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Saving Money on the Prom

Updated on April 22, 2016

Don't Follow the Crowd

Many prom-goers will drag parents in tow and purchase a lovely dress and accessories (or tuxedo rental), flowers, limousines for transportation, professional photographs, a fancy dinner out, expensive manicures, pedicures, waxing, and hair appointments. Ka-Ching! And don't forget the prom tickets, which often go up in price as the actual prom date nears.

Honestly, many people have lovely weddings for the same cost or less than most prom-goers.

Savvy shoppers will be prepared way in advance to minimize those expenses. By considering unconventional ideas, your student can be fashionable without breaking the bank.

photo credits:  Cyndie Hogeland
photo credits: Cyndie Hogeland | Source

Take Your Time

Time is the enemy for saving money. Prom tickets won't get any cheaper than they are the first week they are available. It's not unheard of for tickets to cost $100 for a single person when purchased close to the prom date.

If you have a daughter or son who is of an age that they may want to go to prom, start looking for dresses or tuxedos (sometimes deals can be had to purchase one that you can re-sell later if Junior changes size) the year before. Look for marked down dresses at the end of the season and put them up for the following year. Watch thrift and consignment stores. Often a good cleaning and some updated accessories (gotten on the cheap) will help to make a gown shine. Or, if you know a seamstress or if you sew, watch for deals on fabric and make a good dress with classic lines. They are usually simpler to sew and fit than trendier styles.

Photo Credit:  Creative Commons Attribution
Photo Credit: Creative Commons Attribution | Source

Be a DIY Darling!

Put your skills to work making items for your prom ensemble. Can't sew? Make your own jewelry using vintage pieces or reuse items of jewelry that you already own.

Learn to craft a corsage and/or boutonniere. There are literally hundreds of YouTube videos that can help you to learn how. It's actually much easier than it looks and your flowers will be unique and different from everyone else's.

Are you a great cook? What about catering a lovely meal for several of the prom couples? You could use a community hall or a church fellowship hall to make a nice meal for the kids to share together. Use candles and tablecloths and pull out the stops! China doesn't have to match, parents could each chip in what they have to fancy it up! Some proms ever have a buffet line with food, negating the need for a fancy meal.

Are you a couponer? Check out Groupon for great deals on nicer dinner spots to be used on prom night. It can be fun to be all dressed up and go out to a new spot! often has great deals on gift certificates to try new places.

Host a spa party the night before prom. Let the girls give each other facials and mani-pedis at a greatly reduced price. The day of prom, they can do each other's hair and makeup. It's totally fun to do this with your friends, parents, older siblings, etc. Take photos and provide junk food!

Prom Spending

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Teach Realistic Expectations

This can be a tough one, but It is important that we understand that life is not a fairy tale and teach that lesson to our children. As parents, if we set a reasonable budget and help our children learn to work well with it and, most importantly, do not budge the budget, they will learn how to do the most with the money that they can spend. If the child wishes to earn more money to pad the budget you are allowing, then that is okay. Working for money is a fundamental skill in modern life.

A dress can be beautiful even if it has been previously worn. Older teens can trade dresses with a friend or find one at a consignment sale.

While I generally like the idea that youngsters don't need to drive into cities where proms often are held, there is nothing wrong with arriving to prom with a parent driving or even with students driving themselves (if they have the skills to handle traffic and parking). At my son's recent prom outing, another parent (who works at a car dealership and was able to borrow a huge SUV for the event) drove multiple couples to and from the prom. It was wonderful to have an experienced driver at the wheel and the kids could clown around and have fun. No limousine required.

Don't Hire Out the Basics

Almost everyone has a friend who takes great photographs. These friends are usually thrilled to be asked to come along and take some photos. Actually, even a basic camera phone can take a decent photo with a little practice. An iPhone will outperform a cheaply made digital camera in the right hands. Read up online for posing ideas and find a lovely location to take some shots. If all of the parents take photos of a group of kids and then share the photos, everyone will have a lovely bunch of shots to choose from at a fraction of the cost of a professional photographer taking the same stodgy photos over and over at the actual event.

As mentioned earlier, hair, makeup, nails, can all be done at home with a little help from friends and some good hairspray! It's even fun to have a practice run a month or so ahead of time to try out some ideas with friends.

Arrange for a parent to drive. Limousines are nifty, but I'd rather spend money on other things. Any vehicle will be fine as long as it is clean and serviceable. If every dream comes true at prom, then you will likely find them turning into spoiled bride and groom-zillas on their respective wedding days. There is nothing wrong with having something to look forward to.

Photo Credit:  Creative Commons Attribution
Photo Credit: Creative Commons Attribution | Source

Bonus Tips

Keep the makeup and hair similar to your normal style. You want to look back at photographs and see the best version of yourself, not a stranger staring back at you. There is no rule that says you have to wear your hair up or down or any particular style. A dressier version of the everyday you is perfectly acceptable!

Consider holding on to your formal dresses for college. Some young women are able to attend formals in college on a budget because they already have the dresses and accessories to mix and match (or can trade with another friend the same size). Add a silk corsage in a basic color, such as white or red and you will be ready for any occasion!


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