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10 Clever Ways to Save Money on Prom (So You Don’t Have to Take Out a Loan)

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10 Clever Ways to Save Money on Prom (So You Don’t Have to Take Out a Loan)

It’s that magical time of year. Soon high school juniors and seniors everywhere will be donning their finest for prom. The girls, looking gorgeous and glamorous in their glitz, sequins, and sparkles, and the guys, looking amazingly handsome decked out in their tuxedos, shiny black shoes, and boutonnieres. Get your camera ready, these are pictures you definitely won’t want to miss.

But, just in case you were wondering, there’s something else you might need to get ready as you prepare during the months and weeks leading up to the big day… your wallet.

If you have a son or daughter attending prom for the first time this year, you might want to brace yourself. No… I mean really brace yourself.

If you’re anything like other parents, you’re probably totally excited, and maybe a little sappy, to see your son or daughter attend their first “big” dance. You might even get a tad emotional thinking back when you attended prom years ago remembering how much fun you had and how many memories you made, and you’re willing to shell out more than a few bucks to make sure your child’s experience is absolutely perfect just like yours was decades ago.

But, what you may not realize is that times have changed since you went to prom. In fact, they’ve changed a lot.


Today’s prom is a full-blown production from beginning to end. From the extravagant “promposals” when the guy asks the girl and the off-the-charts expensive dresses that rival the cost of a wedding gown to the party bus rentals and after prom parties, prom is nothing short of a dance on steroids.

Sitting here thinking about it, I still don’t think I ever really recovered when both my daughters attended prom the same year.

Aside from the non-stop prom conversations that seemed to literally flood nearly every aspect of our lives for months, the credit card company shut my card down twice convinced I had been a victim of fraud due to the endless purchases I made at the mall. And, believe it or not, despite our attempts to be frugal, we still ended up paying upwards of $600 for each of my daughters.

I knew I was in trouble when I began seeing the elaborate promposals. Homemade posters, life-size stuffed animals, messages on the marquis, costumes, balloons, musical extravaganzas and flash mobs, to name a few. Heck, one guy even temporarily kidnapped a baby goat to ask a girl.

I remember thinking to myself just how crazy this all was and, albeit creative and cute, how much pressure it put on the guys to conjure up these imaginative and highly competitive invitations simply to ask a girl to a dance.


Still, as shocked as my husband and I were forking out $1200 dollars for both daughters to attend prom, I later found that our expenses actually fell pretty darn close to the national norm. Between dresses, tuxes, tickets, transportation, hair, and make up the average teenager (or should we say parent) is spending more than $600 on prom according to the 2017 Yahoo Lifestyle Prom Across America Survey.

Keep in mind this cost doesn’t include the extra expenses like dress alterations, shoes, jewelry, manicures, pedicures, the corsage and boutonniere, dinner and, oftentimes a big expense, the after party.

With parents feeling the pressure to give their kids the night of their dreams and kids feeling the pressure to keep up with their peers and the new norm that bigger is most definitely better, the $4 billion prom industry is continuing to rack in big bucks.

But, what about the kids who either can’t afford to spend that kind of money on prom or who would rather spend their money more wisely? After all, the money spent on prom could be used for a down payment on an inexpensive car, for college expenses or a vacation before they head off to college. What about the girls who see their friends on social media choosing dresses that cost more than their entire wardrobe and feel pressured to keep up and meet the same standard?

Thankfully, there are ways kids can have a blast at prom without breaking the bank. So, before you begin stressing out about how much money you’re going to have to shell out, here are a few simple and clever ways to cut down on the cost of prom:

Don’t Overspend on the Dress

The focal point, and typically the most expensive aspect of prom, is the dress. But, you don’t have to pay top dollar for a dress at the mall. Shop consignment and vintage resale stores, bridal stores, (which often have discounted bridesmaid dresses), and tap into online prom and bridal shops that sometimes offer discounts up to 70 percent off on prom dresses. If you do decide to shop at the mall, be sure to shop off-season to get the best deals. Hint: If your dress requires alterations, don’t overlook dry cleaners. Some offer the same professional alteration services for a fraction of the cost.

Shop Around for Tuxedo Deals

According to the average cost of a tuxedo rental is $141. However, chances are you may be able to find a much better deal. Shop around with various competitors and consider skipping the extras and going with the “no-frills” package. Also, some rental companies will offer a price break if several guys order their tuxedos together.

