continuing it's drop, it doesn't go very far. On the other hand, the strong Euro created a situation where the couple could go to New York after our wedding and do some discount shopping

The last monkey wrench is that I don't fully understand the friendship of my wife and this friend. This friend met my wife through a foreign exchange program 15 years ago. They stay in touch with an occasional e-mail. I don't know how often, but I'd guess it's a status update once every couple of months. And since the friend is a native speaker of Spanish, my wife used an online translator to make sure this e-mail said what she thought it did. In the past 10 years they've only met a few times in person. I don't mean to make any judgments, but I have trouble comprehending how deep this friendship goes.

I did some of the math and the cost of this trip would exceed $1800 - for just lodging and air fare. With my income dropping drastically, that's close to what I bring in for a month after taxes. I immediately thought about our dinners earlier this week and their expenses in addition to this potential one.

This has lead to some interesting discussions. While these discussions are still on-going, I am convinced they could completely change how we feel about money. Read the about those discussions here.

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Last updated on January 17, 2008.

How to have a successful budget meeting with your spouse

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Glblguy is the author of Gather Little By Little , a Christian personal finance blog focused on growing wealth using common sense biblical practices and based on the wisdom found in Proverbs 13:11 - "He who gathers money little by little makes it grow." I encourage you to subscribe to his RSS feed.

Prior to getting control of our finances, the main reason my wife and I would fuss (that means fight/argue here in the southern U.S.) was over money and finances. Turns out, we weren't alone. The number one reason couples fight is over money. Studies also show that the number one cause of divorce in the U.S. is due to money. Why? Here are just a few reasons:

  1. Communication - Really this is lack of communication.
  2. Control - This involves one person in the relationship having primary responsibility over the finances.
  3. Family - Examples include: Cost of children and how money is spent on them, in-laws or parents having influence over your finances

If you'll note, none of these issues really have anything to do with money. The reason couples fight over money isn't due to money itself, but due to the core feelings and emotions they have surrounding money. Money is the symptom, the 3 reasons above are the actual problem.

Fortunately, these three problems can be easily resolved, assuming of course you have a strong and healthy marriage. How? Have a weekly or monthly budget meeting. Personally, I prefer weekly, but for some a monthly meeting works as well.

What is a budget meeting? A budget meeting is an opportunity for you and you spouse to sit down together and review your finances and your budget together. If you didn't quit catch the key point here, let me state it again: together.

Here's what you need to do:

Decide who will be the accountant
General management of your day to day finances is best handled by one person. Updating your budget and net income statement, and tracking your day to day expenses is logistically difficult if 2 people are doing it. Who should do it? The detail oriented person. In our marriage, I am the detailed person so I do it. If you feel like neither of you are, then just decide which one is more than the other. Typically this isn't a hard decision to make.

Formulate a budget and make it the controller
The next step is to formulate a budget together. Pick an evening and a time when both you and your significant other can sit down by yourselves in a quiet setting and spend 1 - 2 hours working up a budget. If you aren't sure how to do this, please read my article on creating a budget.

Creating the budget together is important and allows both of you to have equal input into your finances. Each of you has a "vote" regarding where the money goes and how it will get spent. Having a "vote" is important, it gives you ownership in the budget and the process.

Once you have the budget in place and have agreed on what is being spent where, agree to follow it together. I would suggest you come up with some physical or verbal way of agreeing. This can be as simple as both of you signing at the bottom of your budget, verbally saying to other "I agree to follow this budget" or just simply handshaking. My wife and I do a pinky shake. This seems a bit silly at first, but has a powerful and lasting effect. For example, when I'm over at our local electronics or book store and I see something I really want, before I just go and buy it, a mental picture of that pinky shake always appears in my head reminding me of the commitment I made. At that point, unless we budgeted for it, I walk out.

By doing all of the above, you solved both the #2 and #3 reasons couples fight over money: Control and Family. By doing the budget together and agreeing to following it, the budget now becomes the controller of your finances. Since you both had input and both agreed, the issue of one person controlling the money and the other person feeling powerless is now gone. The budget, that you both agreed to, now controls the money. All blame for control is the budget.

