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How to Buy an Engagement Ring With Bad Credit

Written by
Andrew Tavin, CFEI
Andrew Tavin is a personal finance writer who covered budgeting with expertise in building credit and saving for OppU. His work has been cited by Wikipedia, Crunchbase, and Hacker News, and he is a Certified Financial Education Instructor through the National Financial Educators Council.
Read time: 6 min
Updated on October 10, 2023
young couple being affectionate wondering how to buy an engagement with bad credit
You don’t have to bust your credit or fork over three months of your salary to say, “I love you.”

Congratulations! You’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with! In a world where bad Tinder dates are common, you scored a keeper, and that is no easy feat. Now all that’s left to do is find the ring and plan the perfect proposal. 

Here’s the thing: Engagement rings are often expensive. On average, according to a 2022 Real Weddings Study from The Knot, couples spent $5,800 on an engagement ring. So how can you get that multi carat, perfectly-cut diamond if your budget is tight and your credit is less than perfect?

Follow along as we discuss finance plans, nontraditional jewelers, and alternatives to the diamond engagement ring to help you express your full heart without emptying your wallet.

Throw out the old rules 

Have you heard of the three-month rule? It’s the outdated notion that beyond finding the perfect ring, the proposer must spend the equivalent of three months’ salary on it. If you’re considering a proposal, you may have heard about this expectation, causing some anxiety.

Here’s the thing: You don’t need to follow that rule because, for many, it isn’t realistic. 55% of Americans don’t even have $1,000 in savings, let alone three months of their salary to spend on a diamond ring.

If you do have three months’ salary squirreled away, that money may already be allocated toward an emergency fund and if not, it could be. Liquidating that account to buy, a diamond solitaire ring may not be the wisest financial decision.

If your future fiance is the kind of person you think is worth marrying, then they are likely to understand your financial situation. Your love can’t be contained by a physical ring, however, if you still wish on proposing with one, there are options to consider.

Jewelry store financing

Some jewelry stores offer an annual percentage rate (APR) of 0% for customers who want to finance. However, that financing option comes with a catch, which involves signing up for a store credit card. While this may sound theoretically reasonable, in practice, it may get you into some hot financial waters, especially if you can’t pay off the debt during the interest-free period.

If you fail to pay off your purchase in full by the time that no-interest period expires, the credit card merchant may retroactively charge you interest from the original date of purchase. This kind of defeats the point of the loan, regardless of which ring style you selected.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on special offers that might pop up throughout the year. Even if you’re not actively looking for a ring, if you know there’s a high chance you’ll be needing one in the future, you can consider taking advantage of limited-time offers when they arise.

If you are smart about financing and use it as part of a well-thought-out plan to afford a diamond that is just a little bit out of your reach, then it may be a smart decision. If you’re expecting financing to snag you a ring that is way out of your budget, that is probably not a good idea.

(If you're considering a bad credit loan to finance a ring, or any other item, be sure to check out the OppU Guide to Bad Credit Loans first.)

Look for vintage jewelry

Jewelry stores aren’t the only places to look to find engagement rings. While it may be more difficult to find a ring that checks off every item on your beloved’s wish list, with some dedicated searching, you may find popular styles and adjust them to the proper ring size.  In addition to looking through pawn shops, estate sales and charity auctions may also have some good finds. The latter may also qualify you for a tax write-off.

Additionally, Craigslist and Facebook marketplace could also be worth a look; however, with any of the options mentioned here, consider having the ring assessed and appraised by a qualified jeweler or professional to make sure the stone and materials in the ring are real. 

Don’t die for diamond

Yeah, diamonds are pretty. They’re also the most expensive part of the ring

For most engagement rings, the bulk of the cost is the center diamond itself,” explains Anubh Shah, co-founder and CEO of engagement ring company With Clarity. 

Mined diamonds aren’t the only pretty center stones, however. For example:

Man-made (or lab-grown) diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds are molecularly identical to natural diamonds and have the same chemical and physical properties,” Shah says. “The only difference is that they are grown in a lab and not formed within the earth over millions of years. This enables them to be both environmentally friendly and less expensive than natural diamonds. Lab diamonds are a fantastic option for those that are on a budget, or don't have good credit to afford financing a natural diamond ring.” Another option you could consider cubic zirconia, though it is structurally completely different than natural and lab-created diamonds. 


This crystal-clear stone is almost as tough as a diamond, and still has a diamond-like sparkle to it. Although primarily man-made now, moissanite was originally found in meteorites, which makes it the perfect stone for the star in your life.

Other colorful gems

Buying a ring with a gemstone in that color could be an option. Even the more precious gemstone rings like ruby or sapphire may cost a fraction of the price of a comparably-sized diamond.

Plain metal

If your future spouse isn’t the flashy type, consider a yellow gold, rose gold, or sterling silver band instead. You might have concerns that it looks too similar to a wedding band, but you could consider incorporating creative etching to set it apart.

All in the family

Consider checking with your parents or relatives to see if there might be an heirloom in the family. 

“One of my favorite, and usually free, options is when couples seek out resources from their family,” says Brandy Kerley, owner and wedding officiant at Tie the Knot California. “For example, they may ask their parents for rings that have been passed down through generations.”

Kerley also points out that a necklace, stud earrings, or another piece of jewelry may have stones that you can take out and repurpose. Since the stone is typically the most valuable part of an engagement ring, you may save by resetting the stone into a new band.

Alternatively, yhere’s also nothing wrong with getting creative. If you’re the kind of couple that’s inclined towards tattoos, you could explore getting tattoo wedding rings or any other kinds of gestures of your love. What’s most important isn’t how, but who you choose to spend your life with, after all.

Article contributors
Brandy Kerley

Brandy Kerley is the owner and wedding officiant at Tie the Knot
California. As an ordained minister, Brandy can perform marriage ceremonies throughout California and the United States. She works with couples to create a unique wedding ceremony that reflects their personality and values as a couple.

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