This is the 100% true and personal story of how I bought an engagement ring with spare change for my ‘now-wife’ Jaci and how you can save money with the £2 coin trick.

Consider this the first installation of the many more-to-come crazy stories surrounding our wedding. 

Ready? Let’s go!

Background to the £2 coin trick.

In Northern Ireland, we use Great British Pounds (GBP) instead of the euro for our currency as we are part of the United Kingdom – but that’s a very long complicated story for another time.

Like most places in the world, our currency is made up of a mixture of coins and banknotes.

One of these coins is pretty awesome, it’s relatively rare to come across despite it still being in circulation… the £2 coin.

(Yanks: It’s not as frequent as a dollar coin but not as rare as a $2 bill.)

Ever since I was a little boy my Granny got me in the habit of saving a £2 anytime I got one.

What started off as a bit of fun in my eyes became a habit. 

£2 coin change from the cinema ticket? IN THE JAR. 
£2 coin leftover from filling up car? PUT IT IN THE JAR.
£2 coin tip at work?

You get the drill… It became a reflex and to be perfectly honest, I doubt growing up I even used £2 coins to ever buy anything…

Fast Forward.

So fast forward to the Summer of 2015. I had just come home from NYC for a 2 week holiday before heading to Nepal.

I knew that I wanted to propose to Jaci around Christmas time, but I had one problem that came in the form of this question…

“How on earth am I going to afford an engagement ring?!”

At that point, I had been working for 3 years unpaid, volunteering my time by filling roles in various non-profits over the world, primarily in NYC working full time for the New York Dream Center. 

Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of money in the bank and if I was to follow the tradition here in Northern Ireland of ‘spending 3 months wages on the engagement ring’ then let’s just say Jaci was most likely going to get a Haribo ring.

Over a few weeks, I was praying and trying to figure out what the plan was… when I felt like God tapped me on the shoulder and said: “hey, check the £2 coins.”

I pulled the jar out from the wardrobe, dumped it onto the bed and began to count my treasure. I couldn’t believe it, I had around 400 £2 coins!

Absolutely gobsmacked I laughed to myself and said:

So that’s what these are for!”

The Plot Thickens.

You see I had attempted to spend these bad boys a few times before:

  1. My first car.
  2. Travelling 
  3. Laser eye surgery to finally get rid of my glasses/lenses.

Yet every time I would go to cash them in I felt like God was saying “not yet, they’re for a special reason.

To be quite honest I just forgot about them. (Although I found out that while I was away my Granny had still been putting £2 coins – what a legend.)

Then the hard part came: actually finding a ring. 

I hopelessly wandered around by myself trying to make sense and educate myself about rings.

Diamond quality, metal type, ring sizes… I was lost.

“So I did what I recommend every man to do in that situation… I brought my wife along with me.”

and I’m so glad I did because:

  1. The style I was going for was completely wrong.
  2. I was able to get her ring size without some crazy Tom Cruise impossible mission.

After our little jewellers trip, I got a taste for what she liked… white gold, thin band, single diamond stone (she’s classy) as opposed to the yellow gold, thick band and multiple stone emerald style I was set on. (Yeah big “oops”)

But I still didn’t have a ring.

The Game Is On

Going store to store across Northern Ireland I saw lots of nice rings but I didn’t find ‘the one’ (thanks, Hollywood.)

I asked helpless questions to jewellers who laughed at my ignorance until…

“So what about insurance, we live in NYC, is it going to be covered there?”
“Did you say you live in NYC my friend?”
“Uhhh… Yeah, why?”
“Ok come with me” and he beckoned me to follow him to the back of the store.

In a hushed tone he confided:
“I don’t know why I am telling you this, but I get all of my diamonds from New York City, there you get much more for your money when it comes to diamonds.”

Shocked that he had divulged this insider information with me I shook his hand and thanked him.

Diamond Hunting In The Big City. 

A month later I landed in the Diamond District, Manhattan, NYC, wandering around even more helpless than before.

After whirling around a few stores I left feeling abused, confused and entirely bewildered after being almost hustled every store I went into.

I started asking a few friends if they recommended anywhere I should go to look for one.

“New Jersey”
… All places that without a car takes time and money to get to and I didn’t want to waste either on a trip on yet another failed bewildered attempt.

One Thursday I went to ‘Legends’ – a men’s morning prayer meeting I regularly attended in the ‘Charity Water‘ office – and I shared with them my tale so far and asked them to pray about it…

“You know we have a guy who works in the Diamond District right?”

I was starting to see that this group had ‘a guy’ for just about everything.

“No is he still working there?”
“Yeah man, he’s helped most of the guys in this room with their rings, right?”

There was a collective nod and raise of hands from many married male faces.

“Well alright, can you give me his number?”

The Guy

After texting back and forward with ‘the guy’ I landed back into the diamond district feeling confident and ready.

Strutting past the street thugs who had tried to bully me into buying ‘questionable jewellery’ (in both authenticity and source of the items) I burst through the door of a large storefront into a jungle of diamonds and their keepers.

70% of the salesmen were Orthodox Jews who stared down magnifying devices inspecting each stone with immaculate precision, while others weighed items on scales.

The whole room was pure white filled with bright lights and mirrors… Wearing my jeans, a t-shirt and lugging around my tattered backpack I felt a little out of place, but after wandering around I found my Egyptian friend.

One ring to rule them all

“That will be 15,000 dollars” my guy said to another customer while I began to feel a little queasy.

After exchanging pleasantries he asked me what I was looking for and I regurgitated exactly what Jaci had told me.

“I think I have something just perfect for you” he said with utter confidence. He presented a small, fine ring from under the counter.

My guy was right, it was without a doubt the ‘one ring to rule them all’ as if it had been custom made for her right down to every little detail.

I pretended to inspect the ring thoughtfully and took it outside to look at it in the light, threw out a variety of questions and then asked that fateful question.

How much is it?”

This is where it gets crazy.

The crazy part

He leaned in closer out of earshot of his colleagues and competitors.

“I wanna take care of you, make you a deal… I know your situation and I wanna help out…”

Numbers were typed into a calculator which was turned round so I could read the digits… in a small hushed tone he said:
“This is the amount I want you to pay.”
“No way.”

“It was the exact amount that I had saved up with the £2 coins!”

I could not believe it. I told him the significance of that number and walked out of the shop laughing and praising God.

Naturally, I couldn’t wait to tell Jaci all about it but had to wait a few months till I actually proposed.

Closing thoughts

There are lots of things I learned from that experience but this post is long enough already so I will keep it brief. Here’s a few takeaways:

  1. God will take care of ‘needs’ that are not necessarily a necessity.
  2. Saving money often requires a little sacrifice over a long period of time. (I talk about this in another post)
  3. The Diamond District is crazy.

Note: I don’t believe expensive engagement rings are essential but I also don’t think they are completely meaningless either. It just depends on every situation each unique couple finds themselves in.

There’s something about ‘putting your money where your heart is‘ but on the other hand it is important to be practical (e.g. we bought our wedding on Groupon and our wedding rings on Etsy…but that is a story for another time.)

More stories from Matthew Thompson

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All the best

– Matthew Thompson

P.S. We are now saving £2 coins for our ’10th Wedding Anniversary Trip.’ 

Further reading:
– Delta Airlines Paid For Our Groupon Wedding
– Things I Learned After My Friend Got Shot
– How An Ancient Greek Strongman Can Help You Achieve Goals