You also solved the family problem since you both had input into the budget and you both agreed to follow it. The budget can't be changed unless you both agree. Since you both did it together and current or previous family influence to the budget was factored in as you did the budget together.

Call a budget meeting
Here is where we solve the #1 reason couple fight over money: Communication.

Pick an evening where you and your significant other can meeting for about 15-30 minutes to review the finances. I would suggest doing this weekly, but at the very least it needs to be done monthly. The person that is responsible for tracking the budget should update the budget and current expenses prior to the meeting and come to the meeting with an updated budget report. The report should show the budget, how much money is remaining in each budget category, and any remaining bills or expected payments they are aware of.

Both of you should walk through the budget report together. Discuss areas where you have to much money allocated and where you don't have enough. Make adjustments as necessary to cover upcoming expenses, but agree to those adjustments together.

Reviewing the budget weekly has a profound impact on communication. Communicating weekly lets each spouse know the current status of the finances, provides an opportunity to discuss areas where too much money has been spent and discuss upcoming unplanned expenses. These are expenses you may not have been able to plan for when you initially did the budget.

Our meetings take all of about 10 minutes and since we have been doing this I can't recall the last time we fought about our money. Here's a few things I've learned along the way though to help you out:

  • If one of you overspends the other shouldn't get upset. During the budget meeting, just move the amount overspent from another budget category. If there isn't enough money, pull it from the emergency fund. With my wife and I, just having to do this is punishment enough for overspending. I feel terrible when I overspend, as I broke the commitment, and feel the impact of overspending when we have to move money around.
  • Realize this is a journey and you will get better with time. When we first started budgeting, I was too detailed about it. I wanted it to be correct the first time and managed it to the tee. As a result, my wife didn't want to follow it anymore as it was causing her too much stress. Realize that each month you do a budget you will get a little better at it. If you overspend or don't follow it exactly, it's ok. You will get better at it, it just takes some time.
  • Do the budget for the upcoming month before the month arrives. Spend your income on paper before you even get it. Trying to keep a single budget to cover all months is confusing and difficult. Do a budget for each month a few days before that month arrives.
  • How you keep your budget doesn't really matter. I use a spreadsheet, but paper works just fine and so does extensive software like Quicken or Money. Just use what works for you and makes it easy for you to manage and track. Remember, we are trying to reduce stress not increase it.
  • Mistakes of the past are forgotten. Don't bring up mistakes from the past. What happened happened, and you can't change it. Decide to move forward together. Bringing up mistakes from the past just causes stress, tension and breaks the team environment that's being established.

Wrapping Up
I challenge you to give the above process a try for 3 months. In my experience in will make significant and positive change in your
relationship and in your finances. This process changed our lives, hopefully it will change yours as well.

Readers, what are your thoughts? What ideas do you have for reducing financial stress with your spouse or significant other? Do you budget? Why or why not? I would love to hear your insights and perspective via your comments.

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Last updated on August 1, 2011.

Couples and Money

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Matthew Paulson of Finance is Personal asks, "Should Married Couples Combine Their Finances?" His answer is an unqualified yes. One of the things I love about the Finance is Personal site is that it almost always gives me a fresh viewpoint.

I think it's impossible to give a hard and fast answer here. All the things said in the Matthew Paulson's article are true, but the reality of marriage is that half of them end up in divorce. Nearly everyone who writes about personal finance agrees in having some kind of emergency fund for, well, emergencies. In general if people plan the rest of their financial spending well, they'll only need this emergency fund 10% of the time. So why does it make sense to guard against something that's 10% likely to happen and ignore something just as disastrous that's 50% likely to happen?

It may sound like negative thinking to be prepared for divorce. It's also negative thinking to prepare for an earthquake. It doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. If both of you love each now, you'll each realize this and want the best for the person in the future, even if life comes between you down the line.

