In 2006, I made the (at the time) largest purchase of my life - I put down $6,000 for a new, custom 1-carat diamond engagement ring at a fancy jewelry store.
Last Saturday we sold that ring for $1,900.
Before you get worried, our marriage is better than ever. We feel so blessed with our current life and excited about what we’re working towards.
We’re not in a bad financial situation either. We didn’t need to sell the ring. We’ve got a healthy emergency fund, good retirement savings, and are making prepayments on our mortgage.
So what’s the deal?
It’s all about goals
When we got engaged, if you had asked us what our goals were, we would have said to start a family, and live a safe, comfortable life in a nice house, with nice stuff.
I wouldn’t say that there’s anything wrong with this goal, but let’s be honest - it’s pretty bland. Truthfully, we “achieved” this goal and felt like something was missing.
Over the last few years, we’ve pushed ourselves to dream bigger. We’ve stretched to identify what our priorities are, continuously asking what’s most important to us.
We’ve gone through a lot in the last few years and have reframed what our goals in life are:
Maximizing the time we can spend together and the quality of that time
One of the big ways we do this is travel - we have a goal of visiting all 50 states in the USA with our kids before they graduate high school. Through 2 roadtrips, we’ve covered 22 so far and will pick up 6 more in our 2016 trip.
In addition, we’ve built some fun family traditions for us to spend good quality time together throughout the year like our Christmas Eve slumber party and having one-on-one dates with each of our daughters throughout the year.
Another part of this is managing our time commitments - to work, kids activities and other things - to make sure we are spending time together throughout each week.
Ensuring time for us to pursue the things that we get true joy out of working on
For me: time spent writing for this blog and coding the Thrifty tool
For my wife: decluttering/simplifying and remodeling our house
As our kids get older and their interests and passions become more clear, we’ll be putting their passions right alongside ours to make sure they get focus as well.
Living a life that reflects God’s calling for us
Our faith is important to us and one of the most important aspects is finding ways to live our faith every day.
We do this through our giving to our church and other charities we’re passionate about. The Hope Effect is one in particular that we strongly support.
In addition, our faith guides how we treat our children and those around us.
Priorities make trade-offs clearer
Something amazing happened once we got clarity on what our priorities are - we found tons of trade-offs that we were happy to make to get us closer to our goals.
When we identified our real priorities, it became easier drop our TV watching from 3 hours a day to 3 hours a week and re-invest the time we reclaimed in pursuing our passions and spending more time together.
The concept of dropping down to one car became an enabler of our dreams once we saw financial independence as a piece of our strategy to spend more time together.
Downsizing our home is the next big opportunity we’re working toward; lower property taxes, electricity, insurance, and mortgage all get us closer to financial independence which opens up our options for spending more time together.
Back to the ring
My wife wears her wedding band nearly 24/7 but her engagement ring was usually sitting on a shelf since it was impractical when cleaning or doing remodeling jobs around the house and too expensive to risk damaging.
It was the most expensive single item in our house by a long shot to the point that we were paying for a coverage increase on our insurance to make sure we could replace the ring if it were ever stolen.
About a month ago, my wife told me that she thought she was ready to sell her ring. When I asked her for her reasoning, she blew my mind.
When you gave me that ring, it was our promise to marry each other. We fulfilled that promise years ago and I know we’ve got that for the rest of our life. I wear my wedding band as a symbol of where we’re at now. If the money from selling the engagement ring can get us closer to our dream of spending more time together, I’ll take that over having this ring any day of the week.
God, I love this woman. I was pretty sure I was ok with her idea of selling the ring before this, but when you put it that way?
I married a minimalist badass who can see the path to her goals more clearly than just about anyone I’ve met.
Where the money is going
By selling the ring, we have more money to do the remodeling necessary to sell our house. When we sell our house, we’ll downsize into something smaller and will hopefully be able to purchase that house mortgage-free.
By having no mortgage and saving on electricity, property tax, insurance, and all the expenses that are proportional to the size of your house, our financial needs become much smaller.
With much smaller financial needs, we open up a world of flexibility that will allow us to spend more time together as a family.
At a certain point, you decide what your real goals are and what changes are worth making to help you achieve them
For us, the engagement ring was simply no longer a part of our goals. By selling the ring, we were able to instead use that money for something that is, pushing our life even further in the positive direction we’ve been headed.
I paid $6,000 for the ring in 2006 and sold it for just $1,900 in 2016. For those of you looking to buy (or receive) engagement rings in the future, I have a couple suggestions:
- Think about your long-term goals as a couple first - the important thing is the commitment itself, not the price tag on the ring. What other goals could you achieve together by agreeing to spend less on the engagement ring?
- Rings from a fancy store carry the same marketing/branding premium as clothes from a fancy store or furniture from a fancy store; I probably could have gotten the same ring elsewhere for significantly less.
I don’t regret buying this ring for my wife as it was a part of our journey to where we are today. That said, I’m really happy with our decision to sell it and use that money for something that aligns with our current goals.
What’s your real dream?
If there’s anything you take away from this, I hope you spend some time dreaming big - think about what you really want out of life. Then think about what you could give up today that isn’t a part of those dreams.
These trade-offs are everywhere and can be a big accelerator for getting to where you want to be; you just have to get over a few mental hurdles to get there.
What are your goals? What could you give up to help you get closer to them?