As the mother of three young women, I know the cost of raising children. As a financial advisor, I know the importance of planning for the significant events in their lives, like their education and weddings. As a parent, I know I am responsible for providing them with food, shelter and clothing. But all of this responsible planning changes when it comes time to clothe them for…The Prom.
Having attended proms in my high school years, I thought I would be prepared when my eldest announced she was going to her Junior Prom. I remembered that in my prom days, for the girls, it all came down to the dress. It had to be just right…the right style, the right color. But in my day, it didn’t have to be a designer name and a designer price tag.
A 2014 Visa survey showed the average cost of prom as more than $1,000, and much of this is for the dress. With famous actresses and musicians for their models, many girls’ prom fantasy now includes dressing like a Kardashian or Taylor Swift. And that comes at a price.
The thought of spending that much money on a wedding dress brings anxiety and stress, let alone having to spend it on a one-occasion prom gown. And then, what are parents to do if their darling daughter goes to multiple proms? She certainly can’t be seen in the same dress twice (just ask her).
And it doesn’t end there, as the right dress requires the right shoes, the right purse, the right jewelry, the perfect updo…and let’s not forget the manicures and pedicures.
When I was a teenager, my family had limited funds for “extras.” We had three girls in the family who were all teenagers at the same time. Things that were not necessities were put on the backburner. And our friends’ families’ financial situations were pretty much the same. If we were all to be properly dressed for the prom, we needed to be creative. So one year, when a number of us were going to more than one prom, we all bought new dresses for the first one and switched with each other for the next.
Today, creative methods still exist. You can budget, borrow, bargain, rent, or ebay.
To keep some control over the cost, parents can begin by setting a budget. Limiting what your daughter can spend will limit the scope of where she looks, or it will encourage her to be creative about how she spends the budgeted amount.
Borrowing dresses is still an option. Many parents would be thrilled to think their daughter’s last year’s prom dress will be worn by someone this year. Having it used more than once may make them feel the cost is somehow reduced. If your daughter has a friend who is going to a different school’s prom on a different night and wears the same size as her, agree to share the cost and share the dress.
Bargains can also be found if you take the time to visit department and bridal stores at the end of one season and before the start of another. And upscale resale shops in fashionable neighborhoods are the source of great values on slightly used or even never worn dresses.
Don’t forget to take advantage of the Internet. A lot of companies offer Internet-only specials, and sites like eBay and online dress rental shops are a viable option.
For most young girls, the prom may seem like it’s all about the dress, but in the end it is only one night. And ten or twenty years from now the memories they cherish will be about the good time they shared with their friends rather than what they wore. Breaking the budget to buy the dress today is unlikely to mean all that much later. So, Mom and Dad, set the budget and work with your daughter to find that special dress without having to take out a home equity loan.
Save that route for college education.
Rosalind M. Frazier is the Vice President of Operations for The Musuneggi Financial Group, headquartered in Scott Township, PA.