The high cost of the high school prom
Spending a good deal in excess of $1,000 for the prom is not unheard of in some parts. Here's how to reduce your costs.
A friend of mine is working extra shifts at her job to help pay for her daughter's prom.
Here's what the money is going for: The mom set a $500 limit for the dress. While many of the dresses the daughter looked at cost more than that, the one she finally picked was only $398. Also: nails, $56; pedicure, $45; hairstyling, $40 -- and those prices don't include a 20% tip. Add in tanning salon ($40), alterations to the dress (cost not yet known) and flowers (still to be determined).
The mother added, "These are the moments, though, right? The ones they call … priceless."
Or how about too pricey? Another friend, just a few years past her prom, said, "I think expectations about what prom should be are changing. Things like limos, nice dinners and nearly designer dresses were once luxurious. Now they are considered necessities for the ideal prom."
Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce the cost.
What can you expect to spend?
Prom costs vary from state to state, community to community. Promgirl.com says the big night generally can cost anywhere from $175 to $2,100, and gives some ranges. For example:
- Tickets -- $20 to $250.
- Pre-prom dinner -- $25 to $130. Just be sure a dinner isn't included in the ticket price.
- Hair, makeup, etc. -- $30 to $275.
- Gown -- $100 to $400.
- Photo -- $30 to $125.
- Limo -- "Renting a limo is an extravagant option, but it is very common. They could cost anywhere from $200 to $500."
A story at Masslive.com identifies some additional costs that were unheard of 10 or 20 years ago:
"Instead of driving your date home in your father's car at the end of the dance and saying goodnight, now students are packing rented limos and party buses with 30 of their friends after the dance to an after-party, often becoming more of the 'social event' then the dance itself.
"The day after prom has also become popular for planning trips to the beach or amusement parks, or to stays at a friend's lake or vacation home. It is now a whole weekend of celebration."
One store owner said she's making pocket squares and bow ties that match the girl's dress. "If you had told me eight years ago when I opened the store that I would be bejeweling bow ties for prom I would not have believed you," Bianca Jackson told the newspaper.
The total can be an excessive amount of money to spend on an event with a date you may not even see again once you leave for college (plus it deprives your college fund of much-needed cash).
So, let's consider some ways to hold costs in line:
Set a prom budget. How much can you realistically afford? Some costs are fixed, like the prom and post-prom tickets. Now you know what you have left to spend on everything else. And if your teen wants to exceed the budget, tell that child to chip in.
Thankfully, some kids see the need to scale back. Said the blog post "Prom: Getting out of hand" at the North Central High School website (the city and state aren't identified): "After going through the 'proma' myself, my best advice would be the less you hype prom up, the more it will exceed your expectations, and the better time you'll have."
"Proma," you likely have noted, rhymes with drama.
Or you can use the approach of Jim Higley, who blogs at Bobblehead Dad. He had his daughter take charge of most of the cost:
"One of my standby strategies is to set a limit as to what I can contribute to something. As an example, when my daughter was a senior, I told her I'd contribute $100 toward her dress and accessories. Everything else was her responsibility. Setting a limit for a parent contribution can really bring out some wonderful penny-pinching qualities in kids."
Here are some cost-cutting tips:
- Shop around, both online and at local stores. One store we found online, Bliss Bridal, says all 2012 prom dresses are now on sale for $25. Courtney Alicia Miles, a senior at King/Drew Magnet High School, told her school paper, the Golden Gazette, that she too found deals online. "I only spent like $140. I found my dress online for a discounted price, which left me room to splurge on my shoes."
- Rent the tux or dress either online or from a local shop.
- Buy the dress at a consignment shop. Often they've jeen worn just once, like a wedding gown. After the prom, you can resell it.
- Borrow a dress from a friend.
- Get help from charitable groups. Cinderella's Closet provides dresses, shoes and accessories, as well as services such as hairstyling to girls who might not be able to afford them. Check for organizations in your area. For instance, the Chicago area has the Glass Slipper Project. The University of North Carolina's Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority holds the annual Pearlfect Prom Project to collect dresses and accessories and also provide hair and makeup sessions. In New Milford, Conn., says NBC News, a high school asked people to donate gowns, which the girls got either for free or for a donation.
- Shoes and accessories. Think of the shoes already in your closet when selecting the dress. Also, you must know someone who has beautiful jewelry (and is willing to entrust you with it) and purses.
- Makeup and hair. Surely you can do this yourself or get some donated help.
- Photos. Have the photos taken at home by a talented friend or relative.
- Dinner, if it's not provided at the prom. The father of the girl I mentioned above is an excellent cook and is making dinner for her and her date.
- Transportation. Skip the limo and let parents drive, or carpool. Or get a big group of kids to hire a party bus.
A long-term approach is to encourage the organizers to reduce the expense. For instance, seniors at Mountlake Terrace High School in Washington state have fundraisers throughout the year to keep the ticket cost at $25 apiece, says The Weekly Herald.
"The prom could easily become less expensive if guys wore suits and girls wore nice long dresses. Having the prom in the gym and sponsored by the underclassmen would lower the ticket price. Parents could serve a special dinner at home to defer the cost of eating out."
How big a deal should prom be? Unless you eventually marry your prom date, will you really cherish those memories for many years, feeling a warm glow as you recall that special someone pinning on your flowers?
More from MSN Money:
Article states "Now they are considered necessities for the ideal prom" ... I do not think so, it is people trying to keep up with the rich people.
I went to homecoming and skipped prom, but I would have approached it the same way:
Top: "free" (from my closet)
Skirt: ~$30 (including a 25% discount)
Shoes: $5.00 (I love the thrift store)
Makeup: My mom did mine using her makeup
Hair: My friends would have curled mine, but I told them not to waste their time.
Nails: I didn't do mine - but nail polish plus falsies, if so desired = ~$6.
Transportation: Mom drove me to a friend's; we walked from there after we finished getting ready.
Dinner: We ate dinner at home, and free refreshments (punch and cookies) were offered there.
I hadn't been planning on going, so I didn't have enough money saved up to buy "all this" so my parents paid - and after two weeks of working for my neighbors, I was able to pay them back.
MY TOTAL COST was $35.00, and I had more fun being with my friends than I did dressing up or being at the dance. That's why I thought prom would be a waste of time and money, and never had the desire to go. If I had gone, I would have been paying for it myself - but if my parents had paid for me, I would never have had the stupidity, selfishness, or disrespect to ask for more than that anyway. That's a lot to spend on a dumb dance anyway; $50 is almost a whole tank of gas now!
Great Subway ride!!
Limos are for show. Hard earned money gone within an hour or 2. Then comes the tip?
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