02/25/2013 11:58 am ET Updated Apr 27, 2013

6 Things Everyone Should Know Before Getting Engaged

Ask a million people about their engagement stories and you'll get two million answers. From pure, unbridled joy ("We're getting engaaaaaaged!!!!") to flat-out resignation ("Well, there goes our life savings..."), few topics of discussion elicit such a wide range of emotions as getting engaged. Though responses to engagement are as varied as they come, one thing is for sure: buying an engagement ring should never cause you stress. From picking out the ring to paying for it, finding the perfect engagement ring should be as easy as saying yes. Here are a few important things to keep in mind before popping the question:

1. Two months' salary is a big fat myth.
There is no such thing as a "right amount" to spend on an engagement ring -- the idea is just ludicrous. I would question anyone who leads you to believe you can't get a beautiful engagement ring that still falls within your budget. You can find engagement rings at virtually every price point, from a few hundred dollars and upwards.

2. You don't need to buy the best, second best, third best, fourth best or even fifth best diamond.
Diamonds are categorized into eight major categories according to the degree to which they are flawed (or "included"). As the category becomes more included, the diamond decreases in price. There is absolutely no need to get a "flawless" diamond. In fact, if you buy a diamond that falls into one of the lower-grade categories but is still considered eye-clean (meaning the inclusions are only visible under intense magnification), it will look virtually the same as a higher-grade diamond to the naked eye. There is really no need to pay for diamond features that you can't actually see. And the best part is that buying these lower-grade (but still eye-clean) diamonds will save you lots of money.

3. Don't overlook fancy color diamonds -- some are much more affordable than you think.
Yes, we all know that Ben Affleck famously gave Jennifer Lopez a 6-carat pink diamond, reportedly worth $1.2 million. Kelly Clarkson just got engaged with a gigantic canary diamond. But contrary to popular belief, many fancy color diamonds are priced similarly to white diamonds, while others are actually cheaper. If that's not enough, fancy color diamonds are incredibly rare stones -- only about 1 out of every 10,000 gem-quality diamonds are worthy enough to be considered "fancy." This means that anyone who wants to stand out with a unique engagement ring can get a beautiful, yet still affordable, fancy color diamond.

4. Actually, you don't even need to buy a diamond.
More and more people are choosing to get engaged with gemstones instead of diamonds. Gemstones can be a special stone choice (each birth month has a corresponding stone) and range widely in price (prices start at a couple of hundred dollars for nicely sized stone), so they're a great option for those who are looking to save money and add a personal touch. Even celebrities are getting engaged with gemstones. Halle Berry got engaged to Olivier Martinez with a gorgeous emerald and yellow gold ring. Jessica Simpson flashes a red ruby on her left ring finger. Kate Middleton didn't get engaged with a diamond ring, she received a sapphire -- and she's a princess.

5. Buying online can save you wads of cash.
Although shopping online is news to no one, people are still surprised to learn that they can buy engagement rings online. Because online jewelers have virtually no overhead, they can sell the same jewelry for a lot less than brick-and-mortar stores. What's more, some jewelers show you magnified videos of each individual diamond, which is easier and more accurate than looking through a jeweler's loupe. A word to the wise: only buy from jewelers that show you actual images of their diamonds. A grading certificate, though required, is not enough because it can't convey a diamond's beauty and sparkle. After all, would you buy anything online without seeing it first? Diamonds are no different. Finally, because it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea of buying an engagement ring online, many online jewelers offer 60-day money-back return policies that even jewelry stores can't compete with. If you do a bit of research, you can save big by buying online.

6. As the old adage goes, a bigger proposal doesn't necessarily mean a better proposal.
One of my favorite pastimes is browsing through spectacular YouTube proposals. Isaac's Lip Dub proposal made me cry tears of joy -- and I can't remember the last time that happened. However, just because extravagant proposals have received a lot of attention (and even become cultural staples), that doesn't necessarily mean it's the right choice for you and your loved one. I know a lot of people who would be positively mortified if their significant other flash mobbed them. Proposals are all about celebrating your love as a couple -- whether big or small, just make sure to do it in the way that is right for you.