Prom is highly regarded in the public school realm. From the time I was a small child, I would listen to the older kids excitedly anticipate their big night. You may have gone and remember the dance fondly.
My husband (or high school sweetheart, as he was known at the time) and I went and can’t say that we overly enjoyed our experience. To us, prom was just an expensive evening that placed a huge amount of pressure on a young couple that felt incredibly awkward around each other. The last thing I ever wanted was for my children to relive our painful experience.
Yet, when my kids heard about a homeschool prom in the area, they got really excited. My husband and I did not share their excitement. Sending our kids to prom was not a decision that we made lightly but when it came down to it, with the pressure of having a date removed, we knew that our very social teens would enjoy the evening together and at the last minute decided they could go.
There’s no doubt about it, prom is not an inexpensive outing. No matter how hard you try to get around it, you may as well resign yourself to the fact that your checking account is going to be a bit lighter after the event. With three children attending prom for the first time and less than three weeks notice, it was imperative that I uncover a few ways to save money on prom expenses.
1. Prom Tickets
If you’re going to go to prom, you must buy a ticket. It’s that simple. Purchasing your ticket early can allow you to save a few dollars with early bird pricing. We would have saved $40 had we planned ahead- that would have been nearly enough money to pay for the pre-prom dinner!
We also saved money buying a couples ticket over the cost of individual tickets- even though my children were attending together and not with a date.
2. The Prom Dress
Most little girls (and big girls, too) love to look like a million bucks; but that doesn’t mean you need to shell out the Benjamin’s on a dress you’re likely to wear once. You can save money by borrowing a dress, renting a dress, shopping at store that sells discounted formal wear, shopping at a consignment shop, buying online through Craigslist or eBay, browsing thrift stores for a great deal, or if you have the time and the talent, you could even sew your own dress.
This time around, we had the rare luxury of not spending any money on a dress because my daughter already had three dresses to choose from hanging in her closet. After much debate, she finally selected one that we’d purchased at a thrift store for $5!
3. The Tuxedo Dilemma
I don’t know about where you live, but in our neck of the woods, we discovered that tuxes rent from $109 to $179, plus insurance, tax and a deposit! I thought that was a pretty hefty expense.
Luckily, we stumbled upon a sale at JC Penney’s and realized that we could buy a tux for both the boys for not too much more than it would cost to rent one tux. Since our boys are likely to go to at least one other prom before finishing school, we decided $226, which included almost $40 for alterations, for the two of them, was a great deal.
If your prom is semi-formal, you could also consider wearing a nice suit which your son may already own.
Though we also purchased classic black vests to go under the boys’ tuxes, they really wanted to add a bit of color. Since their color selections may vary by event, we found it was more cost effective to rent the vest, tie and shirt which we found at the Men’s Warehouse for only $20 each (plus tax and insurance).
4. Cancel the Appointment with the Stylist
Who doesn’t love to be pampered? My daughter, that’s who! She loathes visiting a salon. Just as well, in this case it was much cheaper to pluck, tease, curl and play make-up artist at home! Of course I do have a cosmetology background, but with Pinterest or YouTube,it’s not too difficult to find cute hairstyles for prom online that will allow you to recreate the same look you’d get from a salon.
My daughter found a picture of an updo that she liked and for the cost of bobby pins, tiny clear rubber bands and some extra hold hair spray we were able to create a style that she loved. You can spend a weekend before prom playing around with several different styles so you’ll be comfortable when the big day arrives and it can double as a great mother-daughter date.
5. Don’t go Crazy with the Accessories
When it comes to accessorizing, use what you have on hand. My oldest son wanted to wear a hat but didn’t like the styles he saw in the store; instead he decided to wear one he already owned. I did buy some matching ribbon to swap out the band on his hat but he thought it was too sparkly and opted not to make the change.
We did purchase a coordinating silk hanky for each of the boys that they shoved in their pockets. Of course, we also bought them on sale.
We shopped at Claire’s for my daughter’s accessories and found they had a pretty decent selection of gloves, hair clips, fake nails and jewelry at affordable prices. Though she probably could have worn one of my necklaces, I thought it would be fun to make her a custom piece that she could treasure. Not only was it very affordable (save those coupons for Hobby Lobby, Jo Ann Fabric’s and Michaels), it was also a great project for more mother-daughter time.
6. Free and Inexpensive Footwear
My daughter swore that she was going to wear her Converse knee highs with her prom dress, which sparked my son’s determination to wear his combat boots. I love to see them express themselves so I agreed. It turned out that we only had to buy one pair of shoes and fortunately, we found a set of tuxedo shoes and socks for 50% off. Not too bad.
7. Forget the Flowers
Okay, I’m not serious when I say forget the flowers- I love flowers and though I’d planned to make a simple boutonniere and a wrist corsage, I’m ashamed to say I forgot the flowers!
8. Pre-Prom Meal
When it comes to selecting a restaurant for the pre-prom dinner, remember to keep in mind that though it’s nice to go somewhere that you wouldn’t normally go, you don’t want to go somewhere that you’re going to be uncomfortable or feel out of place. Determine how much you want to spend, find something that fits your budget and then don’t forget to call ahead for advance reservations.
You could also host a pre-prom meal at your home for some of your children’s friends. They are likely to be more at ease anyway. Just remember, spaghetti and formal attire aren’t likely to mix well.
Since our kids were heading to prom with friends, they rode together in a 15 passenger van. Doesn’t sound very luxurious, but it fit a lot of kids and was more economical than a limo. I didn’t hear any complaints. Especially since my very creative friend had the foresight to purchase an inexpensive red carpet runner that the kids stepped onto as they emerged from the van.
Of course you could also drive them in the family car and that would be free.
Who doesn’t want professional pictures of their kids on their special night? Though we did purchase one package of photos, I’ve discovered over the years that it’s just as easy to take my own pictures and print them in various sizes at Walgreens or CVS. I’ll have a great picture of the three of them together for $10 and individual pictures of them for much less- in just the right size.
There you have it, Ten Ways to Save Money on Prom Expenses! What are some of the ways you’ve found to save money while ensuring that your kids still look and feel like a million bucks?
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