Teen Roundtable: Is prom too expensive?

Lately, our Teen Roundtables have all seemed to be about prom, but it turns out, there’s a lot to debate about the epic end-of-high-school tradition. This week, we asked our amazing teen contributors to weigh in on the cost of the big night. Of course, everyone knows prom can get pricey, especially if you go for a designer dress or splurge on a limo to take you there in style, but prom costs have been ballooning in recent years with some families spending upwards of $1300 on the event. For lower income families, that could represent as much as 5% of their annual income — yikes!

We asked our teen panel if they think prom spending has gotten out of hand and, if they were comfortable, to tell us about their experiences budgeting for prom. The bottomline, yes prom is a big event and of course you should try to make it special, if that’s your thing, but there’s no need to break the bank to have a good night.

Save your money for something important — like college! 
“Prom is truly what you make of it, I think. Usually girls I know get used dresses for a lower cost or get a cute dress for less! But I know some girls who spend a wedding amount on prom, and I guess that’s totally up to them! But I think it’s just high school, and there’s more important things to save money for then, like college!” – Kait Wilbur, 16.

I plan to keep my prom costs low.
“If I go to prom this year, I will try to keep the cost low because prom isn’t really that big of an interest for me. I would probably spend a maximum of $150 on a dress, and maybe even just rent it, and would not buy new shoes or get makeup done professionally. To get my parents to agree to buy a whole new dress, we’d have to determine that I’d be able to pass it down to my sister or wear it for another occasion, like maybe graduation or a formal at college next year.” – Jenny Labovitz, 18.

It’s just a high school dance.  
“Spending a ton of money on prom is ridiculous. While looking for my dress I was astonished by how expensive everything was! (This is my first prom so I hadn’t looked at them before.) My dress was $203, and I think that’s a pretty decent price. Some of my friends spent over $400 on just their dress and still have to buy heels which can be expensive as well. Prom is a special night but it’s not worth spending huge sums of money; it’s still just a high school dance.” – Mackenzie Walsh, 16.

I’d rather buy a roundtrip ticket to Europe, for the money. 
“This is illogical! Why spend that much money on a dance, especially if you don’t have extra money lying around? In some cases, you could buy a round-trip ticket to Europe for the same price as a night at prom. You don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy yourself. If you can, pay your way or help contribute to the cost of prom. The burden shouldn’t fall squarely on your parent’s shoulders; they aren’t the ones going!” – Sarah Meisch, 17.

I’m going to DIY my prom dress. 
“I think people spend way too much on prom! I know it fun ,but its literally one night and you will probably never wear that dress again. When I go to prom, I definitely won’t spend a thousand dollars! I actually plan to buy a really cheap, kind of plain-looking dress (something less then $40) and I plan to design the dress myself. Even if you don’t sew like me, there are awesome sites where you can rent dresses. Prom doesn’t have to be expensive or a contest of who spent the most. People should definitely focus on having fun.” – Avianne Robinson, 16.

It’s ONE night. 
“Sweet and simple: no one should have to spend so much on a dance. I recently went out looking for a dress, and some were upwards of $400. I shouldn’t have to spend $400 alone on a DRESS I’ll only wear ONCE.” – Erin Reid, 18.

The cost of prom is high, but worth it. 
“Personally, I think the cost of prom is slightly ridiculous however it’s totally worth it. At my school, the tickets run typically around fifty dollars (and if you’re buying your dates there’s $100 right there), and the party bus that my friends and I are renting for the night is about $75.00 a person. For this prom season I’m projected to spend about $500.00 (not including hair and makeup), which is a pretty big investment for one night. However, there are many ways to get around spending your entire life savings and if you shop with a budget in mind, it shouldn’t be too hard to save money and look killer at prom.” – Jaide Soto, 16.

Formals are expensive everywhere. 
“Here in Australia, we have formals, which are much like proms. Having been to some, I find they are quite reasonably priced for a night that is filled with many unforgettable memories. For people that are spending copious amounts on dresses, makeup, hair, transport etc. I feel that sometimes it can be a bit too much for one night. The money could be used for better purposes, such as buying school suppliers or simply giving it to charity. My parents said that I could only spend $500 for my school formal, but in the end I only spent $200. If you look hard enough there are many wonderful bargains out there.” – Clare O’Mahoney, 16.

Prom is too commercialized. 
“Prom is so pricey! I think it’s only his way because everyone commercializes it, sort of like Christmas. Have you ever seen a prom dress and thought ‘that is WAY too much for that’? THIS is why! The whole world revolves around money. I personally only spent $30 on my dress, but that’s only because it’s my junior prom and it’s not AS important.” – Savannah Martin, 16.

Working on a budget can actually make it more fun. 
I didn’t go too crazy on spending for prom, since it’s just one night, so I didn’t see the point in over spending. I know everyone wants to feel amazing at prom, and be wearing that perfect dress, but I don’t think you have to be spending loads to get that feeling! All my prom stuff came from the high street, and I did my own hair and make up. It’s fun to try and be a bit thrifty with it, and see what cool looks you can come up with!” – Ella Minker, 18.