From dresses and tuxedos to flowers, photos, and limo services, high school students (and parents) could end up dishing out a ton of cash on junior and senior proms.
Since teenagers have more important worries, like finding the perfect date, coming up with the cash should be the least of their concerns. With a touch of savvy planning, students can find smart ways to keep prom costs under control.
Follow these eight savvy tips to help your teen feel like prom royalty without blowing your (or her) budget:
1. Borrow accessories
Dig through your grandma's or mom's jewelry box to find retro costume jewelry or a vintage clutch to pair with your dress. You could also ask your sister, cousin, or friends if you can borrow a fabulous pair of earrings or necklace for the special evening. If you decide to invest in jewelry, make sure it's a style you can wear for many years to come.
2. Find frugal frocks
Every teenage girl wants to look like a princess at prom, but blowing your budget on a formal gown you will wear only once isn't a smart purchase. Consider a simple cocktail dress that will serve double duty for post-prom celebrations, like college formals and weddings. Browse consignment shops and thrift stores for fabulous vintage frocks at prices that run as low as $20. Or, search sale racks at stores like Nordstrom and Dillards, which offer a large discount dress selection. Don't forget to compare prices online and search for dresses and women's shoe coupons to score even better deals from sites like CouponSherpa.com.
Dreaming of a designer dress? Sign up for flash-sale sites like Hautelook and Daily Candy Swirl! to receive daily deal alerts on popular fashion brands for savings of up to 70 percent off. Check out designer dresses rental sites like Rent the Runway.
3. Do your own grooming
Extremely formal up-dos are no longer popular, so consider doing your own hair. If you're old enough for prom, you're probably capable of handling your own makeup and nails. You could also swap services with friends. You could easily save up to $200, and ultimately look more like your real self. Include your mom or aunt, who may also be able help curl your locks and your lashes. Gather ideas from online photos or magazines and be sure to practice the hairstyle before the big night.
4. Use simple floral tricks
Make your own boutonnieres and corsages, or order them from your local grocery store. Often, their prices for flowers are 40 percent less than a traditional florist. Go for a more minimalist look, like an elegant single rose or flower with greenery.
5. Chuck the formal photos
Professional prom portraits cost anywhere from $25 to $75, depending on the size and number of prints purchased. Unless you marry your prom partner, that expensive photo will likely end up at the bottom of a box. Nor do formal photos really capture the memory of the night. Instead, share camera duties with friends for an honest record of the evening. Photo prints from online services such as CVS or Snapfish cost as little as $0.15 per picture and offer the option to create digital photo albums for a more memorable and less expensive keepsake.
6. Compare tuxedo prices
Tux rentals will set most students back $75 to $100 or more. That's why it's important to comparison shop. Don't be afraid to barter for a better price. You may even be able to negotiate a cheaper rate if you recruit several friends to rent in bulk from the same store. Be sure the shop provides all the needed accessories, including a shirt, vest or cummerbund, handkerchief, shoes, tie and belt to eliminate spending extra on these suiting essentials. Better still, skip expensive extras and fill in with your own stuff for a free-spirit look.
7. Lose the limo
Most limos have four-hour minimums and require tipping, which could result in a bill of $400 or more. Divided among several friends, the cost can be affordable. However, party buses that hold more people than limos are a fun and more affordable option, so search around for prices and negotiate among several companies. Also, consider the possibility of borrowing a nice car from a parent or relative.
8. Buy gift cards at discount prices
From pre-party decorations to such prom essentials as dresses, shoes, and flowers, students can buy gift cards and save as much as 30 percent. You'll find them at sites like GiftCardGranny.com for such major retailers as Target, Macy's, 1-800 Flowers, and many more.