Enjoying Your Prom on a Budget

by David Ning · 2 comments

The emotional weight associated with prom night is difficult for an adult to appreciate. The price tag, however, is a totally different story. As a parent you want your child to enjoy themselves and maybe make a few precious memories, but you also want to avoid taking out a second mortgage to afford the evening. So what to do? Here are a few suggestions.

Gowns and Tuxedos; A Grown Up Look for Less

For many girls the largest expense ends up being the dress. Really, it makes no sense at all to spend several hundred dollars on gown you may never wear again. Cheaper options include consignment shops, borrowing from older relatives, or visiting a dress exchange.

Bridal shops are getting in on the celebration by renting dresses as well. Make sure to start looking early though, because you don’t want to have to settle for a dress just because it is the right size.

Life is easier for the boys, although not necessarily cheaper. The tuxedo rental industry is well established, but opting for a top of the line suit will cost you a pretty penny. Designer labels are snazzy, but an attractive, well fitting tux doesn’t have to be the newest or the most expensive. Pick something that looks good without worrying about who designed it, and return it on time to avoid penalties.

Sharing the Ride Saves Everyone Money

In my day the boy picked you up in dad’s car. If you were lucky he cleaned the car before he drove over. Today kids spring for stretch limos and decked out Hummers.

Before you shell out hundreds of dollars for your ride, get together with a bunch of friends and decide to go as a group. The evening’s rental may be $500, but when you split it between 10 kids, it is much more affordable.

Flowers Don’t Have to be Exotic

The corsage and boutonnière should match, but that doesn’t mean they have to be expensive. Carnations are a traditional choice that still fit into a smaller budget.

Making a boutonniere is fairly simple, so designing your own at home is an easy way to save a bit of money. A corsage is more challenging, so this is one area the boys may end up having to spend more. If you don’t like carnations, pick something seasonal. And shop around too, as prices vary quite a bit between florists.

The After Party; Dancing the Night Away

Although the idea of an after party will seem strange to many parents, it has become an integral part of many proms. Schools often arrange for an after party just to ensure that their students are somewhere safe when the prom is over. If your child’s school doesn’t do so, work with other parents to set one up. The expense of several families renting a small suite at a hotel or arranging a co-ed event at home is much more reasonable, and the peace of mind is invaluable.

As always, planning and creativity are the cornerstones of creating a memorable event, without spending a fortune you simply don’t have.

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  • Steve Jobs says:

    Life is hard nowadays and it is really important to save than have some unnecessary events. Some schools had suggested that prom be temporarily abolished but the parents and students had persisted to have one even on school grounds. Some even suggested donning casual wear in which I think defeats the very purpose of prom.

  • TheInfamousJ says:

    Schools sponsoring an after-party? Isn’t Prom the school-sponsored party part of it all?

    Back in my HS days, to save money for Prom we:
    – rented a 15 passenger van (unglamorous, but it was really cool nonetheless)
    – dined at Chuck E. Cheese in our formal wear (which was incredibly fun and made for great pictures and memories)
    – bought our dresses at thrift/consignment stores
    – had an after party at the house of one of our group (his parents knew and were overnight guests of a friend of theirs so that we had the house to ourselves)

    Prom is more fun/memorable when it isn’t experienced in the way that Warner Brothers shows tell you it has to be experienced. Perhaps you will write an article about traditional prom activity alternatives (such as the after party being formal-wear mini golfing)?

    Additionally, plug for the females that if there is a beauty school in your area, you can get hair and nails for a fraction of the cost of a real salon.

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