Prom for Under $200? Totally.

The beautiful dress! The gorgeous corsage! The glamorous makeup!

The astronomical price tag. Oof.

Not to fear. While the average cost of prom has risen above $1000 per family this year, it can be done for under $200. Here’s how.

The Getup
A recent USA Today story pinned the average cost of a prom dress at $231. That’s a lot to drop on a showstopping dress you’ll be wearing only once. A few alternatives:

  • Rent a dress. For $50-$100, promgoers can have a designer dress shipped to their front door from genius website Rent the Runway. Wear it to prom, put it in a pre-paid envelope the next day, and send it on back — no dry cleaning or major investments required. Tip: check our RTR on Facebook for exclusive fan discounts on Fridays.
  • Participate in a Prom Dress Swap. Area high schools across the country are teaming up for prom dress swaps, giving their gently-used formal gowns a second chance to stun.
  • Go vintage. Want to stand out? Swing by a thrift or consignment shop and pick up a one-of-a-kind vintage suit or dress. If you’ve got a sense of humor, a dorky prom getup from decades past will turn heads and let your personality shine.
  • Getting a tux? Call around. Even though many proms are less formal and a suit will do you just fine, if you’re going for the full tux, don’t be afraid to call around to different formalwear shops to find the best price.

Glamorize and Accessorize Wisely

  • Paint your own nails. A manicure can cost upwards of $35. Know this: nobody will be looking at your nails. Paint them yourself!
  • Don’t splurge on your hair. Ask your stylist for a simple sleek blowout instead of a stiff updo. Even better: enlist a (trusted!) friend or relative to wield the curling iron — and do a trial run before the big night.
  • Rock shoes with personality. If you’re a Converse All-Star guy, pair chucks with your prom getup. If you’re a glitzy heels type of girl, pick up a glittery pair with personality for under $20 at a discount retailer like Forever 21.
  • Do makeup on the cheap. YouTube is rife with excellent makeup tutorials, with step-by-step instructions for everything from dramatic lips to smokey eyes. Don’t trust your own hands to do a bangup job? Most department store cosmetics counters will give you a complimentary makeup application (with the expectation that you make at least one small purchase).
  • Supermarket flowers. Hit your local grocery store’s floral department for corsages and boutonnieres at slightly lower prices than you’ll find at a specialty flower shop.

Keep the Pre-Prom Festivities Under Control

  • Skip the photographer. Shareeke Edmead-Nesi of The Conscious Spender advises: “take your own photos and share them instantly on Facebook and Instagram” — and skip the professional photog.
  • Dine somewhere fun, not fancy. Save the multi-course meals at an upscale restaurant for your graduation celebrations! Try going out to a local landmark, like a famous barbecue joint or dive diner, for a pre-prom meal that’s a special treat, not a splurge. Or organize a backyard barbecue or potluck (and kick the parents out after picture time).
  • Arrive in style. You know how your Uncle spends all his time fixing up that vintage car? Ask (nicely) to borrow it for the night — and forgo the flashy limo.

So, can a young woman attend prom for under $200? Absolutely. Let’s assume she splits the dinner bill with her date and that she pays for her own dance ticket.

Dress, $64.95 – Rented from Rent the Runway (including shipping)
Manicure, $0 - Done at home, using her own nail polish
Hair, $25 – Salon blowout
Shoes, $19.80 – Forever 21
Makeup, $14.50 – Free application (department store), $14.50 lipstick purchase
Boutonniere, $10 – Supermarket
Dinner, $15 – BBQ joint
Photographs, $0 – Snapped using Instagram
Dance Ticket, $50
TOTAL: $199.25

How are you planning to save on prom costs?

[Image: wishymom via Flickr]

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