Planning a Prom Budget & Saving for Prom Costs
In the whirl of excitement around prom, it's easy to forget that the costs of attending the formal event can really add up fast. Of course, there's the dress, shoes, hair, pictures, and prom tickets, but don't forget the other extras that you may want to enjoy, like makeup, manis, pedis, flowers, and after prom activities! When you consider all of the possible prom costs, it becomes clear that budgeting is key to planning your prom experience. The average costs for prom can vary by year and region, but if you start planning early, you can save and budget for the prom night of your dreams. Start saving for prom as early as six months ahead of time so that the costs of prom don't sneak up on you. With the budgeting tips in this section of the Prom Guide, you will be well on your way to putting together a prom experience that makes both you and your bank account happy. Here are a few common questions about prom budgeting:
Budgeting For Prom
HOW DO I BUDGET FOR PROM?
The cost of attending prom can come with big expenses, so for the best results, it's smart to create a realistic prom budget. First, decide how much money you would be able to spend for your prom purchases. Then, make a list of everything that you've been dreaming of that would make your prom perfect. On a sheet with columns or in an Excel-style spreadsheet, prioritize the items that you have to buy, but also include the items on your prom wish list. Next to each item, note how much you think that you can put towards it, making sure that it does not go over the total amount you had initially decided that you could spend on prom purchases. Do a little research online for businesses in your area, then jot down the estimated cost for each item in the next column. If the estimated prom costs are more than you have to spend, get creative and restructure the budget by what expenses are more important to you, or cut items that you don't think you really need or want anyway. You could even try picking up a part-time job or work a few more hours over the few months before prom to start setting aside additional money for those wish list items. By planning out a realistic prom budget months in advance, you will be able to work towards wish list goals in a stress-free way.
|TOTAL $ YOU HAVE TO SPEND
(Including money from parents)
|TANNING / SKIN CARE||$____________|
Estimating Prom Costs
HOW MUCH WILL ATTENDING PROM COST?
Prom costs today can average anywhere from $175 to $2100! The costs of attending prom can vary greatly by region, and what you choose to spend the most on can depend upon your prom budget. Smart prom goers can get creative and find affordable ways to make their dreams come true on prom night. Here's a breakdown to give you an idea of average prom costs by item, along with a few money-saving tips for prom.
PROM TICKETS: The cost of prom tickets can range from $70-$100. The price is usually determined by the chosen venue and the food (when dinner is included). Also, if your class had organized fundraisers in previous years, those funds are often put towards reducing the ticket costs for students. Furthermore, if prom dinner is included in the admission fee, this can actually be a money saver since additional food plans won't need to be made.
THE DRESS: With the average prom dress ranging from $100 to $600, the prom dress is by far the biggest priority, and probably the most important piece of the prom budget for the average teenage girl. On top of the prom dress cost, the typical formal dress alterations can cost anywhere from $5 to $95, depending upon the complexity of the adjustments. If you intend to spend more on the dress, you may want to consider paying less for other prom expenses so that you can afford the prom dress of your dreams. Think about doing your own hair or wearing a pair of shoes that you already own to allow more money to be diverted to your dress budget. If the dress is not your main focus, choose a simpler style so that you can redirect money for other prom expenses. After New Year's Eve, lots of shimmering formal dresses go on sale, so snap one up while you can! Why spend a fortune at a fancy boutique, when the perfect prom dress may be waiting for you on a sale rack or at a more affordable price from an online authorized retailer? To save a huge chunk of money, you can even borrow a prom dress or choose to go the vintage route by shopping at a discount thrift store that sells bargain formalwear from eras past.
TUX RENTAL: The average cost of renting a tuxedo for prom is $140. If you rent a tux, depending upon the store, everything can be included in a convenient one-stop shopping event. You can get a shirt, tie, vest, cummerbund, and even shoes when renting a tux. Remember, everyone that wants a tux for prom at your school will be looking too, so don't wait too long! Then again, who says you have to rent a tux anyway? A nice suit will do just fine for prom while also saving you money and the hassle of repeat visits to the mall for the fitting, pick up, and return of a rental.
SHOES: With an average of $30-$150, it's clear that there's no need to spend a fortune on shoes for prom. While digging in your closet, you may find that you already own a strappy pair of formal shoes that match your prom dress perfectly, cutting this cost from your budget entirely. On the other hand, if shoes are your passion, you can spend a bit less on the dress by choosing a simpler style, while diverting funds to your prom heel purchase so that the focus of your look is mainly on your fancy footwear. If you do decide to buy a new pair of prom shoes, make sure that you purchase the dress first so that you can coordinate the two.
JEWELRY: Prom jewelry can cost as little or as much as your want to spend, but most prom goers spend $25-$100. Be sure to coordinate your jewelry to your prom dress. To save money, it's a good idea to borrow jewelry or use what you already have.
PURSE/CLUTCH: If your prom dress doesn't have pockets, or you like the convenience of a purse, keep in mind that most prom bags or clutches cost anywhere from $10 to $100. The savvy shopper can find the perfect bag for prom online that beautifully matches her prom dress for a lot less than one bought at a fancy boutique.
