Teens Go Wild Before Prom Night

Discussion
Apr 26, 2013

The annual prom season is approaching, and kids and their parents are digging deep to pay for the big event. According to Visa’s third annual survey of prom spending, the average family will put out $1,139 on the prom for expenses including clothing, corsages, limos, event tickets, hair and makeup this year. That amount is up from the $807 average spent on proms just two years ago.

"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, in a statement. "The prom is an opportunity to teach teens how to budget. If they want that sparkling dress, fancy dinner, and limo ride, this is the opportunity to set a budget and save."

According to the Visa, parents will pick up 59 percent of prom costs while kids with pay the balance. Amazingly, lower income households as well as single parents will spend the most on proms. Families who make less than $50,000 a year will spend $1,245. Single parents will spend $1,563.

To help deal with rising costs, some consumers are turning to consignment shops, retailers and websites that sell previously owned dresses.

What does the prom insanity say about consumerism in the U.S.? Can retailers benefit by counseling consumers on ways to spend less money on the prom?

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12 Comments on "Teens Go Wild Before Prom Night"


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Joan Treistman
Guest
9 years 24 days ago

Madness about proms says to me that kids and their parents are still holding onto having one night that propels them into a world of glamor and opulence they cannot otherwise enter. Beautiful gowns, stretch limousines, and glittery ballrooms filled with music create a memory that will last a lifetime.

For sure I can’t condone spending outlandish and unaffordable sums of money. And there seem to be many options to reduce the overall cost, including consignment stores and helpful hints from retailers and school advisors. On the other hand, a single expenditure of $1500 in the span of a person’s lifetime won’t alter a person’s way of life, but perhaps enhance the way they feel about it.

David Livingston
Guest
9 years 24 days ago

It’s like Christmas, it doesn’t matter what the economy is like, people will figure out a way to find the money and spend the money. Counseling consumers on ways to spend less money would go against the primary principle of retail—remove as much money from the pockets of consumers as legally possible.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 24 days ago
It is ridiculous to let your children spend $500 on a dress to go to a high school prom, rent a limo, spend $200 on a dinner, and act like you’re special. What are we setting these kids up for later in life? How do you top this, as the expectations grow? I know that businesses like this, and for the 1% folks, it is fine, but kids need to learn young about budgeting, or they’re doomed to make the same mistakes in the future, and end up without a retirement, like many of the boomers today. Now to the business part. A used tuxedo shop that rents “like new” tuxes for half price, and a consignment shop, that offers really cool dresses that may have a theme (roarin’ ’20s) will do very well if they can acquire second-hand or closeout desses from their suppliers, and promote it properly. A modern limo service that packages the trip, plus a discount at a restaurant with which they hook up would be great, plus helping pick up… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 24 days ago

The parents at my kids’ high schools got together and mutually agreed to keep the prom madness to a minimum. Just say no.

Ben Ball
Guest
9 years 24 days ago

Parent’s love to show off their children. And children love to show off for their friends. The prom represents an “every man” occasion to do what some parents do with elaborate birthday parties, weddings or bar/bat mitzvah.

What seems to have disappeared from the high school prom is the involvement of the students in making it happen. The days of decorating the gym and waxing your car have given way to hotels, dinner cruises and limos. Frankly, I think it’s the kids who get cheated.

Alexander Rink
Guest
9 years 24 days ago
An average of $1,139, as compared to an inflation-adjusted $850, is a 36% increase. If prom spending is an indicator of the strength of the economy, then we are clearly in much better shape than we were in 2011! On the other hand, it may be an indicator of how much our lives have come to revolve around shopping and consuming. Weddings are another prime example of this, as is the increasing amounts we spend on Holiday gifts. As a frugal buyer and someone who always seeks to maximize value, what concerns me most about the spending on proms is what it teaches our children—rather than teaching them to budget and to find a healthy balance between wants and needs, we seem to be teaching them to “keep up with the Joneses” and to live beyond their means. What will spending and debt levels look like when Gen Y reaches their parents’ age? We already saw in 2008 what spending more than one earns can lead to, but have we already forgotten those hard lessons… Read more »
David Zahn
Guest
9 years 24 days ago
I am a “Fuddy-Duddy” before my time. I am well on my way to being the neighbor who complains when you walk on my grass or play your music too darn loud with your car windows rolled down. So, take this with a grain of salt: Proms are an anachronism in some ways, for a time long gone when graduating HS here in the States was the end of one’s schooling and was quickly met with the fast introduction into adulthood of marriage, jobs, and children. While there is still a sizable percentage of people where that still fits—the number of college-bound students has grown over the last 5-6 decades (with some blips downward, but still overall on the rise)—so the celebratory aspect of it has morphed to being a “show” now. All that being said – it is an indication of our consumerism and while I am not sure how memorable the night is in total (I have vague memories of it and not because of alcohol…but because it has been replaced by far… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 24 days ago

I’m sorry, but the numbers presented in the accompanying stories simply don’t add up: even (very generous) figures of $300/dress, $100/dinner, $100/limo, $100/misc leave a huge gap from the reported figure of $1139; the figures for males would certainly be less, and—as I said—these are Westport numbers…an “average” person would certainly spend less. Either the four-figure number covers a lot more than Prom Night, or a decimal has been misplaced.

But back on topic, I don’t think this says much at all: it’s kid’s big night, let him/her do what they want…I’m much more worried that people think a return to “peak” prices in housing is a good thing.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 23 days ago

The problem: A parent can’t say “no” to their kids. Opportunity: Huge impulse display and promo opportunity for merchants.

Have no mercy, retailers, build out those front lobby promos with all high-margin stuff you can “spin” to be associated with prom! LOL

Karen S. Herman
Guest
9 years 23 days ago

These prom spending statistics are insightful and lead me once again to question whether prom insanity originates with the parents or the kids. I like the idea of Morp, a “backwards prom” that is a super fun dance held around the time of prom and focuses on colorful dressing and having fun. Gives kids an opt out of the lavish production, and high cost, of what prom has become.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 23 days ago

The prom has always been, and will always be simply a wonderful opportunity to have a memorable life experience. It is usually the first large-scale milestone in life, which will be followed for most by graduations, marriage, children, and significant anniversaries.

There is nothing wrong with a bit of extravagance on the prom, particularly if the parents are involved and help make responsible decisions on saving for and spending on quality elements.
It is only “insantity” if people spend in a way that damages their long-term financial situation.

Mike B
Guest
Mike B
9 years 20 days ago

11 years ago, then 10 years ago, when I was faced with the prom, I had two choices: go to the prom, or go to work in my retail job on Saturday night like I usually did. I chose the latter. Oddly, I don’t regret it. One of my good friends went one of the years and got stood up. Good old high school.

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