Are you thinking of popping the question? Here are three ways to get the best value for your money on a diamond engagement ring! 

Read more: Lord of the Rings: Costco vs. Tiffany on the diamond front

1. Shop at the right place for the best value.

In a segment Good Morning America ran not too long ago, an expert compared similar diamonds sold at Tiffany Co. and Costco Wholesale Club. The results were astounding. 

The Tiffany diamond, which had a price tag of $16,500, was appraised at only $10,500. That Tiffany diamond was being sold for 58% more than it's real worth! 

The Costco diamond had opposite results. The diamond sold at Costco was being sold for $6,600 and worth 17% more than the appraised price. It's amazing just how much money that little blue box can really cost you. 

In addition to Costco, Blue Nile is another high-quality, great value place to shop if you want to look for diamond engagement rings online.  

How to handle returns or exchanges

According to Costco's website, for diamonds under 1.00ct, Costco will refund your purchase price, but for diamonds over 1.00ct, members "must also present all original paperwork (IGI and/or GIA certificates) at which time they will receive a Jewelry Credit Memo. Within 48 hours, our Costco Graduate Gemologist will inspect for authenticity." 

Blue Nile offers a 30-day money back guarantee, with the exception of engraved jewelry items and diamonds purchased as part of the Blue Nile Diamond Upgrade Program. 

Read more: How to get a Costco membership basically for free


2. Consider pre-owned. 

I Do, Now I Don't is a website connecting engagement ring sellers with engagement ring buyers, where buyers can save thousands, off the retail price of a diamond ring. 

Previously featured on many national news sources, this website cuts out the markup middleman (jewelry stores) so that ring sellers make the most, and ring buyers get the most value. A small fee is charged to facilitate the transaction, but nothing like retail jewelry stores would charge. 

If you want to buy a ring on the site, simply peruse the selection of engagement rings and wedding bands listed by individual sellers. If you find something you like, you can purchase it using the secure website. You can also contact the seller of the ring to see if they will accept a lower price. 

Once payment is complete, the ring is sent to a team of certified gemologists to inspect the ring and verify that the seller is selling the item as described. Then, it is sent to you! If for some reason you aren't happy with the purchase, IDNID will issue you a credit if the item is returned within 7 business days, subject to a 15% restocking fee. 

In addition to sites like this, professional sellers on eBay might be another, lower cost way to go. 

Though you could possibly get a great deal on a pre-owned engagement ring on Craigslist, it is very risky, and people can get financially burned. It's best to use a website or exchange service where the diamond will be professionally inspected by certified gemologists. 

3. Consider a lab-created diamond.

This all depends on your lady -- would she be happy with a bigger, glitzier diamond that was actually created in a lab, or does she want the real thing? 

Lab created diamonds are not cubic zirconia -- they have a 100% identical chemical makeup to a diamond that is dug out of the earth. They are beautiful, too! Plus they cost a whole lot less. 

"Generally speaking, Gemesis lab-created diamonds retail for approximately 20 to 30% less than mined diamonds," said Stephen Lux, President and CEO of Gemesis Diamond Company. 

More tips to save

Before shopping for an engagement ring, try to have a conversation with your partner to understand what they value without giving away too much related to your plans. One mistake my husband and I made was we did not go ring shopping together. Some women are not very particular, they just want something that sparkles. Other women want to be surprised -- and that is a part of the engagement experience for them. However, I did not want to be surprised! I was very particular. 

Another thing you can do is pick out a solitaire diamond first in a simple setting, then take her shopping and switch out the setting after she's said yes. 

No matter which route you go, there are definitely ways to save money without settling for less quality when it comes to diamonds.  

Read more: Lab-made diamonds are cheap and indistinguishable from the real thing