How to Plan a Cheap Prom Without Your Kid Knowing It

If your teen is attending prom, you’re going to spend no matter what. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make smart choices to minimize costs. A good thing to do first is explain to your teen that prom is not a financial free for all. Discuss your budget to set expectations, and if they want something that’s beyond the budget, they can contribute money they have set aside from babysitting and odd jobs!

Here are some tips to help you cut down those costs so you and your teen can focus on making the night special.

1. Find Deals on a Limo

No matter how much you’d like to drive everyone to the prom in your minivan to save money (and to keep an eye on them), it’s unlikely your teen will go for it. Instead, encourage them to carpool with other couples or, if it’s all about a limo, to split the cost as a group. Check coupon sites like FatWallet and as well as flash sale sites like Groupon and Living Social for deals.

2. Buy Clothes You Can Alter

If the prom is black-tie, your son will need to rent a tux (unless he has one from a recent wedding). If it’s not, consider buying a suit because there will surely be other occasions he can wear it. He’s probably still growing, so consider buying pants (and jacket sleeves) a little too long and tacking them up with a loose blind stitch or even double sided tape.

For dresses, your daughter can check out local consignment shops and sites such as eBay and Rent the Runway. She’ll be surprised by all the gently used gems out there. If you can’t find anything used, hit the mall but focus on finding a dress that suits her, not on the latest fashions. If she’s debating between a sale dress with a less-than-perfect fit and a full-price dress that’s just right, remember, there’s always tailoring. You can anticipate adding at least a $35 tailoring fee, but if you are deciding between an $80 dress that needs tailoring and a $450 one that doesn’t, it’s a no brainer!

3. Score Shoes That Will Last

When buying shoes for prom, think beyond the formal event. Will your teen wear them again? For boys, this is fairly easy: He’ll probably need dress shoes at some point. For girls, guide them towards shoes that are cute but comfortable enough to wear all evening and pair with other outfits.

4. Let Them Borrow Your Baubles

These items shouldn’t cost a thing. Lend some things from your own collection or borrow something special from a family member. If your teen would prefer to shop, cute and reasonably priced clutches and baubles can be found at trendy stores — and sites — such as Claire’s, Baublebar and ASOS.

5. Get Crafty With Flowers

It’s cheaper to make your own corsages and boutonnieres than to buy them at the local flower shop (especially if there are blooms in your garden). There are videos like this one on YouTube, and even if you don’t consider yourself crafty, you can make something pretty in no time with a few basic supplies, like floral tape, floral wire, scissors, pins and, of course, a few flowers.

6. Skip the Salon

There’s no need to splurge on an expensive prom package at a salon. Check into hair-styling services at a nearby beauty school, where the price will be a fraction of what you’d pay otherwise. For makeup, check out counters at places like Sephora, Ulta or your local department store. My recommendation would be to walk around the cosmetic department and find an artist who does beautiful makeovers. If you’re lucky, the brand they represent will offer a free makeup application session for prom but as a former makeup artist, I urge you to buy a few products afterwards so you’re not wasting their time.

7. Take Your Own Photos

Skip the pricey photo package and channel your inner Annie Leibovitz. Use your own camera or whatever device (phone or tablet) takes the best photos and preserve the memory with an affordable framed print. You can download or even use images from social media.

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Image: Mike Watson Images

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