5 ways to save on prom

Something strange happened on the way to prom 2014 — families decided to spend less money on the annual teen rite of passage.

Prom spending last year was in the range of $733 – $1,100 depending on parents’ income, according to an annual survey on prom costs from Visa, Inc. In the south, the average spend was $926.

Though it seems the prom bubble popped nationally, try telling that to metro-area parents now shelling out cash for the big night. Prom costs in the metro area run a bit cheaper for guys (about half the cost for girls) and students are footing more of the bill themselves, using money earned from jobs and chores. For girls, dresses can be a major part of prom expenses in the range of $300 – $500, or more.

There are a number of ways you can save on the cost of prom. Here are just a few tips:

MAKE A BUDGET. You wouldn’t make any major purchase without first setting a budget. Treat prom the same way. Know how much you have to spend and who will be contributing what amount. Then do a line-by-line breakdown of your costs (prom, dinner, transportation, dress, etc). It’s even better if you can prioritize your list. That way, if you start coming in over budget, you can take money away from the things that matter to you the least.

SAVE YOUR MONEY. While you’ve ideally been saving all along for the event, you can still make some gains a month or so out from prom. Make a prom fund jar and invite family members to deposit loose change from their pockets at the end of each day. Put any extra or unexpected money not designated for another use toward prom. Give teens special tasks or assignments to help them earn money for specifically for prom extras.

DRESS FOR LESS. There are many ways to get a prom dress for less. Consignment stores, resale stores, rentals, discount stores and special sales. Many girls want the newest styles, but know that the popular dresses don’t always change dramatically from year to year. Last year, two-piece dresses were popular and I’m pretty sure they will be this year as well. Some girls may also qualify for dress giveaways where dresses and accessories are provided free of charge. Here are some resources:

Free dresses

Becca’s Closet: This organization provides dresses for girls through giveaways and special appointments. There are several chapters in the Atlanta metro area. Check www.beccascloset.org for a location nearest you and to get information on how they conduct dress giveaways.

Operation Prom: The Atlanta chapter of this New York-based organization hosted a giveaways earlier this month, but in past years, other events have taken place as late as April. Visit the Operation Prom Facebook page for updates.

These annual events have passed, but are additional resources for free prom dresses:  Enchanted Closet, Delta Sigma Theta Decatur Alumae Chapter Prom Dress Giveaway.

Consignment/ retail stores

Department stores: Macy’s, JC Penney and other major retailers often have seasonal sales during which you can score prom dresses for up to 50 percent off. These stores also offer a range of coupons and special deals which you can stack to save even more.

Specialty stores: David’s Bridal offers select prom dresses online at up to 50 percent off the original price. CC’s of Rome (locations in Rome and Kennesaw) offers a huge selection of prom dresses and a low-price guarantee. They have all the top brands and you can shop online (some free shipping is available).

Consignment stores: Back by Popular Demand/Forever Young in Lilburn, specializes in offering thousands of prom dresses year round priced from $49 – $299 with sizes up to 22. Some dresses are consigned, some are new and they come in a range of styles. For more information visit www.bbpdconsignment.com.

Image of a local prom-goer from Back By Popular Demand/Forever Young.

A local prom-goer outfitted in a dress from Back By Popular Demand/Forever Young.

DECIDE TO DIY: In the age of YouTube beauty gurus, it almost makes more sense for girls to do their hair and makeup on their own rather than go to salons. Girls can find the perfect hair style and makeup look and learn to do it themselves in just a few clicks. If professional photos aren’t high on the priority list, have a talented friend or family member shoot personalized portraits of prom-goers. Be sure to also document the pre-prom preparations.

EAT CHEAP: Dinner at a restaurant can be another big prom expense. Save on the cost by hosting a pre-prom dinner at home. You can make it casual or formal and invite all your friends to dine (either before or after getting dressed for the big event). Excitement has a way of diminishing appetites anyway, so think twice before spending money on a meal at a pricey restaurant.

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