I don't really understand the preacher argument in the aforementioned article. Mr. Paulson wrote, "The preacher says, 'And now you are one.' He (or she) does not say, 'And now you're one - except for your checkbooks - those are separate, go ahead and do your own thing there.'" That would be a crazy long thing for a preacher to say. A preacher can't say all the exceptions. For instance he also doesn't say, "You are one... except for airline tickets... you have to each buy your own there, because airlines will consider you two separate people."

One must recognize that having separate finances is not the same as not having common goals. For instance my new wife and I have been putting money into a joint account each month to use for a home someday. As long as we make this commitment, we stay on the right track to reach our goals. And if she uses the rest of her money to buy 5 jet skis, I don't have to feel resentment that she's spending "my" money. I think this works particular well for us because we have similar salaries (though she earns a little more). If we had vastly different salaries, we'd probably have to come up with a different plan.

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Last updated on August 1, 2011.

Jean Chatzky Recommends Lazy Man and Money

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The title of this post is a bold face lie - she is probably not even aware Lazy Man and Money exists. Perhaps she should start reading though. In her book, Make Money, Not Excuses, she recommends using a method remarkably similar to the one that Energi Gal and I use to manage our income and expenses. In the latest Money Magazine, there's an excerpt from the book. The advice:

How much to put into the joint account: The total going into the account should be enough to a) pay your monthly expenses, and b) reach for your family goals. But don't just split these household costs down the middle. Ideally, you each should chip in the same percentage of income so that the spouse who earns more contributes more.

Compare that to the method outlined here last October, How Do Independent Couples Divide Up Expenses?. Specifically, "I came up the idea using each of contributions of our total net income to figure out how we should divide up our expenses. She brings home 57.6% of the income, so I suggested she paid 57.6% of the expenses. After doing the math, she'll still take home a good deal more than me each month. After all, she makes more money, she should enjoy it."

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Posted on April 3, 2007.

I think I’m rubbing off on my fiancee

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We headed up to Hawaii's North Shore a couple of days ago. There's a good chance that when you are watching a surfing competition with 10-15 foot waves, it's from this area. We decided to stop at the "Pipeline." It had become so synonymous with surfing that I thought it was just a generic term for a place where the waves are conducive to surfing. I guess it's just a very specific place.

However, as Murphy's Law would have it, there were no significant waves when we went. There were quite a few surfers out there, but the waves didn't look to get over 3 feet. I would have had no fear going out swimming. It was at this point that my fiancee asked the lifeguard where the waves were. When she found out she said she was going to charge touritsts $10 for the answer. Obviously, it's not the best business plan, but she's starting to think which is pretty good.

You want to know why there weren't any waves? It turns out that there needs to be some kind of tsunami or storm in Japan to get those picturesque waves. As "luck" would have it, Japan received such a storm the next day, yet for some reason the waves have not come. That's been one of the few disappointments on this trip.

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Last updated on December 14, 2006.

How Do Independent Couples Divide Up Expenses?

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My fiancee and I have very independent personalities. When we met eachother, we each owned our own property. We each have fairly successful careers, though I must admit that her's is taking off a bit more than mine. While we lived together in Boston, we split expenses more or less 50-50.

When we moved cross country for her promotion, we did talk a little bit about money. She offered to help with some of the expenses that occurred due to the move including the negative cash flow property that resulted. However, she was concerned in helping out so much that I'll go out and buy a jet ski (her joking sarcasim), while I was somewhat concerned that she'd spend the extra money on designer purses (my joking sarcasim).

I was on board with continuing the 50-50 split until I realized exactly how much of a breadwinner she will be and how much less I'll take home with the increased expenses. I came up the idea using each of contributions of our total net income to figure out how we should divide up our expenses. She brings home 57.6% of the income, so I suggested she paid 57.6% of the expenses. After doing the math, she'll still take home a good deal more than me each month. After all, she makes more money, she should enjoy it.

I'm curious as to what others would do. Do you think this is a fair split? This will become a moot point once we get married - or at least that's the current plan.

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Last updated on June 12, 2007.

 
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