According to a survey released by Visa Inc., in 2014, American families who had a teenager attending a prom spent $1,078. If you’re having a bit of sticker shock, the survey revealed that for 2015, a national average of $1,139 would be spent on prom expenses, which represents a five percent increase from 2014.
Recognizing that prom spending now represents a major expense for American families with high school students, Visa launched a new, free, smartphone app “Plan 'it Prom”. The app’s purpose is to help parents and teens plan and budget every aspect of the prom, with the objective of helping everyone stick to a budget and support responsible spending.
Visa's prom survey revealed some interesting regional and economic disparities:
- Northeastern families will spend an average of $1,528
- Southern families will spend an average of $1,203
- Western families will spend an average of $1,079
- Midwestern families will spend an average of $722
One troubling statistic is that parents surveyed who fell in the lower income brackets (less than $50,000 a year) plan to spend more than the national average, $1,245, while parents who make over $50,000 will spend an average of $1,129. Additionally, single parents plan to spend $1,563, almost double the amount that married parents plan to spend at $770.
“Prom has devolved into a competition to crown the victor of high school society, but teens shouldn't be trying to keep up with the Kardashians,” said Nat Sillin Visa's head of US Financial Education. The Visa survey also found that parents are planning to pay for 59% of prom costs, while their teens are covering the remaining 41%. With parents subsidizing this much of the total prom spending, there is little incentive for teens to cut costs.
To save on the cost of the prom, here are a few tips:
- Shop for formal wear at consignment stores or online. As with tuxedos, many outlets rent formal dresses and accessories for one-time use.
- Have makeup done at a department store's cosmetics department or find a talented friend to help out.
- Split the cost of a limo with other couples, or drive yourselves.
- Take pre-prom photos yourself and have the kids use cell phones or digital cameras for candid shots at various events.
- Work out a separate prom budget with your child well in advance to determine what you can afford. Set a limit of what you will contribute and stick to it. If teens want to spend more than that, encourage them to earn the money to pay for it or decide which items they can live without.
The free Plan'it Prom app lets users make a realistic, detailed prom budget and then helps them stick to that budget by allowing them to track their spending as they shop. Plan'it Prom is available in the iTunes store.