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.

A Dream Wedding for Under $500?!?! Believe it!

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I've got a new hero. It's Abigail Martin. You've probably never heard of her. After this article, you probably will never hear of her again. That's okay, because it's her story that I want to share.

Mrs. Martin planned (and executed!) her dream wedding for under $500. Yes, under $500.

The other day I was flipping through the Fall edition of USAA Magazine. I usually don't find too many articles that interest me. However, this article caught my eye. (Sorry that you have to settle for a less than perfect scan of the article. Hopefully your browser autosizes the large image and makes it readable. I wish I could have linked you to a version on USAA's website, but I couldn't find it there.)

It's a very well written article, especially from someone who is just a couple of years out of high school. Maybe the USAA Magazine editors helped, because I'm not sure I'm at that level after 7 years of blogging my behind off.

Maybe it's me, but it seem rare for people to make this mature decision, "We started our life together on the right foot: with no debt or stress that comes with it." Contrast that with the personal finance blogger frivolously throwing his money away on a wedding (I'm kidding Kevin, just an interesting contrast that I had to point out).

Enough with the brown-nosing of Mrs. Martin here. How did she manage to have her dream wedding for under $500? The short answer is that she enlisted (military pun intended) the help of people she knew and put to use some sweat equity. All the decorations were made by her with help from family and friends. Cheaper artificial flowers substitute the real thing. They were married by a friend. The lunch was prepared by her parents (this is stretching the $500 price I think) and her friend made the cake. Martin found that the "personal touches that went into every detail were part of what made it so memorable."

My wife and I spent around $23,000 on our wedding. (See Kevin, I'm with you.) That may sound like an outrageous number, it took a lot of creativity to get it that low for 175 people. We had it on a military base where we saved on taxes. We made our own centerpieces as well. We used a military florist and had minimal flowers, which kept that aspect to around $200 (which I hear is really, really good). We splurged in a few other places (open bar of course).

Wedding expenditures are a complicated topic and it is hard to say what's right and wrong, because people have very different financial situation and family dynamics. I think the important thing is that you work within those boundaries and try to get the most for your money at every point rather than buying into the "You Only Live Once" (YOLO) trap.

I'm reminded of a great quote from the HBO documentary Weight of the Nation:

"I'm just an ordinary person, who does a bunch of tiny, ordinary things, that together are extraordinary."

Abigail Martin in planning her wedding was just an ordinary person, who did a bunch of tiny, ordinary things, that together added up to something extraordinary.

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Posted on September 17, 2013.

The 100,000 Wedding Gift…

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With the hoopla of getting married, I almost forgot to thank you for one my best gifts. Yesterday, Lazy Man and Money received it's 100,000th visitor. I'm trying to picture what that must be like and I'm in awe. Perhaps the closest I've come to getting an idea is picturing a sold out Fenway park for all three games of a Red Sox - Yankees series.

If you want to celebrate with me, please enter my $200 contest.

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Wedding

Posted on July 11, 2007.

The Cost of My Wedding – Part 2

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I got a lot of comments on the cost of my wedding yesterday. I should have clarified a few details. I was still a little groggy from the jet-lag. I'll address all the comments here.

Moneymonk noted that 23K is a down payment on a house and car. My perception of money is different, because I lived in Boston and San Francisco and it's not close to a down payment here. That doesn't make it any less money, but just something worth thinking about. The amount of money means something different to nearly every reader. Bill Gates probably wouldn't bat an eye at such a tiny sum. To someone who make minimum wage though, this is probably an enormous windfall. MapGirl really helped make me feel good by saying that she knows people that spent as much for half the amount of people.

Susanna mentioned that "the cost of a wedding depends not only on how many guests you have, but where you have it." The location of our wedding was very ideal. It was in a extremely ritzy New England town. A friend of mine looked to have her wedding there, but I think the cost would have been near 6-figures for what she had in mind. The connections we had helped us get a similar quality place at cost. She also mentioned the photographer absconded with her money
(yikes). One way we saved on costs was by not getting any prints. We simply chose to get the negatives and will print out what we think is the best. We'll cut a couple of corners on the wedding albums and not get the thousand dollar bindings and everything.

