Containing the cost of prom

In almost every high school in the U.S., the ritual of prom is in full bloom. In the weeks leading up to the dance, prom becomes the most discussed topic of hallway conversation. Prom is talked about even more than finals, grades, graduation, college admission letters, and summer jobs.

Prom, short for promenade, is held in the spring of the school year and is a formal dance usually reserved for juniors and seniors. Students describe this dance as one of the most important events of high school because they take away memories that will last a lifetime.

While the economy in 2010 has had some impact on the festivities, students (and their parents) are spending on average nearly $800 per couple. When I visited high schools in the inner city, suburban, and rural communities, students were very clear about what they wanted their evening to be like. They had specific ideas on what they would wear, who they would dance with, and how their evening would play out.

Let’s take a walk with kids who were born in 1992-1993. Here is a list of expenses they expect to pay for their high school prom.

Cutting back on the cost of prom

Because $720 per couple is quite high for a high school student’s budget, I asked the students I spoke with their ideas for decreasing the cost of prom. Here is what they said:

  • Shop for flowers at supermarkets instead of pricey florists.
  • Borrow a dress from a family member or friend. Or, find a great deal on a gown at a resale or consignment shop.
  • Have hair done at a school of cosmetology instead of an expensive salon.
  • Do your own nails and makeup (or have a friend help).
  • Instead of paying the price of post prom party tickets, consider planning a group activity to benefit the community the following day. One group of students dressed up again and went to a senior citizen center to share their prom experiences with the residents.

The cost of prom doesn’t have to take away from the enjoyment of this memorable high school rite of passage. Creating a budget and considering ways to save before the dance can make for an enjoyable (and reasonably priced) evening. The cost of prom doesn’t have to take away from the enjoyment of this memorable high school rite of passage. Creating a budget and considering ways to save before the dance can make for an enjoyable (and reasonably priced) evening.

Cathy Williams is a former writer for MMI.

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