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Rein in prom expenses by splitting limo costs, hosting pre-prom dinner

Friday, April 18th, 2014
Issue 16, Volume 18.
Jason Alderman
Special to the Valley News

If youíve got teenagers, you already know how expensive high school can be. Besides food, clothing and school supplies, a whole host of extracurricular activities are competing for a share of your wallet ‚Äď even as you frantically try to save for college and your own retirement.

One of the biggest expenses youíll encounter is prom. Gone are the days of borrowing dadís suit and crepe paper streamers in the school gym. Todayís proms are often more like a Hollywood premiere with limousines, designer gowns and swanky after-parties.

Iím not kidding. According to a recent nationwide survey conducted by Visa Inc., the average U.S. family with a high school student attending the prom expects to spend $978 this year. Surprisingly, thatís down 14 percent from last yearís survey average of $1,139 per family.

A few other interesting statistics the survey uncovered:

* On average, parents plan to pay for about 56 percent of prom costs, with their kids picking up the remaining 44 percent.

* Parents in lower income brackets (less than $50,000 a year) plan to spend an average of $733 ‚Äď a considerable share of the family budget. Thankfully, thatís down significantly from last yearís $1,245 estimate.

* Those earning over $50,000 will spend an average of $1,151.

Hereís a breakdown of how those prom dollars typically get spent:

* New prom dresses often cost $100 to $500 or more.

* Plan on spending another couple hundred for shoes, accessories, flowers and professionally styled hair, nails and make-up.

* New tuxedos cost several hundred dollars, not to mention the formal shirt, tie, studs and shoes youíll need. Even renting all this will likely run over $150.

* Figure at least $80 an hour plus tip to rent a limousine for a minimum of four to six Advertisement
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* Prom tickets typically cost $50 to $150 per person, depending on venue, entertainment, meals, etc. And donít forget about commemorative photos.

* The couple will probably need at least $50 for a nice pre-prom meal.

* After-parties can run anywhere from a few bucks at the bowling alley to hundreds of dollars for group hotel suites.

As with weddings and vacations, spending on prom can easily spiral out of control, especially if your teenager isnít used to sticking to a budget. Use this as a learning experience by getting your kid involved making tough decisions, helping to prioritize expenses from vital to non-essential.

To help with the prom budgeting process, Visa launched a free smartphone app last year called "Planíit Prom". You simply enter your budgeted amounts for each item and then track actual spending on your phone or tablet as you shop. The app also includes budgeting tips, a photo gallery and a timeline for tracking pre-prom deadlines. Planíit Prom is available at the iTunes store, the Google Play store and from

Here are a few prom cost-saving ideas:

* 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 storeís cosmetics department or find a talented friend to help out.

* Split the cost of a limo with other couples, or drive yourselves.

* Team up with other parents to host a pre-prom dinner buffet or after-party.

* Take pre-prom photos yourself and have the kids use their cell phones or digital cameras for candid shots at various events.

Bottom line: You want to ensure your child has a memorable high school experience, but not at the expense of your overall budget.



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