Prom is Pricey


How much did you spend on prom? Or what do you know about how pricey prom has become?

Prom is the new wedding, and spending on the springtime high school dance is climbing within reach of celebrations of holy matrimony….

This year, families with teens are expected to spend an average of $1,078 on prom, up from $807 last year, according to data from a survey released today by Visa that includes results based on a thousand telephone interviews conducted at the end of last month….

“This is social-arms-race spending. It’s extreme,” says Jason Alderman, director of Visa’s financial education programs.

Spending has been driven to never-before-seen levels as teens are influenced by everything from celebrities and reality TV to the prevalence of social media, experts say.

Linda Korman, advertising director for Seventeen Promand Teen Prom, says teen girls view prom as their “red-carpet moment” and are “heavily influenced” by celebrities who walk actual red carpets in designer gowns.

“It’s a rite of passage, and there’s a legacy of how you look at your prom,” she says. “Girls want to dress to impress.”…

This is especially evident in the Northeast and South, which have a tradition of formal coming-of-age parties. Average spending by families with teens attending prom is considerably higher than in other parts of the country, with families in the South expected to spend about $1,047, while Northeastern families will spend an average of almost $2,000, according to the Visa survey. In the West and Midwest, families will spend an average of $744 and $696, respectively, the survey found.

The disparity in spending across the country, as well as the increase in overall spending, might be due, in part, to the degree to which parents are involved in their kids’ social lives , Yarrow says.

“Especially in really affluent households, the parents, in a way, use their kids to proclaim their stature to other parents,” she says. “They use their kids to communicate to the community who they are.”



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  • Diane Adams

    Obviously, I’ve raised my daughter right. Last year, she found a $10 dress that was beautiful and looked great on her. The tickets for the dance and post prom party were $50 for the couple, dinner was another $40 for two and pictures were $15, plus $40 for flowers and a tux rental I’m not sure how much. A total of $155 plus tux. Definitely not anywhere near $807.

    This year, she is spending more on the dress, (she really wanted a green dress and they aren’t in, so we made the dress and the fabric cost $100). But about the same for flowers, pictures and dinner. Still way under the average.

  • Kel Hahn

    Well, given that I couldn’t get a date, I didn’t spend much. My dad took me for a fishing weekend instead. We fished, sat by a campfire, and I even had a few beers. One of the best times of my life and I venture to say that I had a much better time than many of my friends who did go to prom.

  • My wife Linda was telling me about this story. She said that it’s no wonder – parents are materially lavishing so much on their children from a very early age (extravagant birthday parties, expensive toys and games, expensive designer clothing, etc.) that when it comes to Prom, it must top all the rest of the extravagance. d

  • RobS

    … and so continues the entitlement culture that will have us demanding our iPhone 4S and government benefits soon enough. The focus on “me” then leaves little room for anyone else — either down the street, on the other side of the tracks, across the country or in a slum in a third world nation.

    Teaching young people have to be thankful can still happen with prom, but we might not be doing a great job of it.

  • I think the influence of reality tv cannot be overstated. Teens are taking in a steady diet of these shows, from MTV to NBC, and they are producing…well, just look around. What are girls wearing? Listen to how intensified gossip has become, or more particularly, putting others down. Could it be that such shows only increase the already epidemic insecurity that comes with teenage life? This is all pertinent to me as we’re having a baby girl in August.

  • Just Sayin’

    Zero pounds, zero pence. Not every country in the world has this tradition, you know.

  • Dana Ames

    Reality TV is a factor, but a more important factor that anything else, including peer pressure, is parents. Parents “using” their kids for anything is just wrong, and parents allowing the described nonsense for any other reason is just nuts.

    When the kids in my town go to the Proms, they just go, with or without a date, but usually with a group of friends. The group often is hosted by someone’s parents for a home-cooked meal; otherwise, if they do go out to dinner, restaurant entrees are under $30. There is no limo service here. My one child who went to prom went on the internet and found a $400 dress marked down to $125, and she used earnings from her job to pay for most of it (I helped her with the rest). We have a midnight curfew, so there’s not a lot of hanky-panky going on after the dance – that’s something that really has to be planned for and is a lot of extra trouble, and that’s also where all the “expenses” factor in. Sure, some kids get involved with that, but it’s a minority where I live. The simplicity is the result of the local culture, and also that there’s not such a large income differential among people here as in other places. Another factor is that we have only one high school; it’s rather large, but the kids tend to know one another and there’s not a lot of drunk driving because it shakes them up so much when those kind of accidents do happen, because they’re not just facts in a newspaper article.


  • RJS


    Our experience was more like yours. My daughter bought a new dress, but it cost well under $100. She went with a group of friends. They had dinner together before hand at a home and enjoyed the evening. I doubt if the whole thing cost us more than $150, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was <$100. I don't recall exactly.

  • Yet another reason to homeschool. 🙂

    Homeschool formal coming up this weekend: $25 for the ticket (dinner, music, entertainment, program until midnight, awesome chaperones….) $20 for the dress – resale shop.