How to make prom night special without going broke

Posted at 8:47 AM, May 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-11 09:42:09-04

Prom night is a special night for American teens and an expensive one for their parents. According to a recent VISA survey, the average prom spending is projected to be $919 during the 2015 season. However, it's still possible to keep costs down while keeping the night special. Here are a few methods to help you be fabulous on a budget.

Rent your Outfit – Dresses and formal men's wear can be rented in many places for far less than the cost to purchase. If there are no suitable places near where you live, online rental is an option. For example, has designer dresses available for reasonable rental rates, typically under $100. Unless you have reason to expect to wear a prom dress on multiple occasions, rental makes the most sense.

If you must buy, shop well in advance to avoid prom markup. Consider shopping at consignment and second-hand stores for bargains. Some areas have programs to supply prom dresses to those who simply can’t afford them; check with your local support organizations.

Tone Down the "Promposal" – The recent trend of making an elaborate show of asking someone to prom, known as the "promposal," is getting quite expensive. According to the VISA survey, $324 of the average $919 spending is expected to go toward the promposal. Keep the proposal simple, and save the extravagance for prom night.

Avoid Expensive Makeovers – You want to look your best for the prom, but that doesn't necessarily require an expensive trip to a salon. There are plenty of videos online to provide assistance and inspiration to do your own hair and makeup. Take advantage of any talented individuals in your family for assistance.

Transportation – You really don’t need a limo for prom, do you? If you do, try to share and split the cost with other couples. Otherwise, consider simpler transportation such as the family car. If all else fails, have one set of parents drop you off and pick you up. Ask them to put on a chauffeur's uniform if it makes you feel better (and if you manage to talk your parents into that, tip well).

Use Existing Jewelry – Avoid the temptation to splurge on special jewelry for prom night. Use jewelry that you already have or borrow some from within your family if the perfect piece is available. Obviously, you need to ask permission first, and must take great care with any borrowed jewelry.

Take Your Own Photos – Skip the costly professional prom photos and take your own. Use your phone at the prom, and ask your parents to take pre-prom photos.

Skip the Corsage/Boutonniere – If you and your date are equally frugal, consider skipping the floral accoutrements. They are traditional and usually expected, but they can be quite expensive and really don't enhance the evening at all.

Keep Dinner Reasonable – If you and your date are going out for a pre-prom dinner, choose a location that is nice but not outrageously expensive. Do your homework and check out the prices before you go to avoid nasty sticker shocks. However, don't save money by skimping on the tip. Your servers depend on the tip for income, and they deserve to be treated well.
Consider these money saving tips, and you may have a few extra bucks for other memorable events (and there will be others).

Finally, for all you kids out there intending to make prom a special night — be safe and be careful. Don’t make prom a memorable night for the wrong reasons.