PF Odyssey wisely mentioned that the net expense is much less. We haven't opened all the gifts yet, but if I had to take a guess, I'd say that we'll probably get $12K in gifts. I didn't really want to bring in the net expense into things, because it just seems wrong to factor in gifts.

We did receive some financial help from our parents. One thing that we did early on is ask parents to pay for the relatives and their friends. This may sound like an unusual prospect, but we wanted to have a much smaller wedding. My wife's mother invited over 60 friends and relatives including second cousins. My wife's father (they are divorced) added another 30 people to the invite list of people who "must be invited". If we were going to finance this on our own we would have just invited immediate family and friends. The agreement was a compromise that I suggested which only seemed far. With this financial deal and the aforementioned gifts, there's a chance that we could come close to break even.

Angie Hartford chimes in with "What you spent on it is your business. FYI: $22,500 is 11.66% of your total net worth. Whether or not you consider that to be a good use of your money is also your business." Ouch, I shuttered in reading that. However, I looked at it a little more and realized that while it was true with the original information I wrote, it's not true in reality. Also, the net worth I post is my own net worth, not my new wife's. We are not rushing in to combining finances (tomorrow I may talk more about this), but her net worth is close to mine (she has more in real estate equity, mine is more in retirement savings). If we had to finance the whole $22,500 ourselves it would probably be closer to 7% of our net worth. We planned it so that wouldn't be the case, and the net expense is very minimal to our net worth - perhaps close to one month's savings by the time it's all said and done.

I'm going to go a little off-tangent and claim that the net worth calculation isn't very valid anyway. If a person was just out of Havard Business school with a 150K salary, limited debt (pretend my parents helped me), and limited net worth, should he/she have a very, very cheap wedding? I would argue that they could have at least an average wedding - one many times their limited net worth. And now back to wedding comments...

Jon mentioned that the open bar was the toughest decision at his wedding. After everyone in my social circle, even the ones that make less money than us, had an open bar, I felt that it was only fair to pay for their drinks. Yes, it was expensive and I think came in at $3500 for all the top shelf liquor we had there. I had thought that we had requested more Absolut-level vodka than Grey Goose, but in hindsight the difference in pricing was minimal, so I'm glad we went with the best stuff.

Dong and Chuck asked about the honeymoon. I don't know how I didn't mention this in the original post. When we lived in Boston we had planned to go to Napa on our honeymoon. Now that we live an hour drive from Napa, it seemed a little silly. We'll probably take a weekend soon and go there. San Francisco in the summertime is pretty nice for someone that's used to Boston winters. In November, we have a Carribean cruise scheduled along with a week stay in Aruba - one of my favorite places in the world. The cruise was booked for around $650 a person, and because it includes meals, should be fairly cheap. I had mentioned in the past that we own a timeshare in Aruba. We will likely do some shopping at the local grocery store to get food on the cheap. We'll do most of the dinners out, but I imagine breakfast and lunch will be home-cooked. We'll save on flights because it's more or less what we would have paid for our usual yearly vacation - we'll just be there longer.

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Posted on July 11, 2007.

The Cost of My Wedding

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I mentioned last week that I was getting married. Now that I'm married and the reception is over, the costs are starting sink in. I should be able to tell you exactly how much I spent. However, I'm not the best budgeter. I've always felt that I could spend 10 hours being meticulous about where every penny went, or I can try to make more pennies. As long as I make sure that I get good value for my money, I consider that "good enough." That might not work for most people, but it's been successful for me.

If I can't tell you exactly how much it cost, the least I can do is give you an estimate. Before I drop the number, I will say that it was around 200 people, which prevents any kind of "value" wedding. It could quite possibly the last time for many, many years that I'll ever see all my friends together in the same room. With many of them starting their own families and with me thousands of miles away from them, it's just not logistically possible.

