With Planning, Prom Night Won't Cost You A Fortune

By Chandra Orr

March 7, 2008 4 min read

THAT'S SO MONEY

With planning, prom night won't cost you a fortune

By Chandra Orr

Copley News Service

From the designer dress to the limousine and lavish dinner, it's easy to rack up a big bill on prom night. But it's also possible to cut corners without sacrificing fun and style.

"Prom can be very expensive, but it doesn't have to cost a fortune," said certified financial planner Stacy Francis, founder of Savvy Ladies, a New York City-based nonprofit dedicated to educating women on all things financial.

It's all about compromise, said Sarah Burningham, author of "How to Raise Your Parents: A Teen Girl's Survival Guide" ($13, Chronicle Books).

"It's prom, not the Oscars," she said. "There is no way that you or your date could pay for a night like the Oscars, so don't expect that. You have to be realistic."

Splurge on a few important details then find ways to save on the rest of the evening:

- Designer dresses start at $100 and soar into the thousands depending on the style, but if you're flexible and start looking early, you could land a bargain shopping at outlet malls, vintage stores, consignment shops, thrift stores or eBay.

- You might balk at borrowing a dress, but if you and your friend share the same size, consider swapping last year's gowns and updating your looks with new accessories for a fraction of what it would cost to buy off the rack.

- A fancy hairstyle, full makeup and a manicure can easily cost upward of $100, even at a moderately priced salon. Cut costs by enlisting your friends' help. Plan a sleepover with your gal pals the night before to give each other manicures and pedicures then plan to hit the mall the next day. Many department store cosmetologists will apply your makeup at no charge. Just be sure to call ahead first.

- A simple three-stem mini-rose corsage starts at $20. If you have something more exotic in mind, say miniature calla lilies or dendrobium orchids, you'll spend $35 or more. Shop your local grocery store for a few single-stem flowers to wear in your hair as chic and thrifty alternative.

- Why buy the tuxedo when you can rent? Prices start at about $400 to purchase a full ensemble, but you can rent a tux for as little as $50. Borrow one from your older brother or a friend and you pay nothing.

- Limousine rates start at about $400 for the evening, so consider splitting the cost with other couples. Better yet, plan ahead and borrow a car. Ask an older friend or relative to play chauffeur for the evening. Total cost: A tank of gasoline and a thank-you note.

- A decadent dining experience doesn't have to be expensive. Small, locally owned eateries often cost significantly less than restaurant chains and hotels. Call around ahead of time to find the best prices - and be sure to make reservations. To really save some cash, plan a poolside potluck picnic at a friend's house.

- Don't assume that you have to purchase a professional prom portrait. Have your parents take formal photos of you and your date and bring your camera to snap candid photos throughout the evening. You can have dozens of images printed in a hardcover bound photo album at discount stores for about the same price as one pose from the professionals.

- Instead of a pricey post-prom party or an expensive overnight trip, consider less expensive entertainment options. Hit the local IMAX movie theater for the latest 3-D thriller, make reservations at the local paintball arena or set up a make-your-own-dessert buffet back at the house.

- If you have plans following prom, bring your own food and drinks instead of stopping for a second meal. Stock the limo with finger foods and a variety of energy drinks for a quick pick-me-up after the dance.

? Copley News Service

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