Price of prom-going is going up

The rite of passage has become a financial hurdle, costing $1,139 on average, and poorer families spend the most.

By Aimee Picchi Apr 25, 2013 10:53AM

Prom couple (© Digital Vision/Digital Vision Ltd.)The prom isn't only a major rite of passage for teens, it has also become a financial burden for families, with the average expenditure slated to reach $1,139 this year. 

That's a 5% bump from last year, according to a survey from Visa (V). That means prom spending is rising faster than the rate of inflation, which has hovered below 2% this year.

Another trend emerged in Visa's survey: It found that poorer parents plan to spend more than wealthier ones. Families earning less than $50,000 a year will spend $1,245, while those earning more will fork over only $1,129. 

The biggest spenders of all are single parents, who said they'll shell out $1,563 to outfit their children in tuxes and prom dresses, hire limos and buy other accoutrements. Meanwhile, married parents are relatively frugal, budgeting just $770, the survey found. 

So is the culprit the rising cost of corsages, or something else? According to one analyst, teens are buying fancier dresses and don't want to rely on one pair of shoes.

"Dresses are more elaborate. . . . They are now buying two pairs of shoes, one to go to prom and one to dance in," Marshal Cohen, an analyst at NPD Group, told the Daily Mail. "This crop of kids cares about prom."

Remarkably, this year's prom costs represent a 41% jump in spending from 2011's $807 average, according to the Mail. 

As broken down last month by MSN Money's Smart Spending, families shell out not only for prom tickets ($20 to $250) but for a pre-prom dinner that can cost as much as $130. Then there's the limo, which can cost as much as $500. 

And prom dresses aren't cheap. This flowing "one-shoulder" prom dress fetches $378 on Promgirl, a site devoted to dressing teens for their big night. These glittering stilettos will set parents back $200. 

Who's paying for all this? Visa said parents pay about 59% of the costs, while teens cover the remainder. 

More on moneyNOW

Apr 25, 2013 1:45PM

The prom in 1968. Coat, tie, slacks and decent shoes that I already had. A 1959 Oldsmobile with a full tank of gas and a cooler full of beer, all paid for by me. Before you rag on me for having the beer, in those days the cops just confiscated it and sent you on your way if you got caught. 

My parents couldn't afford to spend two week's take home pay on a dance and neither could the parents of the guys I hung out with. They had bills to pay and food to buy. Sounded fair to me then and sounds fair to me now. You're not "special" princess.

Apr 25, 2013 1:59PM
The prom in 1967:  I made my own dress for about $40, had my hair for $35 (that was considered really expensive at the time.).  My boyfriend borrowed his mother's car and wore his father's tux.

We went to the beach the next day.

That was it.  That was pretty much what everybody did except for those who went out to dinner before the prom.  My single-parent father didn't contribute a dime.  I paid for my dress and hair out of my babysitting money and what I saved from my school lunch money by not eating.

Times sure have changed

Apr 25, 2013 3:13PM
And that's one of the reasons they are poor. No common sense and no idea about priorities. A bunch of idiots.
Apr 25, 2013 2:42PM

"'This crop of kids cares about prom.'"


This is the article that fully explains the economic demise of the United States. Both its young and codependent elders have their heads up Prom Creek without a financial paddle. 

Apr 25, 2013 3:40PM
"This crop of kids cares about prom."---That's just because Dad is footing the bill sweet heart.  It is a whole lot easier to go out and blow all that money in one night when you don't have to work it out. 
Apr 25, 2013 5:46PM
Would you expect anything different from the most spoiled generation in history?
Apr 29, 2013 1:11PM
My prom in 2006.. didn't go! Saved some money!
Apr 29, 2013 8:50PM
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