Will Your Family Spend $1,139 on Prom This Year?

by Miranda Marquit · 6 comments

Prom corsages

As a teenager, I enjoyed going to dances. I liked dancing and hanging out with my friends. And, even though fashion and makeup aren’t things I’ve ever really been into, I still thought it was fun to dress up for formals like prom.

With spring comes prom season, and many families are getting ready — and saving up. According to a story from Reuters, the average family will spend $1,139 on prom this year.

Why Does Prom Cost So Much?

The rising cost of prom has a lot to do with the trappings of the celebration. Dinner. Limousines. Flowers. Tickets. Pictures. Tux rentals. And, of course, THE DRESS.

According to the Reuters post, dresses cost $100 and up, with many dresses costing as much as $250 or $300. I was lucky that my mom is a talented seamstress; she made most of my prom dresses. (Fun fact: My mom also made my wedding dress.) I didn’t worry too much about having my hair and makeup professionally done, although I understand that’s now a fairly common (and costly) practice.

None of my dance dates involved limousines. A lot of the time, we planned a daytime activity, which was inexpensive and usually outdoors, and then changed for the dance and met up later. Most of the costs involved with prom today are expenses that I managed to avoid.

While I don’t have a problem spending money on things that are important to me, I never thought prom was worth that much, no matter how much fun I had.

Prom and Status Spending

One of the reasons that prom costs keep rising is that there seems to be a trend toward impressing others with your prom experience. There’s a certain amount of cachet associated with arriving in a limo. Can you tell people that you ate at the most expensive restaurant in town? Is that a rare flower in your corsage? And do you really look like a princess (or a prince)?

In many ways, prom spending is a status thing. It’s such an issue that there are charities designed to help lower income families with dresses and tuxes. That’s how expensive it’s become.

As you consider the cost of prom (or consider how much the cost will inflate by the time your child is old enough to attend), think about the “why” behind the process. Yes, you probably want your child to have a nice time.

But is it worth more than $1,000 for a night in high school? Consider ways to cut costs. Or, create a budget and tell your teen that you’ll pay a certain amount of money, but anything beyond that amount is his or her responsibility.

Do you think prom costs are getting out of control? How do you save money on prom?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • lana says:

    I spent $250 on my son’s. He didn’t even have a great time. 🙁

  • Kate says:

    I was very fortunate to be in high school during the Sixties, when “Prom” (which in my case was the whole Debutante thing) was scorned as bourgeois and we all decided to skip it. I spent 3 years at John Robert Powers “Charm School” learning to be a Young Lady (a “Subdeb” if you can believe it) and although in later years some of what I learned was helpful to me, I was seriusly glad not to have to go through all the hoo hah of a Debut. I think my Mama is still sorry though. She would have liked to go through all that although we’d have gone deep in debt to provide it.

  • Kris says:

    No, no, no, no, no. Of course, my 16 year old daughter might think differently next year. But fortunately she has a good sense of money and while she will want to look nice and have fun, she won’t fall victim to the “keep up with the Jones’s mentality (I hope).

  • ARCpoint Labs of Salem says:

    Prom is such a fun part of the year. To keep it under budget is great.

  • KM says:

    I suppose my family was very lucky since I never went to prom, but even if I did, I would have gotten a dress from Ross for $20. I am also lucky that I have a boy and won’t have to worry about dresses and hair and makeup when the time comes to it. But who knows, maybe in 15-16 years things will be different, so I am not worried about it much right now.

  • @debtblag says:

    Not even close.

    While, I definitely think everyone could and should do it for far less than this, I don’t think everyone should necessarily put as little effort as I would.

    It’s important to remember that for a lot of seniors, graduating from high school is the end of the road. And among money families, just graduating from high school is seen as a big accomplishment. I feel less bad when these folks plan on making prom a special gift for their child, and save and work it into their budget well in advance.

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