I dug out a faded Polaroid photo of my first prom the other day. I thought it might jar memories of how things were done back then. I am smiling and wearing a long, white gown embellished with pink, embroidered flowers. My boyfriend is in a tux. We are standing next to a dilapidated, brown Ford Pinto — the ones that used to catch fire! My hair is typical of how I always wore it. Perhaps I spent some extra time on it, but I definitely didn’t go to a salon. My nails resemble painted stubs. (I bit them fiercely in my teen years.)
I don’t remember the prom being a major expense, at least not to the extent that is seems to be today. Honestly, prom expenses don’t have to be equivalent to root canals or weekend getaways. Here are some great ways teens can save and still look fabulous while garnering special memories that will last a lifetime.
Six areas to find savings
Besides thinking ahead and setting a budget to pay for tickets, students should explore fund-raiser contests at their high schools. Sometimes, top sellers get free tickets. Perhaps the prom committee offers discounted tickets to students who work at the prom. Another possibility: ask your guidance counselor if free tickets are offered to students who can demonstrate financial need.
Students don’t have to pay full price to look stunning!
Browse through pre-season sales to find discounts for spring. The internet is also a great place to find deals — check out eBay and Craigslist. Renting prom dresses is also common and can be done online (check out www.renttherunway.com). Search for consignment boutiques that host “exchange programs.” (Students trade in used gowns and purchase a gently used one for a fraction of the original cost.)
Students in need: Operation Prom (operationprom.org) offers free gowns to students in need and partners with some tuxedo companies to give tuxedos to boys as well. Students fill out an application, which is approved by a school counselor or social worker. There are several locations in the New York City area.
For the guys: Purchasing a tuxedo might be an affordable option since rentals have gotten so costly. Check out department store sales (i.e. JCPenney sells tuxedo separates that are very affordable when coupled with additional coupons). If renting, look for stores that offer discounts to local schools.
Accessorize for less: Borrow formal accessories from a friend or relative.
Some salons offer group discounts or reduced prices for those who allow photographs to be taken for advertising or training purposes. Of course, another option is to do hair, nails and make-up at home. Be sure to practice for the big day so you know the look is right for you. This site has some great tips and photos: www.beautyriot.com.
Deals on limos are hard to find in the spring (peak prom and wedding season). So, skip the limo and dare to be different. Clean up a friend’s classic car and ask an older sibling (tips provided) to play the role of limo driver. Dress up a large van that can fit twelve of your friends. Sprucing up the family car and adding some fresh flowers to the interior is a great idea as well.
Opt for inexpensive flowers — skip the roses — for corsages and boutonnieres. Crafty teens should consider making their own corsage or boutonniere (Informative video: video.about.com/prom/Make-Your-Own-Prom-Corsage.htm). Better yet, cut fresh flowers from your own garden.
Schools can receive discounts on the cost of professional photos if they use the same photographer for yearbook or senior portraits. Choose one friend to purchase the “table photo,” then scan and make copies for everyone. Bring your own camera and share photos with friends.
Tips and tales
“My daughter and her friends often had their hair done at a salon, only to hate it, rip it out, and do it themselves before leaving for the prom.”
Liz Martens, Salt Point, NY
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Myrna Beth Haskell is a feature writer, columnist, and author of, “Lions and Tigers and Teens: Expert advice and support for the conscientious parent just like you” (Unlimited Publishing LLC, 2012). For details, visit www.myrnahaskell.com. Also available at Amazon.com.