It's a meaningful night but doesn't have to be an expensive one.

Prom on a budget…without missing any of the cornerstone moments of highschool.

I saved nearly $1,000 on my senior prom three years ago — by not going to the boring formal dance part.

I still had a great prom night, and wore a new dress to the free after-prom parties. I still saw all my friends, and have fond memories of that evening.

Is that an extreme way to save on prom? Maybe. But a majority of parents are apparently thinking about saving big on their children’s big night. A  new survey from Visa found that for the first time since 2011, parents will spend less than $1,000 on prom night.

The site polled more than 1,000 parents and discovered they plan to spend an average of $978 this year — compared to $1,139 last year. The price was calculated based on the cost of clothes, limo rental, tickets, pictures, and “other items for this annual social ritual.”

What’s “other”? The survey doesn’t say. Maybe a helicopter ride to the dance, which is what one classmate of writer Jessica Williams did. Unlike me, Jessica splurged on prom. She had a custom dress made, rode to the dance in a white Mustang convertible, had professional photos taken, and enjoyed a pre-prom dinner.

So Jessica and I have assembled this list for cutting prom costs without sacrificing the pomp and circumstance…

1. Plan’it Prom

You can have all your prom preparations right on your phone with the Plan’it Prom app. Visa released the app this year, probably because prom is so expensive that you’re certainly not paying for it in cash. This way they reap the benefits.

The app does offer some useful features:

  • The budgeting system that tracks how much you’re splurging on prom so you can keep yourself in check.
  • A calculator that sums up the cost of expenses with tax, tips, and discounts.
  • Vague, but useful tips on how to save on prom preparation, like checking eBay or Craigslist for a tux or making your own flower corsage. (Of course, they don’t tell you how to make your own corsage, but you can find that out here.)

2. Save money — buy a custom dress

Here’s a prom tip from my friend’s wedding: You can actually save money by customizing your dream dress instead of buying one from some overpriced store.

A friend of mine was desperately searching for a good deal on bridesmaids dresses when she stumbled across, which allows you to customize dresses for as little as $150. This worked great for her — she picked one color and customized the size and cut of each dress to each bridesmaid.

It’ll work just as well for prom because you choose the features of your dream dress for cheap.

Jessica’s custom prom dress cost her a little over $300, because she had her mother’s seamstress sew it from scratch. You can still have it your way and cut off half the time and cost.

3. Rent a car, not a limo

Everyone knows limos are expensive around this time of year. They charge by the hour, usually for no less than four hours. It can range anywhere from $495 for five hours in San Diego to $348 in Milwaukee.

Save some money by ditching the limo. That doesn’t mean you can’t still ride in style. Jessica rode to prom in a white Mustang convertible with an all-white interior. Limo rentals charge by the hour, but a parent can rent a luxury car for a whole day for anywhere from $80 to $120.

4. Don’t wait to buy tickets

Early birds often get cheaper tickets for prom than those who wait. My sister is prepping for prom season now and her ticket cost $65. Two weeks later, the price went up to $85.

Some schools also offer discounts for couples’ tickets, so pair up with someone and purchase your tickets early to get the best deal.

5. Don’t buy prom pictures

At nearly every prom, you can buy professional photos from the photographers at the door — but don’t do it.

Just avoid the overpriced photos. Bring your own camera or snap a few shots from your smartphone, then take them to get printed at your local CVS or Walgreens for under $10.

You can even have your prom pictures made into a photo book or put your face on a tote for less than the cost of those prom photos.

6. Rent your tux says the average spent to rent a tux is $185, which is still dramatically cheaper than buying a new one.

You can save money by renting, but do some searching and you’ll find places like Men’s Wearhouse rent out prom tuxes for as little as $60.

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Meet the Author

Lulu Ramadan

Lulu Ramadan


Ramadan is a freelance writer for and a reporter for The Palm Beach Post in South Florida.

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Article last modified on July 12, 2018 Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Going to Prom on a Budget - AMP.