Are you thinking about asking the “big question” any time soon? All you need to propose is the right sentiment, the right background and the right ring. To make it simple: Speak from the heart, go back to the place you first met and follow this handy guide for picking the right ring.

Step 1: Set A Budget

As with all things in life, you need a budget for buying an engagement ring. The prevailing wisdom is setting aside two to three months salary. Although that’s a nice target, that might not always be practical. You know what you can comfortably afford. As you go shopping, you’ll find something in your budget range. Just start there and don’t waver. Keep in mind, that you’ll always have the chance to upgrade a stone or two down the road. BTW, if your intended is more concerned about how much money you spend on the ring than the actual ring and sentiment behind it, then perhaps you need to rethink this whole process.

Step 2: Listen Up

Chances are your future fiancée has already told you exactly the type of ring she wants. The problem was you probably weren’t listening. There are ways to drop in questions to find out which type of ring style she likes. You can even go to a jewelry store, pretend you hate being there as she tries on rings but secretly take notes.

Step 3: Be the Spy

If you want to pull off the surprise of her life, then don’t ask for a ring size. She’ll know what’s coming. Instead, take one of her rings that fit and covertly draw a circle on the inside of a piece of paper. Ring size. If that doesn’t work, then “borrow” the ring and take it to a jeweler. They’ll be able to size up the size just by looking at that ring. Part two of being spy is to snap some pictures of her pre-existing jewelry. Yes, you’ve seen her wear these objects but again, you probably weren’t paying attention. Now, you need to focus and those pictures will send you in the right direction in terms of style.

Step 4:  Learn Your Four C’s.

Cut, color, clarity and carat weight. When it comes to buying a diamond, you need to know those four c’s. Which one matters the most? Probably cut. This is how you get the sparkle when flashed in the light. It all comes down to refraction. Thankfully, there are plenty of “diamond cheat sheets” you can take with you to the jewelry store.

Step 5: Go Unique

After listening, sizing and spying you should have a pretty good idea of what your future significant other would like in a ring. However, you still have a chance to surprise her. Consider the vintage ring style. These are rings that are truly unique and that is what will make her really happy. As an added bonus, it will look like you really put some thought into this, which of course you have!