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Prom on a Budget


According to Your Prom magazine the average couple shells out $1,200.00 to attend their Prom. If you’ve attended a formal dance, but hadn’t added up the total, this may be a shock for you…or your parents.

Here are some suggestions that may ease the burden these dances place on everyone. Have a plan in place when you approach your parents with your “formal” requests. The more prepared you are to meet them somewhere in the financial middle, the more they will respect you for your mature approach to a costly proposition.

Start by prioritizing your “wants.” If you decide up front what is most important to you, you’ll be better able to negotiate the smaller things. Both you and your parents will walk away with a sense of accomplishment, rather than frustration.

Hair and make-up can be very expensive if you choose to go with a professional salon, you can expect to pay around $100 for make-up and, depending on the length of your hair, $90 for an updo. There are options to this expense! Most every city has a beauty school. I spoke with a representative from the Marinello School of Beauty in Burbank. She quoted around $10 for make-up and, also depending on the length of the hair, between $20-$30 for an updo. With that kind of savings you can probably afford to get your nails done to boot! Check the beauty schools near you for their price lists.

Ladies, by the time you reach Prom age, you’ve probably got two or three formal gowns in a holding pattern around your closet. You’re not alone; I know you have friends. With your parent’s permission, get together with your friends and see what each of you has to offer. A good tailor, a little imagination and voila you’ve got a new dress for $50 dollars instead of the $200 a new one would cost you in a store. You might also consider one of the second hand formal shops around town. They’re new to you and again, with alterations, a one-of-a-kind original.

Accessories are easier to come by these days. Places like Payless have made cheap shoes an art. You can probably find really cute evening shoes that will not break the budget. Besides, no one will know unless you tell. An evening bag can also be had inexpensively, but I would encourage you to borrow one from your mom or even the mother of a close friend. Just make sure you return it in the same condition you received it in.

Gentlemen, I wish I had a less expensive solution for you. I’ve rented tuxedos for my son for four years and it’s probably the best I can do. The cost is around $170 per rental, but a good suit will run around $300. If you’re in the midst of a growth cycle you’ll be lucky if you can wear the suit twice, which will bring the cost down to about the same as a tuxedo rental. If you wear suits often, this may be a worthwhile investment for you and your parents. Dress the suit up for formal dances and you’ll look great!

Transportation is always an issue. To limo or not to limo, that is the question. If you have a large group it can be less expensive, though still pricey for a ride to the dance. You may also consider asking your parents if you can borrow their car, or even driving yourself if you have a car. This option will cost you a tank of gas. This would be one of the points you’ll want to rank according to importance.

Tickets are necessary, but also negotiable. I know that many schools offer seniors the opportunity to fund raise in order to bring the cost of Prom tickets down. You really need to take advantage of this activity! If you’re unhappy with the fundraising choices, do some research and suggest alternatives you feel may work out better for everyone involved. It takes some work on your part, but that’s money in your pocket.

We come now to the “traditions” of Prom. Flowers, dinner and pictures, oh my! Okay, in the big picture flowers are not very expensive, though there are less expensive alternatives to a florist. Some of the larger grocery stores, like Pavilions, have floral departments who will take custom orders. I received a quote for a boutonniere of $5.99 and a corsage can range from $15 to $19 as compared to the average florist who charges around $30. These prices were given to me over the phone this afternoon for standard items. You should shop around for the best deal you can find.

The problem with eating out in big groups, for young and old alike, is that the bill is never split up evenly. I think you’ll all agree that the point of having dinner is to be together, to extend the fun of the evening. You don’t have to go to the swankiest restaurant in town, though a fast food establishment is probably out of the question too. You don’t have to go to a restaurant at all, for that matter. I’m sure you could find a couple of parents among your Prom group who would love to host either dinner or appetizers before the dance and another house for dessert after the dance.

I for one think that pictures are important, if not for you, for your parents. It’s one of those points you may be able to negotiate. My son and his friends usually meet at one house for pictures. This way all of the parents can get individual shots, just the boys, just the girls, everyone…it’s a picture fest! At the dance, however, there will probably be better lighting and a professional behind the camera. You can get away with ordering one for him and one for her, no need to get wallets for the grandparents.

Words to leave you with: you can have a great Prom without breaking the bank. It’s about friends and fun memories of high school, not how much you spent on items you’re not going to use again.