On a recent trip to Sydney, my new boyfriend couldn’t help but notice that I liked to pause and look at jewellery shops. Doesn’t every woman love a bit of bling? I certainly do, and perhaps, just perhaps, I like to daydream about a present of bling from the man I love. But as a frugalista, I certainly do not like paying top dollar for it. Nor do I want my man to.A guy at work is thinking about buying something special for his girlfriend. Yes, he is ready to pop the question and he wants to do it properly. The convention wisdom is that he must invest two months’ worth of wages into the ring. In an era when wages are stagnant and many young people are struggling to get a foothold into the housing market, spending a small fortune on a rock seems criminal. But what options are there for a groom to be who wants to show the love he feels for the woman of his dreams? Well, he could forgo an engagement ring entirely. But many men are too scared that they would be viewed as cheap or uncaring. Then there is the story of a friend of a friend who broke up with her long-term boyfriend because the rock he gave her when he proposed wasn’t big enough. No man wants that to happen. Another alternative is to forego the expensive jewellery store in search of better value options online. Jewellery stores have a huge mark-up on the product. It is not their fault: they need to pay for rent (often in shopping centres or prestigious suburbs), hire staff, install expensive display cases and downlighting that helps diamonds sparkle. Further, they need to stand by and wait as people try on rings, and try on more rings, and try to decide if the ring would be the perfect fit. Or not. I walked into a jewellery store recently and I had three people waiting on me – oh the pressure! I almost bought something just to keep them happy.I was first made aware of why the best bargains are not in jewellery store by chatting with a taxi driver. I love chatting with taxi drivers – they are always so full of stories. This one admitted he used to be a jeweler. He described the industry as criminal; jewelers like himself struggled to find a creative outlet as most product was imported in bulk and sold at a high margin. Yep, most jewellery in stores in Australia are expensive relative to what you can get elsewhere. A more cost-effective way to purchase is to buy online. You can save up to 80% on costs this way (and yes, I have been browsing – as I said, I may be frugal but I LOVE a bit of bling). The advantage of shopping online is that it foregoes the middleman, so you are dealing directly with the shop – and in often cases with the designer him/herself. You would be surprised how few physical jewellery stores have a designer in the shop these days. Most jewellery is purchased from overseas, and very little is custom made. But isn’t it dangerous, you might ask? Not if you use a shop that has trusted reviews, on a platform you trust such as Ebay or Etsy. Using a credit card or Paypal also gives you added consumer protections. These provide you with more than if, say, go into a jewellery store and pay with cash. You should also insist on documentation that shows the providence of whatever you purchase. If purchasing a diamond, or other precious or semi-precious stones, make sure they have been ethically sourced. Why taint your love by buying a blood conflict diamond? Buying a diamond with Kimberly process accreditation is important and brings you peace of mind. One often overlooked source of quality and affordable jewellery is online auctions such as Allbids. Allbids has a range of premium, antique and vintage jewellery. If you are savvy shopper, you can pick up some real bargains. Apart from the significant cost saving, an advantage is that you can find pieces that are unique and that will really stand out. The craftmanship that goes into some vintage pieces is amazing – they don’t make jewellery like they used to. And yes, the vintage look is coming back, what’s old is new again, with rose gold pieces leading the way. It goes also with the whole Boho bride look that is very popular at the moment. Last time I looked (okay, I admit it, I look at online jewellery more than I should) there was an old-fashioned gold shield pendant necklace, Mikimoto pearl earrings, several solitaire diamond rings and sapphire jewellery for auction at tempting bargain prices. Did I mention that I like bling? A further advantage of buying from Allbids at auction is that you know what you are getting. Allbids has a professional valuer on staff, who examines pieces and determine their true worth before they are placed online. Allbids also offers a free appraisal service for people who are thinking of selling pieces. Which is handy for people like me who have jewellery from earlier relationships, or who have inherited pieces that don’t really suit (or fit). I have been stalking Allbids’ online jewellery selection for a while now, and I must say that I like what I see. I also like how easy it is to register to bid online, and the thrill of seeing if I have been successful or not. This is definitely an option for someone who is looking for an affordable alternative to the traditional.This is a sponsored blog post. All views are Ms Frugal Ears own. And yes, I really do like bling, I like many of the pieces I have seen on Allbids, and I really do like getting a bargain by buying at auction.