Have I procrastinated enough? The wedding costs fell somewhere around 22 or 23 thousand dollars. In a lot of places, that's a nice down payment on a house. Still, I look at the experience and realize that it compared with weddings that cost more than 60 thousand dollars. That may sound crazy, but I've been to weddings that cost that much and didn't get the impression that people had more fun at them. Then again I might be a little biased.

This upcoming weekend, we'll spend a lot of time sending thank you notes for the gifts. After that we need to almost immediately develop a financial plan for the next 2-3 years. The good news is that my wife (that phrase hasn't gotten old yet) suggested that we do this. It is definitely a first and I'm really looking forward to it.

I realized that I needed to go into more detail on some points from all the comments, so see The Cost of My Wedding - Part 2 here.

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Last updated on July 11, 2007.

My Make-up Budget for One Day – $1400

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No, I'm not Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, or Britney Spears. In fact I've never worn make-up except for that time when... well... no one wants to read about that.

A few weeks ago, Energi Gal (EG) started the following e-mail chain from work:

EG: Is $1400 too much to spend on hair and make-up for the bridal party?

LM: Did you add 86 more people to bridal party that you aren't telling me about?

EG: No, this just for me and 4 bridesmaids and the trial consultation.

LM: Ummm, yeah I'd say that's way too much for make-up. I think you could hire the Today show crew for cheaper. I'd hit those wedding websites.

EG: It is not the make up that is pricey, it is the nails. The make is $35.00 a piece for the bridemaids and $75.00 for me (bride markup).

LM: So the nails are around $1100?
EG: $75 a person

LM: I think I need to see how this all breaks down. It doesn't seem to add up near $1400. I fail to see how you are going to get $1400 of value out of it. We could get the really nice mattress. Something seems insane.

I should probably change my name from Lazy Man to Sarcastic Man.  I really can be that sarcastic.  Looking over our other wedding expenses, everything else is pretty fairly priced for what you get (in my opinion).  I'm really at a loss as to what the answer here is.  On one hand, I feel it should be the bridesmaid's expense - it's make-up for them.  On the other hand, they already have a lot of expenses.

The obvious plan is to find a way to cut these costs. Energi Gal has taken to those wedding forums and the consensus is that make-up, hair, nails, etc. just cost that.  There were no tips forthcoming.  We did find that by going to a college salon we can save money on the nails - especially because we left the word "wedding" out (it seems to trigger a 25% mark-up minimum).  I'm currently pushing the idea of Energi Gal finding someone that she can contract out for the day to do it.  Perhaps there's a chance I can barter some website skills in return.
Once again, I ask the readers for advice or ideas.  Any way to cut these costs further would be appreciated.  Perhaps I just need to be convinced of the value of one day of make-up.

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Posted on January 23, 2007.

Wedding Registry for People with Everything

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For those that haven't been following, I'm getting married next year. Today we are heading out to Macy's to set up our wedding registry. There's only one small problem. We have no clue what to register for. When we met, we each owned our own condos and getting to a point where we could get our stuff into one was still is a great task.

A lot of people register for silverware or fine china. I had got some nice silver on a Friday sale at Amazon though, and we both deem fine china as a waste of money. We'll end up breaking it or never using it. There are other things we could "upgrade", but most of what we have now suits or surpasses or needs. Most of the things that couples typically register just don't seem to work for us. We rent now (our investment properties are back east), so most of the home improvement stuff that we were originally thinking of getting doesn't make as much sense.
Over the past 6 months we've come up with some sundry items that we could use, but I'm not sure it's enough. So we could use a little help. Any ideas?

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Wedding

Last updated on October 27, 2006.

Saying “I Do” (Want to Save Money) – Part 2 – The Reception

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Hopefully you'll have read Part 1 - The Ring before now. If you haven't and are a little lazy to click, here's the executive summary: I'm getting married. I saved some money along the way. I explained how one can save 50% or more in buying the ring and what to look for in buying a diamond.

