The official start of spring is just around the corner and though the end of the school season seems far away, prom is on the forefront of everyone's mind. As guys schedule their tux fittings and plan out the stretch limo ride, girls ask themselves that eternal question: what should I wear?
Modern teenagers have a strong grasp of the latest fashion trends thanks to the popularity of television shows like "Gossip Girl." However, Blair Waldorf is no average teen and living up to her fashion standards would be financially devastating. Thankfully, there are many ways to offset the cost of prom-night fashion without sacrificing style. So read on for eight dress-shopping tips to help you start saving.
1. Think Classic
The first lesson in frugality is versatility, meaning the more often you can wear something, the better value you receive in purchasing it. Look for a basic gown in classic colors like black, navy, or grey that could be worn to other occasions. Tailor it to prom night with statement jewelery and killer heels in bold hues.
2. Go Consignment Shopping
Lots of young ladies sell their prom dresses through local New Jersey consignment shops so you have a really good chance at finding a fabulous frock at the fraction of its original price. Cut your cost even further by selling clothes you no longer wear to the same second-hand reseller for credit toward a future dress purchase. Chain consignment shops like Buffalo Exchange (locations in Brooklyn and New York City) and Plato's Closet (four locations in New Jersey) are tailored to the teenage crowd, so scope out a nearby location.
3. Get Creative
By now, you know it's a good idea to shop sale racks at department stores. But have you heard of discount gift cards? Sites like GiftCardGranny let you buy store gift cards to places like Macy's, Bloomingdales, and Lord & Taylor at less than face value—meaning you can get a $50 card for $45—yielding 10 percent savings before you even enter the store.
4. Save at Bridal Shops
Though you may want to avoid an all-out wedding dress on prom night, bridal shops carry a variety of colorful bridesmaid dresses perfect for prom. Shop the sale rack and don't discount floor-length gowns at first glance. You can always get it altered for a shorter look and still come out ahead, budget-wise.
5. Rent Designer Duds
If the realities of designer prices are crushing your dress dreams, consider renting. RenttheRunway.com offers designer dress and accessory rentals for savings of up to 90 percent off retail prices. Each rental includes two sizes to ensure the right fit for no added cost and the site features a wide selection of cocktail styles and floor-length gowns like this stunning Badgley Mischka Faye Chiffon Gown for $125, or this flirty Nicole Miller Kate Lave V Dress for just $75.
6. Get Employee Discounts
If you're in the market for a job, consider applying at department stores that carry formal attire since employees usually receive significant discounts off merchandise. Some speciality shops may be willing to provide a free prom dress in return for your part-time assistance, so ask around.
7. Swap at School
Most high schools organize dress swaps to help students cut the cost of formal attire. This is a great opportunity to trade your gently warn dresses for something new at a fraction of the cost for a new dress. Plus, you will be happy knowing someone else feels beautiful in a dress you no longer need.
8. DIY with Duct Tape
When all else fails, where duct tape to the dance. Seriously. Duck Brand's annual "Stuck at Prom" competition offers eligible couples a chance to win cash scholarships. First place winners receive $5,000, and second and third place winners receive $3,000 and $2,000, respectively. Read the official rules for details (prom-goers in Colo., Md., Vt., Puerto Rico, and the Provence of Quebec need not apply), get inspired by last year's winners, and then get quackin' (sorry).
Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. As a nationally recognized media source, Andrea has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney, and many more.