DINNER: If you're lucky, dinner is already included in the price of the prom ticket. If dinner is not being served at your prom, the average cost for dinner is between $15 and $100, depending upon the chosen restaurant. Should you and your friends want to go out before the big event for a meal, there are ways to keep within your budget. Why not eat at a less expensive restaurant? Or maybe you and your friends could pool your money together for takeout or delivery and have dinner at one of their houses. That would be a great way to stay on budget, but if your date or friends insist on eating at a fancy restaurant, you can still save money by ordering appetizers instead of main courses. Keeping your meal light can also help with any pre-prom jitters while maintaining your energy level for a fun-filled night.
TRANSPORTATION: To rent a limo or not rent a limo? That is the question. . . When hiring a driver, the expense can run $100-$300 per hour. Many limo companies require a four-hour minimum rental. So, between four-hour minimum requirements and tips for the driver, a limo can cost over $400, depending upon the company and type of vehicle selected. Before you get 12 of your friends to split the cost, remember that there is a maximum number that the limo company allows to squeeze into the back of the car. Looking for more room? Many party buses can hold up to 30 passengers and include rocking sound systems, mood lighting, and movies played on a wide-screen TV. You can start the festivities on the way to prom while saving money if you decide to rent a party bus. Remember, there are lots of people with a desire to rent a ride, and it's first come, first served. If there are limited rental places in your school's area, it's best to reserve a ride as soon as possible in order to save money. Sometimes supply and demand will cause the limo costs to skyrocket the closer it gets to prom night. Organizing a rental not your style or a priority for your budget? Who says you have to stuff lots of people into a stretch limo anyway? A rideshare service like Uber can offer a more affordable way to arrive to prom, or for the simple cost of a tank of gas, you can carpool with friends.
HAIR/MAKEUP/NAILS: With the option of DIY vs. professional salon services for hair, makeup, and/or nails, the cost for these prom preparations can be anywhere from $30 to $275. Maybe you have a friend that does hair, or you enjoy doing your own nails? The DIY route can certainly keep a lot of prom money in your pockets.
CORSAGE/BOUTONNIERE Corsages range from $15 to $75 and boutonniere's are $15-$30 each. If ordering prom flowers from a florist, do not wait until the last minute when rush fees might be applied. Place your order at least two to three weeks before prom. Corsages should have two to three flowers and a ribbon that coordinates with the prom dress. You can always agree to opt out of the flower-giving tradition to save money.
PHOTOS: Depending upon the size and quantity prints chosen, the professional prom photos can get pricey, but the average range is $25-$75. To save money, order the minimum amount of professional prom photos and snap away with your phone or digital camera for memorable action shots and Insta-worthy selfies. When your phone is handy, the true essence of prom can be captured at dinner and on the dance floor in preferred candid shots.
TANNING/SKIN CARE: A beautiful tan is one of the hottest accessories for a prom dress right now, since just about everyone looks better with a healthy glow. This being said, there's no reason to risk developing melanoma from a potentially dangerous tanning booth when you have safe options that provide the same golden look while saving you money. Why pay for a series of minutes in a tanning booth that can cost upwards of $50, when you can get a bronzed look with a spray tan (about $25), or a good, sunless UV-free tanning lotion (about $15)? If you love your natural skin tone as is, treat yourself by incorporating a cleansing and moisturizing routine to keep your skin soft and supple while conveniently rubbing away any lingering pre-prom stress.
AFTER PROM: After you've conquered the prom costs, what's next? After prom activities! The cost for these activities can range from free (a school-planned event or night in with friends) to well over $100 (a weekend getaway). Typically funded by parents or schools to keep teens safe after the prom, a school-sponsored after-prom party is a great way for prom goers to keep celebrating after the formal event is over. Usually held on school property and chaperoned by parents and teachers, the after-prom party is often free of charge, although there might be social activities and food options at the event that require cash. There may be a fun theme, along with snacks, music, games, and prizes. The drawings for prizes typically happen at the end of the after-prom event, so stick around for the whole event to collect any winnings! It's a fun time to share selfies and gossip about what went on at prom. If you choose to opt out of the school after-prom fun, it's perfectly fine to have a girls' night in at a friends house. Save money with the girls as you enjoy simple activities like baking cookies, munching on pizza, and/or comparing notes about prom night, or even playing video games, breaking out the card or board games, or binge watching a great TV show. Another inexpensive option is to go to an all-night bowling alley with friends or, if it's a nice night, a moonlit walk with a date is a lovely way to end an evening. Prom bonfires at a beach can be fun, and if everyone pitches in on the supplies and munchies, it's cost effective too. Of course, if you're tired, there's no rule that says you can't go home, get a bath, and get some sleep, dreaming about your amazing prom night and all the money you saved.