In part two, we'll cover what can be the largest cost of any wedding, the reception. This is especially true for me. The odds were stacked against me having a cheap wedding from the beginning. I've got 200 mouths to feed. My friends have had 30-60K weddings with the help of their wealthy parents. By passing expectations on the ring, it put us in a place where we really need to step up and have something great.

The solution for me was Uncle Sam. I know it won't help many people, but my fiancé has military connections. That means we have access to tax-free weddings on nearly any (I think) military base. For those that don't know, state taxes can add another 5% onto everything. I know it doesn't seem like a big savings, but it adds up quickly on such a big outlay of cash. I also found that the prices on the military base are a little better than a typical hotel. I know some of you are wondering about the quality of the venue. We were able to get the Navy base in scenic Newport, Rhode Island. This is home to numerous mansions that belonged to generations of some of the most wealthy people in the US (think Vandervilts and Rockefellers here). The Officer's Club at the Navy base has arguably the best view of all of Newport with the Pell Bridge in the background.

So with a little looking and the right connections, you can get a lot more for less money.

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Last updated on December 14, 2006.

Buying a Diamond Ring

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After reading about 2 Million's engagement, I was taken back to my own engagement a year ago. From a money point of view that typically means finding the right ring. For the average man this is an extremely difficult chore. Not only do we know little about such things, but there's a ton of pressure to get this right.

For many people, step one would be to go to a few of the higher end jewelers and do some investigating of what you can get for your money. Depending on your income this could mean Tiffany's or, if you are in Boston as I am, a slightly less brand like Long's. I skipped a lot of this and went straight to the Jewelry Exchange. This is a national chain, but, at least in Boston, it's where everyone says to go because they "guarentee your diamond will appraise for double." That sounds good, but it doesn't apply to rings over $2,000 or some low number. Still the marketing works.

The key part of this step though is to get a lot of hands on experience. You want to get an idea of what a carat looks like, the difference between a shade or two of color, the irregularities present in the various clarities. You may want to look at a couple of different stores until you feel comfortable with the range you are looking for. I found that I was willing to go as far as I color, and S1 clarity to get something with significant carat weight to it. My girlfriend confirmed that I did well on this as she couldn't tell the difference in color or clarity unless she had a second diamond to put it next to. And the fact that it was a half carat bigger than she dreamed it would be had her questioning if it was real.

So how did I get such a diamond and stay on budget? Well the Jewelry Exchange wanted almost 10K for one that was of lesser color and slightly smaller than the one I finally bought for just over 6K. To do what I did, get yourself to Price Scope. Price Scope has three unique features that will help you. 1) It's got a great message board. Register and ask questions. 2) It's got a great cut search. Learn your diamond cuts. Most everyone agrees that cut is up there with size in importance. It will give the diamond it's glow. 3) It's got a search engine of lots of discount Internet retailers. Most of them are very reputable, but it's worth using the message boards just to make sure.

I ended up going with Abazias for mine and when I had it appraised (a must) the appraiser guessed all the grades dead on and showed me how great the cut is. He then predicted that I paid at least 7.5K on the Internet. I showed him that I didn't and he went straight to his feed of wholesale diamonds on the NY diamond exchange. He said that no one was selling a diamond near what I paid.

The last step was to get the setting and get it set. For that, I went back to the Jewelry Exchange. It was worth it to me to pay a little extra on the setting to get it set, have it cleaned, and build the relationship with the local jeweler.

Good luck and I hope this helps.

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Last updated on March 26, 2008.

Weddings Prices

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I was best man at a wedding recently, so that's why you haven't been reading much about me the last few days. Public speaking is not exactly my thing and giving a toast is doesn't get more public than that.

The wedding itself was less than 25 people and kept to a budget of $1500 if I had to guess. It was actually the perfect day (except for yet another day of the rain in Boston.) I was quite jealous that my fiancee and I are going to have 175-200 people at a cost of 12-15 times that. We are getting some help from our parents, but we will still foot most of it by ourselves by the time we are done.

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Last updated on December 14, 2006.

 
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