Paying for the Prom

Attending a formal school dance doesn't have to mean spending a ton of money! Use our 10 tips to help cut costs, and still have a great time.

Prom doesn't have to drain a teen's savings account (or cost parents a fortune!). There are tips and tricks you can use to help ensure your teen has a great time at his or her school dance, without needing to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Here's how to make paying for the prom a little less daunting.

1. Come up with creative dinner alternatives. Instead of shelling out big bucks at a fancy restaurant, think up a fun alternative, like going to a local '50s-style drive-through restaurant, or having a picnic in the park or on the beach with your date. Another great idea: Pool your resources with friends and cook for your dates before the dance. Better yet, arrange to have a pot-luck dinner, in which every person brings a dish.

Use our Potluck Recipe Finder to get fun dinner ideas.

2. Have a makeover party. Skip the pricey salon and meet up at a friend's house to do each other's hair, makeup, and nails. Pick out hair styles and makeup looks you like in magazines and practice on each other at least a few days before the big night. Hairstyles don't have to be complicated. If you have curly hair, try straightening it with a flat iron for a striking change. Dress up a simple 'do with an inexpensive tiara or another rhinestone accessory. Adding fresh flowers to hair is a classic and inexpensive way to enhance your style.

Not sure where to start? Check out our beauty and style tips for inspiration and helpful how-tos.

3. Get a ride. Forego the expensive limo and hire a taxi, borrow one of your parents' cars, or make a deal with your big brother that you'll do his chores for a week if he'll chauffeur you to the prom. Some bus companies rent large 15- to 30-person vans; you can carpool with a large group and save a lot of cash.

4. Go to a makeup counter. Get your makeup done at a cosmetics counter in a department store for free, suggests LuAnn Haslam (aka Patty, the Prom Pro) of Prom-night.com. "You may need to bring your mom, but then you can have a professional do your makeup," she says. "And the most that's expected is a purchase of a product or two that you or your mom might have bought anyway."

5. Create your own formal shoes. Find an inexpensive pair of sandals or open-toed heels and decorate them yourself with rhinestone jewels or dainty little flowers that can be found at craft stores. This way you don't have to buy a brand new pair that you may not wear again.

6. Know your flowers. Ask your florist to make your corsage or boutonniere out of less expensive flowers like mini carnations or Alstroemeria instead of pricey buds like roses or orchids. Or agree beforehand with your date to forego flowers altogether—something more and more teen couples are deciding to do.

7. Fashion your own fancy wrap. To dress up a plain gown, make yourself a wrap with a large piece of pretty fabric from the local fabric store. Just be sure to seal any edges with fabric glue to prevent them from fraying.

Another idea: Cut the bottom off an old dress, then hem the edges so you can use it as a shawl.

8. Wear a dress that isn't yours. With vintage being the biggest craze, you might find a dress in your mom's closet or even your grandmother's attic. Another great idea is to take an existing prom dress (maybe your sister has one from a few years ago) and cut the hem up a few inches to make it a '50s tea-length style. Then stick a faux flower on the waist to make it truly unique, she adds. Another idea is to trade gowns with someone from another school. "Girls don't want to wear the same gown twice, but trading, and wearing someone else's, is like getting a new one—and it's free," says Haslam.

9. Ask about tuxedo specials. When you go in to rent your tux, be sure to mention that it's for prom. Many shops offer specials and discounts specifically for prom-goers.

10. Let Mom and Dad be shutterbugs. Skip the professional photos, and have your parents take some snapshots before you leave instead. Try both color and black-and-white film, and stand in different locations (outside, in front of the stairs, on the front porch). The best part: You'll get a wider variety of shots than you would with professional photos, meaning you'll be more likely to be pleased with them. 

Use these tips to nail the perfect photo!

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