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Taming Today’s Prom Budget

Prom photoI was surprised when I read an article about the staggering cost of today’s high school prom.  The article states: “The cost of prom night rose 5 percent this year to an average $1,139 per attendee.”


Even more disturbing was the finding the income-to-prom-cost ratio is inversely proportionate, meaning more money is being spent by those whose income is less. 

I know I sound like an old fuddy-duddy when I say that back in my day, prom costs were kept under control.  Money spent was limited to the dress, tux rental, flowers, and tickets — maybe a small splurge on matching shoes and jewelry. We did our own hair, nails, makeup and drove ourselves to the venue.  It couldn’t have cost more than $400.

Prom is a great opportunity to teach teenagers a valuable lesson in budgeting.  Remember it is not the red carpet at an awards show, seen by millions of people on TV.  Don’t get caught up in a competition to see who can make their child’s prom bigger, better, and more extravagant than the next guy.  Decide what you, as parents, can afford to spend, and let your child come up with the extra funds needed to fulfill any luxurious desires they may have about their prom experience.  If your child doesn’t have a job, find ways for them to earn money helping with household chores.  Realizing they have to vacuum three times, run five loads of laundry and mow the yard four times just to earn $60 for a manicure and pedicure or elaborate corsage may motivate your child to prioritize their spending!

There are numerous ways you can encourage your teen to save at prom time.  Some examples include:

  • Shop at consignment stores or dress events such as the ones held at Howard Community College and Washington County Technical High School.
  • Choose a dress that will work with shoes she already owns.
  • Get together with friends to do each other’s hair, nails and makeup.
  • Ask to borrow a nice car from someone you know instead of renting a limousine.
  • If your teen has their heart set on riding in a limo, organize as many friends as possible to share in the experience –and bring down the cost per person.

After the prom, consider donating the dress to a good cause.  There are many organizations that provide dresses to those who truly have no choice but to stick to a strict budget.  Berks County has Fairy Godmothers, Inc., for example.  Visit to find dress drives in your local community.

How would you encourage teenagers to budget wisely for prom?

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