Going to prom isn’t just a memorable high school moment — it can be a major expense for many families. From getting the right outfit to arriving in style, booking a hotel to eating after the big dance — prom spending in 2014 could cost hundreds or thousands dollars if your teenager is hoping to celebrate the night in style.
According to a new survey from Visa, households with teens are expected to spend $978 on prom this year — 14 percent less than last year’s $1,139.
“I think people are realizing that prom is a dance, and you don’t have to spend like a celebrity to have a great time,” said Nat Sillin Visa’s head of U.S. Financial Education.
Despite the decline, teens still spend an outsized amount on prom for attire, limousines, tickets, dinner, and more. Peer pressure and the desire to live the celebrity lifestyle have helped push spending for prom to, what some might say, obscene levels. Throwing lavish bashes and celebrating in style is a hallmark of countless TV shows popular with the teen set — from “Laguna Beach” of yesteryear to “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” today.
Spending for prom 2014 is in some ways, a social-arms race. According to the survey, even parents who earn less than $50,000 a year still plan to spend an average of $733. And teens are willing to put their money where their corsages and boutonnieres are — survey results show that teens plan to cover an average of 46 percent of the night’s costs with their own money.
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There are regional differences as well. Spending is particularly pronounced along the coastal regions. States on the West Coast lead the nation with families spending an average of $1,125. Families in the Midwest plan to spend the least at an average of $835, although that’s an increase from last year. The Northeast saw a 27 percent reduction in spending from last year with families planning to dish out an average of $926. And in the South, families planned to spend an average of $926 in the 23 percent less compared to 2013.
If you’re looking to save on the costs of prom, be sure to set a budget to help guide your purchases. Visa also offered these tips to save money on prom:
- Shop for formal wear at consignment stores or online. As with tuxedos, many outlets rent formal dresses and accessories for one-time use.
- Have make-up done at a department store’s cosmetics department or find a talented friend to help out.
- Split the cost of a limo with other couples, or drive yourselves.
- Take pre-prom photos yourself and have the kids use cell phones or digital cameras for candid shots at various events.
- Work out a separate prom budget with your child well in advance to determine what you can afford. Set a limit of what you will contribute and stick to it. If teens want to spend more than that, encourage them to earn the money to pay for it or decide which items they can live without.
[Related: 8 Tips to Teach Your Teen Smart Spending]