Every spring, millions of teenagers participate in a rite of passage, high school prom. This much-anticipated event can also be very expensive, with some estimates putting the cost of attending prom around $1,200. Creative teens and parents can make the prom experience fun without deleting a college savings account. Here are five ways to have a high-impact, low-budget prom experience.
Dress for success.
Proper attire for prom is the most expensive part of the evening. Girls can spend hundreds of dollars on just one dress. Many communities realize many girls can't afford expensive prom dresses, so they host events where girls can pick out a new-to-you prom dress in a safe and relaxing environment. The Deseret News National recently reported on how this idea is received enthusiastically around the nation.
Young men can look for coupons for tux rentals, or forego the tux in favor of a suit or jacket they already own. A thrift store shopping trip might turn up a unique vintage jacket to make an individual statement at prom.
Plan a creative dinner.
For my senior prom, a group of mothers got together and made us a delicious dinner, complete with shrimp cocktail, steak and dessert. We ate outside at a beautiful home in the country, where the view was of rolling hills and the sunset. We were having too much fun pretending to be grown up to appreciate the romantic atmosphere (which was for the best), but now I realize what a special experience that was. Eating out on prom night doesn’t have to be stuffy or expensive. Take a picnic to a park, choose your date’s favorite restaurant over a fancy one or cook at home.
It might not be quite as fun as a group of friends in a limo, but having teens drive themselves isn’t a terrible idea. Encourage your teen to wash and clean out whichever car he’ll be taking, and consider letting him borrow a nicer one if it’s available. Teens who aren’t so concerned with appearances might appreciate the offer of a chauffeur. Nominate a fun relative or family friend for the job. Funny hat and posh accent optional.
Every outfit needs accessories. For guys it’s pretty simple. Girls, however, need to consider shoes, jewelry, hair, makeup and a bag. Follow a traditional wedding idea and borrow something special, like a pair of earrings or a handbag. I wore some vintage gloves my mom had saved. They were pretty and unique. Costume jewelry is readily available at many stores at reasonable prices.
Find a friend who does hair well and commission her to design the perfect coiffure. Learn makeup techniques through online tutorials (practice beforehand) and buy shoes you can wear with other dresses. I’ve even learned that making corsages and boutonnieres is not too difficult. I plan on making them for my children when they’re old enough to date.
Plan an at-home after party.
Some kids go home after prom, but many want to continue the fun. Hotels are expensive and promote behavior you might not want your teen participating in. If you want your kids to be supervised after prom, consider hosting a party at your house. Movies, games and food are all you need for a successful after party. Just don’t plan on getting much sleep.
Teens who want to participate in prom but don’t have a lot of money don’t need to be discouraged. With some planning and creativity, prom can be successful on any budget. She might not want to be seen with you in public, but she’ll know how much you love her when you help her look her best for prom.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.