The shocking cost of the senior prom
The average tab is now $1,078. Yes, really. But it doesn't have to be.
Startling, huh? But it gets worse: Parents who make less than $20,000 a year plan to spend more than the national average. They'll fork over $1,200 for this evening to remember.
Trouble is, the kids may not remember it for very long. Do you remember yours? Pop quiz: What color were the flowers in your girlfriend's corsage? Where did you eat before the prom? Do you still have the photos?
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"The prom is a high school dance, not a wedding," notes Visa spokesman Jason Alderman, "and parents need to set limits in order to demonstrate financial responsibility."
Good luck with that. After all, the parents surveyed are willingly paying nearly two-thirds of the prom costs.
I don't think you need to drop a small fortune on a school party. And I'm reaching out to you, the readers, for tips on keeping costs down while preserving the fun.
Frugal yet magic
It's an uphill battle, since expectations get larger every year. Some teens expect mani-pedis and professional makeup jobs, glittering gowns and glamorous tuxes, limousines the size of studio apartments, hotel rooms for after-parties.
But not every adolescent expects a prom-night version of "My Super Sweet 16." Ann, a South Carolina reader, "lucked out" with her daughter's 2011 bash. Laura has a lot of cousins and, by extension, an impressive selection of loaner gowns. She bought "sparkly" shoes cheaply online, and Ann found a brand-new sequined bag at a thrift store.
A classmate's parents hosted a formal dinner for 15 promgoers, eliminating the cost of a restaurant meal. One of the dads took pictures and later put them on CDs for each teen -- no need for those pricey, stiffly posed portraits.
"We could have spent more," Ann said, "but it wouldn't have (made the evening) any more fun."
In a post on the Moneycrashers personal finance site, blogger Casey Slide acknowledges that the prom is a big deal to teens. "But it's only one night out of their entire lives," she says.
"Talk to your kids about the budget you've set aside for the prom and work together on ways to save money, without squashing the fun."
Got any tips to share?
Remember, "budget" does not translate to "no fun at all." It means being creative. For example, Slide notes that wrist corsages are all the rage but they're more expensive than the traditional type. Her solution: Get the pin-on type, then use a ribbon to tie it to a wrist.
That's the kind of clever, common-sense tactic I'm hoping readers will share. What techniques would you suggest to keep prom costs reasonable?
You can leave the tips below or e-mail them to SmartSpending@live.com. I'll run the best ones next week.
To get the ball rolling, here are a few ideas I've already received:
Skip the souvenirs. Andrea, who blogs at So Over Debt, says her $40 prom favors -- a photo frame and a gel candle -- were "a complete waste of money."
A professional face. Schedule an appointment for a makeover at a department store's cosmetics counter, suggests Kimberly of The Girl Next Door's Guide to Finance. Technically this service is free; in reality, it's expected you'll buy something. Get a lip color or mascara you know you'll use.
Thrift-store tuxes. "You could rock a 'Dumb & Dumber' look for under $15 super-easily, and then you have it for Halloween too. Of course, it takes some confidence -- and a date with a sense of humor -- to pull it off," says blogger J. Money of Budgets Are Sexy.
Thrift-store gowns. "Plenty of gals get rid of their prom dresses. You see a decent number of bridesmaids' dresses there, and some of those might pass as prom dresses," says Abigail Perry of I Pick Up Pennies. (Full disclosure: Perry, who has written for MSN Money’s Smart Spending blog, is my daughter. For her own prom she drove my Nissan Sentra with a "COMPACT LIMO" sign in the window.)
Choose the right date. Here's a tongue-in-cheek suggestion from Gail Cunningham of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling: Invite a girl whose parents are really strict. "They'll never let her go to the after-party, so you'll automatically save money."
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spoiled to death. Do they have jobs to help pay for all this "necessities"? No wonder this country is in such a mess.
FOR THE POP QUESTIONS
1965 NEW YORK CITY
LIVED IN QUEENS. SCHOOL IN MANHATTAN NEAR COLUMBUS CIRCLE. TOOK TAXI THERE
1] FLOWERS WERE WHITE
2] WE ATE AT THE SAGE IN ELMHURST QUEENS. AFTER PROM
3] RODE THE SUBWAY WITH A LOT OF OTHERS TO THE IRISH RIVERIA TO SEE THE SUN COME UP AT ROCKAWAY BEACH QUEENS.
4] STILL HAVE THE BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOS OF BOTH EVENTS. TOOK THE Q53 BUS HOME.
Jr/Sr Prom 1965. Went as a junior. No one I wanted to go with as a senior. Cost of tux rental 29.95,
flowers ( white and pink roses ) 13.95, ticket to dance 15.00, after dance dinner 45.00, drove my dad's new 65 mustang convertible. Still have pictures. If you allow your son or daughter to spend more than $500 your out of your mind as a parent! It's just a dance.
a gorgeous home-made gown that my mom made for me out of fancy fabrics she had laying around in the house.
My boyfriend and i spent about 15 dollars on gas getting there. My mom did my hair with your average straighter, i did my own makeup.
my mom made a corsage for me and my boyfriend out of ribbons and lace she had in her fabrics drawer and flowers from our garden, my older sister had a gorgeous pair of beautiful lace shoes that she let me borrow(surprising because she always complains that i 'ruin' her stuff).
and i bought i beautiful clutch from dsw. in all, i probably spent $70
I have a son attending prom this year and we live in a major US city and these national numbers are crazy!! The same people spend hundreds of dollars when their children graduate elementary school and middle school! It is just pure stupidity- no wonder all these teens are running around feeling so entitled. My son was outraged at how much a tux cost to rent $150. We got lucky and purchased one for $105 with alterations. If my younger son can't wear it next year then I will just sell it and recoup some of the cost. Tickets are probably $50 each (not sure because it is at his girl friend’s HS so her family bought them) there will be NO limo, NO hotel room and NO costly after party! The parents will gather before hand and take pictures -so no souvenir package necessary. They are going to dinner at a nice but not outrageous restaurant which will probably cost $80-$100 (if they get dessert) and if they decide to go bowling or do something silly and memorable after the dance then he will pay for it with his own money. So I calculate our family cost at less than $200 because the group decided not to even have flowers! I don’t know what her family is spending, but I know I have raised my boys to respect their hard earned dollars and spend them wisely, not like fools!
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