Posted by Julia Wasson

May 12, 2015 7:00:00 AM

Ah, prom. It’s the dance of the year. It’s the stuff of teenage dreams and parental nostalgia. But let’s face it: This rite of passage can be an incredible expense for both students and their parents.

Somehow, what used to be a special event that meant strobe lights and a punchbowl in the high school gym has become an extravagant affair featuring designer gowns, tuxedos, limousines, and increasingly grand locations. According to an ABC News report, the cost had risen to a nationwide average of $1,139 in 2013. While 2014 saw a modest drop to $978 per family, there is little doubt that this teenage dream still costs kids and their parents a nightmarish chunk of change.

With college looming, many teens and their parents are looking for ways to keep expenses low. So, what can you do to keep the cost of prom night down? Read on for some ideas on how to duck the massive expense of this important evening.

  • Many retail outlets and charitable organizations have begun recycling prom dresses so that a teen can purchase a gently used gown at a drastically reduced cost. Whether you are buying or selling, this can be a good way of recouping costs and ensuring that a fairytale frock lives to dance another day. Of course, there’s also no shame in borrowing a dress from a friend or relative. 

  • Part of the great prom night expense happens before students even step onto the dance floor — dining out. Current trends have parents joining together to host a delicious, home-cooked meal for a group of teens as a way of keeping costs in check. Turn it into a potluck for added savings and flavor, then top it off with your best dishes, soft music, sparkling cider, and candlelight for a special ambiance.

  • Who needs a limo when you can ride in style in a car decorated with washable paint, streamers, and school colors? This is a cool way to get all the students involved in making sure that their arrival to the big dance will be a notable one. 

  • In lieu of purchasing those costly flower arrangements, many students need only step out into their own gardens or scan a nearby field for wildflowers. Simply fashion the blooms into a modest but fragrant corsage or boutonniere for little or nor cost.

  • Those professional portraits at the dance are lovely. But, with all the advances in smartphones and digital cameras, students and parents can save money by simply taking some great shots at a nearby park, water fountain, or a neighbor’s beautiful gazebo. Be creative.

  • Finally, consider skipping it altogether. At some schools, parents organize a low-cost, adult-supervised dance or after-party as a casual prom alternative. (These dances are sometimes called “morp,” which is just prom spelled backwards.) Many local hot spots also host fun, safe events on prom night for teens looking for an alternative to the big dance. Bowling, sleepovers, game night, camp-outs, bonfires, and swim parties are some other great options, with proper supervision, of course.

These are just a few ideas for lowering the cost of prom. Do you have others? Share them in the comments below to help others lower the cost of this fun-filled rite of passage.

For more ideas related to college financial planning, see these posts: 

Paying for College Without Sinking the Family Ship
College Tuition: How to Graduate Debt Free (or Nearly So)
The Top 5 Tips for Receiving the Best Financial Aid Package Possible
11 Things You Need to Know About the FAFSA
College Grants: Following the Recession, College Is a Buyer’s Market

Back to Blog