Planning a Timeline for Prom Costs
6 Months Before Prom
Start saving money and decide on a budget at least 6 months before prom for the best results. If you're lucky enough to have a parent or guardian contribute to your prom fund, be sure to discuss the matter together before you make up a budget and decide how much money you want to spend. Usually around this time, the prom and after-prom tickets are purchased. As soon as they are available, it's best to get them since some schools only have a limited number of tickets available, and they are on a first-come, first-served basis.
4 Months Before Prom
At 4 months out, it's about time to book your transportation if you are going the rental route. Decide how many of your friends will share in the transportation expense and where to meet up. Make sure the gang knows to allow plenty of time for pictures before getting into the limo. The search for the perfect prom dress and coordinating undergarments should also be in full motion. It's important to have the proper undergarments on if you need prom dress alterations to make sure they don't show and to give you the silhouette that you desire. Be sure to keep in mind any prom themes and school dress codes that the school may have in place before you make your purchases. Picking out your prom dress around this time means that there are more options available than there might be during crunch time, and if you need to get any alterations or do any exchanges, you'll have plenty of time to make those arrangements.
2-3 Months Before Prom
At 2 to 3 months before prom, now is the time to start coordinating other purchases with that gorgeous dress you purchased the month before, not to mention arranging for any alterations that you may need. Are you are planning to go to prom with a date? If the answer is "yes" and your date is planning to rent a tux, you can start the process of coordinating the dress with the rented tux now. An appointment for the tux fitting should be put on the calendar at this time. Now is also the time to start of the fun adventure of shopping for the accessories . Be sure to choose jewelry, shoes, and a clutch that beautifully accent the dress without overpowering it.
If you don't want to DIY your nails, this is the time to make an appointment for the day before prom. It may seem like prom night is far away, but a lot of girls will be looking for appointments on the same day that you will. Start leafing through magazines for hair and makeup looks and make an appointment for the day of prom if you choose to have them done professionally. Save time around your scheduled appointments to allow for meeting up with friends for pictures so that you're not rushing around at the last minute.
1 Month Before Prom
Hopefully you have all of the accessories for the prom dress picked out and purchased by the time it's one month before prom. It's time to order the boutonniere or corsage from the local florist. If you're deciding whether or not to try a self tanner, this would be the time so that you can just let it fade away before the big night if you decide that you don't like it. If you do like it, make sure you apply the self tanner well before prom night to avoid getting any of it on the dress.
2 Weeks Before Prom
Finalize and verify any hair, nail or make-up appointments that you have made for the day before or day of prom. Make sure the tux that was chosen fits, and that it and all of the accessories will be waiting for pick up. If you bought new prom shoes, now is a good time to start breaking them in so that they don't hurt on prom night. If your prom ticket does not include dinner, call to make reservations if you decide to go to a restaurant with a date or friends before or after prom.
1 Week Before Prom
Make sure that you know what you want to do for photography at least a week before prom. Most schools provide professional photography, but parents or guardians will likely want their own pictures before the prom. If you're going with a date or a group of friends, make sure you let them know when and where to meet for pictures before prom and allow plenty of time for parents to take pics or you to snap lots of selfies.
1 Day Before Prom
If you plan the day before prom properly, the day will be stress free and go smoothly. If you planned to have your nails done professionally, get to your mani-pedi appointment early and try to relax and enjoy the pampering. Put together a list of items that you would like to put in your purse for the big day so that you can stop by the dollar store for any items you don't already have. The day before prom is a good day to prep all of your prom stuff and pack a change of clothes, depending upon your after-prom plans. If you're staying at a friend's house for any amount of time before or after prom, be sure to carry extra cash so that you can pitch in for food or activities. Lay out your prom makeup, stare at your beautiful prom dress for a minute, scrub your face, and get yourself to bed early for well-deserved beauty sleep.
The Day of Prom
On the day of prom, don't forget to pick up the boutonniere or corsage. The tux should be picked up. If you're having your hair or makeup done professionally, it's time to head there for your appointments. If you're not wearing your prom dress to the salon, make sure that you wear a button-down or zip-up shirt so that you don't have to pull it off over your head. Put an extra top coat on your nails. When you're ready with not a hair out of place, meet your friends where you had previously decided for pictures and/or transportation. After everyone has had their fill of selfies, pile into the limo or car service and continue on to have the time of your life at prom! If the limo driver's tip is not included in the price, make sure you have cash on hand for your share. Be sure to have cash for dinner, professional photos or impulsive purchases for the after-prom activities. If prom includes sleepovers or weekend trips with friends, you need to be prepared to have spending money for that as well.
Finding Help with Prom Costs
NEED HELP WITH PROM COSTS?
Sometimes teenagers could use a little help with prom expenses. There are lots of charitable organizations that exist in this country that help high school students get low cost or free prom clothes and accessories. To mention a few, Cinderella's Closet, Operation Prom, The Enchanted Closet, and Fairy Godmothers have helped thousands of low-income students by providing new or gently-used dresses and tuxes to teenagers that would otherwise not be able to attend their prom. Just do a quick search for the names of these organizations and the name of your city to see if there are any in your area. Your prom coordinator or guidance counselor may also know of providers of this kind of assistance.