Do Your Own Hair and Makeup

The cost of having someone professionally do your hair and makeup can cost a bundle. Unless you’re going for an intricate updo that requires a fair amount of time and expertise, and you want your makeup to look like you’re on the Hollywood runway, consider doing your own hair and makeup. Look for styles and makeup tips on Pinterest and other sites for inspiration regarding the latest styles and trends or try one of these simple DIY prom hairstyles. Also, check with local salons, or cosmetology or beauty schools to see if you and your friends can arrange a package discount deal on hair, makeup, and nails. Some salons are so incredibly busy that time of year they may not cut you a break; however, some smaller salons or beauty schools are happy to have the business.


Don’t Spend Top Dollar on Flowers

While you may have the ability to fully customize your corsage or boutonniere at a florist, chances are you’ll be spending top dollar. Grocery stores are often far less expensive and they typically have a book offering corsage and boutonniere choices for you to choose from. If you’re crafty, you might even want to think about making your own. It’s far easier than you may think. Here’s a video with instructions: 7 Totally Unique Corsages and Boutonnieres You Can DIY

Skip the High-Cost Photographer

Nothing can rack up the prom bill faster than a professional photographer. Skip the high-cost photographer and have parents take photos with their smartphones, many of which have amazing cameras these days. To make sure you take great pics, check out these 7 smartphone photography tips. Another option is to seek out an amateur or student photographer who might be willing to take professional shots of the entire group at a discounted rate. For picture pose inspiration, check out these Fun Prom Pic Poses with Your Besties.

Reconsider the Shoe Purchase

I’ve seen it far too many times. Girls buy expensive (albeit gorgeous) shoes only to have them kicked off and never to return to their feet again within an hour of putting them on. Don’t spend top dollar on the perfect pair of shoes. Think about borrowing a pair from a friend or relative, or shop sales and discount shoe stores. After all, everyone will be focused on your face and your dress far more than your shoes. And, remember think comfort. Those stilettos might look great, but they won’t feel great after you’ve been wearing them for a couple of hours.

Shop Around for Party Bus or Limo Deals

The one thing I’ve learned about booking a party bus or a limo is get your reservation in early. While it may not be possible to find the deal of the century – trust me, the limo and party bus rental companies jack up their prices around prom – you may be able to find a better deal by shopping around and tapping into any connections you have. While limos are great for smaller groups, you can’t beat renting a big party bus for a large crowd which can not only save a few dollars, but it also offers parents peace of mind knowing that their child won’t be driving to and from the prom. Another option, as opposed to a limo or party bus rental, is to take UberBlack, the luxury version of Uber. Drive up in a luxury BMW, Lexus or even a Jaguar with a driver who is “dressed to impress” for less than you’d typically pay for a limo.

Consider Your Options For Dinner

One of the more challenging aspects of planning prom, especially when it comes to a big group, is finding a place that not only has the space to accommodate everyone, but also that everyone can afford. For my daughter’s prom, we opted to go with a private country club. It ended up being less expensive per person than a restaurant, they had far more room to spread out and enjoy themselves and the menu options were more flexible. Plus, when you’re at a country club, pictures are a breeze because the prom group can simply walk out and have the golf course as a beautiful backdrop. While some private country clubs will allow prom groups without having a member sponsor them, others may require a club sponsor. Restaurants can also be a terrific option providing you can find one that offers enough space to accommodate everyone. To cut costs, meet with restaurant management in advance to determine if you can land a group rate. Restaurants oftentimes offer a group deal if the dinner options are limited to a select two or three, i.e., beef, chicken or pasta, for instance. Another option is to have a parent host the prom dinner at their home and have it catered. With everyone splitting the cost of the food, this is a great way to cut costs considerably. Plus, it gives everyone a chance to socialize in a relaxed and comfortable setting.

Get Creative with the After-Party

Depending on which route you take, the after-party can burn a hole through your wallet. Some prom-goers really go all out renting a house complete with a pool, hot tub and enough bedrooms to fill a crowd. However, if that sounds a bit too costly for your taste, trim back the after-party using a little creativity. Host your own party, have a game night, host a sleepover with the girls, attend a midnight movie or anything else that sounds fun to you and your friends. Here, you’re only limited by your own creativity. Heck, I’ve known groups that have packed up their gear and went camping for an amazing evening complete with campfire, s’mores and stargazing.


Scale Back on the Elaborate Promposal

As creative and adorable as some promposals are, the cost can really add up. Skip the elaborate promposal ideas and opt instead for down-home adorable ideas that are still just as sweet and creative. For a few fun ideas, check out these creative promposal ideas!

Years down the road when you’re looking through all your amazing prom pictures, the last thing you’ll likely remember is how much money you spent. Still, there’s no reason why you have to drop a huge amount of money. You can still have the time of your life and save a few bucks by scaling back where you can. Even a few simple adjustments in your planning, and where and how you buy can make a big difference in the overall cost. Above all, don’t get caught up in the stress of planning – relax, enjoy this magical time in your life and have a ball!

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