The Average Cost of the Prom


th-13 image credit: Good Search

A new Visa survey says this year’s prom will on average cost $1,139.

WHAT?!

The survey didn’t break the spending down, but it includes dresses, tuxes, shoes, prom tickets, limousines, hotel or after dance events, corsages, jewelry, hair, makeup and extras.

In the last two years, prom cost has gone up 40 percent. As usual with this type of event it’s the lower income households that are being hit the hardest, and unfortunately, they are spending more money on the prom than those who can more easily afford to. According to the Visa survey, families with income less than $50,000 are planning to spend $100 more than the national average on prom. Single parents are spending double the amount of married parents ($1,563 versus $770.)

Of everything I’ve read and heard on this subject, Nat Sillin, Visa’s head of financial literacy, put it best. “It’s [the prom] become a social arms race. It’s an opportunity for parents to engage their teens and have a conversation about budgeting.”

I applaud Sillin’s comment, and am amazed to read and hear parents saying, “I never thought I’d have to spend so much” and “How am I going to afford all of this?” You do not have to spend so much. A choice is being made. You’re supporting your child in their financial illiteracy by spending their college money, or whatever else spending $1,100 could help ease your mind. Some say the prom is the new wedding, since people are getting married later. Okay. . . the average wedding is now $20,000 and many couples either start, or go further into debt. So, maybe in that since, the prom is the new wedding.

Full disclosure. I didn’t go to my prom. I wasn’t dating anyone, and saw the prom as something for those in serious relationships. Yet, I thought those in serious relationships were nuts to spend tons of money playing let’s dress up and pretend, and be part of the stories flying around school the following week.

Instead of prom, four of us—two guys and two girls —all friends, went bowling. None of us were bowlers, but we wanted to go out and have fun. We had a blast.

If you’re a parent of a teen who will be prom age next year. Start talking now. Start talking about values, money, and choices. To put a $500 dress on layaway while some of it goes on credit card, some paid off by check, and some by family pitching in, is mind boggling to me. Is a $500 dress worth it? That’s just the dress. Do you really need a limo? $800 shoes? (I heard a guy bought them.)

$1,139 could be a month or two of rent; a semester of books; an Alaskan cruise or a flight overseas; a down payment for a car — or, yes, one high school event called the prom.

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