Prom spending tops $1,100
The average cost of the 2013 prom is $1,139, according to a new survey. But you don't have to spend anywhere near that.
The cost of the high-school prom rose by 5% this year, according to a national survey by Visa. Although parents are paying for a little less -- 59% of the tab versus 61% last year -- they and their kids will shell out between $722 and $1,528 for the one-night fling.
Parents who make less than $50,000 a year will spend more than the national average, forking over $1,245.
Some of those free-spending parents may have budgeted for the expense. I'm willing to bet that others want what they see as "the best of everything" for their children, even if it means going into debt.
I understand that desire. But sometimes "the best" isn't necessarily "the most." Or the most expensive.
Teens have come to expect high-end prom prep: professional makeup, mani-pedis, new jewelry, designer gowns, dinners at fancy restaurants, giant limos, hotel rooms for after-parties. I think it's time parents put on the brakes.
So does Visa, which may sound counterintuitive; after all, doesn't the company make its money from credit card usage? But a spokesman called prom season "an opportunity to teach teens how to budget."
"Prom has devolved into a competition to crown the victor of high school society, but teens shouldn't be trying to keep up with the Kardashians," said Nat Sillin, the company's head of U.S. financial education.
"If they want that sparkling dress, fancy dinner, and limo ride, this is the opportunity to set a budget and save."
It's not that anyone begrudges the kids a party. But how many of their parents would spend $1,139 for a single night out on the town?
College is looming
Casey Slide of the Money Crashers blog understands the excitement. But in a post called "28 high school prom planning ideas to save money," she notes that "it's only one night out of their entire lives."
"It shouldn't cost a fortune, especially when paying for college is looming on the horizon," Slide says.
A few simple strategies can save you a bundle, according to consumer specialist Andrea Woroch. For example:
- Print photos at home versus spending up to $125 for pictures at the prom.
- Lease a dress for as little as $50 at a site like Rent The Runway.
- Skip the orchids in favor of something simpler, like carnations or a delicate corsage made from baby's breath.
- Forget the limo -- drive the family car.
"Though prom is an important milestone in your teen's life, there's no need to spend an exorbitant amount of money to make it memorable," Woroch says.
Chances are your kid is already well into the prom zone by now. If you haven't already set limits, time to check in and see how much has been spent and how much more is "needed" for the evening.
If you're startled by what's already slipped out of your wallet, speak up: "I had no idea we've already spent this much. I will contribute X dollars more and that's it. How can we come up with some creative ways to stretch that money?"
Great ways to save
Here are some tried-and-true ways to cut costs, courtesy of parents, bloggers and former prom-goers.
Avoid frills. Going retro (a la "Mad Men") or sleek and simple (the famous "little black dress") for a sophisticated look. More to the point, you've got a good chance at finding such dresses in thrift stores or clearance racks.
Reduce, reuse. Borrow a nice frock from a friend or relative. Check thrift shops and consignment stores for prom or bridesmaid dresses. My niece knows a girl who wore a bridesmaid's dress found at a yard sale for about $10. This works for guys, too: One parent told me her son wore his father's wedding suit for a look that was both retro and practical.
Buy a tux. Check the clearance rack at formal wear shops and you'll wow 'em at fancy events for years to come. One guy spent $99 on a tux that he wore to six formal occasions; his brother used it, too. Tuxes also show up at thrift stores, so keep your eyes peeled.
Or avoid a tux. Wear a regular suit, or slacks and a sports coat. Just wear it like you mean it.
Compare and contrast. Find the best deals for specific styles with a price comparison website like FatWallet.com or PriceGrabber.com. Then use an online coupon site like Rather Be Shopping or Savings.com to deepen your discount. Note: Online coupon codes exist for tux rentals.
De-accessorize. Sometimes less is more. How much jewelry do you really need? Wear one or two nice things you already own, or borrow them from someone. "Hats, gloves and handkerchiefs can either be eliminated or purchased on the cheap at a store such as Claire's," suggests Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers.
Forget footwear. Wear heels, sandals or flats from your closet. Everyone's looking at the dress, not at your feet.
More budget-friendly tips
A free hairdo. Skip the salon and do it yourself, or have a hair-handy relative do the honors. After a half-hour of dancing it'll be a sweaty mess anyway.
A (mostly) free makeover. Department-store makeup counters usually offer free makeup sessions. It's best to schedule an appointment, according to blogger Kimberly Couzens of The Kimberly Diaries. She suggests buying a lip color or mascara that you will actually use.
Skip the mani-pedi. Seriously: You can't do your own nails?
Rethink the flowers. Supermarket floral departments can do a lovely job that's cheaper than a florist. Some teens skip the flowers altogether.
Don't buy dinner -- serve it. Instead of pricey restaurant outings, restaurant meal, get together with a few other parents and host a special meal. Set the table formally and serve the prom-goers as if they were in a restaurant. (It's up to them whether they tip you or not.)
Readers: How much will your family spend on the prom?
More on MSN Money:
Any parent who agrees to spend more than $200 needs to have his/her head examined.
This is a party that lasts one night. Hello, perspective.
"Teens have come to expect "..
Can't imagine where these kids get such a feeling of "entitlement" LOL.
I asked my son if he was going to prom,, he said "No thanks, I'm not wasting my money on that". I offered to chip in on the expense, being a Senior, and never having been to the prom, I thought maybe he'd change his mind. "No mom, that's ok, it's NOT a big deal".
THAT'S MY Boy!... I raised him right. :).
Pffffftttttt! Sprinkle a few unwanted pregnancies on that and watch the cost skyrocket.
Our daughter attended prom all four years in high school. Her freshman and senior years we spent around $85- for her formal long dresses and that was at Macy's.These dresses also did double duty for pageants Shoes were from Payless and jewelry from Claire's. In fact, she wore the same pair for all four proms and for pageants. She still uses the jewelry. . Her sophomore and junior years she opted for shorter dresses and found those for under $15- at Sears. Two of these prom dresses she took to college where she wore them for other functions. She and her friends wanted a limo junior and senior years which, due to the number of people riding, would cost about $100-. We told her that if she wanted to ride 'limo', she could pay for it herself so one year she worked cleaning houses in the neighborhood and the other she worked at Sonic as a car hop (I refused to let her boyfriend pay for her limo trip since he had his own to pay for plus dinner). The restaurants these kids chose were reasonable - Red Lobster, Papasitos, Olive Garden. As a matter of fact, while the guys paid for the dinner, the girls paid the tips, not only to the wait staff but to the limo driver and paid for their own tickets. Most of the girls, even if they had a date, paid their own limo ride.
Borrowed dresses, and did everything else myself. Drove around in our own cars.
Prom is not that important, and nothing like it ever happens again in your life, unless you are a celebrity or politician or something.
How often do adults put on elaborate dress, go out to fine dining and dance?
Maybe I'm just missing something.
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